For the third straight day – although Williams Racing did get something of a jump via computer rendered images – Formula 1 fans got to see how teams will interpret the change in F1’s technical regulations that will see greater width in the cars, lower and swept back rear wings (as well as swept back front wings) and significantly wider tyres.
These changes, along with a larger diffuser area and the return of ‘barge-boards’ and turning vanes to better control airflow from the front of the car to the rear, had already given talented artists some idea of what cars would look like. With lower rear wings, ‘shark-fin’ engine covers also adorn the cars in order to help direct air on to the rear wing while cornering.
Celebrating its 40th year in F1 this year, the third most successful team in the championship’s history gave the world a virtual sneak peek of a sleek, low-lying and all-round attractive looking racing car.
Of course, the Mercedes-Benz powered FW40 itself may look different in the flesh when it gets launched on Saturday, the 25th. But one can already make out that the slight relaxation on aerodynamic regulations has led to the return of complexity on the front wing that is very close to what we saw in the 2008 season. That was the last year before F1’s governing body, the FIA, changed the regulations enough to ban the use of many downforce producing protrusions all over the body.
Due to the minimum height off the ground of the entire front wing, one will not see the kind of ‘scoop wings’ that we did in 2008, but the arrow-like shape is a result of the wings being mandated to be swept back to create a more aggressive look to the cars.
The independent Swiss team is celebrating its 25th year in F1 with the launch of its Ferrari powered C36. Although it is persisting with the use of last year’s Ferrari power unit instead of switching to the current generation unit. The team has actually gone one step further and given the new machine a track debut at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain where the first pre-season test of the year will be held. It was a short filming session where Marcus Ericsson drove the car for a few laps but it was a good enough look to see how a car that is expected to have a lot more mechanical and aerodynamic grip would appear on screen.
And based on shots of just a few corners around the circuit, one could tell that F1 fans are in for a treat if flat-out speed was what they wanted during a race weekend broadcast, especially during qualifying.
The elegant machine with its flowing curves has a very pronounced shark fin cover that almost looks like an invitation for a sponsor, which judging by its bare side-pods, the team looks like it is in dire need of. Although with most probably one less team on the grid and a new owner, the financial situation is likely to be less dire at the team that once flirted with the sharp end of the F1 grid when BMW had turned it into its factory team.
Sporting a black and yellow livery that harkened back to its F1 debut in 1977, Renault’s RS17 looks like a solidly built machine, which is banking on developments under the skin. The team has claimed that its new energy recovery system is a radical concept that will allow it to – provided if it works reliably – to move up the order and start to challenge some of the front running teams.
It is worth noting that this year F1 has done away with its system of allowing teams a certain number of development opportunities called tokens, which means that teams can aggressively develop many aspects of both the internal combustion engine and the energy recover systems that make up the hybrid power unit.
Renault is counting on this as well as the signing of Nico Hulkenberg to flex its muscles but has set itself a rather modest goal of finishing fifth in the constructors championship. Mercedes, Red Bull Racing and Ferrari are almost certainly expected to be filling out the top three. It makes one wonder, however, who Renault feel will be able to get the better of them to fourth place.
Could it possibly be Force India, who finished fourth last year? Apparently not according to Renault F1’s managing director Cyril Abetiboul who believes that development freedom will spark an ‘arms race’ that will make life difficult for the likes of Force India. Speaking of which..
The latest team to take the wraps off its new car, Sahara Force India believes that it should not be out of the question to fight for a place in the top three in the constructors’ championship. Clearly, team boss Vijay Mallya didn’t think much of Abetiboul’s comments and a look at the VJM10 certainly shows a willingness to push the envelope.
Multiple elements on the front wing, turning vane and a front nose section that looks like a hybrid of Lotus’ and its own 2014 variant are some of the things that indicate creativity by Force India’s design team.
Mallya may have issues of his own to deal with regarding the authorities in India but since 2009, he has shown an ability to put the right people in charge and arrange for money somehow or another.
It has allowed the team to beat many established teams with limited resources as it climbs up the constructors’ championship standings. It may just be conjecture to assume that it can do the same this year, especially as there is word of McLaren-Honda making progress at a very rapid rate after a disastrous first season together in 2015.
Plus we are yet to see what champions Mercedes and the fast improving Red Bull Racing and F1’s most successful team Ferrari have in store for us. Although we won’t have to wait long for it as the 2017 F1 season continues to take shape.