Sebastian Vettel has countered Formula 1 boss Ross Brawn’s criticism of the sport’s move to faster, wider high downforce cars in 2017.
When explaining the 2021 aero rules and the attempt to make it easy to follow and overtake Brawn queried the move made for 2017, which was agreed on while he was still enjoying a temporary retirement.
The change was lobbied for by the GPDA, who wanted to have quicker and more spectacular cars.
However, there was no focus on the time on the possible consequences for following other cars and this overtaking.
“These cars from 2016 to 2017 had a huge increase in downforce, and it is worth thinking back on that experience because it was done for reasons I don’t understand,” said Brawn.
“The huge increase in downforce was ‘let’s make the cars go faster, let’s make F1 better.’ But what we have actually done is made it worse because the cars can’t race each other.
“It’s an example of an unthought-through programme. So the cars are very quick now, but they’re not raceable.”
Asked by Motorsport.com if he agreed that the move was a mistake, current GPDA director Vettel denied that it was.
“Not at all.” said the German. “I think the cars are a lot more spectacular since 2017. Now we know what the cars can do, it was quite slow before that.
“Obviously we had very little drag, and it was great in a straight line, but that’s not the exciting bit for us.
“And it felt a bit slower than some years earlier. So I don’t think that was the wrong direction.
“The wrong direction from my point of view was that the cars are so heavy, which is obviously related to in a way some of the safety measures, but I think everybody accepts that, and the power unit.
“I think that really is the biggest difference if you really make a big compare between now and where F1 has been 10 or 20 years ago, or even further.”
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg said it has always been hard to follow rivals, although he acknowledged that it became even tougher in 2017.
“Honestly for me in 10 years of F1 to follow another car is never pretty,” he said. “Every year you have difficulties. You have different magnitudes.
“But I think it’s true that since the ’17 generation cars it’s gotten worse and more difficult to follow cars, especially again in ’18 and ’19, the more downforce they find the harder it gets for the car behind, just proportionately you lose more, so it becomes harder and harder.
“A mistake? I don’t know. I wouldn’t go that far.”
Hulkenberg’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo pointed out that the wider track introduced in 2017 compounded the problem of overtaking.
“The cars look sexy, big and wide, they look awesome,” he said. “They look better than they did in 2016. But my concern was just the width in itself. The tracks weren’t made wider, yet the cars were, so there’s less room to overtake.
“Not even overtake, but in F1 you look for the tiniest little bit of clear air when you’re following a car. If he’s on the apex kerb you try to take a bit more apex kerb to just get some clear air on your front wing. Having wider cars, it’s harder to find that clear air.
“That alone, even taking the downforce out of it, means it harder. That was maybe not the best thing to do. We all learning moving forward.”
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