Newey: Predicts mixed-grid in 2017; ban wind tunnels

As we head into the 2017 season, the impact of the new regulations are a topic of stern speculation. Certainly F1 pundits like Pat Symonds, Gary Anderson and Adrian Newey all have their opinions based upon decades of experience in the sport but when it all comes down to it, there is still an element of unknown and that’s part of the fun isn’t it?

Adrian Newey is a multi-championship winning designer and even he believes the new regulations will jumble the grid a bit telling Sky Sports:

“It will almost certainly mean the grid will be a bit more spread out to start with,”

“Whenever there is a regulation change, some teams read the regulations better than others. Typically the big teams, who have the bigger resource, read them better, but when we had the last big regulation change in 2009 that wasn’t the case, it was Brawn and ourselves who read them correctly, and the grandees, then Ferrari and McLaren, who struggled a bit.”

The new regulations are intended to bring some balance between the power units and the chassis design in the hopes of swinging the pendulum back to the center where driver impact meets engineering prowess. A better harmony between man and machine if you will and Newey thinks this is the right direction.

“Is F1 a technical showcase for motor manufacturers, of their engine prowess for instance, or is it a spectacle that involves man and machine?” he asked.

“Depending on who you are, you are one way or the other. My personal view is that it should be a battle of drivers coupled with the creativeness of engineers. That means it shouldn’t purely be battle of resources, which is what it has tended to become on the engineers’ side.”

Perhaps key to the recent evolution toward manufacturers and engineering versus driver is the bugbear that’s been plaguing Formula 1 for some time, prolific spending from manufacturers with 1,000+ employees and resources that rival some nation’s governments. The trajectory was somewhat predictable since 2008 when F1 experienced a purge of car makers such as Toyota, Honda and BMW.

The current regulations were designed to lure the car companies back and it did but under the guise of road relevancy and that’s been a topic of specious intention to be honest as Newey pointed out to Sky Sports F1.

“It would be entirely possible to come up with a set of regulations that would reward creativity more than simply the number of people. A budget cap is very difficult to implement but you could come up with resource restrictions, certainly on the chassis side most of which aerodynamic driven. You could restrict research resources much more heavily than we do, perhaps scrap wind tunnels altogether, be much more restricted on the CFD runs, and if you restrict the resources there wouldn’t be no point having so many engineers because they couldn’t feed it through the funnel.

“On the engine side, my personal opinion, which I’m sure will be a very controversial one, is that all this blurb which a few manufacturers would like to put out, that it improves their road car product, if that is the case then those manufacturers in the future, five years at the most, should be demonstrably ahead in the automotive sector of their rivals. Somehow l suspect that will not be the case, which tends to say it is marketing blurb.”

It may be controversial but as one of the sport’s largest privateers who do not make their own engines, perhaps that’s an understandable position. However, I’ll go one step further and suggest that car companies that insist F1 follow a specific, engineering-heavy formula for road relevancy must not be doing a very good job of staffing their road car division with innovative engineers and resources. There are plenty of car makers in this world without an F1 presence who are doing amazing things through technology innovation that is more road relevant than what F1 is doing.

To be fair, manufacturer involvement in F1 has to be justified and the marketing dollars spent need a defensible position in the board room. It’s understandable that a company like Mercedes needs to vindication for the amount of money they spend each season in F1 and pinning this to road car relevancy speaks louder than simple brand awareness through marketing expenses that stray into the lush pastures of $400 million players.

Is Newey correct? Last time I checked, Mercedes sales were way up from previous years. Is that due to brand awareness or the tech that goes into their road cars via F1 innovation?

Hat Tip: Sky Sports F1