2017 marks the beginning of an exciting new technical era for Formula One. It’s out with the old and in with the new as F1 experiences its biggest rules shake-up since 2009. The V6 Hybrid Turbos introduced in 2014 stay, but the F1 cars of 2017 are very new beasts to look at compared to their 2016 predecessors.
These new regulations are set to put the sexy back into F1, creating faster and more aggressive looking Grand Prix cars. This year’s cars could be anywhere up to five seconds a lap faster, thanks to the revised bodywork and wider tyres.
First, it’s crucial to address the new tyres for 2017. With loads at high speed expected to be 20 – 25% higher than under the previous regulation set, the front tyres have increased from a 245mm wide tread in 2016 to 305mm for 2017, while the rears have grown from 325mm wide to 405mm.
A wider contact patch – the part of the tyre which sits on the race track – will provide improved grip, whilst crucially also reducing overheating. The real benefit of this latter point is that the drivers can push harder for longer on the 2017 tyres, meaning we expect to see less tyre management in the race.
However, these wider tyres will produce a greater wake, influencing the air flow behind them, and putting an increased focus on the aerodynamics at the front of this year’s cars.
Now, onto aero… The first thing that stands out when you look at the 2017 cars is the striking delta-shape front wings. Increased from a span of 1650mm to 1800mm, these swept-plane front wings, arrow-like in their design, are mandated across all cars this season and are designed to make the cars look quicker visually.
Aesthetics aside, however, the aerodynamic interaction between the front wing and the tyres is critically important, one of the many things which teams absolutely have to get right.
Next, let’s address the beefed-up bodywork of the 2017 cars. For 2017, the width of the car increases from 1,800mm to 2,000mm, returning them to their pre-1998 dimensions. In short, this year’s new cars will be wider, to go along with the fatter 2017 tyres.
This change is not merely aesthetic, though. A wider car, and thus floor, means more air is channelled under the car, generating downforce gains and quicker lap times in 2017.
The T-Tray – the leading edge of the underside of the car, seen under the nose – is shorter this year, with the leading edge of the plank - that super-high-tech wood-like component that runs the length of the floor under an F1 car - moving backwards by 100mm. That doesn’t sound like an awful lot but, because of the rake angle of the car, with the rear sitting higher than the front, this will allow teams to lower the car and push for even greater aerodynamic performance.
Bargeboards, which sit in front of the sidepods, are much longer for 2017, with the rules relaxed to allow designers to clear up the airflow around the front of the cars, although any bodywork immediately behind the front wheels is still strictly off limits.
Looking at the rear of the 2017 cars and the diffuser is another point where the 2017 F1 beasts will differ radically from their immediate predecessors. The diffuser, which channels air under the car, is wider – up to 1050mm from 1000mm - and higher too – from 125mm to 175mm. The starting edge of the diffuser – where it kicks up – also moves forward, to give greater performance opportunity.
Like with the front wing, the rear wing shape is also dramatically different this year. The width increases from 750mm to 950mm, with the height cut from 950mm to a maximum of 800mm, creating a lower, swept-back looking profile. Working in harmony with the re-profiled 2017 diffuser, the new-look rear wings will add efficient downforce and performance to the car, increasing cornering speeds this year.
Expect cars to be faster, drivers to be worked harder, and for lap records to tumble throughout the year. We can’t wait! Get your first look at our 2017 F1 challenger on Thursday, 23 February, right here on MercedesAMGF1.com!