Planned rule changes for 2017 are likely to make overtaking more difficult, Formula One engineers have warned.
F1 is preparing changes to the regulations to make cars up to five seconds per lap faster in 2017. The plans were put in motion after complaints F1 is no longer as extreme as it once was, with lap times currently slower than they were during the height of the V10 engine era in 2004. The latest draft sees cars use wider tyres, run bigger diffusers and feature a more substantial front wing in order to achieve the five-second target.
"I think that what we were asked to do was to make the cars look more aggressive, make the cars a lot faster -- the fastest F1 cars ever -- and to make them physically more tough to drive, not more difficult, but more physically arduous simply because the G-forces will be higher in the fast corners," Ferrari technical director James Allison told ESPN. "I think the rules will deliver on all three of those, but we will need to make sure we are keeping the level of overtaking in the sport more or less where it is now or at a level which is judged to be correct.
"There are devices to do that. The two main things that top happen are tyre degradation, making sure the tyres are not too uniform in their behaviour through the race, and judging and tuning the size of the DRS correctly so an overtake is possible if you screw your courage up and do a good job."
Williams technical director Pat Symonds also believes overtaking will be more difficult with the addition of more downforce, but is wary of relying too much on degrading tyres and overtaking aids to make racing exciting.
"My belief is that the more downforce you have on a car, the harder it is to follow," Symonds said. "The 2017 car has more downforce, so therefore irrespective of any niceties the Overtaking Working Group may have come up with and irrespective of whether one believes in them or not -- as a member of that group I know the shortcuts that were taken against the true scientific process -- the fact is that if you have got more downforce it is going to be harder to follow. That's a little bit simplistic, but nevertheless quite true."
Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery says a significant amount of the five-second target will be found from the wider tyre dimensions for 2017, but he is also wary of the sport going in the wrong direction by chasing more downforce.
"Just by increasing the current loads with the wider tyres it gives you such a big footprint that you are going to get three seconds a lap without doing much more," he said. "It's not going to take a lot to achieve the five seconds that has been requested.
"I guess there are some people that will question whether it's the right direction to go; will it still be possible to overtake? Will it improve overtaking or make it worse? We can't even get a consensus on that. I hope we are not making a wrong decision that doesn't actually solve what we were trying to solve in the first place."