There hasn’t been a really large shake up in the rules of Formula 1 for a number of years but at the end of this year we will experience a sea change in car designs, the addition of KERS and the return of slick tyres.
Now I’m all for these changes. I think they will massively improve the ability of cars to overtake each other when they are close. But there is one problem. Max Mosley seems to be suggesting this is the beginning of a large number of changes that will be introduced over a number of years.
The reason the cars are so close to each other at the moment is the period of rule stability. Yes it has highlighted the need to make overtaking easier and so we must react by changing the rules. But changing the rules will cause the cars to run further apart which might mean we see only slightly more overtaking.
While reducing the reliance on aerodynamic efficiency as planned will make it easier to overtake when you get close behind another car. Rule changes tend to mean that the different cars speeds vary more. At the moment the cars are close but can’t overtake, perhaps we will be in a situation where the cars can overtake but aren’t close to each other.
New rules tend to mean that certain teams (normally those you’d expect) take advantage of the rules better and faster. They make big gains in the early years, then the smaller teams catch up over time.
Pretty much the only overtakes we see these days are better cars out of position overtaking less powerful cars that are on the same lap (so no blue flags). With overtaking made easier even these will lose their spectacle.
So the most important statistic will be the distance between the fastest qualifier and say position 16 (some backmarkers will always be there). If this number is the same as this year we will see improved racing. If the gap is much larger (which is more usual after a rule change) then it’s important that the rule changes don’t get written off immediately. Holding steady on the rules will bring the back of the field closer. And as that happens will have great racing.
Max will have to resist the urge to tinker if he wants to have the overtaking he desires.