Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Yas Marina, 2015

Plan for more downforce in 2017 “the worst idea” – Hamilton

2015 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by

Lewis Hamilton has criticised plans for higher-downforce cars in 2017 as “the worst idea” because he believes it will make overtaking more difficult.

The Formula One Strategy Group announced in May it intends to make cars five seconds per lap faster. Wider tyres and increased downforce levels are among the changes planned to achieve this.

However Hamilton told Sky that while he believes change is needed, increase downforce levels will make it harder for drivers to overtake.

“Ultimately something does need to change because Formula One, it has been the same for a long time,” he said. “But I know they’re talking about giving us more aerodynamics which for me is like the worst idea. And it just shows for me that they don’t really know what they’re trying to solve.”

“From a driver’s point of view we want more grip from our tyres. We want less wake coming from the car in front so therefore we can get closer. Because when you’re racing a guy whoever’s in front has one hundred percent potential of the aerodynamics. And the guy behind, the closer he gets, his potential deteriorates so then the advantage he did have when he was catching you initially disappears as he gets closer which shouldn’t be the case. You should be able to – in go-karting the closer you get, you pass, and you pull away. Or you battle.”

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2015
“They don’t really know what they’re trying to solve”
“So we need better tyres, we need better grip from our tyres, we need more mechanical grip. And ultimately we probably need less – maybe not less aerodynamics, but less wake so the car behind doesn’t have that turbulence. If that’s possible – I don’t even know if it’s possible.”

Following the Brazilian Grand Prix Sebastian Vettel also called for “tyres that allow us to go quicker” when asked what needed to be done to improve the racing.

Hamilton attended the final race of the NASCAR season in Miami last week and said its fan engagement was something F1 could learn from.

“There were definitely some things that for sure they do a lot better than us,” he said during Thursday’s FIA press conference. “There were for sure things that we could learn from them.”

“It was a great show, a great spectacle, particularly for the fans. A bit like DTM, the fans get very, very close to the garages in the background and to the drivers. It was a really cool event. I hope I get to do one one day.”

2015 F1 season

Browse all 2015 F1 season articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

Posted on Categories Lewis HamiltonTags , , ,

Promoted content from around the web | Become a RaceFans Supporter to hide this ad and others

  • 80 comments on “Plan for more downforce in 2017 “the worst idea” – Hamilton”

    1. And it just shows for me that they don’t really know what they’re trying to solve.

      Precisely. I have always had that impression and I am glad that Hamilton dares to say it loud. This Strategy Group reminds me of Kowalski (Penguins of Madagascar), who pressed a random button and said: “Y’know, I’m not even going pretend that this is going to work”.

      1. That is a perfect analogy!

        Every aero guy in the paddock can tell you that dependence on large front wings for downforce is the reason we get no passing.
        So what do these idiots do?

        Hey, let’s make the front wings larger! Yeah, that’s a brilliant idea….because we’re freaking idiots!

      2. indeed it does @girts!

      3. I have given up all hope that the powers that be will get this right. The most amazing thing is how wrong they seem to be and yet they still forge ahead in apparent blissfully ignorant arrogance. The proper solutions are not that elusive or complex, as many in the racing world have already pointed out time after time. Oh, I’ll still be watching, just to see what a disaster it will turn out to be if they continue down this path to the great egress.

    2. Yep agree 100%, 2017 is a step in the wrong direction. Shame thay haven’t continued with the improvements that were made in 2009. Smaller wings, better/softer tyres, simple? and replace DRS with an increased fuel flow button for following cars instead.

      1. I also agree on the better mechanical grip, but disagree on the aero.

        I believe more downforce is a good thing if it’s achieved in parts of the car that aren’t affected by the turbulent air coming from the car in front. In my opinion this mostly concerns the floor and rear end of the car, especially the diffuser.

        Give the teams more freedom to develop those areas and cut down on the aerodynamic sensitivity of the front wings and overtaking will get less difficult.

        1. Down force in itself is not the problem it is how the down force is achieved. Other than bigger wings the other option is ground effect cars as well of course as better tyres to cope with the increased performance this would bring.

          1. What about the ‘no front wing’ style from the very early 80’s when ground effect was in full swing? Can’t lose front downforce if no one has any…

    3. Wow. I actually agree with Hamilton on something.

    4. The bosses completely don’t get what fans want from F1. They heard people like social media so BOOM we give you Fanboost. People say cars are not fast enough. BOOM, make them 2-3s quicker at the beginning via refuelling. It is hard to overtake, BOOM we would have more powerful DRS. The races are boring, BOOM, let women or reserves race.

    5. A left field thought. Should the drivers, or a committee of drivers old and present, be the ones that decide the car specifications, not the administrators and engineers?

      1. No, current F1 is governed by Wolff and Horner, to a lesser extent Arrivabene and Dennis.

        1. Not sure if this is tin-foil hat or not.

          Would love to hear more opinions from (intelligent) people on this.

          At first thought upon hearing it though, it makes a LOT of sense.

          1. He’s forgetting there’s two other teams in the Strategy Group, and anything that group proposes still has to get past the F1 Commission.

          2. It is simply true what I said, not an irony or anything like that. I know there are two other teams in SG but both Force India and Williams’s competitiveness is “controlled” by Mercedes. There is no way they will finish ahead. I also want to underline that F1 Commission CANNOT propose any rules, only SG can.

            All ‘factory’ teams are having their own ridiculous agendas. They are blocking each other. I would say current Concorde is to blame for that. Too much power have been given to them and FIA’s and FOM’s role have been diminished so they cannot do much now on their own.

        2. Maybe their wives should run it…
          the lack of a current Mrs Dennis would mean one fewer chief – usually a good thing. No idea about Signora Arrivabene.

          1. Can we stop with the ridiculous Dennis hate. When it comes to F1 as a sport his ten times more good than people like Horner or any Ferrari manager. Mclaren always had more logical less self-interest views than teams like Ferrari and Red Bull.

    6. With Hamilton speaking up about the racing and tracks, Raikkonen joining him on the tracks and Vettel earlier on the racing, and I do believe Rosberg made some critical comments about F1 earlier as well, you have to wonder if the decision makers have even considered talking to the drivers about rule changes..

      1. @npf1 “Why should we listen, it’s their job to shut up and drive the cars” – B Ecclestone, moments after saying that the drivers are the stars and one of the most important factors in F1.

        1. If Bernie altered that sentance slightly to why should we listen to teams regarding the rules it is up to teams to design the cars, then he might have a point. The teams discussed this but as they have their own agendas they all try to put something in that suits them and you end up with a load of compromised rubbish.

          1. @markp

            “The teams discussed this but as they have their own agendas”

            I think for the teams, they could think it’s better to make the cars harder to pass is in their best interest. The idea would be to build a car like the Merc (or the Red Bull previously), put it on pole, and keep the lead from lights out to checker flag. The team has the most control over the outcome in that situation. If it’s down to mechanical grip and tires, you may have more mid-field cars (with half the budget) coming through and winning races – a much more random situation. And teams don’t like random.

      2. I’m really encouraged by the drivers starting to publicly voice their opinions on advocates of the sport that matter to them. I hope this becomes a trend and that their voices won’t be stifled in future

    7. I think people are being very quick to judge these changes without knowing anything about the actual details, all we know is bigger tyres (hurray), bigger front wing and more downforce generation through diffusers – none of us are qualified to understand the effect that will have, and neither is Hamilton at the end of the day, he’s not an aerodynamicist after all.

      We know from things released previously that some teams purposely shape their aero in such a way that it causes more turbulence and thus makes cars behind struggle – if the new bigger wings etc are tightly regulated to ensure that this does not happen anymore then in theory you should be able to get more downforce with less or equal turbulence to what we have today.

      Bigger tyres are of course a bonus and diffusers do not produce the levels of turbulence produced by wings and upper bodywork so that again should be “free” downforce.

      Perhaps I am just being overly positive here but I think it would be wise to wait until we get the full breakdown of the proposal and wait until it is analysed by people who actually know what they’re talking about with the technical knowledge to fully understand the consequences rather than (and no disrespect to anyone here) your average journalist who reads the details and makes an interpretation one way or the other like I have just done above.

        1. ColdFly F1 (@)
          27th November 2015, 14:04


          people are being very quick to judge these changes without knowing anything about the actual details

          People just read the article in the round-up this morning in which Pat Symonds (whose team is ‘putting the wording together’) said that the proposed changes create “more downforce. (And) the fact is if you’ve got more downforce, the harder it is to follow.”

      1. I think people are being very quick to judge these changes without knowing anything about the actual details

        Yeah, because Lewis doesn’t understand a single thing in those matters… Seriously.

        1. @spoutnik, Hamilton, nor any other driver, has been party to the discussions and will not have any detailed knowledge of the proposed regulations – as Symonds notes, at the moment those regulations exist only in a draft format.

          At best he can make predictions based on historic knowledge – however, without undertaking any form of testing, either in the simulator or on track, he can only guess how the cars will behave in those situations. Matthew is right – whilst we have the personal opinions of individuals involved in the sport, we ultimately do not have any definitive evidence to point one way or another and cannot make an accurate assessment based purely on supposition.

          1. ColdFly F1 (@)
            27th November 2015, 19:26

            You should work in politics or for FIA.
            Hide behind ‘we don’t know’ or ‘see need to test’, rather than follow common sense or trust what the experts say (suggest you read the interview with Symonds again).

            1. @coldfly, so because I have asked for evidence to prove that assertion – something that is considered to be a fundamental tenant of the engineering profession – you conclude that I am trying to be duplicitous by not automatically latching onto “common sense” instead of demanding an evidence based approach?

              Symonds also considered it to be “common sense” to help create the current aerodynamic regulations, particularly the front wing regulations that you and many others now criticise so heavily. I am therefore rather loath to automatically assume that “common sense” is necessarily right without evidence being provided to back it up.

      2. The fact Chritian Horner said on Sky that the 2017 proposals will require a much more powerful DRS is proof enough that there going in the wrong direction!

      3. neither is Hamilton at the end of the day, he’s not an aerodynamicist after all.

        So? He’s a triple champion and has been in the sport for nearly a decade. Not to mention he’ll have been talking with the engineers about the changes and how they affect the cars. He may not have the paperwork to prove it, but he’ll have a much better understanding than most fans.

        1. petebaldwin (@)
          27th November 2015, 13:55

          @raceprouk – Also, he has regular meetings and constantly works with the brightest minds in the sport – perhaps the people MOST qualified to comment on this!

          On top of that, he drives these cars and experiences the issues he’s talking about having also gone through mulitple rule changes (including different tyres, complex wings (2008), simple wings (2009), DRS, no DRS and so on) which would put him in a strong position to know what he’s talking about!

      4. I get your point – but sadly I think I is very obvious that a larger front wing with the same number of elements on it as with this/next years regulations will be at least as sensitive to turbulence. Reading the interview with Symonds (linked to, in yesterdays roundup) makes it very clear that the direction is wrong:

        “My belief is that the more downforce you have on a car, the harder it is to follow. And this car has more downforce.

        “Therefore irrespective of any niceties that the Overtaking Working Group may have come up with, and irrespective of whether one believes them or not – and as a member of that group I know what short cuts we did against the true scientific process – the fact is if you’ve got more downforce, the harder it is to follow.

        “I think that’s simplistic, but nevertheless quite a true view.”

        For me the wrong doings already starts with even having an “overtaking group”. A group to deal with the problems created by the rules and regulations. Why trouble shoot symptoms, and not the cause?!

        Any ways – the positives are that it seems more drivers and engineers are honest and open about their opinions, and the regs aren’t quite closed up yet – so fingers crossed they are listened to before that happens.

      5. Yeah ! What would 2 drivers with 7 WDCs between them know?

    8. F1 clearly needs more input on what the cars and the races should be about from those who actually drive them. Both Hamilton and Vettel – arguably the top two drivers this season and currently the top two in terms of success have been absolutely spot on here.

      If F1 is going to return to a route which is more dependant on aero, then at the very least make the tyres drastically gripper to counteract that. I have confidence in Pirelli to provide such a tyre or a selection of tyres which can do just that.

      It’s also not the first time that the so-called Strategy Group has come up with an idea which has proven to accumulate collective groans from a lot of people in and around Formula 1.

    9. From the motorsport.com article linked in the roundup.

      The majority of the cues are taken from the Red Bull proposal. It’s ended up with a bigger diffuser, a substantial front wing, and some I think quite attractive styling.

      What a shock, Red Bull want more of the thing they are really good at.

      Most people I have spoken to argue that we need exactly the opposite of what this package is proposing: Less aerodynamic downforce. How can the powers that be in F1 be so blind as to the obvious outcome of this change? We will have less real overtaking, less close battles, and more frustrated drivers stuck behind a close rival unable to close the gap or overtake due to the turbulence coming off the car in front.

      With no other changes, reducing aero downforce would lead to slower lap times, but better on-track action. Do we want a fast procession or a slightly slower race?

      1. @drmouse …because they want to cuddle Red Bull at the moment, so they don’t leave? After all, their V8 w. blown-exhaust engine plan has been torpedoed, so there has to be some give…

      2. Good race v fast laps is a hard to answer. There are a lot of complaints about the speed and also about the racing so no one will be entirely happy. I though the fan survey was to assess what the majority want. Compromises have to be made as good racing is easy, just use formula Ford cars but then they would be too slow, bring 2004 rules back if you want speed but then the racing will be poor. Who knows maybe the new rules will work they have not even been finalised yet there are no technical details in terms of actual figures on dimensions so all we know is bigger tyres (mechanical grip) bigger wings (downforce), maybe the tyres changes shift the balance more towards mechanical grip than aero even with bigger front wings?

    10. I agree with Lewis 100% (a first), but believe F1 should go even further:

      Reduce down force dramatically (to half Monza levels). Just enough down force to stabilise the car at speed.

      This will:
      1. Dramatically reduce the wake hindering cars behind, allowing following and overtaking
      2. Dramatically reduce corner speed, which makes way for driver skill to be a factor, and the better chassis will benefit
      3. Increase braking distances, (ditto)

      Other changes required:
      1. Reduce front wing overall size and make it much simpler, and make it out of metal so it bends rather than shatters.
      2. Increase mechanical grip somewhat
      3. Allow much more engine development
      4. Allow much more chassis development
      5. Same changes required in GP2/3, F2 etc. Can leave Super Formula to be the ‘aero’ class of racing.

      I understand that this means moving away from aero dominated development, and this will shut down a whole branch of F1 engineering, but they are trying to be more road relevant aren’t they?

      Get F1 to be dominated by 3 things: Engine, Chassis and driver skill (in no particular order)

      Lap times will decrease by 20% and fan interest will increase by 2000%. Most drivers will enjoy it better too.

      1. If I want to watch close racing with slow cars I’d watch something like a national touring car championship. I think the main reason we are all here is not the amount of action, but simply because these cars are *the* fastest cars on the planet. That is what initially caught my interest. It might never become the series with the most overtakes, but once it loses its strenght of being the fastest, it loses its fans in no time (let alone the drivers).

        1. Wessel: I suspect a lot of people would agree with you, that it *must* be the fastest possible. However, the closer we get to the fastest possible, the more boring it becomes. We’ll lose fans either way.

          At some point we need to compromise on that idea and reduce speed to maintain interest. I certainly don’t suggest going as slow as touring cars, or as slow as the big V8s. Perhaps the same speed as WEC. Even those have a lot of down force these days.

    11. During Sky’s coverage of FP2 they asked Christian Horner about the proposals & he said that it shouldn’t make following any better or worse than it is currently & that as far as overtaking goes more downforce would be fine because there also going to make DRS a lot more effective :(

      Completely the wrong direction!

      1. as far as overtaking goes more downforce would be fine because there also going to make DRS a lot more effective

        Oh that is so wrong!

      2. It’s just so frustrating.
        Concerned but powerless.

    12. Those front wings are so stupidly complex that it’s no wonder drivers like Lewis moan about following other cars being “impossible.” I believe this is a consequence of introducing DRS. It renders nearly any effort to make cars less susceptible to turbulence redundant.

    13. These 2017 rules are going to save Formula One from the risk of ever making sound decisions.

      1. @casjo, No, it will be a decision on more sound, and a woftam on the rest.

    14. I believe the current problem with overtaking, downforce and mechanical grip is not so much about “total package downforce” or necessarily wake but is instead to do with the downforce and mechanical grip “drop gradient” that comes when going off-line or when following someone closely.

      In previous years, downforce was generated with blunt, uniform wings and it resulted in a relatively flat downforce gradient – i.e. if you went off-line or followed closely, you didn’t lose much because you didn’t have very much to start with. Likewise with the tyres, they were far harder, simpler and degraded with a much more uniform characteristic.

      Since 2005 or so, with such detailed wings, winglets and indeed a whole aero package working as a holistic unit, that drop gradient is now enormous. Granted, they’re much more sophisticated and hat’s off to the engineers for finding so much more downforce…but now when they go off-line, the cars lose all that new-found downforce and mechanical grip instantly and they become entirely different machines.

      Basically, it’s not about grip vs aero, it’s momentary loss of aero and loss of grip that’s making F1 dull as doorknobs and one of things that makes DRS work is the way the aero and mechanical grip “snap” back on when the flap closes.

    15. Didn’t they remove about 50% of the aero several years ago? I think it was the 2010 regs that got rid of all the silly winglets and made the main wings smaller. And now F1 wants to reverse a decision which led to better racing.

      Head, meet desk.

      1. 2009 restricted body work aero, ‘shrunk’ the rear diffuser, moved the rear wing higher and increased the size of the front wing and allowed the angle to be changed by the driver in an attempt to solve the problem of following a car. It didn’t work perfectly. I still remember a comment from Button along the lines of catching the cars in front like they were stopped but then not being able to pass once you were behind them.

        2011 got rid of the double diffuser but it was around the time the exhaust blowing was literally heating up. Oh and DRS…

        And of course 2014 dramatically reduced downforce with no beam wing, exhaust position moved to prevent blowing the diffuser, lower front nose and narrower front wing.

        1. I never understood why in 2009 they decreased the size of the rear wing, but at the same time made the front wing bigger! How does that help overtaking?

          1. @matthijs After some wind tunnel/CFD work through 2007/2008 the overtaking working group determined that the lower/wider rear wings of pre-2009 was throwing most of the turbulent air onto the key areas of the narrower front wings.

            The theory they came up with based off that testing was that by making the rear wing narrower & front wing wider they were moving the front wing flaps/end-plates outside of the area of turbulent air been generated by the rear wing.
            And they raised the rear wing height in order to try & direct the worst of the turbulent air generated by the wing wing main plane higher into the air, Again to try & keep it away from the front wing.

            The idea from all that was that this would allow the cars to follow closer which would give more opportunities to try & overtake another car.

    16. lockup (@)