Three years after F1’s engine revolution, next season will see the sport introduce its biggest overhaul of the aerodynamic regulations in almost 20 years.
The 2017 rules will see a reversal of key changes introduced during the past two decades. The narrow-track format introduced in 1998 will be banished and two-metre wide cars, last seen in 1997, will return. And it isn’t just just the chassis which is getting wider – so are the tyres.
The front and rear wing configuration, which has had roughly the same unusual arrangement since the Overtaking Working Group changes of 2009, will also feature substantial changes. The sport is pursuing a more aggressive look for the cars, mandating a delta-shaped front wing, leant back sidepod inlets and new rear wing end plates.
There is one final technical change yet to be decided. The FIA has signalled its intention to introduce some form of enhanced cockpit protection using either the Halo or Aeroscreen options which have been tested over the last three months. It remains to be seen which will get the go-ahead.
Compare F1 Fanatic’s images of the current and planned designs to see what the 2017 regulations will mean for the next generation of cars.
2017 and 2016 F1 car designs: Top view
For nearly two decades the maximum width for F1 cars has been set at 1,800mm. An extra 10cm each side of the car next year should make a striking visual difference. This plus the wider tyres will also increase the amount of drag generated by the cars, which is why an increase in the total fuel allowance for each race has been agreed – drivers will get 105kg, a 5kg rise.
The additional width has allowed the FIA to introduce a larger floor and tyres in a bid to make to the cars quicker, although it is unclear whether the target of five seconds faster per lap will be achieved. Particularly as the use of softer tyres at many tracks this year has already seen lap times fall.
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The front wing will be widened to 1,800mm – this is the same as seen during the 2009-2013 seasons, though in those seasons they extended to the full width of the car which will not be the case in 2017. While the extra width will provide the ability to produce more downforce, the teams still have to manage airflow through a 200mm gap between the outer tips of the wing and the periphery of the car – this is 50mm more than at present so expect even more extravagant designs next year.
The neutral Y250 section at the centre of the wing will remain. However, rather than having a straight leading edge, it will be angled away from the oncoming airflow along with the rest of the wing. The wing must be offset rearward by 200mm at the outboard section, resulting in a roughly 12.5 degree back-sweep. The wing has not moved any closer to the front wheel behind as a result of these changes, instead the nose has been extended forward to meet the main plane.
There have been no regulation changes surrounding the design of the flap elements and endplates which isn’t surprising considering how late the rules have been published. Instead the FIA have defined a 500mm radius within which these parts can lie.
2017 and 2016 F1 car designs: Side view
Since 2009 the bargeboard regulations have been very restricted, with bodywork only allowed within a tight fitting ‘box’ tucked just ahead of the sidepod. Although recent developments from Mercedes have proved that there is still progress to be made in this area, their overall size will finally increase once again for 2017.
The bargeboard can start much further forward than previously, less than half a metre from the front wheel centre line, and cannot exceed 475mm in height. It can then extend all the way back towards the sidepod, avoiding a small exclusion zone in roughly the same region as this year, ending on the floor’s ‘axe head’. Capturing and managing airflow coming around the nose and lower front wishbone will be made much easier by these changes.
The sidepods will feature an angled leading edge, as mooted from the start of the new regulation discussions. These will be inclined at 15 degrees when viewed from above, which shouldn’t cost the teams too much performance – this is merely an aesthetic adjustment.
Despite the increase in width to both the car as a whole and the floor, the bodywork must not exceed 1400mm from the car centreline which is the same as 2016. This will create a streamlined look to the car that will contrast the wider stance which could look quite intriguing.
The rear wing has arguably received the most alterations for next season, although the area in which the wing profiles lie within will stay. Its overall height will drop 150mm, not quite down to pre-2009 levels but indeed a much sleeker appearance, and its width upped to nearly a metre across.
At the moment the leading edge of the wing starts in line with the rear wheel centre line (RWCL), whereas for 2017 this will be shifted nearly 20cm rearward with extra room made to install its mounting pylon.
The endplates are the area of focus here as they follow the angular theme from the front wing and sidepods. The bottom of endplates must begin higher up than before, slanting back from the RWCL point to a point 190mm behind at the maximum height of the wing. The trailing edge of the endplate follows the same trend too.
Despite early talk of a much taller diffuser with a large central section, the floor regulations for 2017 are a just slight tweaks to what the cars have now. This may be a little disappointing for some however there was a lot of consideration on the impact of a bigger diffuser and how that would affect overtaking.
The leading edge of the floor – the part that forms the beginning of the T-tray – has been moved back slightly (100mm) but the main change is that the diffuser can start 175mm forward of the RWCL. At present the diffuser begins to slope upwards in line with the RWCL, so the added length will provide more room for the airflow to expand from under the car and therefore more rear grip.
This has been coupled with an increase in both the height and width of the diffuser, which will be 50mm taller and 50mm wider than 2016. Along the flanks of the car the floor will branch 1600mm out from the centreline of the car too, further increasing the potential to produce even lower pressure to pull the car into the ground.
2017 and 2016 F1 car designs: Front view
From the front view the car does not immediately appear to be much wider. This can primarily be put down to the increase in front tyre width. Such is the increase that the front suspension components will barely need to extend any further outwards to reach the upright, giving the appearance that little has changed.
The main source for slashing lap times will come from the wider Pirelli rubber next year. Currently the overall width of the tyres are 305-355mm at the front and 365-380mm rear, depending on the design of the wheels and how far that pushes the sidewall of the tyre outward.
For 2017 we will effectively see the rear tyres come to the front and a brand new set of rear tyres at 450-465mm. This will be another striking change, though a recent image purporting to show such tyres being tested was fake.
The increased contact patch will drastically improve mechanical grip, bolstering low speed performance and allowing the driver to attack high speed corners with even more confidence.
Over to you
Will F1’s new technical rules for 2017 make the cars more spectacular? Are we going to have faster, better racing?
Have your say in the comments.
2017 F1 season
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- McLaren bring most extensive car update to Singapore Grand Prix
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