Just when Red Bull were starting to claw at the gap to Mercedes at the front, McLaren were making strides up the order and the grid was without a clear back-marker, the drastic regulation changes and the reset button that comes with it is going to reduce overtaking.
Pirelli have suggested that the reset will make the racing processional early on, the inter-team gaps expected to once again increase. Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery said,
” The true impact of overtaking will be down to the [relative] performance of the cars. If the performance of the cars is close together, then there might be chances. If they aren’t then it will be a procession.”
– Paul Hembery
One aspect that won’t be an issue is heavy tyre degradation, with Pirelli offering low-deg compounds for the 2017 season. This will allow drivers to be more carefree in aggressive, off-line manoeuvres and overall tyre preservation. When Pirelli were asked to make softer compounds, the tyre variable had a positive effect on overtakes.
Going into next season, the stalemate that Hembery anticipates may be offset by the greater freedom expressed for in-season developments. It’s hardly Pirelli’s fault given that they have only delivered what has been asked of them.
“The thermal overheating is significantly reduced and wear levels are reduced, so the drivers in overtaking situations can push harder and not go into an overheating scenario.
That needs to be combined, of course, with the aero changes that reduce the level of disturbance of the air that arrives to the front of the following car.
That, combined with the tyres, should enable people to make more aggressive overtaking manoeuvres.
But on the other side there are going to be more corners flat-out, and that is not going to help overtaking because people won’t be backing off as there is no braking.”
– Paul Hembery
The F1 Pre-season always involves some form of doomsayer or another. The best opening to a recent Formula One season in terms of different race winners and unpredictability was the 2012 season, with seven different winners in the opening seven races. There is of course the off-chance that Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari or others might develop cars that are relatively close together anyway in terms of performance. It’s a long shot, but you have to look at these new regulations with some regard to the long-term impact too. More in-season development is a better route and will allow more fluidity in the running order. Let’s hope that these new regulations are here to stay though, another overhaul and another reset button could be damaging.