‘I want exciting looking cars’ – Ross Brawn

2021 concept cars….

“The circumstances of the image – I did a lecture to young people about getting involve in engineering, scientific and technical topics, STEM. And that evening, naively I put up this image on the screen and of course all the phones came out an that was it. This image has been seen by the teams and drivers last year”.

“The aesthetics of the car are very important to us and this was something I was using to help these young people understand where we are trying to take Formula 1 and its exciting. We want cars that young people want to stick up on their wall, and it did create a lot of excitement there. Great response.”

“We have been working on the new car for over 12 months now and as I said the aesthetics of the cars are very very important, and I think everyone agrees we want great looking Formula 1 cars. So one of the primary objectives has been to work on the race ability of these cars and how well they can race each other and how close they can get to each other, without losing substantial amounts of performance. The current cars lose, once you get within 2-3 car lengths, they lose about 50 percent of their performance, which is why when drivers are on the same tyres of the same age, they struggle to race each other, are some facts. So when you get into that condition where you are two or three car lengths behind, because your losing grip, the tyres degrade more and it becomes very challenging.”

“So the prime purpose of the work we are doing is to try and produce cars which are more raceable, And at the moment we’ve got designs, which only lose 20 percent performance, so they save 80 percent of the performance. So the cars out that are there out there now lose about 50 percent when they get right behind. So we’ve got cars which will maintain 80 percent, so that is substantially improved.”

“Alongside that we want to make sure that we have some great looking cars. We have a designer working with the aerodynamic group. So as we progressed. It is Concept 1 which is where we started . Concept 2 had a little bit more extreme ideas in styling/size…. and one of things you can see on these cars is the bigger wheels which we have to go through 2021, they give a more modern feel to the car. Concept 3, is further what the car may look like. There are features from each part of the concepts, which may well carry over”.

One of the interesting things we are looking at is the area around the tyres. One of the great things about the Formula 1 car is open cockpit open wheel. But the airflow around the tyres and the wheels is very dirty, disturbs the airflow a great deal. We are looking at not enclosing the wheels but perhaps detail things around the wheels which will help clean up that flow and improve the conditions for the car behind. So you can see (concept) this one has some details around the front wheels. We’ve also got shields around the rear wheels, which I think appeared in the scheme I showed the other evening.”

“So we’ve got the three cars” “So the primary purpose is to produce raceable cars, to produce cars that can battle in close proximity. We see with other forms of racing that has been achieved more. But there have been often categories with fixed designs, so everyone races the same car, so you don’t have the extremes of design that we have in Formula 1. So our formula 2 cars for instance, race and lose less performance when they are racing together. The new Indy Car is quiet good in that perspective and we’ve been sharing some information with INDYCAR on their experiences. So pretty optimistic that we are going to produce some great looking cars, that are going to be able to race each other much more effectively than they were able to in the past. I think its the first time that Formula 1 has majored on these aspects. I want exciting looking cars”

What is the process to get these cars from concept to reality?

Ross– “I think its fair to say that Formula 1 started, when I came back to Formula1, the reasons that made me do this was that here was an opportunity to have a proactive process to improve Formula 1. We were going to move ahead of the old reactive process, that we all had experienced, where we have a problem, we eventually do something about it. What we do to anticipate and work on how Formula 1 should be in the future. So we started this, one of the engineers we had working on the project from the beginning was Nikolas Tombazis, who was one of our consultant engineers, very experienced in aerodynamics, worked for all the top teams. He is now the FIA, single-seater technical specialist, which is a great move for us, because he has been in a role in this programme from the very beginning. It is a joint program between the FIA and ourselves. We are lending the resources, we are creating the resource, and the FIA who are cross regulating this sport and have been involved from the beginning, and more involved because Tombazis is a part of the project. The other encouraging thing is that the teams have now been involved with this. We started the ball rolling, but all the teams now have models of what we’ve initiated, and they’re looking at them and feeding back into us what they’ve been finding out about these models in their own analysis. So all the teams are working towards finding the bet solution that we can for 2021. There are regular reviews from all the teams. The teams have a limitation on the amount of aerodynamic testing they are allowed to do, but the FIA have granted them some extra time, to work specifically on this project. There is a great incentive for every team, to put in an effort into finding a better solution, if we can. And I am pleased to say that their solutions are pretty aligned, what they are finding from the models we are sharing is pretty similar to what we are finding as well which is encouraging.

Have you given yourself a deadline to decide the regulations for 2021?

I think realistically this is the FIA’s domain to issue the regulations, but realistically the end of next year is when we should be looking at issuing the principal regulations. That gives everyone a year to work on the car. What we must not do is it leave it so late, that those with the maximum resource can do the best job. There will always be benefit of having experience and good resources, you cant move away from that. But with regulations issued late, you end up favouring the bigger teams.

You mentioned partly aerodynamic parts for the wheel. Would the next logical step be to work with a thing such as a safety device?

We are not looking that. I think we are not looking at that, because it becomes such a major structural part, that it changes the nature of a car quiet a bit. The Indy Car have had that for quiet a while, I dont think they truly thought it was effective so they moved back away from that. The devices we are studying are just fairings on the rear corner of the tyre to stabilise the flow, that comes off the tyre.

Ross Im sure you are not only looking into the raceability of the car but also total performance of the car,. So what can you tell us about that?

I think it will be better than where we are now. I think the cars are pretty impressive now but they have reaching, if they continue to develop at the rate they are developing, then I think there will be a need to probably back up. The next years regulations will be a step back again. So there will be an adjustment back, which inevitably happens in F1, then that will creep up again. So they may well, use the absolute downforce way will be the best. But i think it is the type of downforce, and how it behaves which is more critical than the absolute levels. It is interesting the INDY car experience, reduced the downforce levels substantially. At least on the road circuits, the drivers are very positive of the style of racing. They have some issues on the ovals, but that’s a pretty unique environment. But on the road circuits, theres a pretty positive feedback from the teams and the drivers, even though they have substantially lower downforce than they use now.

How much performance do you expect in the next years’ cars? Will you probably be going towards that next year?

I can give you an accurate answer for that. I’ll sort something out on where that is. But I think in dong this project we recognise there is some features which immediately gave some benefit in terms of the sensitivity in between the cars. The benefits come from the nature of the flow that comes from the front and the sensitivity of the car behind to that flow. So next years car has a step in the right direction. I think it is a very important barometer for us to see how much impact it has on the abilities of the cars that follow. The numbers I am quoting are not just numbers from our analysis, they are numbers from the cars, because obviously we can measure data on the cars, the loss of performance and numbers we are seeing on real cars. So next year we will be able to measure the impact. So that is the first step and it will be a very interesting check on making sure we are going in the right direction before we make the bigger change.

How much were the drivers involved in these ideas? If there were some drivers who were heavily involved, who they might be?. And to what extent will they continue to be involved ?

About last year, I had some discussions with a number of drivers about the ability of the cars to race each other. And it was a range, I spoke to Hulkenberg, I spoke to Alonso, and some of the other drivers as well. And the response was consistent, that it was very difficult to follow these cars. In terms of solutions, I wouldn’t say the drivers have been that involved because it is not really their domain. But they’ve been pretty consistent in saying that these cars are difficult to race each other, and that they would welcome any improvement in that direction. So we shared at one of the drivers’ briefings last year, I showed them one of the concepts, and showed them the style of car that we were working towards, which was received pretty positively.

Ross you have said in the past that ideally if cars can overtake better than you can get rid of DRS, cause it has been a sticking plaster .. Is your plan to getting rid of DRS … is it still a part of the concept?

“I think we can keep that one in our pocket. I’d like to think that we can reach a stage where DRS doesn’t become so critical. But its a very easy thing to have or not have. If we find the cars are able to battle with each other. I think overtaking is a combination of course, but having a great battle is critical and where you have cars, where they cant follow each other consistently because the tyres degrade, because of loss of performance, then you don’t have such great battles. You can have a great battle where the guy leading still leads till the end, you can have a great battle. So made an effort to make sure we distinguish the difference between overtaking and racing. There will be often when racing will accommodate overtaking. I think at Monza, I saw some statistics the other day, and about half the overtakes were with DRS and half were not, so there was plenty of action at Monza. Thats a unique track in that perspective, but we need more tracks where the cars can do that.”

You say the teams are on the same side of this .,. even though they are always searching for the advantage. How difficult will it be to regulating styling and make sure you end up with the good looking cars you want. Few years ago there were noses, and there seemed to be no way to stop it…

I am not going to pretend that from day 1 we will have the perfect solution. So from the aesthetic, we can try as hard as we can but we can never anticipate every move the teams will make. We may well find the point like, where the double diffuser was never considered when the rules were made. We are going to do our best to arrive at a set of regulations, that are as unambiguous as possible. But there is no guarantee, and the key thing is to be able to respond quickly when we see things which have happened that are unintended. With the teams, we are quite encouraged with the co-operation with the teams at the moment. But that will change at some point of course in the future when they move into a competitive mode rather than their co-operative mode.

You have said in the past that you are very keen to inspire the next generation of fans, engineers. How much has that been in your thoughts while coming up with this concept?

Very much at the foremost. I cant see the reason, why we cant have exciting looking cars. It frustrates me when a car in a video game looks better than the car we are racing out on the track. Thats not to say we pay total homage toward what looks great in the video game, it has to be a great racing car. But there is no doubt that excites fans. I think the other message it sends is that we are listening. We are listening to what the fans want, we want to engage into their passion. We want them to feel that Formula 1 is listening to them. And if I may say, one of the biggest feedback I get from the fans is they feel is that we are listening to them, that they are important and we’ve been very blessed in the last couple of years with great racing, with ferrari and mercedes. But we see the upturn at attendance in the races, we’ve seen growing interests in lots of areas of the media in terms of F1. And i think there is a positive feel about formula1, because we really do care about the fans. I have got two partners, Chase and Sean, and for them, the Fan is king. There are lots of things which are being done now, which are around the fans. The fan zones the festivals. are all to generate enthusiasm for Formula 1. I think our message is coming home to the fans, this is another facet, great aspect, that we want the fans to be excited and passionate about Formula 1. We dont want to take them for granted.

First of all, can you tell us what is changing on the aerodynamic philosophy in the cars to make them better for racing and secondly what are you doing to ensure that the tyres are going to allow that to happen. Because one of the bumps at the moment are not just the aerodynamics, but lots of tyre management, tyres going off to quickly, following so on… how are you going to control that and make sure that doesn’t happen again?

I think the two are related. The primary thing we are doing is to, trying to reduce the amount of performance lost, through a following car. So you’ll be able to follow a car in the front without the substantial loss of performance that is there now. It is like a force yield, the force field that is there around the car, you can imagine a force field around the car at the front. You cant be near it, because as your reaching near it, your losing performance, and you fall back. You see that many times the driver will attack the car in the front, and he has to slow create a gap, and his tyres recover, and then have another go. And that is because in that loss of performance of the following car, that degrades the tyres much more quickly than it should do normally. So the guy behind is suffering on several fronts, he is suffering from a loss of downforce, he is suffering from a loss of balance and stability of the car, and he is suffering because these tyres are now starting to hurt because he has lost that performance. So it is a double or triple whammy. We cant eliminate that completely but we can reduce it so that the time differential between the cars and they’re able to battle, can be much less. From now we can get a time differential between one to two seconds, when someones on old tyres and someones on new, we can have a race. But it needs that kind of time differential for a long time to be able to attack the other, we want to reduce that so that the time differential can be muchness for one car to attack another. Hope that makes sense.