Brawn at odds with the drivers

Most Formula 1 drivers after winter testing and the first race in Melbourne last weekend appear to say that overtaking is as difficult as ever and the new aero rules have not improved that aspect but Formula 1’s Ross Brawn doesn’t agree.

TJ13 reported during winter testing that the drivers were still complaining that following another car wasn’t improved over last year, and indeed it would become more difficult with the new front wings, and the overtaking opportunities will be just as rare as 2018.

The Haas driver Romain Grosjean summarised the new aerodynamics of the Formula 1 cars after the Grand Prix at Albert Park: “In the race I got the impression that it has become easier to follow which is good. But the tyres are still prone to overheating as soon as you start to move into the wake. So overtaking remains very difficult.”

“The best example was Antonio Giovinazzi. Some of the other drivers were faster than him, but it took them a long time to finally catch him.

“You can follow closely, but the tyres get too hot, the car starts to slip, you lose grip, and that’s all there is to an attack.

“The wings were a step in the right direction, but now we need more robust rubber that won’t break up if you’re in the slipstream.”

Red Bull Racing Honda’s Max Verstappen corroborates the rhetoric saying that “Nothing has changed at all” and Nico Hulkenberg described the situation when comparing last years to this year’s car “as if you had pressed the Copy & Paste button”.

But Formula 1 sports boss Ross Brawn doesn’t accept that, and the 64-year-old Englishman says he can prove this with figures.

The F1 technical boss claims that people forget quickly that the layout of the Albert Park Circuit has never been suited for overtaking. A year ago there were only three non-DRS overtakes. This year there have been fourteen, six of them without the help of DRS.

For Ross Brawn, this means that the sport is on the right track with the simplified front wings and a more powerful rear wing effect saying “The numbers alone prove us right.” and that “Not only have we seen a lot more overtaking manoeuvres, but also some really gripping duels”.

“Judging by the number of passing moves in the race – 14 this year [six without DRS] compared to three in 2018 – the initial signs are encouraging, especially as apart from the actual overtakes, we saw some thrilling battles,” Brawn said.

“Clearly those weren’t all down to the new aerodynamics, as the performance of the midfield teams especially has closed up dramatically.

“However, several drivers said the cars felt more neutral when following another when compared to previous years.

“Here, too, the Australian track isn’t the most accurate test, so I’d prefer to wait for at least another three races before drawing any conclusions. However, the initial signs are encouraging.”

“The return to awarding a point to the driver and team who set the race fastest lap livened up the closing stages of the race, as Verstappen tried to nudge out Bottas, who had his hands on that particular prize,” added Brawn.

“In a race in which the podium positions seemed set from early on, the fight to claim that one extra point, in the knowledge that it could be vitally important in the closing stages of the championship, certainly livened up the closing stages of the race.

“That was exactly what we and the FIA had in mind when it came up with the idea.”