The Benefits of Leaner Times

It has become commonplace in recent years for fans, the media and the teams alike to complain about the ever increasing restrictions placed on Formula One.  This trend has been going on for some time, such as the switch from 3.0 liter V10s to the 2.4 liter V8s back in 2006. It took a much more visible and drastic turn however with the new aerodynamic regulations introduced in 2009.

Many balked at the simplicity, the newly awkward proportions, the lack of all the nifty aero appendages that developed over the last decade. At first I agreed with these sentiments, but have since changed my mind. Two seasons in and the new generation of cars is evolving quite nicely, the ever changing regulations, the resource restriction agreement, the lack of funding and testing has all forced the teams to be increasingly clever, to get by, despite their whining about it, with less.

And it is getting by with less that is precisely the hidden blessing of lean times such as ours. With the recession and increased global instability, with controversial budget cut backs, with growing emphasis on climate change, with revolutionary fervor sweeping the Middle East, perhaps Formula One teams like the rest of us can learn to do a with a little less.

I for one think they are doing splendidly, for they have come up with some of the most clever design and engineering solutions the sport has seen in ages. I’m not just speaking on double diffusers, F-ducts, blown floors or flexing wings, I’m talking about the package as a whole.  For instead of focusing on a myriad of chimneys, flip ups and winglets to tack on, F1 designers have concentrated not on limbs, but on the body of the car itself.

Look at the machines of the early 2000’s such as the simplistic Jaguar R4

Image credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Or the machines at the height of the aero era like this horned devil covered in spikes, the BMW F1.08

Image credit: Jose Mª Izquierdo Galiot

Compare those to the intricate solutions designers are finding today such as the Toro Rosso STR6’s uniquely elegant double floor.

Image credit: Pirelli

Ultimately they are all three fast, they are all three beautiful, complex racing machines. Which is better is largely up to what your opinion of F1 racing should be. What they highlight however is not up for debate, they are loud, living proof that in both boom times and lean times Formula One will be there, pressing the limits of engineering know how and creative design for all the world to see and enjoy.

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2 Responses to The Benefits of Leaner Times

  1. Agreed Adam, it’s refreshing to see some cleaner cars with more obvious innovations, but the noses are still too wide to look truly elegant. The detailing on the Torro Rosso sidepods or the tiny rear end on the Williams are like works of art sculpted by the will of the wind.

    I love the looks of the Mclaren that Senna performed miracles with in 1993, which ironically was the first car to feature barge boards. It was the last truly beautiful grand prix car in my opinion, yet those turning vanes that it pioneered were what led the overly-fussy designs of a the noughties.

  2. adamtate says:

    I do love the look of that 93 McLaren 🙂

    It’s nice to once again be seeing cars that have a clean and fluid look similar to what it had back in the day.

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