EVERY year Formula 1 introduces changes to the sport’s regulations. Some are more talked about than others, as is the case for the change to aerodynamic regulations for the 2019 season.
While the aero rules are rightly at the forefront of conversation and conjecture, there are some other changes too that bear mentioning.
Taller drivers have always been at a disadvantage, as a lanky Nico Hulkenberg will always weigh more than a driver like Charles Leclerc.
Because driver and car weight in combination must not exceed the maximum weight proposed by the FIA, it fell to the drivers to slim down as much as humanly possible while still maintaining their fitness levels.
It also meant that any driver shorter, and therefore lighter, than say Hulkenberg would have an immediate pace advantage as weight equals speed in Formula 1. The good news is that for 2019 the driver weight will now be considered separately to the car.
A minimum has been mandated at 80kg and should a driver weigh less than that, ballast must be used to bring them up to the prescribed minimum weight. The ballast too must be placed adjacent to the driver’s seat.
The introduction of limiting fuel to 105kg has forced drivers to lift and coast at most races to save fuel and get to the chequered flag.
This has come at a cost to the show and the FIA has agreed that the fuel allowance be increased to 110kg. The aim of this is to allow drivers to push throughout the entire race and while it will reward the most efficient engines it does open up a range of strategic choices to teams.
In a bid to increase overtaking and to allow for drivers to follow one another easier, without being affected by turbulent air, the biggest of all 2019 changes comes in the form of rejigged aerodynamic regulations for the front and rear wing. Over the decades the front wing has, arguably, become the most crucial aerodynamic element of the car’s design. The 2019 change to this part of the aero package is then by no means a small thing.
In effect, the new regulations simplify the design of the wings.
It ensures a wider front wing and the removal of various winglets that adorned the 2018 wings that comprised a plethora of cascades, tasked with directing and energising air around the rest of the car.
In conjunction with the changes to the front wing, the brake ducts and bargeboards, too, have been simplified.
Instead of using these elements for aerodynamic gain, the new regulations encourage designers to use, especially, the front brake ducts for the purpose of cooling.
The design of the rear wing, too, has been overhauled.
The effect of the 2019 regulations means that the rear wing will be wider, taller, and simpler.
The louvres on the endplates will be a thing of the past, while the bigger wing will also increase the amount of downforce generated. It also increases the size and angle of the main flap of the wing, thereby increasing the strength and effect of DRS.
Ultimately, the 2019 aerodynamic regulations are a fundamental overhaul. And though it may be unlikely, there is still the potential for even a midfield team to hit the sweet spot on design and vault up the grid. Understandably, these changes aren’t a guarantee that overtaking will be easier or that it will improve on-track action.
The first race of the season at Australia’s Albert Park circuit, which often produces a processional race, should be a good indicator as to how effective the changes are.