Bigger tyres, wider wings & engines doing six extra laps a race - F1 2017 rule changes explained


There will be new sights and sounds to behold when Formula One's revamped cars take to the track in Melbourne this weekend.

Regulation changes for the 2017 season have been brought in with the remit of making cars five seconds a lap faster and the timesheets were certainly given a hammering in the two pre-season tests in Barcelona.

To find out exactly what the rule changes mean for each team, Omnisport caught up with two of three-time constructors' champions Mercedes' technical bosses to get the inside line.

Andy Cowell, managing director of Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains, and Aldo Costa, engineering director of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, have led the Silver Arrows' dominance of the hybrid era, so will it be a fourth title in succession for the Brackley squad?


"In terms of biggest changes from the dimension point of view, you see that the cars are much wider, 200mm wider," Costa says.

"We've got wider tyres, front and rear. We've got a wider front wing, wider rear wing.

"Everything has been done to add more aerodynamic surfaces and better stability. 

"The car is wider and has more grip due to the tyre dimension, so everything has been done for this performance target."

Bigger tyres and wider wings have given the cars a pleasing retro look, with fans and pundits alike largely giving them the thumbs up. 

Were the teams as happy implementing the new parts?

Cowell explains: "The larger tyres, that extra grip capability, means the load through everything is higher. So the wheel rim, the upright, the wishbones, all the mounting points, the monocoque, the engine, transmission casing, every load case has had to be redone because the loads have gone up considerably.

"Every single component needs to be made out of stronger material or increased in cross-sectional area or increased thread sizes, but all faced with not much of a weight increase permitted on the car. So it's a huge challenge to come up with highly efficient designs to manage that."


Stickier cars need even more power to keep up the pace and Cowell explains exactly to what extent 2017 cars will have a greater shunt behind them.

"There's a lot of focus on aerodynamics and tyres but the power unit in the middle, it always needs to deliver more power, but it needs to deliver it for longer," he says.

"The full throttle time's gone up by five seconds. So it's a little bit like the power unit having to do an extra six laps in the race, that extra percentage of time at full throttle.

"So the durability challenge is tough, as well as the new regulations providing a tough new exam for engineers and the whole supply chain."

On durability, Cowell adds: "Our reliability over the last three years has not been perfect. There are quality improvements to improve our reliability, and the structural load improvements in the power unit, because the cornering speeds are higher, so the lateral loads are higher from the G-forces.

"All the structural mounts are a lot stronger to manage that, so it's a big change."


Regulation changes in the past have often thrown up loopholes to be taken advantage of - think the double diffuser that inspired Brawn's title in 2009. 

Costa says the trick in 2017 has been designing a new car which can be changed if teams need to react during the season.

He says: "The biggest challenges were related to the car layout, identifying a car layout that was a good sound layout, a layout that is allowing you to be developed during the season both from the aerodynamic point of view and the tyre development point of view.

"We were mainly focused to have that - a good layout, very flexible to new conditions and new developments."

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