The Quest for Speed

McLaren chief Ron Dennis recently expressed the view that contemporary Formula One cars are not fast enough. Within Formula One, it is an opinion which is not uniquely his.

The question is, how can you achieve this without compromising the numerous safety measures which have been incorporated, most conspicuously during the past two years?

Few doubt that the arrival of Bridgestone in Formula One will cause lap times to decrease as Goodyear is forced to produce costlier, grippier tyres than those demanded by its current monopoly.

Dennis is thinking in terms of more liberal technology than softer tyres, yet even the latter situation is already generating talk of the need to modify existing circuits. Again.

We have no wish to see technology and innovation capped: equally, we have no desire for any compromises as far as safety is concerned. So where does one draw the line?

Formula One is already beset by too many bland racing circuits. Would faster Formula One cars produce any greater a spectacle around the banal second and third gear turns of Buenos Aires, or the Hungaroring?

Palpably not.

Would they make for more entertaining viewing at Eau Rouge?

Unquestionably, but you can bet that they’d be asking for a gravel trap which stretched most of the way to Germany.

There is no easy solution. It is unthinkable that speeds will forever be pegged back to more or less current levels, and it is unreasonable to force circuits to be tightened up every time cars gain another second per lap. There is nascent technology for new, ultra absorbent barriers to supersede the current tyre wall/steel rail fixtures, and extra cockpit protection such as airbags is perpetually under investigation.

Until such innovations are in place, and proven, however, then making the current breed of Formula One cars substantially faster is only going to create further problems, and further emasculate racing circuits which are already too dull by half. SA