Christian Horner spoke in favour of bringing Formula 1 back to the art of racing when he spoke to us at Red Bull’s OpenhouseUK event on Tuesday, a day before the F1 strategy group meeting.
The team principal, who has endured Red Bull’s worst start to a season since 2007, made the comments when speaking about GP2 Driver Pierre Gasly’s pre-season testing performance in Austria last week.
“Pierre [Gasly] drove at the test for us in Austria and he said compared to his GP2 car on the straights there was not that much difference, and not a huge amount of difference in the corners. He jumped in (to the RB11) and did 100 laps without any issue at all, which would be unheard of 6/7 years ago.
“He said the main difference was the braking capability and the fact that the car was easier to drive because of things like Power steering and the things that have been refined.
Power steering has been focused on as a driver aid that could be removed from Formula 1, although Horner feels that this isn’t a necessary step in fixing the problem:
“I don’t think it needs to be removed, I think they need to make the cars quicker in the corners. An F1 car needs to be scary to drive, because when that happens it puts more emphasis on the drivers. The cars at the moment are wonderfully sophisticated but relatively simple to drive. You rarely hear the drivers out of breath on the radio and you don’t get the sense that they’re having to work that hard.
The second year of the V6 Turbo era falls a decade later than the final year of V10 F1 cars, a power-crazed time where cars revved above 21,000 RPM.
“I just think that we’re not putting on a particularly great show at the moment, the cars are too easy to drive. They’re not spectacular enough, you’ve only got to go to Goodwood to witness where we’ve come from to where we are now.
However, Horner quickly second-guessed any that would accuse him of seeing 2005 through rose-tinted glasses, pointing out the sheer speed of the cars from ten years ago.
“When Pierre drove our 2005 car, the RB1 that we had at Goodwood, he said “Wow, this is a serious beast!”
“If you look at the lap times there are significant differences. We’re about 2.5-3 seconds off the pace at most tracks we go to – the cornering speeds in particular are quite a way down.
Horner also speculated on what he hopes will be a much more fortuitous second half of the 2015 season for the Milton Keynes-based team. After ‘power circuits’ in Canada and Austria where downforce plays less of a part, the next couple of races look set to favour the team much more.
“I think our guys are doing a good job understanding that and moving in a direction that is putting the car into a much happier place. Hopefully this weekend and over Hungary that should see us achieve a balance that the drivers are a lot happier with.
“Silverstone is a track that has suited our car recently, with its fast flowing corners. It should suit the car better than Austria and Montreal.
With the mid-season break approaching after the Hungarian Grand Prix, updates were also discussed too:
“There’s plenty going on and we’ll develop throughout the year, because whatever we develop this year is relevant to next year anyway. Hopefully the second half of our year will be stronger than the first half.
With Formula 1’s future discussed at Wednesday’s strategy group meeting, Horner commented on competitor series, and addressed Richard Branson’s comments that Formula E will one day surpass Formula 1 in popularity.
“I watched the Formula E race on Sunday and it looks more of a competitor to GP3 than F1. It’s positioned totally differently to F1.
“The cars look slow, and with the fact that you have to change cars half way through a race, I’m not sure it’s delivering a great message about sustainable energy if you’re saying that your car can’t get to the end of a race.
“Take nothing away from Formula E, I think they’ve done well to get where they are, but you can’t really compare it in the same sentence as F1.
He summed up his thoughts on the sport ahead of the meeting:
“I think F1 is at a critical stage, but fundamentally F1 is still a fantastic product. It still has an enormous fan base and appeal. We need to have progress at the meeting.”
The strategy group meeting on Wednesday produced some new rules; rules to be implemented as early as the Belgian Grand Prix, which will address things such as race starts, driver aids, and radio information.
Wider tyres, wider cars, and a brand new qualifying format are some of the ideas that have been green-lit – watch out on the Badger GP home page for our take on all the new features after the British GP weekend.