Once again, Formula 1 is under-going a rules revamp to try and curb the dominant team, and create better racing. It is not the fault of Mercedes that they have done an outstanding job whilst their rivals continually come up short.
Ever since the current engine and aerodynamic rules were introduced in 2014, there have been vocal critics of them.
The engines are too quiet, the cars too ugly and seeing one team drive off into the distance has put many fans off from watching or attending.
Throughout the history of F1, whenever a major rules revamp has come about, it has been to slow the cars down and to make them safer, especially after the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna in 1994.
However, this time it is different. The cars are being sped up. To the tune of two to three seconds a lap.
They are also going to look more aggressive, faster, meaner. Whisper it, but the 2017 cars might just end up looking like what many think of when thinking about a proper racing car.
The changes are plentiful. As well as aerodynamic changes, mainly to the front-wings, rear-wings, and engine covers, Pirelli have created a new breed of tyre, that are significantly wider and fatter, which will be made to last longer periods before losing grip.
It doesn’t stop there, the much-derided engine development ‘token’ system has been abandoned, meaning the four Power Unit manufacturers will be allowed to bring updates as they please.
In recent times, F1 cars have been criticised for looking ugly, prime example being the ‘step-noses’ of 2012, and the colourful interpretations of the 2014 rules.
They’ve also been ridiculed for having front-wings that are too complex and make it impossible to closely follow another driver, thus making over-taking nearly impossible.
To try and make this no longer a problem, the new generation front-wings must be delta-shaped and their span has been increased by 150mm to 1800mm. The hope is that air will be channelled around the car following to try and allow it to fight wheel-to-wheel with the one in front.
The front-wing end plates have also been simplified. Moving back, the rear-wings are being changed, to take on the type of appearance seen prior to 2009. In 2016, they were 750mm wide and 950mm high, but in 2017 they will be 950mm wide and 800mm high.
A follow-on effect from the new rear-wings means the diffuser will also be given new dimensions. Previously, the diffuser, which takes air channelled from around the car, to create rear downforce, was 125mm high and 1000mm wide. The new, bigger diffusers will be 175mm and 1050mm respectively.
A bigger diffuser means more downforce. More downforce means greater corning speeds and G-forces. The new generation also will extend ahead of the chassis rear-axle line.
Finally, on the aero front, is the bodywork changes.
One thing that is immediately clear from the images released of the Williams FW40, is the return of the shark-fins to the engine covers. These can help to channel air toward the all-important diffuser.
The track of the cars, in effect their width, has been widened. Previously the limit was 1400mm, but this has been upped to 1600mm.
The sidepods, which are crucial to channelling air to the rear of the car, have been redeveloped to include a swept leading edge, whilst bargeboard restrictions have been relaxed, allowing for ones with a bigger surface area.
A constant criticism that has been hurled Pirelli’s way since they came in as sole tyre supplier has been that the Italian rubber wears out too quickly and drivers can’t push flat-out and have to conserve their rubber.
Having the rights to produce the tyres for the next few seasons, Pirelli said that they could produce whatever tyres they were asked to.
What they were asked by the FIA to create for 2017 were tyres which are much larger and fatter and can last longer before losing performance.
The 2017 Pirelli’s are around 25 percent wider than their counterparts from ’16. Front width has been increased from 245mm to 305mm, whilst the rears take on the appearance of the chunky tyres that most associate with the golden-era of F1, the 1980s-1990s, with their width up to 405mm from 325mm.
Rim size remains at 13inches, although there were proposals to increase it to 18 inches. To take into account the weight of the new tyres, maximum car weight has been increased from 702kg to 722kg, including the tyres
Development of the power units will be as key as aero development throughout the season, as the token system has gone, meaning Mercedes, Honda, Ferrari and Renault can bring updates as they so wish to their offerings.
What will happen with the new rules?
The FIA hopes that the new breed of cars will be around two or three seconds a lap faster, but be more physically demanding to drive, giving the drivers a physical work out, somewhat akin to the V10 era that ended in 2005.
The teams are confident that turn three in Barcelona, currently a 130mph corner will be taken at 160mph, flat-out in the new breed.
Such an increase in G-Forces means that the driver’s necks will be tested to the maximum. That is why, on their social media channels, many have posted images of them training their neck muscles to cope with the rise.
At places like Spa, and through Eau Rogue, Pouhon and Blanchimont, the cars will easily be able to go flat-out. Qualifying at tracks with high-speed sweeping corners, like Suzuka should be something special.
What are the problems?
Well, for a start, the increase in aerodynamic drag means that straight-line speeds will be lower.
As a result, the braking distance at the end of a long straight will be decreased, meaning that there will be less opportunity for a driver to make a late lunge in the braking zone.
Moreover, more aerodynamic grip means that the cars will be even more susceptible to not being able to drive close to another, despite the delta front-wings.
The way to get around this would be to have more mechanical grip, like the bigger tyres, and the return of ground effects.
Kevin Magnussen believes that DRS will now be more powerful than it has been previously, meaning that there is the possibility of there being more DRS assisted moves than pure driver skill.
Thankfully, new technical and sporting director Ross Brawn isn’t a fan of the gimmick that is DRS.
Who will benefit from the new rules?
With an Adrian Newey who has his mojo back and a complex new aerodynamic formula, something Red Bull lobbied heavily for when the rules were drawn up, they must be among the favourites for the title.
However, to bet against Mercedes starting the season with the car would take a brave person. They had the best car last season, and despite the new rules, that advantage will not just evaporate.
Ferrari will be looking to finally have a solid season and positive aero development, something that has been lacking for nearly a decade now, whilst Williams will be buoyed by the return of Paddy Lowe to the team from Mercedes.
Further back, McLaren will be hoping that their years in the doldrums will come to an end, and Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne will be able to fight, whilst the midfield teams will be hoping to find that crucial advantage in the rules that will leapfrog them ahead of the competition.
At least one team will find it, and least one will go down the wrong path.
Throughout the next week, the teams will be unveiling their interpretation of the new rules, and pre-season testing gets underway at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Monday 27th February.