Bigger cases for bigger cars

Bigger cases for bigger cars

January 31, 2017

By now you are probably aware that this year's Formula 1 cars are going to look radically different to their predecessors being, in a nutshell, bigger, longer, heavier and wider. The width goes from 1800mm to 2000 and the front wing grows from 1650 to 1800 mm, with front tyres expanding from 245 mm to 305mm, while the rears grow by 80mm to 405 mm. The width of the floor and sidepods also correspondingly grow from 1400mm to 1600mm. The knock-on effect of the cars getting ripped is that they will weigh more, rising 26 kg to 728 kg.

It might not sound like much of a change, but it affects so many aspects of how the teams will operate, from the simple fact the cars will take up more floor space in the pit garages, to the pit crew needing to get used to lifting bigger wheels and tyres during pit stops. Not to mention the extra physical effort the drivers will have to put into actually driving these beasts that, for the older F1 afficionado, will bring back memories of the cars in the 80s. From the photos, you get an idea of the difference in size between the 2017 and 2016 tyres – just to be clear, this year's tyres are piled up with the fronts on the bottom, while the 2016 pile has the rears at the bottom.

(From left: 2017 and 2016 tyres compared. Pit stop practice with the new tyres)

However, there are more mundane side effects to having pumped up our cars, most notably the need for completely new packaging for everything from the chassis to the wings, the floors and the wheel rims. Most of the new stuff is needed for the flyaways, because the task of dealing with a bigger car and components is slightly less complex when it comes to packing everything to go to the races in Europe, although we have had to modify the trucks to cope with the bigger cars. However, for sea and air transport, we have had to buy ourselves a whole new set of matching luggage! First and foremost, we have built new aluminium cages to pack the chassis as air freight. The noses also have new boxes, with different mounting points. We have had to rebuild the rim boxes to cope with the extra width and, as an aside, we've also got bigger tyre-warming blankets.

Other garage equipment has also been updated with different trollies for bodywork components and even the trollies used to move wheels and tyres from the Pirelli area in the paddock to the garage and storage for the wheels in the garage for pit stop purposes are also brand new. There are no rule changes affecting the power unit dimensions, however, as we have made the switch to Renault power this year, here too we have had to come up with different engine stands. The pit garages at the 20 circuits on the F1 calendar won't have changed since last year, but our garage layout has been redrawn to squeeze some valuable extra working space around the cars for the mechanics to go about their work comfortably, despite the larger footprint of the two STR12s. Finally, the kit we use to check that our cars comply with the measurement regulations, when we wheel them down pit lane to the FIA weighbridge, have been adapted to suit the new dimensions, specifically the templates used to check the front and rear wing and floor measurements.