At the end of 2018 changes were made to Formula 1’s aero regulations in an effort to help improve overtaking, to make the sport more exciting and less processional – an accusation often levelled at F1 in the last decade or two.
Essentially, the rule change attempted to reduce the ‘wake’ created by #F1 cars that was severely impacting the performance of a following car, largely nullifying any threat of an overtake.
This disturbed air made it extremely difficult for a driver to position himself to make an overtake as the ‘dirty air’ created by the aerodynamic devices on the lead car caused the same aero devices on his car not to work quite as well.
This not only compromised his speed around the corners where he relies most heavily on his downforce but also starved his car of the cooling effect of undisturbed air and made its tyres work that bit harder, shortening the window of opportunity for an attack before he had to drop back and regroup.
To alleviate this, 2019’s Formula 1 cars were designed to punch a bigger hole in the air in a straight line & leave their trailing air much less disturbed than their 2018 predecessors, allowing any cars close behind to benefit from slipstreaming in a straight line and be much less impeded in corners.
Never was this change more obvious than at the 2019 Italian Grand Prix.
Monza is one of the fastest circuits on the calendar with its long straights broken up by three chicanes and a couple of fast sweeping turns.
Shortly after the beginning of FP1 it was clear that lap times where the driver had benefitted from a tow were going to be significantly quicker than those without.
This would have a severe impact on qualifying where Q3 turned into a pantomime, no driver wanting to take the lead instead preferring to follow & be towed along by those in front.
This prompted the pack to slow sufficiently for just one of those involved would make it to the line before the chequered flag – the rest missing out, and thus unable to challenge Charles LeClerc’s would-be pole position time.
Of the teams most affected by the new aero regs/nature of the Monza circuit combo was Williams, whose FW42 suffers not only from poor aerodynamic performance but also from high drag. The not-so perfect storm!
The threat of rain for Sunday was Williams’ only real opportunity for anything other than another race spent slowly dropping away from the pack. When it failed to materialise, even penalties promoting George to 14th on the grid with Robert directly behind him in 15th struggled to raise expectations.
The Italian Grand Prix: Race
A great start by Robert moved him up to 13th, his team mate behind him, before a race long battle with those around them followed, including a nice scrap between George and an out of position Sebastian Vettel robbed the Williams driver of 13th position at the death.
Robert was forced to pit a second time for new rubber after he flat spotted his front left in a dice with Haas’ Romain Grosjean, demoting him to 17th and last, two laps adrift of race winner Charles LeClerc.
Not that anyone at Circuit Parc Monza on Sunday could have cared because, for the first time in almost a decade, a Ferrari driver won the Italian Grand Prix.
And when that happens Jennifer Lawrence could walk up and down the pit lane naked singing I shot the sheriff and go completely unnoticed.