Pat Symonds: F1 still doesn't fully understand overtaking

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Williams technical director Pat Symonds believes Formula One should spend more time trying to understand the science of overtaking before rushing in to rule changes.

F1 bosses have agreed to overhaul the regulations in 2017 with the aim of making the cars faster and more exciting to watch. The proposal is expected to reduce lap times by three seconds, but whether it will encourage more wheel-to-wheel racing than the current formula is unclear.

"I think that's one of the concerns that people have, because none of us really fully understand overtaking," Symonds told ESPN. "We can apply some truisms to it, roughly it's a truism that if you've got more downforce then it's harder to overtake, but that's not completely true because there are certain aerodynamics that are more harmful than others. I don't think any of us really understand enough about it and it would be nice if we did.

"I don't think what is proposed for 2017 will be disastrous in any way, the cars will be quicker but I personally don't think that will be very relevant because none of us can tell the difference in FP2 between a car on full tanks and qualifying pace; you've got four seconds per lap difference there and you can't see it without looking at the timing screens."

Between 2007 and 2009, Symonds sat on the Overtaking Working Group [OWG] alongside current Mercedes technical director Paddy Lowe and ex-Ferrari design chief Rory Byrne. The proposals they put forward were adopted in 2009 and increased the amount of overtaking in F1, but much of that work is expected to be undone in 2017.

Symonds admits the OWG never gained a full understanding of what makes good racing, but he believes a dedicated group of F1 engineers focused solely on encouraging overtaking could offer useful very proposals to F1's rule makers.

"If I go back to the Overtaking Working Group, we did begin to understand that there were certain things you could do to the wake of a car that were less detrimental to the following car than other things might be," Symonds added. "But that was very basic bit of work, and the amount of work and the level it was done at, compared to the level of work we do in our day jobs, was very very low.

"If we took an aerodynamic group out of any of the teams and sent them away for a year and gave them plenty of money and plenty of facilities and gave them nothing to do other than understand overtaking, you would have some very interesting answers."