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The ugly side of F1

As the new F1 season approaches, there is one thing I feel more strongly about than anything else. It is not Vettel’s dominance, nor is it whether Lewis Hamilton can regain his best form. My strong feelings are about the design of most of the cars’ new front noses.

It may seem odd, but I am quite disgruntled about this new ‘platypus’ nose design. It’s ugly, plain and simple; and nothing about F1 should be ugly. It is probably the most glamorous sport on Earth. The cars are meant to look like something out of an 11 year-olds imagination (minus the machine guns).

There is a reason for my newest F1 pet hate. The noses of the cars were getting too high, which meant that in crashes, there was a chance the nose of the car could hit the driver. OK, now I don’t want that to happen. I would happily sacrifice a pretty front end for drivers’ safety if it was the only option. But it isn’t. The reason there is an exaggerated dip on the nose is because the front end of the car has a height limitation. The chassis, however, can still be the same height. A higher chassis allows more air to flow underneath, which helps downforce.

McLaren have bucked the trend, as per usual, with the design of their nose. Instead of implementing the horrible ‘platypus’ dip, they have instead lowered their chassis to enable their nose to have a smooth line. What this means is that McLaren now have a car which is 176 times better looking than anything else on the grid. What we do not know, however, is what this will mean for performance. It will be impossible to tell whether McLaren have pulled off a masterstroke until Melbourne next week. The conventional wisdom would suggest the dipped nose is the way to go, I mean could 11 teams really get it wrong? More pointedly, could Adrian Newey really get it wrong? Newey is an F1 genius, as I stated in a previous article, so it would be very surprising if his design is not one of the best.

All of this could have been easily avoided. Once the new rules were introduced, it was obvious that  this would be the route the teams would take to keep their cars quick. It was obvious this design would make the cars far less attractive. So why did the rule makers did not do something about it? It would have been a simple fix, in addition to lowering the nose height, all they had to do was simultaneously make the chassis height lower.

So do the higher authorities do not care about the visual aspect of the sport?  Before typing this question, I already knew the answer. No, they don’t. All you have to do is look at F1 footage from the 70s and 80s. Now they were good-looking cars. They were like space pods. No unnecessary trimmings, very few safety features. Just pure unadulterated speed combined with sleek beauty. Admittedly, the safety features which have made the cars less attractive are completely vital. No one is disputing that. But it is still a shame that the beauty of the cars is no longer thought of as a priority.

I am quite sure, or perhaps hopeful, that we will see a return to a sleeker nose design next year. But for the meantime, that sexy McLaren nose is winning my support. Now if that isn’t enough to get the authorities thinking, I don’t know what is.

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