Williams technical boss Pat Symonds, one of the most experienced engineers in Formula 1, has admitted the cars of today are easier to drive.
The Briton’s career has spanned decades, as he has worked with great champions across the eras including Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso.
And now he sees Williams’ Valtteri Bottas as a potential champion of the future, although he admits the challenge is different today.
“I do believe that today’s cars are easier to drive,” he told UOL, “and that is due to a number of reasons.”
Comparing the ground-effect cars with today’s machines, for instance, is impossible, because the cars of the 80s were “animals”, Symonds explained.
“I also worked in the turbo era where the power came in like you were pushing a button,” he said. “You pushed the throttle and nothing happened until the power came on all at once.
“Those cars were difficult,” explained Symonds, “and Ayrton Senna certainly knew how to tame them.”
Symonds thinks the challenge of driving has also been made easier due to the evolution of the engineer’s role in F1.
“What happens is that, as the engineers get better and we manage to make more and more efficient cars, the cars become easier to drive.
“For instance, how many times in the past did a driver have to retire because he selected the wrong gear? That doesn’t happen anymore,” he said.
Not only that, Symonds said the drivers are even less involved in the actual development of the car.
“Definitely,” said the 62-ytear-old. “The driver is less involved in development now simply because engineering has become a lot more sophisticated.
“We can control most things,” added Symonds, “but there is still an area that we cannot enter, which is that final interaction between man and machine — and that’s where you have the driver.
“On many occasions, the drivers will tell us he prefers a configuration that makes no sense to us (engineers),” he said, “and you have to respect that.”