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The fastest car in F1 history? 2017 to be 'a game changer'

Most striking change will be increased tire width

(CNN) - It's all change on and off the track for Formula One in 2017.

With the Bernie Ecclestone era now over and new owner Liberty Media promising to overhaul how the sport is marketed, F1's legions of supporters can look forward to a more fan-friendly experience.

The changes won't be instant, Liberty Media has cautioned, but one very immediate and visible sign of renewal in 2017 will be the new-look cars.

Three seasons after switching from 2.4-liter V8 engines to quieter, more efficient 1.6-liter hybrid turbos, this year's technical changes are focused on the car's looks.

New regulations set out by the sports governing body, the FIA, will see the birth of meaner-looking motors with wider tires, wings and bodywork -- all of which are expected to make the cars quicker than any in the previous 67 seasons of F1.

"Next season we will have probably the fastest car in Formula One history," Aldo Costa, director of engineering at the world champion Mercedes team, told CNN.

"We think car performance will increase quite a bit -- we are talking about three to four seconds per lap," Costa added. "So for the driver it will be much more difficult to drive. (The 2017) car is a game changer."

The most striking change to the new cars will be the tire width, measuring 30.5 centimeters (12 inches) at the front compared to 24.5 cm in 2016, and 40.5 cm at the rear -- an increase of 8 cm.

Official F1 tire supplier Pirelli has put its new tires through rigorous testing to further improve reliability.

The Italian manufacturer has been on the receiving end of criticism in recent years for a series of blowouts, but motorsport director Paul Hembery says the new compounds will be more robust this season.

"We will have much less degradation in 2017 and tires will -- if we achieve what we are trying to achieve -- have a wider operating window," Hembery told F1.com in June.

The bodywork and overall width of the car will also increase to a maximum of 160 cm and 200 cm respectively.

"The wider tires combined with the wider car and the developed aerodynamic configuration will increase the grip in the corners," says Costa, formerly chief designer at Ferrari.

"We think that on braking we will see more longitudinal deceleration and cornering higher lateral acceleration. This will be, for sure, more effort for the driver."

Simulations of how the 2017 cars will perform estimate that speeds through corners could be up 40 kph (25 mph) faster, according to F1.com.

With faster cornering comes more g-force meaning drivers will need more muscle bulk -- notably in their neck -- to cope with the pressures.

"Last year and the past few years you'd do training to keep your weight down, a lot of long endurance but not high intensity to put muscle on," Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo told F1's official website.

"Now we can push harder in training, afford to put on muscle and things like this. It'll be challenging but a bit more rewarding."

Flying laps

Wider wings at both front and rear will also improve aerodynamics, with downforce expected to increase by more than 20%.

"The front wing will interact with the rest of the car and push various changes on the suspension and all the aerodynamic elements," Costa says.

"The rear wing will change as well -- it will become much wider, it will take a kind of arrow shape and the diffuser will be much more powerful than now, starting much earlier and much higher."

The result is a "better looking car," Costa says, "much more aggressive and looking fast."

How fast? We'll find out when the season kicks off with the Australian Grand Prix on March 26.

Teams will be unveiling their new cars this month before the first of two preseason testing sessions at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya starting on February 27.

It's 13 years since Juan Pablo Montoya produced the fastest lap in the history of F1, clocking an average speed of 162.95 mph (262.24 kph) around Monza during qualifying for the 2004 Italian Grand Prix.

During the following year's race at Monza, the Colombian driver set the fastest speed in F1 history, 372.6 kph (231.523 mph).

Ferrari's former technical director James Allison told last year's FIA Sport Conference that longstanding F1 records could tumble in 2017.

"The historic best lap times were set a while back, but we're starting to approach those now," Allison said. "I'm looking forward to next year, because next year we're going to start smashing those records."

For F1 fans, the new season and the new cars can't come quick enough.


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