Q: “I want to know, could Ayrton Senna’s throttle technique still work in modern F1?”
A: Well, that’s an interesting question. And unfortunately, one we’ll never know the real answer to. But here are my thoughts
First, my observation and knowledge of Senna leads me to believe that his belief system – what he believed deep down inside – was what made him so special. This, along with his burning desire to be the fastest. Okay, he had skills. But he believed that he could do things that so many other drivers did not believe – at least at the same level, as deeply as he did. His self-confidence in his ability to do something overcame just about everything else. He MADE things happen, even when they seemed impossible. And possibly even when they went against what was considered to be the best driving technique.
So, could the way Senna used the throttle – the quick stabs or bursts of throttle (do a YouTube search for some videos where you can hear this) – work with today’s F1 cars? He would make it work. Would it be the best way to drive the car? Not from what I understand about how today’s F1 cars work. But he’d make it work!
One thing that is different with today’s F1 cars from when Senna drove is the way a modern car generates aero downforce. Today’s cars are much more sensitive to pitch. When the platform (think of the car like a flat board – that’s the platform) changes rake (the angle the car is at when looking from the side, with the front either lower or higher than the rear), the center of pressure of where the maximum amount of aero downforce is moves forward or backwards. That means that every time a driver causes weight transfer (changing rake, or pitch), the balance of downforce, front to rear, changes. And that means that the car’s handling will change from oversteer to understeer (or vice versa). When a car is changing, it’s very difficult for a driver to consistently drive it at the limit. The less weight transfer, the less aero balance change, the more consistent the car’s handling, the easier it is for the driver to drive it at the limit.
Apparently, this is something that Sebastian Vettel is very good at – maintaining the car’s aero balance. He does this by managing the weight transfer, and that results from being smooth. Quick stabs at the throttle would change the aero balance of a modern F1 car more now than ever, and I believe that would make it more difficult for that style of driving to be effective.
Still, in the end, a driver’s beliefs will over-power just about anything else, possibly even a changing aero balance.