Check out the new-look cars, budget cap confirmed for 2021 F1 season
New rules package for 2021 unveiled on Thursday in Austin
Formula 1 has revealed its rules and regulations for 2021 and beyond and revealed a model of what they believe the new cars will look like.
The goal is to make the sport more closely fought and more exciting to watch. The rules were developed in the course of two years of discussions between the Formula One Group and the various stakeholders, including the teams and the FIA. The package of technical, sporting and financial rules received unanimous approval from the FIA World Motor Sport Council earlier on Thursday morning, before the presentation in Austin, Texas.
F1’s managing director for all things technical Ross Brawn said that he believes that this will be “a turning point” for the sport, with interesting new aerodynamics and larger wheels. The data produced during the development work done by Formula 1 indicates that the new cars will improve wheel-to-wheel racing and overtaking. Although much of the focus has been on the new-look cars, the really radical change is the introduction of cost control, with a cost cap of $175 million per team.
“It will change the foundation of Formula 1 via the cost control, the governance, and bring the teams closer together and provide sustainable competition,” Brawn said.
When the 2019 cars race together, they lose more than 40 percent of their downforce when they get close to a car in front of them. With the 2021 cars, this will drop only by between 5 and 10 percent. Formula 1’s chief technical officer Pat Symonds says that this could be improved even more using active aerodynamics.
“The cars have been designed to have active aerodynamics,” he said, “which would reduce the disruption to zero, but the teams did not want to do that because of all the other things that are changing. So we will look at that again for 2022 and beyond.”
Symonds said that the development work on the new cars had included a great deal of design of experiments work, using artificial intelligence techniques to test and optimize the many variations with the goal of finding optimal design for the front and rear wings.
Symonds also said that the so-called halo device might look similar to the current version but said that it was the fourth version of the system and that it is much more integrated into the chassis than it was previously. He noted that they had considered a canopy system to replace the halo but said that external reflections were such a problem that it would mean that the drivers would be invisible to the crowd at lots of times. They are trying to give the crowds more chances to see the drivers, so this was rejected.
There will be a change in the way cars are scrutinized with a new “reference specification” being introduced, which will mean that cars will undergo inspection and the bodywork (without the radiators) will then be frozen for the weekend. The teams will be able to test new parts in FP1 and FP2, but they must then return the cars to the reference spec before the FP3 session.
“If you want to try a new front wing, you can do that, but you can’t race it,” Brawn said. “The idea behind that is to stop the proliferation or the necessity to build lots of parts in case that front wing works. In current F1, you want to take a new front wing to the track and try it. You’re concerned it will work well, and therefore you need to make two or three of them for when you turn up at the track so both drivers can have it and you’ve got a spare. Suddenly you’ve got a huge expense and you’re flying in parts last minute to satisfy that need. There’s some sensible housekeeping being done on the way we operate over a weekend to take a lot of strain off the teams.”
This means that the prerace parc fermé will now begin at the beginning of FP3; any modification after that will constitute a breach of the rules and the car will have to start from the pit lane. The curfews will also be extended to reduce the time that teams can work on the cars during the race weekend. The revamp of the timetable means that there will be little activity on Thursdays, but there will be media opportunities on Friday mornings.
The new cars will be heavier and slower than the existing machinery (at least in theory), but it remains to be seen whether the teams will win back performance when they start developing the next-generation cars.
“The cars are very quick now, but they’re not raceable,” said Brawn.
Reducing the race weekend from four days to three is deemed necessary to allow the calendar to increase to 25 events per season. This is unpopular with the teams because it means they will probably need to start rotating staff, which will push up costs and make it harder to recruit people willing to commit to such schedules.
The financial regulations offer little in the way of surprises with a $175 million budget cap, although certain costs, such drivers’ salaries and marketing, will remain outside the limit. However, the principle will be established, and further reductions are likely in the future.
The reduced race weekend format will not go down well with race promoters because it will make it much more difficult for the local hotels to charge five-night minimums and will reduce the economic impact of each event, making it more difficult to justify paying F1’s high fees. The Formula One Group hopes that events and promotions away from the race track will boost revenues.