The proposed 2021 F1 regulations have been largely outlined, with Ross Brawn, Pat Symonds and Nicholas Tombazis explaining the changes.
Formula 1 has revealed the working ideas that are going into the 2021 regulations. The formal sign off of the rules was supposed to happen last month, but has been pushed out until October as a result of further refining and negotiating being needed.
F1’s Managing Director Ross Brawn, Chief Technical Officer Pat Symonds and Head of Single Seat Technical Matters at the FIA Nicholas Tombazis have outlined the four main areas that are currently being trashed out amongst the teams, governing body and promoters:
Ensuring Great Racing Regulations
Many of the current issues regarding today’s Formula 1 is an inability for the cars to follow each other, with too much dependence on aerodynamic, rather than mechanic, grip. While these were attempted to be remedied with aero changes for 2019, Tombazis says the 2021 changes should be far more pronounced.
Switching from an aerodynamic generation of grip, ‘ground effect’ looks set to return as he explained: “[With the 2021 car] typically, from about a 50% loss of downforce for the following car at two car distances [in 2017] it’s down to about a 5-10% loss,”
“So we have a massive reduction of the reduction of downforce for the following car.”
With Formula 1 swapping from 13 inch to 18 inch tyres for 2021, there are great technical challenges ahead for Pirelli as well. Speaking to FormulaSpy, Pirelli boss Mario Isola explained these changes. Tombazis elaborated on the challenges about how to outline the regulations for the tyres themselves: “We are in fairly deep consultation with Pirelli about how to make the tyres really step up and be in a position where they enable people to race; they don’t degrade, they don’t force people to manage the tyres so much.”
Pat Symonds explained that pitstops will remain an integral part of Formula 1, but that a “high degradation target is not the way to go”. It’s also likely, although not confirmed, that tyre blankets will be removed from use from 2021.
Close up the field
Ross Brawn says the key to increasing the sport’s spectacle is to close the gap between the top teams and the bottom of the pack – the gap between Mercedes and Williams right now is around 3.5 seconds a lap. The regulation changes aim to reduce that to about half of that figure.
“We have three teams that can win races at the moment, that’s all,” he says. “Over the next couple of years, Formula 1 will be on a much better path… where a really good, moderately-funded team, can cause a lot of trouble. That’s what we want. If you get a Charles Leclerc or a Max Verstappen in a midfield team, it can make a difference. It won’t matter at the moment.”
Tighter, more refined regulation wording for aerodynamics will be overseen by Brawn to try stopping any loopholes being exploited that could hand a ‘magic bullet’ to a team. Brawn himself was the beneficiary of those loopholes in 2009 when his Brawn GP car had a diffuser that exploited the wording of the rules, meaning he’s in an excellent position to govern this area. He acknowledges that this is likely to frustrate team’s aero departments:
“Undoubtedly,” he says, “from the relative freedom teams have had so far, it’s going to be frustrating. But if they can take the approach that these regulations are the same for everyone and ‘we’re going to do a better job than anyone else, we just won’t be two seconds faster, we’ll be two-tenths faster’ – that’s what we want from Formula 1.”
The removal of some, undisclosed, driver aids is being discussed, as is a reduction of car-to-pit telemetry. A reduction of the influence of the race engineer is being evaluated, with the driver set to play a bigger part in managing the car throughout a race.
Reducing the cost with controlling rules
Another big step is how to reduce costs for Formula 1 teams. Budget caps and financial regulations are a big part of that, but the FIA and Liberty want to be able to reduce the actual bills for a team going racing.
Standardised parts across the field are likely, with wheel rims, braking systems, radiators and pit equipment mooted. A ban on hydraulic suspensions, as well as frozen gearbox specifications and a ban of specified exotic materials is also likely to come into effect.
Time and cost controls such as testing times, wind tunnel usage and team personnel numbers are also under negotiation: “The great teams will still be the great teams,” says Brawn. “But in all the marginal gains that they do where they have 10 people on a project instead of two, which brings 5% more performance – they won’t do that anymore. They can’t, or if they do, they’ll be losing out in other areas where perhaps they could perhaps be making better gains.”
Interestingly, the proposals suggest driver salaries, and the salaries of certain key team roles, wouldn’t be included in this cap – presumably to stop these figures from leaving the sport for other lucrative series without cost caps.
The ‘Wow’ factor
There’s little point to having great racing but ugly cars. To this day, the 2013 F1 cars are remembered more for their aesthetic uniqueness rather than their racing prowess.
To that end, F1 cars need to be ‘sexy’. The proposals want F1 cars to be the type that fans will want to posters up of on their bedroom walls.
“We do aim for the final product to be aesthetically pleasing,” says Tombazis. “To be a car that promotes a certain amount of passion and a certain ‘wow factor’, so we want that to be part of the new Formula 1.”
Tombazis says some of the current proposals aren’t ready to go yet, as they simply don’t tick the box for aesthetic appeal: “The front wing, we’re still not completely pleased about,” says Tombazis, “both from an aerodynamic point of view and from an aesthetic point of view. So we’re trying to make it a bit better in both aspects. There’s good reasons why the wing is very wide aerodynamically, but we all will appreciate that it’s not the best aesthetic result, so there’s work going on there.”