Ladies and gentlemen, this is it. At long last Formula 1 has finally released its regulations for the 2021 season and beyond, with the punters and better racing at the heart of the overhaul.
Presented at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, both F1 Chairman and CEO Chase Carey and FIA President Jean Todt detailed the ratifications made by the World Motor Sport Council. The changes focus on “promoting closer racing and more balanced competition, as well as bringing economic and sporting sustainability to Formula 1”.
Current issues with F1 include the disparity between the haves and have nots, a lack of close racing on-track due to aerodynamic turbulence created behind the cars and well, this is subjective, but ugly cars. From the outset it would seem that F1 is trying to address all three in one fell swoop.
The money problem – with reports of top teams spending as much as $500m a year just to go racing (not including engine development budgets), things are slightly out of hand, particularly when Williams would struggle to muster anything close to that budget. Hence, for the first time in the history of the sport, every team’s budget will be capped at a US$175m ($AUD250) per year to make it fairer across the board.
That funding figure applies to anything that equates to on-track performance, including restrictions to wind-tunnel testing and in-season development. However, it excludes marketing costs, driver salaries and the pay packet of the top three personnel at any given team. Here’s hoping the sport can spark more manufacturer interest with the lower cost of entry.
How will it be regulated, we hear you ask? Independent regulators will be appointed to make sure teams aren’t spending dollars they aren’t allowed. If teams break the rules, both financial and sporting penalties could be handed down. It’s anticipated that the competitive advantage some teams currently enjoy will be reduced.
The cars, which are expected to be around 25kg heavier, will feature a radical new design philosophy with “striking new looks”. Sweeping body work with 18-inch wheels and lower profile tyres are the most visual design cues that will change. However, more so than the aesthetics, the changes are to create closer racing. Both F1 and the FIA have spent years trying to come up with car designs and aero packages that allow cars to follow one another without losing downforce, therefore increasing racing and overtaking opportunities.
The current generation of F1 cars lose between 40-50 percent of downforce when following another car’s wake, otherwise known as dirty air. Yet, for 2021 this is hoped to lower to around 5-10 percent as the airflow will be directed higher once it leaves the car. To achieve this the front and rear wings will gain a new shape, the suspension will be simplified, the floor will be revised (including ground effects technology) and there’ll be an addition of wheel wake control devices to the front wheels.
Items like fuel pumps will now fall under a push for standardised parts and must be made to a prescribed design. Also, there will be a reduction in the number of times certain components can be replaced – like brake pads for example. Interestingly, one thing that isn’t evolving is the V6 Hybrid power unit, which the formula expected to remain unchanged.
To aid development of younger drivers, teams will be forced to run a driver who has completed two GPs or fewer in two session throughout the year, while race weekends will be condensed to counter the long season.
The regulation changes for 2021 were unanimously approved, however, further agreements are in an advanced stage with the teams. They centre on a new governance and prize-fund structure that will hopefully promote growth and improvement within the sport.
That’s a wrap for the key rule changes. All we hope is that from 2021 and beyond we’ll be talking about the awesome on-track action before the behind-the-scenes drama of the F1 paddock. What do you think – will the new F1 regulations spice up the racing?