Formula One drivers have backed a plan to restart the coronavirus-stalled season by unfortunately racing without fans in Austria in July.
Just before Thursday’s press conference ahead of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, the new regulations for 2021 were announced.
Things are about to get a whole lot different in F1.
There are three main things that will change: the cars, the cost and the weekend structure.
First, let’s examine how the cars will change. This is quite technical so bear with me.
Currently, when a car follows in another car’s wake, they lose between 40 and 50 per cent of their downforce, making overtaking difficult. We saw this at last weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix when drivers were unable to stay behind another car for more than a few laps.
From 2021, the loss of downforce will be reduced to just 10 per cent with the airflow coming off the cars higher than it does at the moment. Therefore, the airflow will be cleaner, making it easier for cars to follow one another, meaning that there is an increased chance of overtaking.
The reduction of the turbulent wake has been created by a redesigned front wing which is simpler, as is the suspension. Changes have also been made to the rear wing and the floor and wheel wake control devices have been added over the new, low-profile tyres, which now have 18-inch-wide hubcaps.
Another change to the regulations in terms of the cars themselves is that the number of upgrades teams can make in between race weekends will be limited, stopping the development race between teams.
All these changes are an attempt to make racing fairer and therefore closer so that the gap between the top three teams and the midfield is closed. This is a goal that is clearly evident when you look at the new cost cap.
From 2021, teams will not be allowed to spend any more than US$175 million per year on anything that is related to the performance of the car. Expenditure such as salaries and marketing costs are not included in this cost cap because they do not directly influence the car’s performance.
Again, this is to try to reduce the gap between the big boys – Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, who can chuck money at the car to make it better without any difficulty whatsoever – and teams with a smaller budget.
This cost cap is written into the official regulations and each team will have an independent auditor who will check that teams are not breaking the cost cap. Any team who is found to have breached the cost cap could be given a financial penalty or a points penalty. They could even be disqualified from the championship.
Another major change is to the structure of the grand prix weekend. The press conference will be moved from Thursday afternoon to Friday morning before Free Practice 1 and Free Practice 2. This is to reduce the length of the grand prix weekend from four days to three in order to ease the load of an increased number of grands prix. The maximum number of grands prix has now been increased to 25 – next year, there will be 22.
As for free practice sessions, teams will have to give drivers with less than two grands prix under their belt at least two free practice sessions to give the next generation of F1 drivers more experience. At the moment, the top teams do not allow junior drivers to run in Free Practice 1 while it is common for midfield teams to do so.
I am looking forward to the new changes but am questioning whether this will break the status quo. While closer and fairer racing is to be encouraged, who’s to say that Mercedes and Ferrari won’t continue to dominate for years to come?
As for the cost cap, it is just a cap. Some teams can only dream of having a budge of US$175m while Mercedes and Ferrari will have plenty of spare change in their pockets after this cost cap.
As always, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and we can only wait until the cars get out on track at the 2021 Australian Grand Prix in just under 18 months’ time.