The FIA and Formula 1 are willing to frustrate the current teams with prescriptive 2021 regulations in order to deliver better racing and a closer grid.
At a meeting in Paris last month, the final publication of the 2021 regulations was delayed in order to allow more development time as the sport looks to close up the grid, make cars easier to race and introduce a cost cap. While work has been advancing on the technical regulations, F1’s managing director of motorsports Ross Brawn says giving the teams less freedom is required to deliver the sport’s targets, but insists there is enough leeway to ensure differentiation between the cars at the same time.
“We have been very prescriptive to begin with because if we’re not then we won’t achieve the objectives,” Brawn said. “That has led to complaints that the cars are all going to look the same and other nonsense we’ve heard. So as an exercise Pat (Symonds, F1’s chief technical officer) took all the existing cars, took all the livery off them and put them up … and you can’t tell the difference between the cars we have now once the colors are taken off them.
“You need to be an extreme geek to pick them out. Even within our own office I think we picked three out — we didn’t do very well. So when you see the existing cars with the colors taken off, you wouldn’t know.
“We know that even with these very prescriptive regulations, the fertile minds of Formula 1 will come up with different solutions. So they will be very prescriptive because we have to make sure that we achieve these objectives, but there’s enough latitude there.
“Undoubtedly, from the relative freedom the 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 in Formula 1.”
The FIA’s head of single-seater matters Nikolas Tombazis says there are areas the 2021 plans have been met with resistance, which at times have had to be ignored, but at others the criticisms have been valid.
“There’s plenty of aspects which teams are pushing back on, especially depending on where on the starting grid they lie,” Tombazis said. “Also within teams, not everybody sees it the same way. You sometimes have the team principals who have a view of the overall picture and understand what we’re doing, and sometimes the engineers see that some of their freedom or playground will be reduced and therefore object.
“If we take the aerodynamic part of this study, a lot of this focuses on simply reducing the ability of teams to control the front wheel wake. That’s a key part of this work. The ability to control the front wheel wake is maybe one of the biggest challenges of a current aerodynamicist. Reducing that creates this pushback.
“There are numerous other areas where if we say there is going to be a frozen gearbox for a number of a years, you can imagine that people who have been doing gearboxes within teams are maybe objecting to some of these. So there are quite a few.
“We have taken a lot of comments into account — we have been discussing this with teams over a long period and sometimes we have realized that certain things we were planning to do were wrong and we have changed. We have to be selective in our judgments, and when we see that a team’s comments are genuine and not because they want to preserve a certain advantage, we’ve been open enough to admit we’ve made a mistake and to go backwards.”