Formula 1’s 2021 cars are expected to be around 3-3.5 seconds per lap slower than the current regulations, according to the FIA.
The next generation of car will feature radically different aerodynamics that have been developed to allow cars to follow each other much more closely without being disturbed significantly by the wake of the car in front. Simulations suggest the 2021 car will lose just 14% of aerodynamic performance when one car length behind another car, compared to 45% at present, and just 6% at three car lengths as opposed to 32% now.
However, with the cars set to be 25kg (55lb) heavier, the changes come with a loss of overall car pace that is likely to mark a return to lap times seen towards the end of the previous generation of car.
“We are expecting cars to be approximately between three and three-and-a-half seconds slower per lap,” the FIA head of single seater technical matters Nikolas Tombazis said. “We don’t think that is the key parameter of the spectacle, we think the raceability is the main target.
“We haven’t been focusing on an exact level of performance. Clearly we cannot predict exactly where the downforce will end up compared to current cars. It will be a bit less after the development has been carried out, but even the car that has been developed in CFD and run in the wind tunnel has already got a respectable amount of performance and has been developed by essentially a relatively small number of aerodynamicists and hours in the wind tunnel compared to a normal team. Therefore we are quite confident that the performance will not be a key parameter.”
Ross Brawn added that the current cars may be quicker, but they have harmed F1 through being unable to race closely.
“Just to put that into perspective, that’s the performance of a 2016 car,” Brawn said. “These cars from 2016 to 2017 had a huge increase in downforce. It’s worth thinking back on that experience because it was done for reasons I don’t understand. The huge increase of downforce was, ‘Let’s make the cars go faster — that must make Formula 1 better.’ All we’ve done is we’ve actually made it worse because the cars can’t race each other.
“It’s an example of an un-thought-through program. So the cars are very quick now but they’re not raceable. The reality is the performance of the new cars is going to be about where we were in 2016, and I don’t think anyone was ever complaining about the cars being slow.”