Aston Martin team principal Otmar Szafnauer says talks with the FIA regarding the 2021 technical regulation changes are almost complete, but still leave him feeling his team was unfairly disadvantaged.
With the introduction of brand-new technical regulations delayed by 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Pirelli unsure if it would be able to develop a new tire, the FIA made changes to the floor regulations in order to cut downforce and slow cars this season so last year’s tires would still be usable. In the end updated tires were provided, and after Szafnauer complained that low-rake concept cars — the Aston Martin and Mercedes specifically — were hardest hit by the changes, he had threatened legal action about the the way the FIA acted. But he has now softened his stance.
“We had good discussions with the FIA to understand the process and how we got to where we got to,” Szafnauer said. “The discussions have almost come to an end. I think we made good progress to have a better understanding of what transpired.
“What we have to do now is we have to work hard to make up the deficit that was introduced over the winter. We have a new package here (in Spain) on both cars that was introduced in Portimao — but Portimao, the nature of the circuit is a lot of low-speed corners, so we’ll be able to evaluate what we’ve done here and we have to work hard to bring even further upgrades later on in the year to get us back to the performance levels that we had last year.”
Guenther Steiner (Haas F1) and Franz Tost (AlphaTauri) were sitting alongside Szafnauer and said the floor changes were voted for last year, but the Aston Martin boss disagreed.
“Just for the record, it wasn’t voted — it was done on safety grounds and it was unilateral,” he said.
“No, it was fixed,” Tost responded. “The Technical Working Group later…”
“Three teams voted against the Technical Working Group but the Technical Working Group was an indicative vote,” Szafnauer interrupted. “The Technical Working Group doesn’t have a right to vote anyway. It was just an indication, but then it was done on safety grounds anyway. That’s just for the record.”
Szafnauer said Aston Martin objected to the changes in the Technical Working Group, while highlighting what he believed to be a better solution that was dismissed.
“We objected on the basis that they were more favorable to high rake cars actually, and we objected to that and then proposed other regulations that would be more equal,” he said. “The vote in the Technical Advisory Committee is just indicative, and it was seven to three at the time.
“We proposed to not have the second changes made, because the changes came in succession, and we thought the first change that was applied was enough to slow the cars, so we suggested to just keep it there. But there were others suggestions that were proposed, and not by us, but early on. I’ll give you the example of reducing the rear wing size, and that would have affected everybody equally, but that wasn’t chosen.”
RACER understands the FIA did look into reducing the size of the rear wing early in the process, but simulations indicated that it would not have the desired effect as increases in speeds would counteract the reduced downforce.