2021 F1 cars ‘better for passing than 2009 designs’

2021 F1 season

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Formula 1’s planned changes to car design in 2021 are likely to encourage more overtaking than the 2009 ‘Overtaking Working Group’ rules did, one designer believes.

The OWG project led to a 2009 overhaul of the technical regulations which had some success in encouraging cars to run closer together. However subsequent car developments undid much of their progress, according to Williams chief technical officer Paddy Lowe, who was involved in the project.

Further rules changes, such as the larger wings introduced last year, have been blamed for the difficulty drivers now experience following each other closely. F1 will introduce new rules next year aimed at removing ‘outwashing’ front wing designs to address this problem.

But more radical changes are planned for 2021 which will involve changing the entire shape of the cars. Three concept designs were shown to the media last weekend.

F1 managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn said current cars are only able to generate 50% of normal downforce levels when running closely behind another, but this should increase to 80% under the proposed 2021 rules. Lowe said that “should be a good achievement” which will be “a little bit more than was achieved by OWG”.

As F1 is now putting greater resources into researching future rules changes, Lowe is more confident they will achieve their goals and avoid ‘loopholes’ through which engineers can reverse their progress.

“The more work you can put into it the better, like anything. I think the good thing now is that Formula 1 are actually spending money on a central R&D for aerodynamic performance, which never existed before.

2021 F1 car concept three
F1 reveals three concepts for new-look cars for 2021
“The OWG was a sort of one-off project with a fixed amount of time which was paid for by the teams with an outside contractor. And I think it’s clear that had OWG carried on another year they would have looked at the cars that had been created and do another round of tests.

“So I think it’s good news that Formula 1 have got a permanent staff dealing with that subject. I think that will improve the ability to track what’s happening and close down unwanted side effects, should they occur.”

However Lowe expects the final cars which appear in 2021 will inevitably look very different to the designs which have been presented.

“Unless they’ve thought something up to get around this, ultimately you have to define some boxes in which we can put bodywork. And then we’ll put the best possible bodywork we can invent into those boxes.

“It will be difficult to make the cars look exactly like they’ve drawn for that reason.”

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21 comments on “2021 F1 cars ‘better for passing than 2009 designs’”

  1. Don’t tell me I am the only one with a comment on this ?…. I can hear the screaming and gnashing of teeth half way around the globe.
    Along with a number of other tasks, it would seem that Liberty has now committed to designing the cars and writing the (detail) part of the rule book. Certainly not my first choice.
    Shades of Indy-Car with NASCAR overtones.
    Somewhere out there …. the ghost of Collin Chapman is saying … “Told you so.!”

    1. Not sure what you’re on about. This is all good news. F1 has talked about closer racing, I’m sure much more closely with the team principals than we even know. They’ve put out some concepts, which are purely that, concepts. Lowe is saying the cars are likely going to look different than these concepts, and that’s fine. We also know Liberty and Brawn want and need a cool factor in there too. The teams get that too. I envision a close relationship between all the teams and Liberty and Brawn toward a much more improved product for the future. I’ll take that over BE the dictator giving only the top teams all the power to just look after themselves, any day.

      1. @robbie Not all good news – coming from the direction it has come.

        Take Liberty out of the equation and replace it with the organisation that is charged with running the sport making the announcement is what NS Biker is alluding, quite rightly, too.

        1. The FIA has been crap at making rules– they’ve been crap at improving racing, and they’ve been crap at making F1 cheaper.

    2. “We want closer racing!”

      “How dare Liberty Media try to make racing closer? They’re destroying our sport!”

      …. please pick one. You can’t have both. :)

    3. Lookls like most of us read different things in the same article thatn you did @rekibsn

      To me it seems they are finally putting in some money and people to actually research what a rule change will have for an effect – and avoid the double diffusor kind of thing that made much of the OWG work out the way it did.

      It’s pretty clear that they are not going to mandate bodywork shapes etc at all.

    4. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
      21st September 2018, 12:42

      I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter how positive the news in F1, there will always be a contingent of internet people to complain about it regardless. I wonder if other sports have such ‘fans’

  2. I wish it works and not just for half a season before engineers start recovering the lost characteristics of the cars. But they probably will find loopholes, or reinterpretations of the rules.

  3. Have designs for the next gen cars been decided on yet? How can people be speculating on overtaking ability without having a design to base that speculation on? I’ve seen so many media articles touting those concept drawings as “the future of F1” which is silly, since Brawn himself said it was naïve of him to show those drawings as they’re hardly representative of the final product. So much talk with so little substance.

    1. I think the concepts we have seen are probably close enough for us to get the idea anyway. This is a work in progress and I’m sure there is much discussion amongst the teams and Brawn and amongst Brawn and his wind tunnel team. We know the cars will have bigger rims and smaller sidewall tires. We know the wings will likely have far fewer planes to them…be far less complex. We know the halos will be better looking and better integrated into the designs. We know there must be a cool factor big time. Brawn wants young kids wanting to hang posters of these cars in their bedrooms.

      But most importantly we know that the cars will be made to be less dependent of aero downforce, since that is the number one enemy of close racing.

      I’m absolutely fine with the necessary time they are taking to get things right. I don’t need right now to see some written in stone design being dictated to the teams by the new owners. I have full confidence in what Liberty are doing here.

      1. These concepts have the old F1 logo on them, so chances are, they’re from last year. If Brawn hadn’t accidentally shown the wrong slide at a presentation, we’d still be waiting to learn about the 2021 designs.

    2. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
      21st September 2018, 12:44

      They are talking about the fact that there is a centralized department actively researching closer racing as a whole instead of a temporarily appointed subcontractor, putting in place a system whereby whatever the eventual design is will be far better thought out than previously. They aren’t talking about the actual shapes. Why don’t people read articles properly?

  4. With this new design, a delaminating tyre ensures your race is over, because you’re rear wrong will be shredded.
    And we’ve heard all that stuff before.

  5. I assume this will lead to less downforce. Haven’t heard anything about active suspension and ground effects which would help regain that. Active suspension has come light years since the old days when they used it. Any thoughts?

  6. IMO the ’09 regs made a big difference, the problem was after about about 3-4 races most, if not all the cars had double diffusers & it was back to the status quo again. The flip ups on front wings were supposed to be banned but they reappeared gradually over time again as well….

  7. Mark in Florida
    21st September 2018, 5:10

    OOliver they might be 18″ run flats ! ! F1 needs some change, the definition of insanity is to repeat the same thing and expect a different result. The cars need aero changes, the costs to compete need to come down and the payout structures need a massive overhaul. Changing the tire size is the least of F1s problems so I’ll cut the Liberty crew some slack and see how it goes. At least someone is steering the ship after years of BE pitting one team against another with what amounts to bribes for individual team power. When a sport cannibalizes itself from within it cannot last. Liberty is trying to get everyone on the same page and decide what will effectively carry the sport into the future.

  8. In 2009 they didn’t have DRS, so it’s easy to beat the number of passes. It’s a shame that the focus is on overtaking rather than close racing (which eventually might lead to an overtake).

  9. Several of us were chatting about this very subject over the last couple of days, so it’s very nice to get an article on the subject and to understand further how the OWG achieved some things but how these were diluted by further advancements. I am hungry for even more detail but maybe I should buy a book on the subject!

  10. 2021 F1 cars ‘better for passing than 2009 designs’

    Bye bye DRS and the silly tyre rule then

  11. They are good news but I think there are some principles F1 should follow:
    1. safety 2. close racing 3. world’s fastest cars 4. efficiency 5. optimizing 1-4 points. The most fans want to see close racing among the best drivers in the fastest cars.
    I think a good direction would be:
    I. Less differences between cars in lap times.
    II. Less dirty air and less sensitive cars for dirty air in corners but fast cars.
    III. Increasing the role of drivers.

  12. Taking into account the performance of the Williams recently, I’m not sure how much credibility poor Paddy has.

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