F1 teams concerned 2021 aerodynamics rules are too restrictive

2021 F1 season

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Formula 1 teams have expressed concern the new aerodynamic regulations for the 2021 season offer them too little freedom to innovate.

A radical overhaul of the technical regulations has been planned to help cars follow each other more closely and produce better racing.

Documents seen by RaceFans indicate the cars will be governed by considerably longer and more detailed technical regulations under the current plans. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said his team are unlikely to be pleased by the regulations.

“I doubt there’s any aero department that’s read those rules and got particularly excited about them,” he said. “For any aerodynamicist, prescriptive design is not in their DNA. Some of the regulations were released yesterday I think and there’s probably a few long faces in the aero department today.

“That’s not just unique to Red Bull and our strengths over the last few years hasn’t purely been solely down to aerodynamics. It’s more digesting those rules, they raise some questions which will no doubt be put forward in the coming meetings, which we seem to have endless amounts of, and we will see where they end up.”

Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur warned the rules could amount to a more expensive form of a specification chassis. “I’m a bit scared that if the room of freedom is too small at the end we will end up with like a ‘monotype’ but it won’t be a ‘monotype’ and we will have to spend millions for this.”

Frederic Vasseur, Alfa Romeo, Singapore, 2019
Vasseur: “We will have to spend millions”
However Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul suggested teams could be granted greater technical freedom after the new rules are introduced.

“Looking at 2021, it’s going to be such a step change I think it’s not bad to start with some things that are fairly prescriptive and according to the result that we see, then to progressively open up.

“Because the world is not going to stop in 2021, there will be years after that, we will have to come up with evolution like always to the regulations and it will always be the time to free up a bit. We still have our aerodynamic capacity and departments’ strengths and weaknesses so it will still be a possibility.

But I think we need to be careful because last time there was such a massive change to regulations – it was 2014 – and that created a cycle that I understand people criticised a lot for the fact that it locked up a performance differentiator so that’s why I think it’s not bad to do that initially and open up.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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17 comments on “F1 teams concerned 2021 aerodynamics rules are too restrictive”

  1. Asides from the concerns raised about the restrictiveness of the regulations, there are reports that the new regulations are also going to significantly slow down the cars too – Auto Motor und Sport have suggested that current simulations indicate the cars could be as much as 6 seconds a lap slower. https://www.auto-motor-und-sport.de/formel-1/neuer-frontfluegel-f1-auto-2021-sechs-sekunden-langsamer/

    1. I would be totally fine with this if they gave the PUs more performance. Less aero/grip and more power means we should see cars on the ragged edge more often, and drivers being more of a performance differentiator.
      The total dominance of aero as the performance differentiator has led us to where we are now.

    2. I’ll eat my hat if it is actually 6 seconds.

  2. They might as well just get Dallara to build them all and have a spec series with a choice of 3 engines. (Ferrari probably wouldn’t want to stay in a spec series).

  3. Well, I do have to admit surprise, but Abiteboul does make a good point I think: start restricted, in hopes of not giving one team a clear, unassailable advantage, then relax as teams get a grip on what works and what not (if indeed that worked, and if, as hoped, the budget cap manages to reduce the field spread, I suppose).

    The above mentioned AMuS has me worried a bit, mainly for drivers, and media (fuelled by disgruntled Aero people, Hi Adrian Newey?) firing on the fans to blow ‘too sloooww!’ winds again, like in 2014, which then lead to the 2017 revision that made the cars a lot faster, but also even harder to follow, hence the 2019 front wing _and_ these 2021 regulations in the first place.

    In the end, if it gives us good racing, I can live with 5-6s slower in the 1st year. If they do relax the regulations afterwards, might see 2s year on year gains for a while, and end up faster in 2025, hopefully with close racing across a competitive field. But, I know some might not want to wait for that.

    1. @bosyber, the thing is, what is the likelihood of the FIA and Liberty Media agreeing to relax the rules after 2021?

      The media strategy that Liberty Media is going after seems to be to want to feed the narrative of the “superstar driver” i.e. making them centre of attention and making it look as if the team revolves around them, with the teams very much shoved into the background. The historical heritage of the teams might be mined for useful advertising where necessary, but the intention seems to be to marginalise them to the point where they become little more than an interchangeable component of the sport.

      To that end, a forced equalisation by imposing very heavy restrictions that make the sport into a semi-spec series fits that strategy. Liberalising the rules and creating more areas where a team can create a difference is against that strategy because it increases the importance of the teams, especially if a team was to gain a significant advantage in one area – in that respect, it’s not in their interests to relax the rules.

      I expect the rules are not going to be relaxed and, if anything, the pressure might be to make them tighter still to force even greater convergence in design onto the teams.

      1. This is pretty much how the Australian Supercars are, and that’s very close racing —and yet the big budget teams still are at the top. But every now and then there’s an upset, and that’s exciting.

        1. Same is true with Indycar. Yes, it’s a “spec” series, but the big budget teams still manage to stay at the pointy end and win the championship. However, on any given Sunday one of the smaller teams can pull out a win. Can you imagine Williams winning a race this season? That’s what it’s like :)

    2. I agree with your assessment. I think the big teams are squealing (as expected) because they are possibly going to lose their built in advantage.

      I mean this quite a natural reaction. You do get the impression though that the 3 major teams are always trying to water down and nibble away at the new regs.

  4. FIA like a python slowly strangling it’s prey to death.
    Before swallowing the last bit of real F1 racing left.
    Hark very well FIA regarding the Goose that laid the Golden eggs.
    FIA is the farmers wife that killed the golden goose for a meal…… :(

  5. Excellent point by Cyril in the last paragraph of the article.
    I don’t mind seeing restrictive rules at all, I think it’s a relatively good way to make the racing closer without having to resort to gimmicks like drs and the tyre start rule.

    And I’m pretty sure some teams will be able to innovate, especially in the underbody area

    1. “I don’t mind seeing restrictive rules at all, I think it’s a relatively good way to make the racing closer”

      If I could be sure that was true, or even quite likely to be true, I’d agree with you. But in my experience things tend to work the other way around, particularly in F1 because of the limits on testing and development work.

      Tighter rules make designs converge, and usually there’s one right answer which is a bit faster overall than other similar designs. Whoever gets closest to the right answer – which is largely down to luck, between top teams, at the start of a new rules era – will have an advantage that can’t be overhauled.

      Bear in mind that the only team to beat the big teams in many years is/was Brawn. That was because they found a loophole in the rules – in other words, the rules weren’t as restrictive as intended.

      I give quite short shrift to F1’s claims that it’s hard to fix the racing. It is, but only because the sport is run by the kind of idiots who think you can increase overtaking by making cars wider. If we actually want to fix things, the solution is simple and well proven: make the cars narrower relative to the tracks. (That could mean widening tracks, but it’s easier to change the cars.) We need to go from 2m wide cars down to 1.5m or even closer to 1m.

      Ooh, side benefit I just thought of, we could go three wide on the grid, which would open up the start a bit more.

  6. If the (some) teams are worrried now, that to me is a good sign that those regulations will actually work.
    Even if we lose 6 seconds in the first year, engineers will find ways to gain a second a year. And if we get close racing on top of that, I’m a happy fan!

  7. Liberty/FIA wants to make stock-car racing out of F1.

    Well done! Killing your own cash cow.

  8. The engineers always complain and throw up red flags, but ironically, the most innovative solutions come out of restrictive rules out of necessity; because you must be innovative to get the smallest advantage, to bend the rules. To find the loopholes. This is what the engineers love! Second only to complaining about restrictions.

  9. I seriously hate the idea of F1 been too restrictive with all the talk of spec bits as for me that simply isn’t F1 & never should be.

    A big part of the appeal to F1 over other series for me is the performance as well as the technical development & I always prefered the periods that saw more technical freedom & less spec bits (And i’d include tyres in that).

    If your going to have a heavily restricted, Budget capped F1 that is too much slower than now then you may as well just rename it Indycar+ because that’s what it will be & for as much as I like Indycar (Although nowhere near as much as I did in the less restricted/spec CART days) I don’t want F1 to become Indycar.

    The more I hear about the plans for 2021 & beyond the more concerned I get because much of what is been proposed just isn’t an F1 i’m all that interested in because TBH a lot of it just doesn’t sound like F1 to me. And if that is what Liberty are going for then just be open & let fans know that F1 will no longer exists from 2021.

  10. I’ve said it before but i’ll raise it again.

    If they are going to impalement a budget cap from 2021 then the regulations should be opened up rather than closed down to allow for more technical freedom rather than less because for a lot of people (Including myself) the technical side & development race is a big part of F1’s overall appeal.

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