Start, F2 sprint race, Hungaroring, 2019

New F1 cars will be “barely quicker than F2” in 2021

2021 F1 season

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Formula 1 cars will be up to seven seconds slower under new regulations to be introduced in 2021, one team has estimated.

Racing Point CEO and team principal Otmar Szafnauer said the tighter limits on aerodynamics will make cars considerably slower than they are now.

“The downforce is going to be a lot less,” he said. “So we’re going to be five, six, seven seconds a lap slower depending on where we are.”

Other teams have already criticised the limited scope of innovation in the proposed rules. Szafnauer expects the new F1 cars will be little quicker than the standard chassis used in feeder series F2.

“We’re going to be spending $175 million if you spend up to the limit. And then there’s something excluded as well so you’ll have spent $200 [million] to have a formula that’s barely quicker than Formula 2. Where the cars look the same. And that’s the risk.”

Formula 2 cars were 10 to 15 seconds slower than Formula 1 cars based on their pole position times at races so far this year.

The aerodynamic changes in the 2021 regulations are being introduced in order to improve the quality of racing in F1. But Szafnauer is concerned other consequences of the changes will not be well received by fans.

“Although I work in the sport I was a fan before and one thing that I really liked about Formula 1 before I started working here is they are the fastest cars on the planet,” he said. “That was one of the differentiators. Once we’re not that anymore then it takes a little bit away.”

NB. Hungaroring not included as F2 qualifying was wet

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
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  • 59 comments on “New F1 cars will be “barely quicker than F2” in 2021”

    1. This could be true, but if you think about it, this year cars were supposed to be 1.5 seconds slower, yet they have beaten the track record pretty much everywhere… Will 2021 cars be slower than today? Very likely. Will they be 7 seconds slower? No

      1. @ofitus21, it is interesting to note that wasn’t what some of the former designers were expecting to happen.

        Former design Willem Toet predicted, before the start of this season, that the FIA’s changes to the endplates were going to have the opposite effect that the FIA intended them to (indeed, he was rather critical of the way the FIA implemented the 2019 changes and noted that they seemed to have been quite hastily implemented without being properly researched).

        He noted that the changes the FIA had made to the volume that the endplates could fit in, which were now taller and deeper, was extremely likely to end up offsetting the changes to the design of the endplates. He was predicting that the average outwash effect for most teams in 2019 is the same as it was in 2018 – in the case of the top teams, that outwashing effect is probably even larger this year than it was in 2018.

      2. Exactly … but this kind of reaction is what happens when you let F1 become an engineers championship.
        Drivers will still want to drive F1 cars & 99% of fans wouldn’t even know difference between F1 & F2 times if the weren’t told.
        Plus, arguing a point by producing evidence that F2 is far more efficient than F1, just shows unnecessary most F1 spending is.

        1. F1 has always been an engineer’s championship. Always.

          1. But Formula is now a world wide entertainment investment with owners who only want bigger audiences and a higher return, they are not getting it now.

    2. Not a fan – I think they should be around as fast as current cars. Can’t they add much more ground effect? I can’t imagine that’s an engineering challenge.

      I hated the slow cars of 2014-2016, but maybe because that was because they coincided with poor seasons. Fundamentally though I don’t entirely agree with the concept that it doesn’t matter how fast they go, and that the racing is all that matters. Sure, the racing matters, but so does the knowledge that they’re pulling 6Gs. I remember the 2017 Australian GP, I loved the sheer speed of the cars.

      1. I can’t work out if you’re being sarcastic but a) ask any of the midfield about adding ‘much more ground effect’ and how easy that would be and b) that’s what’s making current racing challenging due to the aero features not working in dirty air, hence lack of ability to follow.

        1. There’s a less dirty ways to add Df from the defuser and underbody thats presently prohibited. In some respects its going to get easier for small teams more standard parts are cheaper and less design freedom can’t hurt them as much as the big teams who can throw money at every concept.

        2. Not sarcastic at all.

          The problems for teams to add downforce stems from regulation, not engineering impossibility. If mankind wanted to make the cars 30+ seconds quicker, it could (see Newey’s Project X or whatever it was called). And as Joe has mentioned, my understanding is that ground effect creates much less dirty air than wings (I’d be very interested to learn by how much less precisely).

          As to dirty air, I’d happily trade the 5-10% of lost downforce when following another car under the current proposal for something like 10-20% if that meant 5-10 seconds faster cars. F1 is meant to be the pinnacle, both technical and sporting.

          1. @Victor Making the cars faster doesn’t make them better race cars. Look at the limits-off 919 LMP1-H for instance; great at doing impossible times round the Nurburgring, probably wouldn’t have been as good as its regulated form at finishing Le Mans, let alone weaving between GT-AM cars as the sport required.

            If following a car led to 10-20% DF loss with significant ground effect I think the attrition rate for lap one would be staggering. While the cars are safer than at the point it was limited, the destabilising effect would be honestly frightening. Even if that was 10-20% other aero loss, compensated by ground effect, I don’t see how it would be possible to run multiple cars on track at the same time without some of them ending up off it – which isn’t a racing series.

        3. Hi Hazel, I believe that ground effect suffers much less than the current aerodynamics when the cars are following each other. It would be a big improvement on the current situation.

      2. It is easy to get hung up to numbers. The fact is the current cars simply have too much downforce. The extremely high downforce can not be made to work in any other way except taking downforce off. The less downforce the less dirty air. There are no miracles and no new ways to make downforce differently. You generate downforce by making air move and the dirty air is moving air. The less you move the less dirty it is for the guy behind you. Downforce numbers must come down. If the speed is an issue then f1 should look at faster and lighter engines.

        1. You are wrong in several ways. The main one is that current cars don’t have a particularly large amount of downforce. What they have instead is an incredibly efficient lift to drag ratio – that is, the cars generate quite a lot of downforce with as little air resistance as possible.

          Generating lift (or downforce) efficiently relies on wing forms that are very sensitive to effective angle of attack – how they’re hitting the air – and turbulent airflow hinders their performance. Compounding that problem is that F1 cars have aero packages that work as a whole, with the forward sections of the car setting the airflow up to work well at the rear of the car.

          All of that means F1 cars are particularly sensitive to the wakes left by other cars. It’s not too hard to improve on – the amount of downforce generated isn’t really an issue.

    3. This is going to seriously damage the sport, might as well go and watch CART, so much for “the pinnacle of motorsport”.

    4. I wouldn’t care if it makes the racing better, but they could unleash the electric hp side to compensate for the downforce deficit.

      1. Agree on this – the hybrid systems in F1 are pathetically small relative to potential delivery; even with the energy store kept to 25kg, there’s no way they’re emptying that given the small amount per lap the MGU-K is allowed to actually re-deliver. Taking the training reins off MGU-K would be a good way to increase road relevance and up overall horsepower, plus some spicy cornering.

        1. Not sure about that – they have to charge up for quali. Unless you increase in store size not just the recovery caps there is a limit.

          Not that I don’t think they ought to do more

          1. That’s only cus they’re not allowed to pre-charge the energy store before they go out. The maximum usage per lap is 4MJ (1.1kWh) – aside from being fully nonsensical as a restriction given how different in length F1 tracks are, that is not very much to get into 25kg of battery. (it’s about 11kg per kWh for a store bought one and I assume no one is going to B&Q for theirs)

            So to push forward that tech, you could easily increase both recovery and usable energy per lap, possibly including track-specific variants on that, without increasing the weight of the energy store itself. (which isn’t measured by storage capacity but is limited to 25kg)

    5. How exactly? Getting faster and faster on a yearly basis isn’t a necessity, far from it, and not even a possibility because otherwise, the cars would get too fast for many of the circuits, but why would they have to be that many seconds slower? It’d be 2014-15 all over again. Keeping the lap times stable from one year to the next is all that’s needed.

      1. Well said @jerejj; I am not going to repeat my comment about the AMuS article from the roundup, but I doubt it will be 6s at the end of 2021. Even then, F2 is a further 10s down currently so that’s still faster.

        Notably faster than F2? Well, that largely depends on where you see the car on track, and/or on the choice of images from the feed anyway, as we have often seen in the last few years already: it’s not just, or even primarily the cars themselves. If the cars are, initially, a few seconds slower, but also allow great close racing throughout the field, I am not likely to complain.

      2. F1 has these rules resets periodically for safety and driveability reasons. The whole point is to slow the cars down.

        I’d say we’ve known since the late Sixties (or earlier, perhaps) how to build cars that are too fast for any human to endure, let alone drive. That’s not a hard thing to do, by now, so race series set limits. After a few years of constructors pushing those limits, getting faster and faster each year, the rules have to be substantially changed to slow the cars down again.

        It is of course a matter of striking the right balance, but if it turns out the cars are slower than desired it’s quite easy to make a few changes in th e first season to allow the teams some easy extra speed.

    6. Will in 2021 Indycar and Super Formula (Japan) be faster then F1?

      1. I don’t know much about Super Formula but Indycars were very, very slow at COTA so I doubt they’d be quicker even if f1 lost 5-6 seconds per lap (which they won’t, and what they do lose will be reclaimed very quickly).

        1. Very slow compared to F1 cars where 1 top teams budget surpasses the cost to run the entire Indy series ?

    7. Racing is good as it is right now.
      Some races are dull, others are spectacular with plenty of battles. And we have the fastest ever F1 cars.

      What’s the point in going back big time, again?
      F1 might be getting in a dangerous position there.

      1. Why settle for good when it can be much much better? Maybe no races will be dull.

    8. I’m pretty certain this is just an exaggeration. They will likely be 3-4 seconds slower, but they will gain 2-3 seconds back within the first two seasons. This is common in F1. The 2014 cars were supposed to be so difficult on the power that drivers were supposedly going to be taking hairpins in 4th gear. Not even close. The 2019 cars were supposed to be 1.5s-2s per lap slower than in 2018. Not even close. No need to overreact to this news.

      1. Not to mention that the new V6 Hybrid engines would be less powerful than the V8s.

    9. Another joke of a regulation change. If we are going to make them that slow then why didn’t we just stick with the 2014 regs, that year had some great racing.

    10. So why not spend less money? It looks better to be slightly faster than F2 while spending $50 M instead of $175 M.

    11. So ‘one team’ ‘estimates’ cars ‘up to’ seven seconds slower than now. So they could be one second slower. What tires did they use in their modelling? What of development once they get going with the new gen cars? What of the fact that we should have much closer racing, imho without drs needed? Much remains to be seen about the actual speed of the 2021 cars and whether that speed will be an issue.

    12. Jose Lopes da Silva
      21st September 2019, 11:11

      Great news. If the cars are barely quicker than an F2, maybe 3 or 4 F2 teams could go in there.

      For the TV viewers at home, outright speed through corners is not a plus. Quite the opposite. Watching cars through Eau Rouge-Raidillon was more exciting in the past, because you knew they could not go flat-out over there.

      Damn, maybe the new cars can’t even do Suzuka’s 130-R post-McNish 2002 flat-out!

    13. Idiotism.

      I said it multiple times – but if this is true then they are going to kill F1.

    14. Who cares? The laptimes fell by up to 5 seconds from 2016 to 2017 (as was intended) and it didn’t change a thing. The cars looked fast back then and still do, and the racing hasn’t improved. Laptimes are irrelevant. People don’t notice if a cr is 1 or 2 seconds alower throughout a lap, which is mere tenths of a second per corner. The naked eye cannot perceive that. We’re only shown the data on the telly.

      Besides, if the performance lost is all aerodynamic, that’s great. The power to grip balance should always go to the former.

      1. @fer-no65 I care a lot actually!

        People don’t notice if a cr is 1 or 2 seconds alower throughout a lap

        I can, Was one of the reasons I found watching the cars in 2014 somewhat boring compared to the prior year & why I have found watching the cars so much more exciting since 2017.

        A big part of what puts F1 above everything else is the performance, If you lose too much of that then why bother watching F1 over other categories?

        F1 should be about technical innovation, Development & performance. That is what it’s always been & should continue to be. If it’s no longer about that then it loses a massive chunk of its appeal because it’s no longer any different to anything else.

        1. @roger-ayles, then, no doubt, you will also be disappointed to hear that another reason for the predicted reduction in performance was down to the increased use of standardised parts, not least because they are increasing the minimum weight of the cars to accommodate those changes (up by 30kg to accommodate the combination of 18 inch rims and those standardised parts, both of which will increase the weight of the cars).

    15. Bigger engines then?

    16. Sounds good. You’ll never have exciting racing as the braking zones and corners become smaller and easier.

      1. Isn’t that what happens when the cars get slower?

        1. Not really, if braking improves it means less overtaking opportunities. Also if corners are faster and easier then less of a challenge, less chance of mistakes and less line variations that could lead to an overtake.

          You only have to look at F2 to see that slightly slower cars (than current F1) leads to much better racing.

    17. F1 fans:

      2014-2016: ” Cars are too slow!!!”
      2017-2020: “There is no overtaking!!!”
      2021… “Cars are too slow!!!”

      1. Wasn’t just the fans.

        The drivers were just as vocal about how slow they felt the 2014-16 cars were & how much less demanding/easier to drive they were as a result & you will likely hear the same in 2021 if cars lose this much performance.

    18. ok cars are going to get quicker, understood.

    19. If the cars do end up getting too much slower than for me that would be a big negative as the performance is a big chunk of F1’s appeal, Always has been because it’s what sets F1 above many of the other categories.

      Things like how late they can brake, How short the braking zones are, How fast they corner, The way they change direction & how fast they accelerate off corners is a massive part of what makes F1 as spectacular to watch as it is & that is what makes watching F1 so much more visually exciting than any other category. Especially when your actually sitting trackside.

    20. Speeding up the car in 2017 hasn’t improved the racing, because it is still hard to follow another car and overtake. So if the new aerodynamic rules will improve that, I am all for it.

      Those differences in lap time are hardly visible to the naked eye, so it will not make a lot of difference to watch.

    21. My priority would be relative speeds of the cars in the field, not absolute speeds per se.

      If they are 5-7 seconds slower, but the gap to the midfield disappears, I’ll be cheering.

    22. Something to consider perhaps is that when the cars were slower from 2014-2016 it wasn’t just the fans who were complaining about them ‘looking slower’ it was also a lot of the drivers who were complaining that the cars been slower had also made them easier & less demanding to drive.

      If the cars do end up been on average 5-7 seconds a lap slower in 2021 then your just going to start hearing the same complaints from drivers because a performance loss that big will almost certainly make them a lot less physically demanding & less mentally taxing.

    23. I dont care, you wouldnt even notice if they were 5 or 6 seconds a lap slower, F1 badly need these new cars, not just for the racing but to make the cars cool looking again.

    24. Being the ray of sunshine that I am, I hear the cars will be 5 to 6 seconds a lap slower and the racing will not improve once engineers have had some time to fully exploit the rules. Yeah!!

    25. the cars since late 80s to now are all quick enough, f1, f2 who cares, the times are just a number now. the problem is the competition, we want more competition and great engine sound again.

    26. I’d rather they not lose quite that much performance as that is an aspect of F1 that is important to me because the performance & technical/development aspects are things that really sets F1 above everything else.

      I happened to be watching something from 2014 recently & those cars just looked so much less thrilling to watch than the post 2017 cars because they were noticeably slower than pretty much every regard & that took something away from the overall spectacle.

      Have to admit i’m feeling really pessimistic about 2021 because i’m really not sold on a lot of the proposals that are coming out & am even been actively turned off by a few of them. After been an F1 fan for 30 years maybe it’s just time to start thinking that maybe the direction liberty want to take F1 is a direction that results in F1 just no longer been for me.

      We’ll see what happens but I don’t know i’m just not liking a lot of what i’m hearing & believe me it really hurts me to say.

    27. Racing Point will be 7 seconds slower than they already are?

    28. I think this is nothing short of amazing news. Downforce is the real killer of close racing because you always get lots of dirty air. Easiest way to reduce dirty air is to reduce downforce. Which is also nothing but pure common sense with these modern f1 cars which have easily more downforce than any f1 car before it. The consequence of making the cars produce less downforce also cuts back some of the advantage the big teams have because with less downforce the teams will run the maximum downforce on more tracks which reduces the number of different downforce configurations you need during the season.

      This is amazing. 7 seconds slower is not that bad. If I had to really think for negatives slipstream is going to be less effective which could still provide a possible entry for fia to kneejerk drs back to f1. And of course with lighter engine you could easily shave 2.5 seconds off that lap time both in qualifying and race but as far as holy cows go the hybrid engine is the most sacred thing f1 has ever had…

      This reduction in downforce should create closer racing but two problems still stand out to me. One is the cooling capabilities of the cars when driving behind another car. If the car behind can follow closer then it can overheat more easily as it has to drive in the hot wake. I hope we don’t see situations where a car can not overtake because it is not possible to follow close enough for long enough time before temperatures rise too high. Another issue is tires. Pirelli has struggled to make good tires all its time in f1 and with heavy cars following more closely and sliding more the tires could become the limiting factor.

      1. I did really think about this more and I did come up with one more negative about going big on ground effects and using the rear wing to make the wake of dirty air from the diffuser go up high in the air. In the rain it can severely hurt the visibility because the ground effect of the car could make the spray thicker behind the car. That being said the current cars already use a lot of ground effects (not tunnels like the 2021 will use) so in the end there is probably not much if any difference in the end about how much water is sprayed. I don’t know if the 2021 with their tunnels would make a dry line appear quicker on on a wet track but that could be other side of that coin…

    29. If yo only allow singleb blade front wings and ban heated tires for the start then the old excitement of three cars abreast with the rear tires smoking would return. The reduced down force on the front would require reduced down force on the back and the dirty sir problem would go way.

    30. Once the teams sink their teeth into the new regs, I’m sure they’ll find ways of bending the air to get more our of the tunnels and apply that power ever more efficiently.

    31. Will 2021 F1 cars be slower than Super Formula cars ?

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