Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 2019

Hamilton: Drivers’ input into 2021 F1 rules ‘hasn’t made much difference’

2019 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by and

Lewis Hamilton says the concerns Formula 1 drivers raised about planned changes to the 2021 regulations have not been addressed.

The Mercedes driver said key areas of concern for drivers, such as the rising weight of cars, were not going to change. He also claimed proposals to test qualifying races show those in charge of the sport have little confidence the 2021 cars will be better for racing.

“The changes they’ve made in previous years have not been particularly effective so they’re probably not confident in the decision-making process,” said Hamilton.

“It’s not an easy job, ultimately, but there’s a lot of people involved in the decision-making process. I think us drivers are trying to have more of an impact and more of a role in helping them make a better decision. But it doesn’t seem to have made much difference to be honest.”

Drivers met with the FIA, FOM and teams earlier this year to put forward their concerns over an expected rise in car weights in 2021. This led to a suggestion refuelling could be reintroduced in 2021 so cars would be lighter at the beginning of races.

However the proposed reintroduction of refuelling has now been dropped. And there is little indication the increase in the base weight of the cars will be reversed.

“It was a concern back then and it’s still the same concern,” Hamilton admitted. “The fact that now they’re trying a reverse grid and all that it just seems to me like, it feels like an excuse for not doing a good enough job in the decision process.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“Making heavier cars: Why are they making the cars heavier? There’s absolutely no reason to make the cars heavier. It’s not safer, it’s not better for racing.

“My point’s still the same. I’m still concerned and I don’t think that’s going to change to be honest based on what I’ve experienced and witnessed in the meeting it is what it is.”

Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer recently estimated F1 cars will be “barely quicker than F2” in 2021. While not everyone shares this view, Hamilton expects the 2021 cars will be a step backwards in terms of performance.

“We’re going slower as well,” said Hamilton. “Why would I want to go slower? We’re supposed to be moving forwards in technology and innovating, we should be faster.

“We’re going to worse tyres and heavier cars, more sluggish. But when you speak to these guys they just don’t understand.

“Pretty much all of them haven’t raced ever before or haven’t been in a Formula 1 car. But that’s how it’s been for the whole of Formula 1’s period. So I hope I’ll just try and remain hopeful that the decisions they make will be good.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2019 F1 season

Browse all 2019 F1 season articles

28 comments on “Hamilton: Drivers’ input into 2021 F1 rules ‘hasn’t made much difference’”

  1. I can understand why the drivers aren’t being listened to a great deal because they’re the only 20 people in F1 who don’t have to watch the races. Their priorities tend to be giving themselves more fun in the car, going faster, feeling more, etc, even at the expense of closer racing… eg, they seemed very supportive of the 2017 changes, despite said changes making it a lot harder to follow a rival closely.

    Not saying they shouldn’t be listened to at all, and of course their input is useful (along with that of engineers, aerodynamicists and so on) when it comes to what makes good racing, but they’re coming at it from a totally different direction to everyone else.

    1. @neilosjames Except whenever they retire a race, i.e., don’t reach the chequered flag or don’t even start a race (the last example of that is from over two years ago from Silverstone.)

      1. Pretty sure they watch more F1 race footage than any of us! Not saying I agree with Hamilton’s views :)

  2. @neilosjames at the same time though if the cars aren’t fun, challenging or satisfying to drive why would anyone want to drive them?

    and aside from racing fans like to see drivers challenged, if the cars are too easy, too slow or too unchallenging and the drivers don’t enjoy driving them the fans see this and also start enjoying things less.

    look at the 2014-2016 cars as an example. it wasn’t just drivers who complained about those cars been slow and easy to drive it was also the fans and it was that criticism which began the push towards the 2017 generation cars been faster and more demanding to drive.

    i would much rather see cars that look fast, look challenging, look spectacular and which drivers openly look to love to drive than cars that are slow, less demanding, which drivers don’t look like there enjoying but which may be better for the racing.

    from that end i think the 2017 generation cars have been way better than what came before them which just looked awful to watch, especially from trackside where they lacked a lot of the spectacle and wow factor that the 2017 cars brought back. when standing trackside you want to think ‘wow’ because that is what helps sell f1 as been above everything else, if you stand trackside or even watch on tv & they look like f2 cars then it loses a lot of the spectacle and becomes a harder sell regardless of the racing.

    i think this is why so many other categories struggle to win appeal, they may provide better racing than f1 but they lack the spectacle because they just are not as spectacular, fun or fast to watch.

    1. @roger-ayles Agreed, I definitely wouldn’t be happy if the lap times went back to the 2014-15 levels. They were simply too slow for F1’s standards, especially on circuits like Circuit de Catalunya where the 2014 pole lap loses out to this season’s equivalent lap by nearly ten full seconds, and the 2015 lap by 9+ seconds as well, so I’ve been a lot happier with how they’ve been since the 2017 aero-changes than I was during the 2014-16 period although in ’16 the lap times weren’t hugely bad on some venues most notably in Bahrain.

  3. With Ross Brawn in charge, I do have hope. But I dunno. I think that everyone wants them to be faster, lighter, nice to look at, and better for racing. But it’s probably very difficult to get all of that.

  4. Spot on, Lewis! Even heavier, single-seat stretch limo racing isn’t better. In any way. But… since the cars are far too long now, might as well add a 2nd seat for passengers as part of the FIA/Liberty’s success ballast plan. Would spice up the show to watch Todt/Brawn/Carey enjoying the fruits of their labour with 5g braking.

    1. Would spice up the show to watch Todt/Brawn/Carey enjoying the fruits of their labour with 5g braking.

      While i kind of dig that idea @jimmi-cynic, I’m afraid that with F1 we would have the likes of the Kardashans, some random socialite or just a sponsor in the back of the cars.

      1. Even still… @bascb, a celeb live tweeting at 5g would almost be as entertaining. Of course the FIA would need to spec smartphone tethers which might distract them enough to skip the reverse grid master plan. ;-)

      2. @bascb if Kim kardashian wanted a co driver seat in an f1 car, I would 1) respect her a lot more, 2) wouldn’t object… because imho everyone wants a co drive in a f1 car.

        Nice jab at capitalism though.

  5. While I get what Hamlton is saying, i pretty much disagree and think that he misunderstands and misinterprets things.

    First of all, about the weight. There IS a very simple reason for making the cars heavier: cutting down on pressure on teams to use exotic (=expensive) materails to meet the low weight limits.
    Also the reason the cars are getting heavier this time, is because 18″ wheels are simply heavier than 13″ ones. And the last time weight was added was because of the Halo – a safety device.

    The second part is about the possible changes to the race weekend format. Now, i admit that i don’t feel too happy about all the ideas to change qualifying.
    But on the other hand, isn’t it prudent to prepare? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a change did not deliver in F1. So IF the changes don’t work, Liberty can fall back on things they have tested before instead of having another badly thought through knee jerk change after 2-3 races.

    And if everything works out right as planned/hoped, they’ve even signalled that we could finally see DRS dropped!

    1. @bascb ”cutting down on pressure on teams to use exotic (=expensive) materails to meet the low weight limits.”
      – But the people behind the standard parts that they hand out to the teams could make them weigh the same as the team-designed parts. A ‘standard’ part doesn’t ‘have to’ be heavier than a part designed in-house by a team.

      1. You are right there @jerejj. But it is pretty obvious that if you want to cut down on the price of that part, it is achieved by scaling up production on the one side, but on the other side by making it cheaper materials, making the shapes less complex (thereby often leaving more material inside/outside).
        Also, an external supplier is probably going to be more risk averse too, another factor that may well contribute to heavier parts.

        All of that said, if the FIA specifies the part should weight approximately the same as the median of what those parts weigh right now, that could be a good path. But it might mean a somewhat more expensive part.

    2. There is a good reason for not having cars that are to heavy and that is kinetic energy.
      A heavy car is a challenge to crash barriers and also other vehicles. The recent F2 crash highlighted the devastating effects of speed combined with mass.

      1. OOliver, off course that is a good reason for lighter cars. But it is a trade off between all the stuff they pack in there with “common” materials used as much as possible and the weight of the car.

        What to take out?

  6. ”There’s absolutely no reason to make the cars heavier.” – Indeed. He also hits the nail well in the last paragraph. I agree with him on everything.

    1. Other than safety (halo), cost (unobtanium buttons on the steering wheel to save 0.010grams), or being road car relevant ( hybrid technology, and 18” wheels)

      As mentioned above by someone who actually gave it some thought. Personally, I’m ok with no halo, suspension components made out of unobtanium alloys, and 13” wheels…. but they’re all valid “reason” to add weight. Lewis’ comments are an off the cuff, relaxed comment about the state of f1. Yours was just a “see! He’s right!” Dismissal of the complex factors that go into producing f1 racecars.

      Yeah… it’s complicated.

  7. Lewis looks younger

  8. He’s started to look younger. +1 for the veggie burgers :)

  9. Speed of the car is not a problem. The 2017 massive downforce increase to speed up the cars was totally unnecessary and has only created more problems. And now people are hung up on this and want to keep this massively high level of downforce? The same people who think 2017 massive increase in downforce was a bad move at the time and that the reason to add so much downforce just make the cars faster was wrong. These same people now want to keep the massive downforce levels because it makes the cars fast? You folks are less consistent than fia stewards from 80s.

    It is a cold hard fact that the more downforce you generate the more dirty air you generate and the more sensitive you are to dirty air. Removing downforce does reduce all that but also slows down the cars. Which is fine. F1 cars should not need this much downforce to be fast. There are lots of reasons why to undo the 2017 increase. Better racing, mid field closer to division 1 cars, more about the driver than the car or the engine manufacturer.

    The concept (apart from the power units) of the f1 cars in 2014-2016 was fine. But it was mercedes domination and that is in reality the only issue we have had since 2014. The competition is broken. Whether an aerodynamics rule change is enough to cancel out some of the power unit issues and backroom political cloak and dagger games… I can only hope.

    2017 rule change was also an aberration from another perspective. All the big rule changes before 2017 had only one aim. To make the cars slower. But the 2017 had only one goal. Make the cars quicker. Brawn has to fix it now with one of his hands tied behind his back. Can he? Taking away some downforce at least proves to me he is trying. But in the larger scale the rules don’t matter. Because what is really broken in f1 is not the cars. It is the competition.

    What matters is that the division 1 and division 2 barrier disappears and we have fighting for the wins and the top6 are not the same every time. The battles in midfield have been solid all along from 2014 to 2019. It is the sharp end of the grid that is a total pancake of a failure at racing. The recent uptick in race quality has nothing to do with weights, downforce levels or engines. We finally have competition in the sharp end of the grid. Even if it is just 2 teams instead of 1. Which goes to prove how totally broken f1 as a sport is and how little is enough to make things acceptable. Only thing 2021 needs to fix is the gap between midfield and division 1 and make sure at least two teams can fight for the wins. In the end all the rest are problems of quantity. F1 competition needs more quality. And doing it with less downforce is perfectly fine.

    1. good arguments there @socksolid, although I think the money distribution also did it’s part in enshrining the way the competition was skewed since 2014. As you mention in the second part of the post, this is the most important bit to help improve competition on track.

      1. I think the money distribution is important but it has been broken for decades and decades and the winner has still changed over the years. Mercedes has now dominated for 7 years straight which is nothing like the domination mclaren, ferrari or red bull had in the past. Never this easy,never this long.

        It is a long path of poor decisions that has lead to what we. The engines and their cost and performance for non engine manufacturer teams, the big downforce levels and the brutal technical and economical advantage of the big teams, the prize money structure, the political games, the drs and the huge gap that has developed between top6 and the rest. I’m glad we are getting the budget gap along with new technical rules for 2021 because it proves brawn understands that f1 has big issues everywhere and it needs more than new technical ruleset to really mix the pack.

        But even with the best new rules and best possible plans we will be in 2021 in situation where the top teams will carry some of their competitive advantage from 2020 to 2021. It will take some years before the competition fixes itself and it is a careful balance between following a good plan or giving out to short term knee jerk reactions. And with the talk of drs staying and talk of reverse grid qualifying races we are already seeing some of those things in the horizon.

        1. @socksolid I wouldn’t really say that Mercedes have dominated for 6 years though, Yes they have won the championships for those 5 years (Looking like 6 this year) but they have had competition, haven’t always had a dominant car & may not have won the championships all those years had there main title rival not made mistakes.

          It’s like saying that Vettel/Red Bull dominated for 4 years because they won those championships when in fact 2 of those seasons (2010/12) were very competitive with the title flight going to the last race.

          Same with those who say Schumacher/Ferrari dominated those 5 years from 2000-2004 when in reality they only truly dominated 2002/2004. 2000/2003 were very competitive & 2001 wasn’t exactly domination.

  10. Any chance we can get over the whole “it’s hard to follow and overtake” thing sometime soon.

    It’s pretty much always been hard to follow and overtake, and dirty air has been around for years, not just the last few and the really good drivers seem to be able to do so even now.

    The biggest limiting factor at the moment, and has been for quite some time, has been the fact that tyres get destroyed after a couple of laps following closely behind. (And yes I know that because of dirty air).

    Last weekend we watched a bunch of cars tooling around at a ridiculously slow pace and not 1, other than Dan Ric, made any real serious move to attack, because they were afraid of tyre deg. Whereas Dan showed that it “was” possible to attack and overtake, as have drivers like Max, Lewis, Charles etc in previous races.

    Maybe more focus should be put on tyre deg so that drivers can actually put pressure on the car in front for more that 1 or 2 laps and we’d actually see some more real attempts being made rather than this “strategic” pit pass mentality we see now.

    So far all we hear about is aero – why are Pirelli getting a free pass constantly?

    1. @dbradock – seconded.

      I don’t mind a small loss of absolute speed, if it means the spread of the field is reduced. For instance, at Spa, I was surprised to hear that the lap times in 2019 were slower than ’18. It didn’t feel like it, and it didn’t detract from qualifying or the race.

      So if Pirelli make hardier tyres for 2021, I don’t mind giving up a second or two per lap if it means closer chasing for longer periods. Heck, it might finally start putting pressure on the PUs.

  11. This is a bold statement.

    1. With bold words! And letters… ;-)

Comments are closed.