Start, Hungaroring, 2019

Have the ‘big three’ teams finally accepted F1’s 2021 rules revolution?

2021 F1 season

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If the FIA and Liberty set out to ‘make everybody a little unhappy’ with their package of Technical, Sporting and Financial Regulations for the 2021 F1 season, they certainly seem to have succeeded.

For while the team bosses spoken to by RaceFans after Wednesday’s F1 summit in Paris expressed relief that – as one of their number put it – “at last we have a definitive direction of travel”, another remarked they had “reservations about the exact route ahead”.

A delay to 2022 was suggested by a minority of teams, but fell on deaf ears, not least because of the commercial and political implications. For starters, a delay would hit Liberty right in the NASDAQ share price through perceptions it had lost its way, while also complicating F1 chairman/CEO Chase Carey’s employment contract: he is said to be keen on stepping aside from his CEO role (but remaining chairman).

Equally, FIA president Jean Todt’s third (and, he insists, final) mandate expires at the end of 2021, and his legacy is as likely to be defined by his road safety achievements as by the success of the ‘new’ Formula 1. Thus he would prefer to be in the driving seat during the 2020/21 transitional period.

No team was ever likely to end up completely happy in a sport which arguably features six models of competitor: Ferrari’s ‘in-house’ set-up; Mercedes and Renault’s separate chassis and engine operations; Red Bull’s model of sister teams sharing parts; independent teams (McLaren and Williams – own cars, customer engines); ‘front end’ outfits (Racing Point and Alfa Romeo buy their ‘back ends’); and the Haas satellite operation.

Jean Todt, Singapore, 2019
Todt will want deal in place before exit
Add in team budgets which range from $120m to four times that, and a ‘one size fits all perfectly’ set of regulations was simply never going to happen. Realistically, the best the FIA and Liberty could aim for was a broad compromise, keeping all 10 in the sport while delivering a much-improved, sustainable ‘show’.

Time will tell whether that objective was achieved. But the crucial point is that both parties appear to have stood firm in the face of overwhelming resistance to change on the part of a trio of teams who have had it too good for too long for the sport’s better good. There were fears that the powers-that-be would cave-in – or, at the very least, dilute the package to appease the ‘big three’ – but they seem not to have blinked.

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By agreeing to extend Ferrari’s regulatory veto, albeit in diluted form – with the vital proviso that any challenge be mounted through the FIA Court of Appeal, and not open courts – the sport’s masters appear to have bought off the Scuderia and, by extension, the other major teams. Whether the regulations remain free of challenge can only, however, be revealed in the fullness of time.

Saliently, Ferrari has not commented officially since the meeting, which is either a very good sign or an exceedingly bad one.

So happens next? According to sources, the game plan is to prepare an explanatory dossier containing briefing papers for submission to the FIA World Motor Sport Council, which needs to ratify all decisions taken by the sport’s lower ‘houses’, in this case in time for publication of the regulations by October 31st.

Christian Horner, Mattia Binotto, Hockenheimring, 2019
Ferrari still has the veto option
In the 2021 Technical, Sporting and Financial Regulations Implementation Agreement signed on June 13th 2019 and seen by RaceFans, the teams waive all rights to challenge said delay; equally significantly, they also agree to waive any right to challenge the provisions of the Financial Regulations (budget cap), including the spend limit of $175m and all exclusions.

However in return the FIA agrees to publish the full set of regulations within five business days of FIA ratification, meaning an October 25th deadline for approval. Given that no WMSC meeting is scheduled until early December, ratification is likely to be via e-votes. RaceFans understands that the targeted WMSC lodge date is 23 October, with a 48-hour turnaround time to allow for perusal, clarifications and time zones.

Slippage could leave the FIA – and, by extension, Liberty – open to costly and time-consuming legal challenge, thus scuppering the entire process, including the much-vaunted Financial Regulations. That could, in turn, potentially damage Liberty’s NASDAQ performance and tarnish Todt’s legacy.

Rest assured he and Carey will fight to ensure the regulations are published by due date without slippage. Ferrari’s veto permitting, that is…

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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...

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  • 41 comments on “Have the ‘big three’ teams finally accepted F1’s 2021 rules revolution?”

    1. Nervous waiting.

      I hope for Veto

      1. Why do you support the veto? I’m living in fear of the veto being actioned. Isn’t closer, more sustainable racing with fairer income distribution and cars that can follow each other exactly what is needed?

        1. Matt, the reason why @dallein has stated he wants to see the rules vetoed is because he is concerned that the rules, as proposed, strip away the individual character of the teams and enforces a level of homogenisation that he finds unpalatable.

          To him, it is the concern that Liberty Media are prioritising “the show” to the detriment of the sport, all razzmatazz and the superficial trappings of excitement, but ultimately leaving the central core of the sport hollowed out and ever closer to a semi-spec or spec series that further erodes what he sees as an important tenant of the sport, which is the ability of the teams to make a meaningful difference.

          1. Because as we all know a sport where one team gets the most money because of its name not winning is exactly what happens in a healthy sport (rolls eyes)

            1. And yet, even if you might like the end objective, at the same time that does not prevent somebody from questioning the means by which they want to achieve it.

              The idea of trying to make the field more level might be a laudable aim, but I can see why there would be those questioning whether the way that Liberty Media intends to do so is the right way to do it, or whether there might also be some rather more negative intentions behind what Liberty Media is thinking of doing.

          2. It is my belief that if Ferrari uses their veto power it will only be for a good cause which will be to keep F1 from becoming too spec, but at the same time I do not believe Liberty/Brawn are making it too spec. So I do not believe Ferrari will need to veto anything and if there have been concerns by them and the other teams those have been addressed through negotiations and concessions before any veto is even needed.

            So bottom line for me I am not concerned one bit wrt this aspect of F1. We have to keep in mind everyone knows costs must come down, and measures are being taken towards that end, and it is a difficult balancing act to both allow freedom to the teams and keep costs reasonable at the same time. I think of this not as Liberty/Brawn vs the teams, but L/B and the teams working together to come to a middle ground for a better F1.

        2. “Isn’t closer, more sustainable racing with fairer income distribution and cars that can follow each other exactly what is needed?”

          Why would it be? That assumes a lot. Fairer income distribution doesn’t actually work, for one thing – the basic principle is that common in US sports, where despite the things intended to equalise success, there are in fact still dominant teams.

    2. I think the 2021 rules will be better than the current rules. F1 needs more safety, closer racing, less turbulent air.
      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. How can we solve it? This is, decision makers and engineers should work for. I think it is possible with compromises.
      Some possibilities we have to consider:
      1. Less differences between cars in lap times.
      Some teams are better in PU and others in aero but we need less differences in lap times. Slight changes in technical regulation year by year (with stable regulations, differences will naturally decrease). Smaller teams get the same PU (hardware, software, etc) as manufacturers. Decrease money/revenue allocation differences and decrease costs. The slower teams get more test days. I think it would be ideal if cars are close to each other in lap times but some cars are faster in straight and others are faster in corners.
      +I think we should introduce Plus Weight Per Championship Point system in short term (for example +20dkg/point, less or more. It means if a driver has got 10 championship points he has to carry +2kg as a minimum weight for the car) because it is a simple, cheap, fast, effective solution to decrease dominance and differences and we don’t need unification or freeze development. OR reverse (championship point) grid for “mini” Saturday race.
      2. Less dirty air and less sensitive cars for dirty air in corners but fast cars: more mechanical grip, less or same aero downforce, the sport needs make it easier for cars to follow each other closely during races
      A, simpler front wing and aero B, more effective diffuser C, better tyres (more durable, more grip) D, more powerful and effective PUs (natural development) E, DRS? (open DRS time/race and drivers manage it) F, refuelling? (Cars can be faster and drivers could push harder during races but there would be less safety and maybe more ’overtaking during the pit stops’) G, narrower cars H, less weight I, use active (aero) elements (no DRS), variable suspension (etc.) to decrease the following car’s disadvantage in the corners
      3. Increasing the role of drivers: A, Racing should be a greater challenge for drivers mentally (own decision-making) and physically (more G forces until it is safe) as well during races. B, drivers make decisions on strategy and car settings C, less radio instructions from engineers to drivers during races (maybe only safety reasons) D, minimum weight for drivers (for example 80kg with ballast less or more) E, push on the limit as long as possible, and save (fuel, tyres, PU etc.) as short as possible -> faster lap times during races F, reduce driver aids
      4. Better tracks: It would be a good thing if F1 valuated the tracks.
      Some important things for a good race tracks are:
      4.1. Safety
      4.2. Track lines (many possible places to overtake, slow and fast corners)
      4.3. Wide (much wider than the race cars) and long
      4.4. Smoothness and roughness of the track
      4.5. Space crash (wall, gravel, speed bump, kerbs, grass, asphalt) that punishes the drivers if they leave the track but safe so compromises
      4.6. Earlier racing experiences
      4.7. Opinions of drivers (about race tracks)
      (4.8. Maybe attractions around the tracks)

      1. @patent Meanwhile back in reality land, they will not be adding weight to cars to punish them for their Championship points, they will not be narrowing cars, you make no acknowledgement of the ground effects they’re actually going to do, and what are active aero elements but no drs? I think you are making suggestions that no team would have ever accepted let alone would Liberty and Brawn ever propose, at a time when they are on the cusp of agreeing to actual things they have put together over the last two or three years that actually address all major aspects of F1 that needed addressing but also needed consensus…a tough challenge. The horses have already left your fantasy barn and moved on to reality, thank goodness.

        1. I. Plus weight per championship point system: I know many people don’t like compensation systems but I think it would be a fair system and it would be more andvantages than disadvantages.
          Let’s see the advantages and disadvantages of Plus Weight Per Point system in short term. (+20dkg/point, less or more. It means if a driver has 10 points he has to carry +2kg as a minimum weight for the car.)
          Advantages: 1. Less differences between cars in lap time and close racing. 2. Fast, cheap, simple, effective solution. 3. We don’t need unification or freeze development 4. Finally the best team wins.
          Disadvantages: 1. Unfair? I don’t think (or partly) because finally win the best and if you have the best team and car you have to work harder to remain the best.
          Or at least this +weight/points system should be tested in smaller categories.
          II: Ground effect: I know wider cars can generate more downforce, but overtaking is harder with wider cars (mostly in a narrow track).
          III. Active (aero) elements: F1 needs something to decrease the following car’s disadvantage in the corners.

          1. @patent All moot. Nobody wants the gadget of weight penalties no matter how you want to sell it. They aren’t narrowing the cars. And active aero elements to decrease the following car’s disadvantage? Have you not been paying attention? They are going with less complicated wings for less aero dependence while using ground effects in an unprecedented way, all while creating cars that make less wake. Why do you think they will still need that which they are trying to move away from, namely gadgets? So it’s ok, you can stop with the fantasy suggestions. They’ve got this.

            1. @robbie We won’t agree. I just wrote my opinion.

          2. @patent

            but overtaking is harder with wider cars (mostly in a narrow track).

            Not really.

            Just look at the cars prior to 1998 when they were the same width as they are now, Circuits were on average narrower yet there was more overtaking (Including at Monaco).

            The narrowing of cars in 1998 actually hurt overtaking as with smaller floors/diffusers they lost a lot of the ground effect they were still able to generate from the underside of the cars which in turn put a greater emphasis on downforce generated on the top side of the car which is more sensitive to turbulent air.

            The wider cars having a larger floor area & larger diffuser will in theory be better when it comes to using ground effects from 2021 which is a part of why the opted to make them wider taking them back to pre 1998 widths in 2017.

            1. Yes, I partly agree with you. I wrote wider cars can generate more downforce and ground effect generates less turbulent air than wings (they are good things). I just say if a driver has wider car it is easier to defence so overtaking is harder.
              And I think many of the 2021 rules are good such as:
              1, budget cap (but I think it will be difficult to control/check the real costs), smaller differences between teams’ financial backgrounds
              2, more ground effect, less turbulent air, less differences between cars (and hopefully in lap times as it would be important), lower costs, etc.

            2. @gt-racer

              Other things being equal, there’s no doubt whatsoever that narrower vehicles in proportion to circuit width increase overtaking opportunities.

            3. maybe. maybe not. it’s all a guess. especially since prioritizing the ‘show’, between what the teams want, the FIA, FOM and with a Fan Survey here & there, it’s a mess… nobody can definitively say anything will improve anything. there are just too many variables. one glaring example is that while re-fueling appears to be bad for racing, there were so many other changes made at around the same time, that as a quantifiable yet unproven conclusion, it represents a heretic belief at best. The only true facts are that F1 has always allowed the cream to dominate the field and Liberty is cable tv company more interested in raising it’s own share price. One will have to give way to the other as they are not compatible. Year’s down the road we will recall Liberty & F1 much in the same light as AMF & Harley Davidson or CBS & Fender. In the meanwhile, all eyes are on Ferrari…

      2. +I think we should introduce Plus Weight Per Championship Point system in short term (for example +20dkg/point, less or more.

        The day they start punishing drivers for being successful, I stop watching F1.

        You’re describing a charity, not a championship.

    3. Obviously without possibly knowing with certainty from this armchair, I would be surprised if ‘the big three’ and indeed all the teams (since they’ve been included for a change) haven’t finally accepted F1’s 2021 rules revolution or I think we would have been hearing much more about major issues the teams still have with them, and yet the major issues seem to have been put to bed and lately it has been more about more minor things like a different quali format, also put to bed. There seems to be no outrage by any teams at any of the changes, and I think they just need to sign off on everything and get on with it. Everything is always a work in progress anyway, and I think the changes coming will create a much better F1 and at a minimum a much better base from which they can continue to hone the entity. These are highly exciting times for F1, and the new regs the teams have accepted cannot possibly make things worse than they have been for too long.

      1. @Robbie

        Funny, I’ve been reading the same signals as a sign that Liberty are going to have to capitulate entirely, because they only bought control over F1’s media rights, not over the sport. (The price paid indicates they only expect to remain ‘in charge’ for 4-5 years.)

        It’s noteworthy that the teams haven’t agreed not to dispute or veto penalties for breaking the budget cap. If they don’t like it, they can veto any sanctions, rendering it irrelevant.

        What we’re going to end up with is a standard F1 car-regulation change, with Liberty’s Five Year Plans totally ignored. Well, the car regs will probably be more flawed than usual, because LM haven’t a clue.

        1. @Dave Sorry but I don’t buy any of what you are saying.

          1. @Robbie

            So, what… You think Liberty have displayed great competence and exemplary control so far?

            Where do they get their power from, in your book? Because they can’t do anything unless they have some. Bernie’s came from his demonstrated ability to keep the cash coming in while getting agreement between rival teams. Are Liberty doing those things at all, let alone brilliantly?

            I just don’t see what Liberty actually offer to F1, rather than take from it. They’re purely parasitic, and the teams won’t tolerate it for long. Failing to get anything from the current negotiations underlines how useless they are and hastens the end.

            1. Dave, at the same time, couldn’t you say that CVC and Bernie were “purely parasitic” as well? Bernie might have expanded the cash flow, but for some time the bulk of that cash was being channelled out of the sport and into CVC’s other investments (their media investments in the Australian market in particular, which reportedly went quite badly), rather than staying within the sport.

              He could buy off individual teams for a while, but towards the end of his tenure it was apparent that the cracks were beginning to show in his business model – there was only so long that he could keep jacking the circuit hosting fees up, and, like Liberty, he was facing that increasing resistance to expanding the calendar ever further.

            2. “couldn’t you say that CVC and Bernie were “purely parasitic” as well?”

              No, not at all. Bernie was very well rewarded for what he did, no doubt there, but the teams repeatedly signed up with him because he did a great job. If you look back decades, he was the one who found the money for the safety improvements. Then he found more money when tobacco sponsorship was banned. Revenues kept increasing year after year.

              “towards the end of his tenure it was apparent that the cracks were beginning to show in his business model”

              What, the same business model still working fine, apart from the loss of his ability to make deals between the teams? As far as I can see the sole reason Bernie sold up was that he wanted to retire. And to be honest, I think Liberty got rooked – Bernie sold them a pup, and it’s actually Sky now in control.

            3. Dave, actually, quite a few of the teams were critical of a lack of action on Bernie’s side to replace the loss of tobacco sponsorship with other revenue streams – if anything, the way he handled things was sometimes more of a hindrance than a help to the teams.

              As for his business model, no, I don’t think that it was “still working fine” – he was reaching the point where the sport was receiving more significant pushback from the circuits on the hosting fees he was asking for, and it was well known that he was having to give a number of circuits discounts towards the end of his tenure because of collective action by the circuits to gang up on Bernie and negotiate reduced fees.

              The rate at which revenues were growing was slowing significantly towards the end of Bernie’s tenure – revenue from circuits was starting to flatline because he couldn’t keep pushing the fees up any further, whilst some of the higher paying circuits were starting to drop off the calendar, cancelling the benefits of the escalator clauses. Equally, TV rights revenue was stalling as the initial tranche of subscription channel deals were beginning to time out, with some broadcasters declining to sign new deals as audience figures had dropped. By Bernie’s own admission, he’d done a good job of pumping up the revenues to fatten the sport for sale, but did so knowing that those deals were not sustainable in the long term.

          2. Dave, I don’t think you know what you are talking about.

            1. @Robbie, you are absolutely right.

            2. @Robbie

              You haven’t given any reason you don’t accept what are simply facts. Care to explain?

            3. Dave I would not know where to begin when your comments are so off the mark.

        2. Looking at the latest Team Payout list, there is $304M paid out as bonuses. Two teams received more than the $175M threshold in payouts: Ferrari ($205M) and Mercedes ($177M). If the $304M, less the Ferrari $50M “profit only” payout (noting I’m trying to accurately present how the payments would have been, this isn’t about whether or not I agree with that payment) were to be equally distributed to the teams, half as Column One and half as Column Two payouts, none of the teams gets more than $175M from Liberty Media. Ferrari were the team closest to the $175M threshold getting $172.5M. So the ability to exceed the budget cap is based on income other than from Liberty Media. Maybe some teams are in a position to at least be thinking about exceeding the $175M limit, but they won’t be getting it from Liberty Media.
          I redid the current payouts on a spreadsheet using the above scenario. 4 teams loose: Ferrari ($-32.5M, -15.8%), Mercedes ($-41.6M, -23.5%), Red Bull ($-42.4, -27.9%) and McLaren ($-8.5M, -8.5%). The amount lost across the 4 teams was $124.9M, so that money would be distributed to the other 6 teams. Most of those teams would have gotten around a 37% increase in funding, the team with the smallest increase would have been Williams (16%) because they were loosing a Constructors Champions’ Bonus.
          Even if the new aero rules have a negligible effect, I think the new funding regime, with 5 of the teams gaining between 36% and 39% in funding, will be one of the best things to improve the quality of racing in F1. I think the competition will be very much better because of it.

          1. Problem there is that much of the income doesn’t come from distribution, so it’s nowhere near as significant a budget increase as your numbers suggest.

        3. Dave – yes, i agree. if they approve it will be the same as it is now, with a lot of window dressing. not much will change apart from the optics. the teams are not interested in making Liberty rich, if they were they would’ve bought shares when offered to them. most fans are so wrapped up in the minutiae that they lost the plot. liberty will cave in or ferrari will veto

    4. ‘make everybody a little unhappy

      So…the treaty of Versailles, 100 years later?

      1. I think some parties eere more unhappy than others on that one – and reacted accordingly.

    5. What about Super Formula?
      Is dirty air a problem there, or they have no problems like that?
      I have not seen a Super Formula race yet, but i will try it soon, luckily i found some new footages.

      1. The only thing I know about Super Formula is that the the pit stops are kickass.

    6. Races are quite long, and cars are quite powerful, capable of at about GP2’s pace with seemingly simple but pretty aero. And the field is quite strong too, i’d consider it a bit higher level than GP3, because there are many former proven drivers, and good wannabees from Japan and abroad too. So i’d say F1 should consider experiences from Super Formula too when creating or modifying rules. There are full race footages at youtube, maybe I will watch the one at Motegi from this year.
      Recently i tried Motegi at Raceroom, and it’s quite amazing full of super long slopes, unique and quite fast track. Maybe a bit simple, idk how would Motegi look like as an F1 racetrack, but maybe not that bad, as
      it’s quite wide and fast.

    7. I hope Ferrari do attempt to veto this because the courts will finally establish that their so-called “veto” is just a boogeyman myth. What they have is the right to leave the sport prior to the end of the current Concorde Agreement without financial penalty. They cannot afford to leave the sport of Formula One because it is the basic underpinning of their brand. Their stockholders would never allow them to leave the sport. Enough of this continual extortion and bullying.

      1. @gwbridge While I do understand the sentiment of your comment and where it comes from, I don’t feel there is a threat here. A few weeks ago there was an article here from an interview with Dieter and Matteo Binotto where he implies they would rather not use their veto, rather not need to, and that negotiations ahead of that happening would be better. That is what I think has happened. I don’t get the sense that Ferrari is trying to extort or bully anyone at this time, and their main concern right now seems to just be about teams retaining individualism, and that is not a bad thing, unless they were so adamant about so much freedom that it would keep costs sky high, and that is not what is going on in my belief.

        In general, over the years, while Ferrari’s veto power has always bothered me too, I have always felt like they would not abuse it or else they would run the risk of looking like only winning because they manipulated things and skewed things towards themselves. Indeed I believe that is what happened in the MS/Ferrari era, where Max and Bernie were bound and determined post-Senna to create a new chapter where Ferrari ends their WDC drought, so they formulated things to go Ferrari’s way well before they needed to exercise a veto. That is not the case now imho. Just fairly mundane negotiations to keep all teams individualism while keeping costs in mind too. Whereas for Mosley and BE in the mid-nineties it was all about Ferrari, I think now it is all about a new chapter including all the teams.

        1. Certainly, I have seen no evidence of a threat here, but even Dieter had to mention the overhanging sword. I remember seeing the text of the “veto” and the power granted them was limited in a couple of ways and was related to inflicting some sort of damage to their business operations, since it began when Ferrari was the only team not running a V8 and the V12 was an iconic Ferrari feature. The real “veto” has always been their repeated threats to leave the sport if they didn’t get their way rather than asserting any real veto power. We’ve all seen the statements that F1 could never survive without Ferrari, which I don’t buy for a minute. From what I have seen so far, I agree with you that there has been no public threat to leave, and I think that is the case because F1 (Liberty Media) have drawn a line and are being backed by the FIA. Between the two of them, Liberty Media as commercial rights holder and the FIA have enough votes to dictate terms to the teams since the teams altogether cannot outvote a Liberty/FIA voting block. All any team can do is quit after 2020, if they think that is in their best interests. I can’t see Ferrari ever leaving F1.

          Without actually invoking the veto (and they did do it once and F1 rejected it) Ferrari has still thrown its weight around before, during and after any decision making process to gain whatever advantage they could. I am actually rather surprised to see Liberty Media showing so much backbone, but the ultimate owner of Liberty Media (Mr. Malone) is a rather tough and ruthless businessman who takes no quarter, and he may have simply said, “We’re running a business, here, not a summer camp for the unimaginably rich.”

    8. FLYINGSCOTIS#1
      20th October 2019, 9:07

      We need more teams!!! if not some how create three car teams then! And use all three tire compounds at each race to speed up the race lap times. I remember people talking about it before… Man i wish we had more teams or three car teams man that would create so much action will three car teams…

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