The deadline for publishing the new rules package for the 2021 F1 season was delayed earlier this year from the end of June until today. But there has been no further slippage.
The FIA and Formula 1 together unveiled the sporting, technical and financial regulations after the FIA World Motorsport Council approved the package by e-vote earlier this week. The legendary Ferrari team, which sits on the WMSC by right, has long voiced reservations about certain provisions of the proposed regulations. Yet according to a source the vote is believed to have been carried unanimously, and therefore has Ferrari’s backing.
The key objectives of the 2021 regulations are to improve the sporting spectacle by reducing the performance differential between teams while ensuring the financial sustainability of all teams by containing costs and redistributing the team share of the sport’s $1.8bn annual revenues. In the process, Formula 1 aims to contribute significantly to the development of environmentally sustainable and road-relevant technologies.
Changes to the technical regulations are aimed primarily at reducing the ‘following car distance’ by reducing ‘dirty air’ generated by the car ahead, which makes overtaking difficult. Thus the 2021 cars are expected to differ visually from the current crop, with front and rear wings, airboxes, sidepods, brake ducts and underbodies all affected by the regulatory changes.
The minimum car weight will increase by 25 kilograms to 768kg, mainly due to the adoption of 18-inch wheels, the introduction of standard, prescription and open source components (see below), additional safety measures, and restrictions on the materials – covering both chassis and power units – for cost reasons.
Where current technical regulations provide for two component categories – non-listed parts (which teams may obtain from a supplier or rival) and listed parts (which teams must own the intellectual property to) – for cost reasons the 2021 package provides for five categories. These are Listed (as above), Standard (single supplier via tender), Prescribed Design (free supply to a set specification) Transferable (may be shared between teams), and Open Source (the design is made available to all teams).
A number of safety improvements will be introduced. These include improved debris containment through the addition of rubber membranes in certain components, improved front wing design and fastening, additional and improved tethering of components, and increased impact absorption at the front, rear, chassis side and cockpit.
During the press briefing, the 2021 wind tunnel model tested by Sauber on behalf of Formula 1 was presented. It visually differs from the current crop of cars, with the main areas of differentiation being: nose, front/rear wing and end-plates, longer sidepods incorporating diffusers, engine cover, and by incorporating prescribed components in areas of aerodynamic sensitivity.
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These are fundamentally unchanged from the current sporting regulations save that provision has been made to increase the number of races per season to 25 (up from 21 provided for 2020, which was increased to 22 by unanimous agreement), with a compressed event format enabling race weekends to be reduced from four days to three.
In addition, power unit development limitations will apply, with further restrictions on wind tunnel run times and computational fluid dynamics simulations for cost reasons.
However, give that these in the provisions of the sporting regulations do not in the main affect car design, these could be ‘tweaked’ by end-March 2020, so are not considered definitive.
A contentious new category, the financial regulations will be introduced to ‘level the playing field’ by promoting sporting fairness and long-term economic stability of teams through the imposition of cost caps. This will be set at $175m from 2021, and will be adjusted up or down in increments of $1m adjustments if more races are added or removed respectively (there are already 22 races on the 2020 F1 calendar).
Some exclusions are permitted, such as marketing costs, depreciation and amortisation, driver and certain executive costs, and non-F1 or team heritage activities.
The primary ‘policing’ areas are: Related party transactions (i.e. between parent company and team), transferable component transactions between teams, and research and development, with capital expenditure restricted to $36m over four years.
A reporting procedure has been developed, with teams expected to provide audited annual reports and a Cost Cap Administration team empowered to investigate and report breaches. A Cost Cap Adjudication Panel, comprising at least six – and up to 12 – judges, will be empowered to discipline any breaches by teams and registered senior team members, with sanctions ranging from warnings through to exclusion.
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The following implementation timeline will apply:
- December 2019: finalisation of regulatory framework, namely guidance, implementation, and templates.
- End of June 2020: Optional submission of 2019 financial data for dry-run purposes, with no penalties
- End of March 2021: Voluntary submission of 2020 financial statements, with no penalties
- End of March 2022: Mandatory submission of complete financial data, subsequent application of financial/sporting penalties for breaches during 2021.
Attempts by Red Bull and Mercedes to delay introduction of the new package were overruled a fortnight ago as the proposals would have required unanimous approval. Ferrari and Williams are thought to have been amongst the objectors.
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