Williams 2021 F1 car rendering

Analysis: What’s new in the 2021 F1 regulations

2021 F1 season

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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 sport’s governing body today announced the full package during a press conference called in Austin, scene of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix.

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.

Technical Regulations

2021 F1 car design
2021 F1 car design
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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Sporting Regulations

2021 F1 car design
2021 F1 car design
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.

Financial Regulations

Renault 2021 F1 car rendering
Renault 2021 F1 car rendering
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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28 comments on “Analysis: What’s new in the 2021 F1 regulations”

  1. Hopefully with the shape of the front wing endplate, we will see a lot less punctures.

    1. Moreover, are wheel covers back now?

      1. Also curious about that. It was either a limitation of the crummy render (why on earth didn’t they commission Codemasters to render it on their superb game engine??) or wheel covers are back. Come to think of it, I sort of remember this being mentioned before.

      2. Yes, @mashiat, @knewman, wheel covers are being brought back to limit air blown out of the wheels which creates a lot of dirty air. So no blown wheel nuts anymore.

      3. Then they could have kept the 13″ rims and put on 18″ covers…
        Saves money and weight… ;-)

        1. Great thinking ;)

        2. In the second pic they have stickers on the wheel covers that look like wheels. Looks really bad imho but it is just a press pic.

  2. I wonder if teamsnlike Redbull and Alpha Centauri can share their parts and one of them develop front wings and the other develop rearwing.

    They share the end results and with that Redbull can spend double the money compared to other team. Ferrari might do it with Alfa Romeo.

    And i wonder what kind of aerod parts that they can develop on their own.

    1. Alpha Centauri?? That team is 4.367 light years away from the earth.

  3. Well, get ready for a spending spree from the bigger teams over the next 14 months then.

  4. I assume DRS will be gone; I cannot detect any moving mechanism.

    1. It is there on the Windtunnel model though @coldfly. As I understand DRS is still on the cars, just that they mean to decide on whether to actually need it with experience on track.

  5. Pretty cool looking design. Disappointed that the cars are getting heavier and slower though. Nevertheless, excited for the future!

    1. Ugly to hell. Pretty cool looking cars were in late 80’s – early 90’s. Even in mid 80’s. They were big, but you could feel the beast in them.

      Those picture above looks like cheap children toys somewhere of kindergarten age.

      1. Relax, these are renders.
        I’m sure the cars will look much better once the teams produce their designs.

  6. I dont know if this means anything but McLaren, William’s, Renault, alfa Romeo are all tweeting about the new rules and yet Mercedes, Ferrari, redbull, racing point and haas have no mention of them at all…. it’s almost like some teams aren’t as happy about these new rules and when one of them teams has a veto you have to wonder….

    1. Wonder no more, just read.

      the vote is believed to have been carried unanimously, and therefore has Ferrari’s backing.

  7. Lots of questions remain. I love the idea of open source parts if they can actually be developed over time, otherwise they might as well just be prescribed.

    Meanwhile bring on the era of creative accounting! It’s all very F1. Instead of spending money on going fast, they’ll be spending money on pretending not to spend money so they don’t get caught spending money to go fast.

    Either way, its promising and important that something has been agreed and presented. Well done Formula One!

  8. Great information and excited to see what the teams roll out in Australia 2021 for FP1.

    The one frustrating thing was the quality of the FIA slides! Yuck. It doesn’t take much to style a PowerPoint deck! At least they slides have clearly been done by engineers lol.

  9. Gotta say, this render is horrendously unrealistic…

    …because it’s assuming Williams will still exist in two years.

  10. Technical regulations seem good:
    The direction in long term is good, less turbulent air is good.
    But big technical changes can generate bigger differences in lap times between cars in short term (mostly in the first year). Plus wealthier teams can spend more money till 2021. As a result wealthier teams can develop faster cars (as always).
    “The minimum car weight will increase by 25 kilograms to 768kg,” It is a bad direction, but if it is needed for safety reasons I can understand it. Slower cars are bad news but if cars generate less turbulent air it’s ok and they will be faster year by year.

    Financial regulations:
    The idea is good. F1 needs less cost to be sustainable, less differences between teams are good direction, fairer money distribution is good.
    But It will be difficult to chech/control teams’ real spendings. Where will be the limit (in costs) between parent company and F1 team? What about prices, costs?
    So the idea of cost cap is good but it will be difficult to check/control the real costs and prices.
    If a team become dominant it will be more difficult to decrease differences.

    1. 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.

      There will be intense use of benchmarking and a lot of analytics going into looking at price levels used in those “related party transactions” @patent

      1. @bascb
        Yes, I agree with you but I am afraid of creative accounting. (such as many companies use tax havens worldwide, which is a big problem globally)

        1. Sure @patent. Then again, the huge difference is that the FIA is the only one making the rules and ARE going to police this, while tax avoidance is not illegal, and therefore not policed at all, or only partly with different rules for differing tax regions that make it both more easy to do (exploiting those differences) and harder to be found out/called out for.

  11. Can someone post up a link to the full new rules or are they as yet unpublished?

    So far most things I’ve read are about the “aim” of the rules, something we’ve all known for ages, but I’d love to see the full substance of them.

    My only comment about them so far is that it seems we’ll have to wait until March the following year before any teams spending is ratified as being within the cost cap. Get ready for “provisional” championship wins and teams being penalised/losing WCC’s followed by long drawn out legal battles.

  12. Has anyone mentioned the loss of jobs or related companies going under do to the reduction in spending? The reduction has to have some impact??

  13. It was fine until I read the financial regulations.

    Having confirmed that the financial results are to be submitted in March of the year following the expenditures, the FIA has got two distinct sets of problems:

    1) What happens if the results it receives are not in accordance with what is submitted to financial authorities? In theory, it would have to be revised. In practise, that will be very hard to do if (as in Britain), large parts of this will only be revealed months after the final submission deadline. (Britain, for example, has an April-April tax year, with tax returns due the January afterwards. So Abu Dhabi 2021 would be on the April 2021-April 2022 return, with the FIA getting what is presumably a provisional tax submitted (up to) January 2023, assuming F1 teams are paying on time and using the online system rather than paper). It’s not clear from the descriptions to what extent those discrepancies would be detectable if the “live” monitoring systems miss things (I’ll await test results on judging the “live” protections). Good luck having people care about the team you’re throwing out of the championship for an infraction committed two seasons earlier, FIA…

    2) Since this is three months after the FIA’s own Statutes require seasons completed before the FIA’s last meeting of the season to be sealed (pending known and declared disciplinary investigations)… …does this mean the FIA has to put in a preliminary disciplinary investigation against every single F1 team every year? Or does it have to formally break its own governing principles if it suspects someone spent too much money on the way to a title if the “live” systems don’t pick it up? Either approach could land it in court.

    That’s before we start with what happens if an owner senses a recession and feels they’re not going to want a team on their hands during it, thus losing all incentive to bother complying with a rule that likely would be enforced against their successors…

    The only people likely to be unhappy about this right now are the people who haven’t seen the loophole – or people like me who have just had confirmation that the financial restriction can only be as strong as the richest teams want it to be, thus almost completely useless.

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