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Pirelli dismisses fears 2021 rules will slow F1 cars to F2 speeds

2021 F1 season

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Claims Formula 1 could be little quicker than Formula 2 after new regulations are introduced in 2021 have been rejected by Pirelli’s head of F1 and car racing Mario Isola.

Racing Point CEO Otmar Szafnauer said last year he fears F1 cars will be “barely quicker than Formula 2” under regulations which will cut the amount of downforce their produce. F1’s motorsport director Ross Brawn defended the changes, pointing out Racing Point have not simulated the effect of the changes as extensively as their rivals. However Szafnauer repeated his concerns earlier this week.

Isola is not convinced by Szafnauer’s claim. “I disagree with that because current Formula 1 cars are 10 to 12 seconds, probably, quicker than the Formula 2 car,” he told RaceFans in an exclusive interview.

F1 cars were as much as 15 seconds quicker than their F2 counterparts at some race weekends last year. Isola expects the 2021 rules will make them slower, but not by enough to make them comparable to F2 cars.

“The regulations were not designed to have quicker cars in Formula 1,” he said. “[That] was the target in 2017, it’s not the target for 2021. The target is completely different, it’s to have cars that are race-able with more overtaking, more action on-track and less effect of the downforce when you follow another car. Those are all positive aspects for Formula 1.

“Probably the cars will be slower for a number of reasons: Less downforce and heavier cars – the plan is to have cars that are heavier than the current ones and the weight has an effect on lap time.

“But that could be a few seconds. Not, for sure, slower than Formula 2. If a Formula 1 car in 2021 is two or three seconds slower than the current one and we have a much better show, I would say who cares?”

F1 cars will switch to 18-inch wheels in 2021, while F2 will introduce the larger wheels this year. Isola said he’s “not expecting any difference in lap time for Formula 2 cars” after the move away from the 13-inch wheels they used in 2019.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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40 comments on “Pirelli dismisses fears 2021 rules will slow F1 cars to F2 speeds”

  1. I agree and have no fear that the new gen cars are going to be unsettlingly slower. I agree with Isola that if they are a bit slower than now, but the racing action is much better, then who cares.

    The real outstanding elephant in the room though has to do with exactly what behaviours the tires will have in 2021, for if they are like they have been for far too long, and drivers cannot push them for fear of ruining them and/or taking them out of their operating temp window, then all of Brawn and the teams’ hard work will have been for naught. If the cars can race much closer but the tires can’t take it, what will have been the point? Oh of course I do think that it was crucial and long overdo to make the cars less clean air dependent, but…surely Mr. Isola you will come up with much much better tires for the much much better cars? Right?

    Realistically, mandates and agendas aside, one would think that at a bare minimum the tires will have to be much different to deal with the much different cars. But in this case it is crucial that ‘different’ also means much better, not just the bare minimum to suit the new cars.

    1. Agree about the elephant in the room. Racing is much less interesting for everyone involved when so much of the result is based on tire management. It makes the races quite dull.

    2. I agree with Isola that if they are a bit slower than now, but the racing action is much better, then who cares.

      @robbie Baed on what happened when the cars were slower from 2014-16 it seems a lot of people care, Myself included.

      A big part of the overall spectacle is the performance of the cars, Especially when your watching from trackside. And from the inside let’s not forget that we also had a lot of the drivers complaining about how boring & less of a challenge those cars were to drive because of how much less they were been pushed physically.

      The whole reason they opted to make the cars faster for 2017 was because of how much fans, drivers & media people had been complaining about how slow the cars were & how much of a joke it was that the lap records were all from a decade before.

      It will be the same now. They will slow them down but everyone will complain about how boring the look, How easy they are to drive etc… & they will quickly push to speed them back up again because it’s the performance that really wow’s people. A car that looks slow & unspectacular but may produce 100 overtakes isn’t going to impress you as much as one that blows you away with the amazing performance…. Hence why slower series like F2, F3 & even Indycar don’t have the fanbase.. They simply ain’t as impressive with there lesser performance.

      As I said when I attended the Indycar race at COTA last year, Those cars simply weren’t that impressive to watch because they looked slow, sluggish & lacked the wow factor that F1 cars provide through some of those corners like the esses & braking at the end of the long straight. Same with the lower formula, They lack the wow of F1 performance.

      1. @roger-ayles I take your point about being there at the track, especially track side, and noting slower speeds in lesser cars. Fair comment.

        However, the vast majority of viewers, and let’s keep it about F1, are not at the track and are viewing on TV. And on TV, a few seconds a lap slower than a previous season is not discernible. Close racing however, can vastly affect how TV (and attendee) viewers rate a race. Especially when it is not, and never will be in F1, 100 overtakes as you exaggerate to make your point. Passes will still be relatively rare, and therefore still exciting on their own, and I predict for 2021 we will see a return to the art of defending, where there has been no defence against someone with a 15kph drs advantage.

        As to the drivers complaints about speed and ease of operation of the cars…I think that still exists post-2017 (at least the easy to drive aspect) and for sure 2021 should address that bigtime. I don’t see lift and coast racing in the Liberty era starting next year, as that is counter to what they are trying to do. I hope and expect the tires to allow the drivers to push for much more of a stint, without destroying the tires or their window. Otherwise, yeah I’m pretty sure it will be a very small percentage of people that will take issue if the cars are a few seconds a lap slower, yet still with their incredible braking power, but with much more enthralling action. Put another way, who would really care about cars 10 seconds a lap faster than they are now, if every race was a procession?

        1. @roger-ayles Meant to add the point that numerous times in F1’s history they have taken measures to slow cars down when they appeared to be getting too fast and therefore potentially unsafe. Eg. Grooves tires in 98. And F1 has ‘survived.’ Lol that said knowing the audience has diminished over the years, but let’s face it is still massive. I doubt the diminishing has had anything to do with car speeds that as I say have gotten faster and then been made slower several times over the years.

  2. Sligthly off-topic I know, but can anyone tell me why F1 will use bigger rims in 2021?

  3. Maybe a 1m.18 sec Barcelona laptime with the 2021 cars?

    1. @Peter The outright track record for the current 2007-present Circuit de Catalunya-layout is 1:15.406, so yes, it could be in the 1m18s although by then the deficit could have been clawed back from the initial estimation, so could as well be in the 1m17s.

    2. The outright lap record for Barcelona will be lowered in 2020 @jerejj

      1. @megatron Maybe, maybe not. Not a given beforehand as happened with several venues last season.

        1. Pole time for 2019 Barcelona was almost. 8s faster than 2018. 2020 will be faster barring rain. The race lap record might not fall, but the outright lap record will most certainly.

          @jerejj

          1. @megatron Probably, yes, but again not a ‘definite’ certainty, which is a bit different. Yes, the likelihood is very high for that to happen, I’m not trying to deny that, but all I’m attempting to point out is that not everything is 100% given, set in stone before it has actually happened, so the caveat always has to be there just in case. I expect a similar scenario to last season in that most outright track records get beaten but keeping the possibility for the opposite alive as well.

  4. If a Formula 1 car in 2021 is two or three seconds slower than the current one and we have a much better show, I would say who cares?

    There will be hordes of moaners!

    1. Personally I don’t care about the speed, but I am very concerned they will kill the sport with 2021 regulations.

      I might end up among “whole 2021 moaners”.

      1. @dallien And exactly how would they kill the sport when they are improving it from all angles? As agreed and in conjunction with all the teams’ cooperation.

  5. The lap time loss-estimation that Nikolas Tombazis gave out ahead of the US GP is 3.0-3.5 seconds, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it eventually were to be less than that once the 2021 season begins.

    1. 3 to 3.5 from 2018, 2019 and 2020 will be faster still, but I personally don’t care. The 2021 regs are a huge step in the right direction and they will probably be setting new records by 2023.

      1. @megatron 3-3.5 compared to which season specifically hasn’t been stated, though. It’s probably to ’19, but they could also have taken into account potential 2020-lap times.

        1. @jerejj
          It was originally stated that it was in comparison to 2018.

          1. @megatron Where and when? I don’t recall reading or hearing anything referring to 2018 directly concerning the lap time-loss estimation matter. Nikolas Tombazis only said the estimated figure in the presentation ahead of the US GP, but not specifically to which season that loss would be in comparison. Not that it’d matter an awful lot anyway.

        2. @jerejj
          Whenever he was asked about the estimated lap time difference he said it was in reference to 2018, which was the last full year they had data for.

          1. @megatron That clears it better, and I had already started to consider the amount of data in hand when the shaping and design of the future generation of F1 cars properly started.

      1. @megatron But be it the estimated region of 3-3.5 or less at the beginning, as long as the cars are significantly better at following each other, I can temporarily live with a deficit that big.

        1. @jerejj
          Yeah, like I said above, I don’t care about the minimaly increased lap times, The 2021 regs are a good step forward, even though they should have made more effort in making the cars smaller and lighter.

  6. On the basis that an open wheel produces turbulence as it travels, then one would expect a larger wheel to produce more turbulence. As far as I can tell this hasn’t been addressed.

    1. The 2021 wheels are going to have a carbon fibre cover on them, just like in 2008-09, and also, the front wheel are going to be narrower while the rear wheels become a little wider.

      1. I think that little winglet above the front tyres is to help manage the tyre wake as well @drycrust @major-dev

        1. @drycrust It might depend on the design of the wheel, and otherwise, aside from the points mentioned above about the wheel covers or the winglet above the tire, the fact that the front and rear wings will be simplified and the cars will have tunnels underneath creating ground effects downforce, will far far outweigh any dirty air created by an 18” rim vs a 13” one. I have absolutely no doubt Brawn and his team have already had and currently have 18” rims and tires on the cars they have nose to tail in the wind tunnel, as they hone their studies on racing in turbulence. Why wouldn’t they address this?

  7. Why does it matter if they are 8 sec slower or not? As long as they slow down all the lower series too?
    I dont care for the lap times, i want pinnacle of engineering meets amazing racing. Lap times are part of that formula only in a very very minor way

  8. As the others pointed out, I’m also not worried about the speed of 2021 cars – but a bit of a missed opportunity, they could have made them lighter. Current hybrids create kind of a sad legacy for future F1 cars.

    1. @pironitheprovocateur Could they have made them lighter? And if so, then why didn’t they? I think that the current pu’s are heavy enough and torquey enough that not only does the Pu add weight but so does the infrastructure have to be beefier to handle said Pu and it’s torque. The cars need to be safe too, so I don’t think it is any easy task to reduce the weight of these current cars.

    2. @pironitheprovocateur @robbie Once again, there’s more to it than just the PUs. Tyres, Halo, aero-parts (back in 2017), etc.

      1. @robbie I should have left ‘once again’ out. I mixed you to another user who’s complained about the PUs in this context quite often, but the point itself still stands.

    3. The PUs are Not the reason the cars are so heavy. They are heavy because of the increased safety test standards and halo, and because the tires ate much heavier now than ever. The tires alone are 3x heavier than in 2010.

      1. @megatron Not sure about that. I really doubt it is just tires and the halo that have made the cars this heavy. Sure they may contribute (are the tires really 3x heavier than 2010?) but is it not primarily the turbo and the two mgus and the battery(s) mainly?

        1. Look how much the minimum mass has been increased since 2014. The cars had an mguk and batteries in 2013 with KERS. The turbo +mguh(5kg) does not weigh much more than the 2 cylinders they lost.

          Yes the tires are much bigger and heavier than they were in 2010. Bigger, heavier tires means heavier wheels, brake rotors, pads, wheel hubs and suspension both inboard and outboard. The front wheel assembly got so heavy that they had to double the number of tethers, which also increased the weight of the car.

          The straight line speeds increased alot because the PUs have much more power than the v8s(and also because drag was decreased in the 2014 aero regs), and because of that the FIA increased the crash test standards for both the front and rear impact structures. They also doubled the number of side impact structures(which are a standard part) required. The halo weighs 9kg, which is more than either the mguk or mguh, plus the chassis had to be strengthened to accommodate the halo and to past the new tests.

          The PUs are not why the cars are heavier, matter of fact the 2014 cars weighed less on the starting grid than the 2013 cars because they carried around 50kg less fuel.

  9. Engineers are so smart that they know it is best to lie, hold their cards tied to the chest. Always the same talk.

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