Romain Grosjean, Haas, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020

Plan to limit aero development is not performance-balancing – Steiner

2020 F1 season

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A plan to restrict F1 teams’ aero development based on their results should not be seen as a ‘Balance of Performance’ system, says Haas team principal Guenther Steiner.

Under the plan, limits on wind tunnel and CFD development work would be stricter for teams which placed higher in the constructors’ championship.

Speaking to RaceFans in an exclusive interview, Steiner said the proposal would create closer competition between F1’s largest and smallest teams. “That would be a help, that if you finish [badly] that you can move up the grid,” he said.

“It’s all part of the discussions in the moment. It’s not as drastic as it sounds. It gives the less successful teams a chance to make some gains, toward the big ones and the big ones may be coming down.

“I think it’s fair. And it doesn’t stop technology [development]. It keeps on still F1 being the top technology motorsport.”

Other series, such as the World Endurance Championship, impose ‘Equivalence of Technology’ or ‘Balance of Performance’ regulations to equalise the performance of difference cars. However Steiner believes it would be “quite disrespectful” to describe F1’s proposed aerodynamic rules in the same way.

“It’s more like, if you give people a chance to develop more, they still need to develop. If they are useless, even with more wind tunnel time, you’re not going to go any faster.

“So it’s just helping you be more competitive and to make the teams closer without giving a balance of performance like a weight or restrictors and things like this.”

Steiner believes the idea is “a good way of keeping the DNA of F1 intact” while also helping the smaller teams to catch up if they “make something wrong one year”.

“But if you are useless or if you’re not a good team, it doesn’t help you a lot,” he added.

Read more from our exclusive interview with Guenther Steiner in today’s new RacingLines column on RaceFans

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17 comments on “Plan to limit aero development is not performance-balancing – Steiner”

  1. I think it’s unfair, ont he grand scheme of things. It’s like DRS. Giving the chaser an advantage the leader might not even be able to defend…

    And it’s hard to balance it. We all thought DRS would give racers a chance, but then we realized overtakes were just a given that way.

    1. It’s like DRS. Giving the chaser an advantage the leader might not even be able to defend…

      That is not at all what this is like @fer-no65.

      Leading the pack and winning is already a boost to an advantage. And we’ve seen how hard it is in F1 to catch up – just look at how the early advantage Mercedes had in 2014 was more or less sustained until now – so evening that out by something like this is a lot more sensible than constantly changing the rules in the hope of upending the order at the top like F1 has unsuccessfully tried for the last 3 decades.

    2. @fer-no65 @bascb already pointed it out, but overtaking has been far from given even with DRS, though. Most of the time, DRS doesn’t automatically guarantee an overtaking move to happen, and that’s especially the case for tracks that aren’t the most overtaking-friendly to begin with, or where following another car closely through the corners is especially hard.

      1. That is also a valid point @jerejj – when properly tuned DRS doesn’t allow for easy overtakes, but rather does what it was originally brought in for – that is, to make sure another car can keep close enough to have a fight for position.

  2. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
    29th April 2020, 8:07

    Handicapping successful teams is just plain wrong. DRS and the free tyre choice for 11th and lower on the grid too.

    F1 has become an aerodynamics is all formula and whilst this is very interesting technically, meh not so much on a Sunday afternoon…

    It’s the same old problem. I keep banging on about it and I’m shouted down, but massively reducing downforce and increasing mechanical grip will do a great deal to solve problems with cost, overtaking and close competition. For me, nobody has ever made a compelling argument to the contrary. Sure the cars will be slower, but if the same principle is applied to other formulae over time, performance can stay relative. AND if anyone says Indycars will be faster I’d say grow up!

    Now lets wait for the backlash…

    1. No, I agree. The cars are too aero sensitive.
      I’d go as far as mandating single element, single curve, for front and rear wings with a maximum surface area.

    2. I’m lashing back in agreement, @sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk.

      The more extreme aero of 2017 was Bernie’s parting gift to the sport.

      F1’s aero-addiction needs an intervention. However, your mechanical grip has but one hitch. Pirelli. They already appear to be on the limit of adhesion – with massive downforce.

      The good news is F1 has several months, possibly years to muddle through and arrive at this conclusion. The fastest motorsport on earth is slow to catch up to common sense.

      1. @jimmi-cynic The 2017 regulations were not simply a Bernie thing, It was a response to complaints that the cars had got too slow, Were too easy from a physical standpoint & were not pushing the drivers enough as well as that they looked less spectacular from a performance standpoint when compared to cars from the early/mid 2000’s that held all the lap records.

        And that wasn’t a view simply been put forward by some fans, It was a pretty widespread opinion & something that a lot of the drivers as well as teams & the Motorsport media were also complaining about.

        The 2017 regulations were rules thought up not just by Bernie but also the teams & FIA & there were more ideas that never came though. And when you go back to when they were been thought up they had a lot of support from drivers & fans weren’t exactly against the idea of faster, more spectacular cars which pushed drivers to the limit again either.

        A big worry I have with the 2021/22 rules is that we go back to cars that look slow, unspectacular & which push drivers less than current cars can when on the limit. For me F1 should be fast, spectacular & should push drivers to the limits both physically & mentally. Going back to something like 2014-16 where it was lacking all of those elements isn’t a positive step as far as i’m concerned because that simply is not f1 to me, especially with other restrictions making it feel more like a gp1/indycar+.

        1. I would agree with Sean. Seeing cars sliding around corners and being traction limited coming out of corners does has some appeal.
          As for the tyresome discussions on Pirelli, one can wonder if they weren’t having to deal with downforce at levels that allowed 3+G cornering and 5-G braking, would the tyres be better last longer etc.?
          As for pushing the drivers physically, how many corners on how many tracks are currently flat, because it is just point and shoot.? Too many.

        2. @roger-ayles: Some good points…. however, these heavy single seat aero-stretched-limos cars still look slow and clumsy in all but high speed corners. And in slow corners look heavier and spectacularly more sluggish than ever before.

          If this latest gen of aero-racers were smaller and lighter, perhaps I might have been more impressed.

          If F1 survives the pandemic, it will likely become more GP1+ as the cars will be heavier and slower. So… we’ll both be unhappy. That’s only fair. ;-)

          1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
            30th April 2020, 9:49

            If the rule makers had the same viewpoint as you F1 would be doomed. F1 is not all about being impressed.

            Its about sport, competition, wheel to wheel racing, car control and the unexpected. Sure the speed is impressive, but that’s just one element, if the cars are a little slower no one will notice. The current cars only look slow in low-mid speed corners because they handle so well.

            Making the cars lighter would be nice, but it would close up braking distances which is not good for overtaking, so care would be needed there.

            As for the comments I hear regarding making F1 into GP2, GP1+ or like Indycars, what’s the problem? They are great formulae. The racing is amazing. Imagine the current crop of F1 drivers in cars that had very similar performance. We might have 7 or 8 different winners in a year and a true World Drivers Championship.

            And mentioning the World Championship, that is what truly differentiates F1 from any other formula, not performance. The chance to become a World Champion driver.

    3. I agree. Making changes to reduce dependence on aerodynamics and moving to more reliance on mechanical grip should have been the first step. Unfortunately, having agreed to a cost cap, I don’t think teams who spent tens or hundred of millions on aerodynamic based design will walk away from that investment.

  3. Gavin Campbell
    29th April 2020, 14:29

    Looks like they aren’t stealing from WEC but from Moto GP.

    Manufacturers that don’t score enough podium points (3) in the previous season become concession teams (Only for dry races and its – 1/2/3 points for 3rd/2nd/1st). The concession teams can have more engines and their specifications aren’t frozen – I believe they also get an extra allowable aero configuration per year. They also get more testing days and are allowed to test with their regular race pilots rather than testers.

    So its not restricting the big teams – its extra for the teams lower down. So it allows them to make the normal bike/car that they would campaign but also allows them to investigate more solutions/extreme/risky options. If you artificially restrict resources you need a mechanism for people to catch up – because once a team steal a march (Mercedes!) they don’t stand still so you need to allow teams the chance to catch up to their performance and develop upon it to stand a chance.

    This obviously only works if a large majority of the teams can get near the cost cap/resource restricition.

  4. My initial response was quite negative on the whole idea however on further thought it is not a bad idea. Rather than likening it to DRS as one poster did above a better analogy would be giving the teams lower down in the constructors more testing. No one is suggesting (yet) that the champion should get no development time. Just less than those at the bottom of the championship. It is effectively just that. Giving the bottom teams more low cost ‘testing’ than the top teams.

    1. No one wants to see “performance ballast”, in any form if it can be helped.
      Restricting aero development is in itself a reasonable, but definitely a challenging thing to do. Problem is you have not included the human element.
      Take the case of a smaller somewhat less sophisticated team (and yes, I appreciate that ALL the teams are very competent and technically sophisticated) working with less infrastructure than the likes of Mercedes or Ferrari. How do they do aero development. They conceive, model and try stuff. Can another outfit with an A. Newey on board, surpass them while spending less on the quantifiable component$ of aero development.? My money says, you bet they can.
      Factor in the advancement of technology, Moore’s Law, as it applies for F1. How long before a kid working in his basement has the computing power needed to run a useful CFD package capable of the currently restricted level of modelling? Then he builds it with his own 3D printer. Turn-a-round, idea to hardware in under 24 hours.
      Can see it now … “F1 to restrict Aero Development capability using Experience and Knowledge Index.” Sum of all members of aero group divided by (a-newey, base-line factor) = equivalent number of a-neweys. Top teams can have 1.8 and teams below 5th to 10th in last years championship are permitted 2.5 to 4.5 on a sliding scale. Levels development and saves money.

  5. While the details might not seem to be terribly drastic, in concept it’s 100% foreign to Formula 1 up till this point. I don’t like the idea of where this could go down the line. Is this just another way that the richest teams can avoid meaningful, well enforced budget caps? If so, then it should be firm NO, IMO.

  6. I wouldn’t view it as handicapping the top teams (except if there were major aero changes that year), rather allowing the lesser teams some additional resource to catch up. It sounds quite a neat solution that might bring the backmarkers up closer to the front runners but don’t think for one minute that because of some extra wind tunnel time Haas are going to be overtaking Red Bull in terms of downforce over the course of a season.

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