Wind tunnel, McLaren Technology Centre exterior, aerial view

F1’s ‘aero handicap’ rules will get much tougher in second year

2021 F1 season

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Proposed new F1 rules which will set different restrictions on how much aerodynamic development each team can do will become tougher in the year after they are introduced.

The FIA World Motor Sport Council is due to vote on whether to introduced new ‘aero handicap’ regulations, details of which were first revealed by RaceFans last month. These will allow a team which places lower in the constructors’ championship to spend more time developing their cars than the top-placed teams.

The regulations, slated for introduction in 2021, will include a formula based on teams’ positions in the constructors’ championship halfway through the year and again at the end of the season.

Restrictions on car development between January 1st and June 30th will be based on the previous season’s final constructors’ championship positions. The restrictions for the second half of the year will be based on the constructors’ championship positions at the end of June 30th that year.

Red Bull wind tunnel, 2014
Poll: Should F1 introduce new ‘aero handicap’ rules?
Those positions will determine for each team what proportion of a set amount of wind tunnel and computational fluid dynamics [CFD] research they can perform. In 2021 the top-placed team will be allocated 90% of the total while the 10th-placed team, and any new entrant, will be allowed 112.5%.

Therefore the last-placed team will be allowed to do 25% more development than the team in first place. That figure will increase sharply in 2022, to over 64%.

This divergence will largely come about through the development allocation for the leading teams being reduced. The first-placed team will be allowed just 70% of the development allocation from 2022 instead of 90%.

The full development shares for each finishing position will be as follows:

What other rules changes is Formula 1 planning for 2020 and 2021 – and why? Read the new RacingLines column later today on RaceFans to find out

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2021 F1 season

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33 comments on “F1’s ‘aero handicap’ rules will get much tougher in second year”

  1. I still don’t really see the point in something like this. Budget cap, yes, but an aero handicap.

    1. Will be fun if STR finishes really far back and the year after we see a “tech transfer” where their Red Bull Tech suddendly does a lot of aero work “for the smaller team” that ends up also “carrying over” to the bigger sister team.

      Off course that also means Mercedes suddenly being “inspired” by new ideas tested for Aston. And Ferrari learning from new things tested by and for Sauber and maybe Haas.

      1. 2022: “To cut costs Red Bull has decided to buy readymade XXX parts from Alpha Tauri.” is too real scenario

      2. @bascb LOL true story. Welcome to Formula Gimmick.

  2. I’m sure the engineers in F1 will find a way to gain an edge in other areas, as they usually do. But I will be watching with trepidation as to how technical innovation evolves, if it is allowed to at all. :(

  3. Fun part is Computer are getting faster that means Teams wil get new computers everytime a new CPU and/or GPU comes out not sure if that is cheaper for budgets.
    My Company delivers Simulators to motorsport teams and i notice the richer teams get upgrades faster then the teams with less budget. Dreamworks allways get the fastest CPU/GPU as fast possible because every upgrade drops the calculating time by hours… So expect the richer teams to upgrade their develop/design computers every 6 months.

    1. Are the limits set in time, or actual computing completed?

      IT would be very big issue if they drop the ball and let front lying teams to gain advantage, by doing more computations in same limited time.

      1. It’s in teraflops so actual computing completed. Doesn’t matter if you do in 5 minutes or in 5 days.

      2. According to Ted Kravitz in his latest Notebook the allowed time now is 60 hours a week.
        So in 2021 it is 54 hours/week for the best team and 67,5 hours/week for the worst. In 2022 these numbers are 42 hours/week for the best vs 69 hours/week for the worst team.

      3. If time is calculated in hours then faster computers (teraflops) helps. I don’t see how they are limiting the teraflops that is not possible. They could only limited time that means if a aero test lasted 50 hours but you can do it in 25 hours you safe 25 hours that is what i understand from these rules (everything is in hours)

        1. I’m not sure what the situation is currently, but when F1 first introduced a wind tunnel & CFD computing restriction rule, some teams were going to silly lengths to stretch the rules by buying very old and therefore rare computers at significant cost. I’m not sure of the detail, but I think they were trying to get more computing out of each processor clock cycle (the number of which the rule was limiting). To do this, they apparently needed single core rather than multiple core CPUs. They also had to avoid RISC (reduced instruction set) processors as seen in phones & tablets, for the same reason. Can anyone lay more light on this story? Did the rules close out this loophole?

  4. I absolutely hate this handicap system. Very disappointed. I’ll leave it at that.

    1. So you would rather see the “big 3” win everything? Lotus (Renault) in 2013, Williams / McLaren in 2012. We need much closer seasons with at least 5-6 teams with a regular chance of winning. It won’t just be CFD / Wind tunnels that define the number of wins but it would be a good start.

    2. Handicapping for equality of outcome is just too Harrison Bergeron [1995] for me.
      There’s still a grainy 240p copy of the full movie on youtube.

  5. Those the gods wish to destroy are first made to look ridiculous.

  6. Splitting the handicap the season into two parts reminds me of the old pre-qualifying days, when you could get out of pre-qualifying for the latter part of the season if you did well enough in the first part.

    Haven’t got strong feelings about this one. Maybe a better model would be something that was attempted with the previous costcap; if you want X, then you must adhere to A, if Y, then B. Then again, most likely eventually all teams and design choices would converge.

  7. I’d prefer a simpler success ballast system which still allows each team equal development time.
    First race of the year everyone has an equal chance based on the car they designed, and as the year progresses the handicap can be changed organically on a race-by-race basis as needed. The ballast can be removed if performance is overly restricted and race results have dropped off. Beginning of the next year is a clean start.
    Development restrictions are too slow and too heavy handed over the long term.

  8. Another gimmick. Handicapping is artificial competitiveness which is precisely what the new aero rules were trying to remove from F1 (by potentially removing the need for the atrocious DRS). Handicapping is not, and never has been F1. That’s for touring cars and other lesser series’. F1 is supposed to be the pinnacle. Not somewhere you get your hands tied behind your back for succeeding. Our American overlords won’t be happy until we have sprinkler systems and green shells. I was worried when they bought F1, and they continue to confirm my suspicions.

  9. Oh goody yet another set of ridiculous technical rules.

    What part of budget cap = reduction in big teams spending huge amounts of money on aero are the people at F1 failing to understand?

    The budget cap should have been responsible for simplification of technical rules and lifting of restrictions not increasing them.

    It’s time they faced up to the fact that in F1, and pretty much any other competition, there are teams that consistently get things right and do better than the other teams. They can try all they like but there’s still going to be a team that dominates a lot of the time just like there has been for as far back as I can remember.

    Just stop it. OK?

  10. Initially the factory teams will still have an advantage because they’ve had the money to spend on development. So I don’t see this as totally a bad idea.
    But once the budget cap starts to bite their would be no need for development restrictions.

    1. I think the introduction of the budget cap will not change the field that drastically very soon @johnrkh. It could well be 3-5 years before we really see smaller teams being able to compete.

      Maybe this helps get there (not convinced it will work, and not too thrilled about this system as such), I guess we’ll see

  11. I can see car reliability getting in the way of car’s true aerodynamic potential.
    If one says ‘stupid old people’, it would seem like I am insulting old people.
    Why not simply hand over the championship to the team with the least budget to force other teams with a higher budget to cut down their costs and then it’s the championship of who can spend the least and we can all forget about racing.
    We can make fast football players run with fluffy boots or talk basketball players walk on their knees to make things fair.

  12. Handicapping, bought in standard parts, job cuts and improved profits for LM, is this the result of Ross Brawn’s grand plan to improve F1? If Brawn were still employed by Ferrari, I’m sure he’d have been the first to complain.

    If anyone believes Williams will suddenly rise to the top of the rankings from 2022, they’re going to be disappointed.

  13. Just about every professional sport that I know of has a system that provides a pathway for the bottom teams to eventually become challengers for the title…except F1. For example in the NFL, the bottom teams get the first draft pics which allows them to get better players either through drafting the best college players or by trading draft picks for better existing players. F1 basically rewards success with a pathway to further success while keeping back marker teams forever in the back and no way to move up. I once read a report stating it cost an estimated £1 million of aero R&D to gain .1 sec on track. Based on the current rewards system in F1, there is no way for a Haas, or even team that used to be champions, Williams, to ever really challenge the ‘Big Three’. They simply do not have the money. I don’t think that aero penalties per se should be applied to the top teams (ie. ‘success ballast’), but perhaps limiting the amount of aero development they can do during a season in a token system similar to the engine token system of a few seasons ago (I look forward to your hate mail), while allowing back markers unlimited aero development might help. Bear in mind that even with ‘unlimited’ aero development, smaller teams will still be budget limited as to how much they can do.
    F1 fans are a fickle bunch demanding closer racing and more passing, but decrying any attempt to provide that by saying it damages the ‘purity’ of the sport. The bottom line is, if you don’t provide some way for back marker teams to succeed beyond ‘best of the rest’ status, then there is no real way for smaller teams to ever compete for wins and no real incentive for new teams to enter the sport. No team ever wants to get into a professional sport knowing beforehand that they can never finish better than 4th place.

    1. You need to look outside of the US before comparing sports. There are no such rules in any sport I’ve heard of. You need to realise that NFL – American football – is pretty much regarded as a joke outside of the US.

      1. Making a comment that essentially boils down to “I don’t like American Footfall” does not invalidate my premise that virtually every professional sporting league (in North America, if you insist) has an avenue incorporated into its governing by which “back marker” teams can eventually challenge for championships while F1 does not. Perhaps you should look outside your own prejudices before commenting. Go ahead and look up draft rules for the NHL, NBA, and MLB as well as the NFL. You need to realize there are other sports outside your country as well.

        1. OK, I stand corrected. I’ve done a bit of research I guess I didn’t realize just how alien an idea it was that I was proposing. Just like F1 there is almost no way for any team in virtually any British sport to win a championship short of massive amounts of money or divine intervention. More money = more success which in turn means more money. Doesn’t it get a bit old watching sports where it is almost certain that one of 4 team will win every single year? In the last 10 years there have been 9 NFL teams to win the Superbowl. There have only been five winners of the Premier League since 1992. F1 has only had two teams win in the last 9 years; 10 if you want to count Brawn as Mercedes. Sounds like you like to talk about competition, but not actually have any competition.

        2. I have no interest in a sport that cannot be played outside of ‘official’ games at college or national level. For those who don’t know, if a player is dropped from the sport – that’s it, he’s done. He can’t play a game down the park with his friends as you can with every other sport in the world. And no, I don’t count bull fighting as a sport either.

          As for bad teams having the pick of players. Where does that leave a sport that has engines, chassis, aero? It’s only because your sport is restricted that they can have stupid rules about picking players.

      2. NFL has a huge following in the UK. It sells out when the games come here. The Superbowl is one of the most watched (on free to air I might add) sporting events on TV every year!

        Agree the tv timeouts are stupid; shame the XFL gave up/couldn’t survive at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

        1. Nonsense. The vast majority of spectators are American. Name another FTA sport in the UK. We’ve got hardly any. There have been numerous attempts to get American Football teams running in the UK – they’ve all failed.

        2. JC, I presume you mean most watched in the USA, because the majority of the viewers are definitely in that market. I believe the worldwide figures for the most recent Superbowl were about 160 million worldwide viewers, but over 100 million of those viewers were in the USA (i.e. you’re looking at around 65% of the Superbowl viewing figures being from the USA).

          In 2019, the peak audience for the Superbowl in the UK was about 1.3 million, which was slightly up on 2018 (by about 100,000). That, though, is still fairly small when compared to the finals of other events – for example, the 9.6 million that watched the men’s final at Wimbledon, the 8.3 million watching the Cricket World Cup, the 11.7 million watching the women’s football World Cup or the 12.8 million watching the Rugby World Cup.

          Even fairly regular EPL games can pull in larger peak audiences than that, particularly if it involves two teams that have a strong rivalry. In terms of the UK at least, the Superbowl is a relatively niche attraction in terms of active viewers – and whilst the games might sell out in the UK, I wouldn’t be surprised if that is largely catering to a small but loyal audience that perhaps gives a false impression of the sport having more impact than it does.

  14. This could be so much simpler. The leading constructor’s car is put into parc ferme until they lose the lead. Or they sit out FP1 (and FP2, and FP3?).

    People think that success in F1 is attached to merit, making a handicapping system unsporting. They forget that success in F1 starts in the boardroom, the winning team is the one that aligns the regulations with its own strengths. This is where the unsporting nature of F1 begins and is what needs to be reversed.

  15. I’m okay with this as it is, I think, but I do think it might be better to have it hit the first 4 or 5 teams and the remaining teams not be penalized. If the point is to close up the field, then you want to draw them forward. There shouldn’t be a drawback for moving from 10th to 9th. or 8th to 7th, imo.

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