George Russell, Williams, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020

New aero handicap rules will make F1 a “fairer fight” – Williams

2021 F1 season

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New rules which will handicap how much aerodynamic development each team can conduct based on their championship positions will make the sport a “fairer fight”, says Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams.

From next year teams will be assigned different limits on how much wind tunnel and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) research they can perform, based on their championship positions at six-month intervals. Williams says the restrictions will help close the gap between the most and least competitive teams and praised the work done by the FIA and its head of single-seater matters Nikolas Tombazis.

“The FIA had done an extraordinary job, and Nikolas Tombazis in particular, to listen to all the teams and to truly hear and come up with creative ways in order to adapt and to make the fight fairer for everybody.

“This is a case in point for that. I think it works, it’s a really neat solution and I think that obviously smaller teams are going to benefit from it. We get greater time in the tunnels to try and catch up and it’s going to hopefully bring about a convergence of performance faster than if we didn’t have it, obviously.”

The variable limit on aerodynamic development will be applied alongside a new, lower budget cap of $145 million per season, plus exceptions. Speaking in response to a question from RaceFans, Williams said she would have supported an even lower cap.

“The lower the cost cap, the greater advantage teams like ours are going to have,” she said. “The bigger teams at the moment are having to spend huge amounts of money, or are spending huge amounts of money, and they’re going to have to make dramatic cost [cuts] to get down to this level.

“There’s always got to be compromise. You’re not going to please everybody all of the time and I feel very much this is a good compromise between the top teams and the lower teams on the grid. I think that it’s probably the best result that we could we could hope for.”

How will F1’s new aero handicap rules work?

New limits on how much aerodynamic development each team can perform will come into force from 2021. Here’s how the rules will work, and how the limits will become tighter from 2022:

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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17 comments on “New aero handicap rules will make F1 a “fairer fight” – Williams”

  1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
    1st June 2020, 12:45

    Fairer no, closer maybe.

  2. The Williams languishes at the far end of the grid because of the team’s incompetence not the rules.

    Claire Williams finds a new excuse weekly. When will she admit the reality. She and her father have driven Williams to its awful state with their stubborn and conceited refusal to do anything differently than they have always done it before.

    1. @ Witan… a very clear understanding of the situation. I certainly agree in principle with you there.

  3. Happy for Willams that less successful teams will be offered a way to catch up. But it just seems so wrong, and an unnecessary ‘Americanization’ (I’ll use the ‘z’ for this one) of the sport, to do this by offering up to 64% more aero development capacity.
    I want a level playing field and the best chassis/PU/driver(s) to win the championships based on skill, ingenuity, and hard work, not based on equalisation, success ballast, reverse grids, handicap or other high gimmicks.
    The sport know for handicaps knows this and only uses it for amateurs.

  4. We would like to see a sport where finishing positions are more based on performance of the driver.

    Handicapping team performance is one way to do it. Much better than issuing all teams with the same chassis and balancing engines.

    This way we still have cars that are “unique” and at the same time back end of the grid is a bit closer to the front.

  5. No, it won’t.

    Any artificial leveling restrictions are inherently unfair.

  6. From my understanding the costs of running a wind tunnel are extremely high! Therefore with a cost cap this new idea seems to run counter to that concept!

  7. Given the low budget and lowest performing teams don’t have funds for additional development what makes anybody think they’ll be spending money on extra Wind Tunnel and CFD time?

    At the bottom end, this handicapping rule will make next to know difference.

    Will it make a difference at the top end? – possibly, but I suspect the top teams will manage around their reduction and just work their wind tunnel and CFD time more effectively and I don’t expect a great deal of change to their overall pace.

    1. What exactly prohibits a team from ‘borrowing’ knowledge about aerodynamics from another entity, perhaps a company started by their mother company? You can’t ban science right?

      To me, it has always been very clear that at its core F1 should be about designing, creating and driving the best racing cars in the world, but in the latest era, it’s only even been about fidgeting over money, rules and regulations. Just like everything else in the world I guess, it’s sad.

  8. Jockey Ewing
    1st June 2020, 16:19

    I’d say aero handicap sounds still less artifical than DRS. Or at least it won’t happen in front of my eyes all the time. But for example at WTCR the Balance of performance occasionally led to protests even by teams, and the series had to modify the balance even at some race weekends. So something similar can happen, nothing guarantees that these predetermined handicap percentages are futureproof.
    Cars that have less sensitive aero still looking to be more honest to me. (Because their aero is less complicated, they rely on downforce less, the downforce is less disturbed by slipstream and turbulences.)
    But as they don’t talk too much about the previously intended simpler aero package, and talking about this aero handicap system now, is it not some kind of tactful concealment? I mean what is the chance of they not really intend to simplify aero any more?
    At tracks full of medium paced corners (they and their combinations are still very fast at F1) the drity air affects these cars really badly. At oldschool or at bit narrow tracks they cant really go 2wide for a significant duration, so they will live of the others’ failures, or win with strategy, while if we “infinitely” widen the tracks, the pace will burden the drivers with G forces which their body can’t bear. So actually I love many tracks, but many are not future proof, or many are not that suitable for racing situations with aero sensitive cars (driving at the limit alone is different, there are no problems with turbulencies at least). It’s not reasonable to frequently build new tracks for aero specifications, or dump them because of those.

  9. I don’t see where cash strapped teams are going to get the extra funds within or outside of the cost cap to do more aero work than they are already doing. So I don’t see how this rule will help at all.
    Cost restrictions have been implemented and sweeping changes to the car design are coming so I don’t really see the point of implementing this rule at this time. It’s like they keep throwing things against the wall in hopes that something will stick. I don’t see why they wouldn’t wait to see how the cost cap and new car rules work and then if needed, make additional changes.

  10. F1 is suffering a serious credibility issue. How can you have a premier sport where none of competitors bar 2 or 3 can win an event? Would you think a football series which allowed under 10s to compete with teenagers was fair? No, of course not, you’d call it a ludicrous concept. You know the teenagers are going to win every single game before the season started. Yet that’s basically where F1 is at the moment. From 2014 through to 2019 the winning car at every single race has either been from one of two teams (2014 – 2016) or one of three teams (2017 – 2019). We don’t consider a football series which has a restriction on how much all the players in a team can be paid as not being a credible series, in fact we think of it as normal. We readily accept that other premier sporting codes should have a mix of player abilities across the series, and even think it is wrong if one team were able to contract all the best players into their team.
    F1 needs to do something to get its credibility back, and these variable restrictions on aerodynamic development are part of that process. What I like about it is when the cars turn up at a racetrack they all were built to the same set of rules. The variable restriction to aerodynamic development does mean the teams leading the WCC table can’t spend as much time making their fast car faster, whereas those at the bottom of the WCC table can spend more time making their slow car faster. Regardless of how much time is spent on aerodynamic development, all the cars are built to the same rules and every car weighs the same.

    1. You only have to look one step lower to F2 (GP2) to see that if everything (in performance vice) is equal you still get some teams on the top and some will always be near the end. Yes it would be closer but still the best available people would go to the best teams. Best drivers would stay on in fastest teams and so on.

      It would be great for racing but then the innovation side would lose its ground which has been important part of F1.

    2. I beg to disagree. The credibility issue is rising from these restrictions. If one team creates a better car than the other, they deserve to win and not get penalized for winning. Otherwise organisations like Red Bull will have to run two teams every year (oh wait they already do!) one to win the championship this year, and another to finish last this year, in order to hoard the bonuses to win next year’s championship! Just switch the driver contracts around and you’re good to go. No, sport is just when the best win. Sad you’re at the bottom? Pick up the slack and get better, beat them fair and square.

      As for your bewilderment of premier sport events where 2 or 3 can win the event, let me tell you: domination is the norm. I give you some examples.

      Football leagues
      Bundesliga – Bayern München has won last 7 years and about half of the titles in history
      Serie A – Juve has won last 8 years
      Primera División – Barcelona and Real Madrid have shared over 75% of the titles in history

      Tennis
      In their primes, you could basically already write down Rafael Nadal as the winner of Roland Garros and Roger Federer for all the other Grand Slams, and you’d be right 90%

      Darts
      Phil Taylor won 8 world championship in row, then 6 more.

  11. The cars are built to the same rules, but they are built by different people.
    Reality check, some are better at managing, coordinating, driving, the science of aero and controls engineering than others. Likely the teams that can get or will spend more on specific resources (read as really clever manpower) will gain ground in spite of a variable limitation on aero development time.
    Will it help, it might. But it will also require that the teams potentially benefiting from the extra development will actually have to go and Just DO-It, as the Nike guy said.

  12. “Williams says the restrictions will help close the gap between the most and least competitive teams”
    By punishing the teams with the best people doing the best job and by helping the people who messed up their job.

    It’s just a sign of how far Williams has fallen that they actually root for this nonsense. Perhaps with this unfair advantage, Williams finally gets the chance to make it off the last row for a change again.

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