Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2020

FIA targets 10% downforce cut through 2021 rules changes for safety reasons

2020 Belgian Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by and

The FIA is planning further changes to the technical regulations to cut downforce by up to 10% in the 2021 F1 season.

The move has come about due to the fact Formula 1 will continue to use tyres designed for the 2019 season for the third year in a row in 2021.

The FIA had previously imposed new restrictions on floor dimensions for 2021 to cut downforce and ease the strain on the tyres. But following the tyre failures seen in the British Grand Prix, which Pirelli said were a consequence of the highest cornering forces ever seen in F1, the FIA has decided further measures are needed.

“Article 2.2 [of the technical regulations] permits the FIA to make changes at short notice for safety reasons,” explained the FIA’s head of single-seater matters Nikolas Tombazis. “Clearly, such changes need to be discussed with the teams but not voted by the teams, and they need to be approved by the World Council.

“Now, we have decided for next year to make some further intervention on the downforce of the cars. We feel that the downforce has increased a bit too much and basically we have communicated to the teams a number of options which were considered, also collaborating with [the] aerodynamicists working in Formula 1.

“On that basis and hearing the teams’ comments we selected a shortlist of things, which is three different relatively small modifications. And we will further discuss some with the teams next week just to make sure the wording of the new rules is [appropriate]. We will then submit it to the World Council.”

Tombazis stressed the FIA does not have any concerns with the safety of F1’s tyres.

“Car safety doesn’t in any way or shape imply that the tyres are not safe,” he said. “The car and tyres is a unit, it’s a single unit working together.

“We will have the [same] tyres next year for the third consecutive year which is an anomaly, of course, because of the Covid crisis and because of the very intense race schedule we have now. It would have made any testing impractical for new constructions.

“In the meantime we have the aerodynamics teams of each Formula 1 team working hard to make the car more competitive and finding downforce. So we have two things that normally should go together and this year they are not for the reasons I just explained. So that’s the reason for intervention.”

Much of the reduction in downforce caused by the rules changes is likely to be cancelled out by the development gains made by teams during the off-season, said Tombazis.

“We believe it’s more or less going to make sure that next year’s cars are going to have roughly a slightly lower downforce than this year, but not a huge amount less after all the development, and therefore we will be a bit safer than this year. But certainly a lot safer than we would be if we had done no intervention at all.”

Tombazis said the FIA intends to made changes to the cars’ floors, rear brake ducts and diffusers.

“We will eliminate some slots on the side of the car on the edge of the floor,” he said. “We will make the rear brake duct winglets – the cascade that lies at the bottom of the rear brake ducts – 40 millimetres narrower. And the diffuser fences, the ones that are further inboard [which] can go down to zero to the reference plane, will be limited to the step plane and will be chopped off by 50 millimetres.

“We think that some of these changes is approximately at the level about 4-5% of the overall downforce the cars have. And we, of course, have made the diagonal trim on the on the floor edge, already from May. That is obviously in addition to that.

“So in total I think we expect maybe about 10% reduction and clearly teams will be gaining approximately 4-5% through their normal development. Clearly, it’s an inexact science because we don’t know how much teams will find in performance and we don’t know the exact effects. But these are estimates.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2020 Belgian Grand Prix

    Browse all 2020 Belgian Grand Prix articles

    Author information

    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...

    Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

    35 comments on “FIA targets 10% downforce cut through 2021 rules changes for safety reasons”

    1. I guess it means that the FIA is talking this through with the teams, so I guess that all makes sense. It does mean more changes to the cars though.

      A funny thing is that at the same time it might mean that RP will actually HAVE to redesign those brake ducts for next year

      1. FIA shouldn’t discuss this with the teams. Teams will never give feedback on what’s best for the sport, only what’s best for them.
        Just leave the technical regulations as is and impose the tyres Pirelli believes are safest (probably the 2020 spec tyres).
        Inform teams early and that’s it. That’s what I call a level playing field and limiting the required changes and investments for teams.

        1. @coldfly Sounds to me like the teams have already agreed. Besides, by all accounts the 2020 tires are terrible other than their ability to handle more forces. Leave the regs as they are and the teams find 10% more downforce for next year, and are on tires that can take it but are terrible. Or, take away from the floor, leave them with a net reduction in downforce of about 5%, which leaves them on tires that will then be fine, even ‘good’ compared to 2020 ones and fine force-wise, and are tires the teams know and won’t have to spend a lot of resources on in learning about them and adapting to them.

          Personally I think the racing will be better on tires that aren’t known to be terrible. What’s the cost to F1 of cars on terrible tires? Even ‘terribler’ ones that is!

          1. @coldfly Was going to mention, I don’t think Brawn and team would be fooled into agreeing things teams want over what would be better for the sport. These aren’t the BE days. Brawn knows every trick in the book, already knew what would take 10% away, could well have been fine with the teams’ preferences anyway, and besides they’re (FIA, Liberty/Brawn,Teams) in an atmosphere of having committed fully to the future and buying into the new direction, no? It’s now their duty to take and run with this new direction collectively and build a better F1.

            1. @robbie, you could be right or I could be right
              The only way to settle this is splitting F1 into 2 leagues next year, each consisting of 5 teams, and test it ;)
              Which league will offer better racing, and which teams will be financially healthier?

            2. @coldfly Lol. Ah, now just the easy task of settling on which teams are to have this year’s regs and next years tires, or next year’s regs and this year’s tires;) I suggest for example RP will obviously have no choice but to stay with the current regs as, well, you know, nothing available to trace. Ferrari on the other hand will have no choice but to abandon the current floor in hopes of picking themselves up off the floor.

            3. @robbie I wouldn’t be so confident that Brawn et al will not “be fooled into agreeing things teams want over what would be better for the sport”, as you put it.

              Certainly, I know that Willem Toet has suggested that Brawn et al got pretty comprehensively outdone when it came to the 2019 front wing rule changes, which was supposed to reduce outwashing. In his opinion, the introduction of those rules, at best, kept things as they had been in 2018, and at worst he reckons that it actually resulted in an increased outwash effect in 2019.

            4. @anon Hmm well your at best and at worst scenarios sound more to me like Brawn may well have known that the teams were going to be able to claw something back after the change he made to the front wing, but that it was better to do something than nothing. Do nothing and the outwashing is even worse than ever. Just as he is doing with the downforce for next year. In both cases I don’t think Brawn was/is looking to cause the teams too much time and effort and money. Some yes, but minimal. At least the teams have agreed to the wholesale changes for 2022 that should be revolutionary.

            5. @robbie it’s not just that it was a case of “Do nothing and the outwashing is even worse than ever” – what Toet reckoned was that the dimensional changes that were made as part of the 2019 regulation change had no positive effect at best and, at worse, actually made the effect it was meant to be counteracting significantly worse than it would have been if there was no change in regulations.

              In that case, the idea that “it was better to do something than nothing” was completely counterproductive – the desire to be seen to be doing something resulted in a change that appears to have aggravated the problem it was supposedly meant to address.

    2. While I’m somewhat unhappy about this, I can still live with this as getting faster and faster forever isn’t an option anyway as otherwise, the cars would eventually get too fast for the current tracks. I hope and am hopeful that the lap times next year are still going to be similar to how they’ve been over the last two seasons and this season. As for the 2022 aero and tyre changes: Hopefully, they’d at least still be considerably faster than 2014, 2015, as well as 2016 on most circuits. For example circuit de Catalunya, if the 2022 pole lap would be at least in the 1m18s, I’d be happy or even better 1m17s.

      1. I’d be happy for cars just to be able to follow each other. Even better if we can get rid of DRS.

      2. The cars are too fast for the tracks already @jerejj. So many iconic corners are easy flat now, power limited even with 1000 bhp. The two things that are making F1 work are the monster tow and … the tyres. Plus paradoxically they can tow through some big corners now.

    3. And just how long ago was it that they revised the rules to INCREASE downforce.?
      As is oft said … “Failing to plan, is planning to fail”.

      1. @rekibsn I think you may be missing the point. The issue isn’t the downforce itself, the issue is that these tyres were not designed to withstand these loads. They were designed for 2019 cars, which were predicted to have even less downforce than the 2018 cars, whereas 2021 would normally see significantly more downforce in normal circumstances.

        1. @mashiat what did they expect, tho? they aimed at an instant loss of 5 seconds per lap at Catalunya, that was the target. The tyres had to somewhat resist that with barely no testing. So it wasn’t a natural gain of downforce through development, it was a rule change that made a massive difference.

          I’ve always felt the decision to improve laptimes by that gap was wrong, and from what we’ve seen since then I was right. Not only it made wheel to wheel racing worse, but they had not studied the plan enough. They set a target without realising what it would do to racing… the drivers warned them, but they didn’t listen. Not only it was bad for racing, it was also bad for costs. They had to rebuild everything from the ground up, redesign every single bit of the car, for what? then came the new front wings which was also very, very costly, and now this. And in the middle Pirelli struggled to develop a good tyre…

          And all that for what? just to see a 1:18 number on our screens instead of a 1:23…

          1. The goal wasn’t to bring lap times down, but to make driving a Formula 1 car more difficult as they thought it was too easy for a teenager to drive the car.

            1. @silfen It was both. Achieving considerably faster lap times (at least 5 seconds in comparison to the 2015 Spanish GP pole time of 1:24.681), and make the cars more aggressive.

            2. Well @jerejj, @silfen, @fer-no65 while I agree the official goal was faster and more aggressive, the reason we got them was more like Red Bull and McLaren thinking they had a great chassis and aero team, and would gain on Mercedes this way, and the FIA and other teams believed that change would give them an opportunity enough to agree (and for three years, Ferrari’s car certainly did gain, didn’t it?!), with the drivers, and a loud segment of media and fans very eager to have those faster cars, even though by 2016 the old formula already was a lot faster than when the discussion began.

              At the time the risks were already clear, and warned against, but with the 2021 (then) regulations in planning, I guess for the FIA it was a risk they felt they could take, though it was a bit short-sighted and naive in hindsight.

              I like the look of these cars (until we see them in scale and realise how big they are!) and enjoyed the super fast lap-times for a time, but I am glad they tweaked the front wing (helped against making overtaking even worse). I don’t think they look more aggressive, because they are much more planted, but oh well. I do suppose I should then appreciate this change, but at the same time, I wonder how that combines with a goal to help teams reduce and safe money. Never in aero, I guess?

    4. so the teams agree to use these cars again next year to save money and along come the fia to raise cost….. what a shocker. Maybe if pirelli weren’t making these tyres as cheap as possible they would be able to handle running with cars with high downforce. Because that’s the real problem pirelli dont get paid for these tyres they supply so they spend as little money as possible on them which means they are never any good

    5. I would have thought the sensible solution would be to force the teams to use the tyres that have been designed for next year.

      1. @glynh Indeed, and this year to use the tyres designed for this year.

    6. Chop off the bargeboards and the boomerangs.

      That’d be a start.

    7. Fix the damn tires first.
      No longer able to meet today’s demands

      So change the cars, all of them……..
      because the tires are the weakest link.

      Imagine telling Neil Armstrong that the engine on the moon rocket isn’t up to the job. So change the Spacecraft so the unreliable engine can still be used.

      Somebody start an add campaign that Pirelli Tires aren’t good enough for Grand Prix Cars so don’t use them on your family car. Almost certain that tires will become much more competitive or another name will be on the rubber.

      What’s really being said about this Pirelli mess behind the scenes???

      1. H67, not exactly a great analogy, because the Rocketdyne F-1 engine was actually a rather notoriously unreliable engine in its early development phases – to the point where there were in fact initial concerns that it might not be possible to build the Saturn V because of those issues.

        1. But.. it made it to the moon every time. So?

          Anyway, I’d also really like to know what Pirelli thinks internally about all this. This is such a raw deal for them with people believing they’re incapable of building a proper tire. Changing the car build rather than using the proper tire seems bizarre.

    8. Bit weird, thought the idea was to keep the same cars to remove development cost, now teams will have to spend to figure out how to make their cars work best with these changes 🤔

      1. @skipgamer Teams always spend every year anyway, as they will this off-season, as spelled out in the article. They will still find more downforce through design development even with stable rules. This money spent is reasonable and necessary, and obviously the teams are on board.

    9. The idea of less downforce sounds interesting. The cars will be faster on a straight.
      So how do you measure a 10% reduction in downforce? What’s the 10% reduced from? Presumably load sensors will need to be fitted to each wheel and need to be checked for calibration. Also real time telemetry back to the Stewards room.

      1. The idea of less downforce sounds interesting. The cars will be faster on a straight.

        Nice try @drycrust, but reducing downforce generated by the floor will not reduce drag or increase straight line speed.

        1. @drycrust I think you’re overthinking the 10% like it has to be exactly that by measurement or something. They’ve mentioned in the article the areas they’ve addressed with the teams wrt floor work, and have all agreed those should reduce downforce by about 10%, so that when the teams still find the inevitable 5% they do just from working their designs, even with stable rules, then the net loss of downforce next year over this should be about 5%, which is at least not applying more force to the tires, but a bit less than this year.

          1. Indeed @robbie, and I would guess that the extensive work for the 2021 (now 2022) rules helped the working group figure out what changes would be proposed to meet that 10% reduction in potential extra downforce, just like they felt the 2019 front wing did what they believe it should in peggin back downforce (that also didn’t so much intend to help make overtaking easier, as it did stop it getting much worse, from what Brawn’s team said).

            1. @bosyber Yeah true as I recall that was a relatively inexpensive way of getting the cars to produce a little less wake by not having the front wings move air outside of the front tires, with the car punching a bigger hole in the air, but rather keeping more air channelled inbound towards the floor, the barge boards and the sidepods.

      2. @drycrust The amount of DF and straight-line speed don’t always automatically go hand-in-hand. Straight-line speed is about drag-levels and, of course, power.

    10. Tyres? Now dictating FIA’s shambolic rejigging of the Technical Regulations incessantly.
      F1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of MotorSport.
      As such, the FIA needs to stop their incessant tinkering with the rules.
      FIA. TELL Pirelli to ensure & guarantee their tyres cope with modern F1 cars. END OF.

    11. I guess next year we’ll have more processional races. I can’t wrap my head around that they’re cutting floor downforce and not top. If it were for bargeboards, capes and the thousands winglets or serrations it would be more logical, but no – it has be the floor, which is usually less affected by dirty air. This makes me sad.

    Comments are closed.