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