First Blueprint For 2021 F1 Rules Unveiled; ‘Ground Effects’ Set For Potential Return

by Aaron Gillard
Silverstone - Norris - 2021

Formula 1 has revealed the first blueprints and core principals for the upcoming 2021 rules and regulations.

The FIA and Formula 1 have work together in the last few years to create a generation of F1 cars that would promote closer racing, but also give the cars more thrill factor to them. F1, the teams and the promoters chose to halt off the announcement of the 2021 rules until October 2019 as they work to fully finalize the full rules and regulations.

After the British Grand Prix, Formula 1 has announced the first blueprints of the rules, focusing on four key principals: Raceable cars, competitive grids, more ‘wow’ factor with the cars and a viable championship for teams to enter.

The common issue with modern F1 cars is that it has become difficult to follow each other as the cars behind lose around 50% of their downforce when they’re in the dirty air of the car in front. The sport aimed to rectify this with simpler and bigger rear wings for 2019, but the changes in 2021 will see a bigger leap into clearing dirty air away when a car follows each other.

A proposal into reducing the dirty air is bringing the ‘ground effect’ back into the sport. ‘Ground effect’ was commonly used in the late 1970s to early 1980s when teams produced downforce by the shaped underside of the cars, allowing the car to take corners more quickly. This was removed in 1982 when high speed accidents became more common.

FIA’s Head of Single Seater Technical Matters, Nicholas Tombazis said on Formula1.com that the 2021 cars aims to lose around 5-10% of its downforce when following each other, allowing for more closer racing and a chance for the drivers to attack.

“[With the 2021 car] typically, from about a 50% loss of downforce for the following car at two car distances [in 2017] it’s down to about a 5-10% loss,” said Tombazis.

An illustration of what the 2021 cars could look like. Credit: Formula1.com

“We are in fairly deep consultation with Pirelli, about how to make the tyres really step up and be in a position where they enable people to race; they don’t degrade, they don’t force people to manage the tyres so much.”

“The front wing, we’re still not completely pleased about. Both from an aerodynamic point of view and from an aesthetic point of view. So we’re trying to make it a bit better in both aspects. There’s good reasons why the wing is very wide aerodynamically, but we all will appreciate that it’s not the best aesthetic result, so there’s work going on there.”

Formula 1’s Chief Technical Officer Pay Symonds admits that the sport were wrong to ask F1’s tyre supplier Pirelli about making high degradable tyres in order to spice up the races, proposing for a tyre similar to Le Mans where it high durability.

“I think we were asking completely the wrong things of Pirelli over the last two years,” commented Symonds. “The high degradation target is not the way to go.”

Proposals have been made to outlaw tyre blankets for 2021 as the sport will move to 18-inch tyres for the foreseeable future. F1’s support series, FIA Formula 2 will switch to 18-inch tyres and will act as a test bed for the 2021 rules.

Ross Brawn, F1’s Managing Director of Motorsport commented on how the sport needs to have a more competitive grid instead of having three teams such as Mercedes AMG Motorsport, Scuderia Ferrari and Red Bull Racing winning all the time. The last time either teams have won a race was at the 2013 Australian Grand Prix when Lotus F1 Team (now Renault F1 Team) won with Kimi Räikkönen.

Lotus F1 Team were the last F1 team to win outside of the ‘big three’. This occurred over six years ago. Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

“We have three teams that can win races at the moment, that’s all,” said Brawn.

“Over the next couple of years, Formula 1 will be on a much better path. Where a really good, moderately-funded team, can cause a lot of trouble.

That’s what we want. If you get a Charles Leclerc or a Max Verstappen in a midfield team, it can make a difference. It won’t matter at the moment.”

Further proposals in a bid to promote closer racing include removing certain driver aids on the car; although it has not been noted which yet and driver coaching whenever an issue occurs on track.

This rule was initially introduced in 2016, but received critical reviews whenever a driver encountered an issue that could be dangerous to the driver and others, and couldn’t received feedback on what to do.

The talk over introducing a cost cap system has been one of the key talking points regarding the 2021 regulations, allowing smaller, less budget teams to have an advantage against factory working teams. One method of cost capping is introducing standardised parts such as wheel rims, brake systems, radiators and equipment the team use.

F1’s method of cost control is unclear yet, but early proposals indicate that salaries from the drivers and key personnel won’t count within the cap. Marketing activities won’t fall into the cap so teams can afford to continue promoting their brands and the sport without restriction.

Well invested teams e.g. Ferrari spend millions on upgrades and equipment in a bid to get ahead of their opponents. Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

“The great teams will still be the great teams,” added Brawn.

“But in all the marginal gains that they do where they have 10 people on a project instead of two, which brings 5% more performance – they won’t do that anymore.

They can’t, or if they do, they’ll be losing out in other areas where perhaps they could perhaps be making better gains.”

The sport is aiming to create a final draft of the rules for 2021 by October and have consulted the drivers more to get a better idea on what needs to improve. In the last meeting about the 2021 rules, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Hülkenberg and head of the Grand Prix Drivers Association Alexander Wurz were part of the talks alongside the teams, the FIA and F1.

“I thought that the first meeting that we had was very, very good and that the drivers stood as a group,” said Brawn.

“Drivers come under pressure from their own teams to take a position and that means that they’re just another voice in the same direction.

When the drivers stand and give us their own views, as a drivers’ group, the GPDA, that’s really helpful and constructive.”

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