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Formula 1 is set to undergo significant rule changes in 2021, which are meant to promote closer racing and more balanced competition, as well as bringing economic and sporting sustainability to the motorsport.
From 2021, F1 cars will be visibly more striking to look at, following a radically new design philosophy. The new cars will feature sweeping bodywork, simplified front wings, bigger rear wings, increased underbody aerodynamics, wheel wake control devices, simplified suspension and low-profile tyres with 18-inch wheels,
According to Nikolas Tombazis, the FIA’s Head of Single-Seater Technical Matters, certain key architecture points of the car will remain in place, but there’s still enough flexibility for teams to get creative, quelling fears that the cars would all end up looking the same.
While aesthetics were a major consideration for the rule makers, the new design also serves to improve aerodynamics by reducing the loss of downforce that current cars experience when running in another car’s wake.
The current 2019 cars lose as much as 40% of downforce when running in “dirty air” behind another car, but with the new design, the figure drops to around 5-10%. This is due to the airflow coming off the new cars being cleaner and directed higher, reducing its impact on cars behind it.
As a result, cars will be able to follow each other more closely, allowing for more overtaking and drivers displaying their defensive driving skills in close, wheel-to-wheel battles.
One of the biggest criticisms of F1 is the growing spending gap between the big spenders and smaller teams, but that all ends in 2021. For the first time ever, the motorsport will introduce spending restrictions, with each team being limited to a cost cap set at US$175 million per year. This covers anything related to on-track performance but excludes marketing costs, the salaries of drivers and of the top three personnel at any team.
In addition to the new financial rules, there are also changes to the technical and sporting regulations. New rules will limit car upgrades over race weekends, and the number of in-season aero upgrades, reducing the costly development “arms race” that can result in a less competitive grid.
Standardised parts like fuel pumps and parts that have a prescribed design that teams can build on their own (such as wheel covers) will also be introduced, along with increased restrictions on the number of times some components (such as brake pads) can be replaced. These, along with the design changes, will see cars be 25 kg heavier (minimum weight of 768 kg).
As for power units, the 1.6 litre turbo hybrid powertrains will be carried over from before, but exhaust systems have been added to the list of components that are limited in number per season, with six being available to drivers before penalties apply.
Teams will also be restricted in terms of how much they can develop their transmissions, with only one full redesign allowed over a five-year period. Tyre blankets, meanwhile, will not be scrapped as once proposed, instead remaining for 2021 and 2022, albeit with restrictions.
To reduce aero development costs, the number of wind tunnel runs that teams can do each week has been slashed, with more emphasis being on using CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) simulations over physical ones.
From 2021, in-season testing will be limited to a single, three-day test, while parc ferme conditions will now exist from the start of FP3, rather than qualifying, with teams required to return the car to the specification it was in when it was scrutinised ahead of FP1.
This is important as teams must decide if they want to commit to a new test item all weekend, or run it in one or both FP1 and FP2 sessions before taking it off the car and saving it for the next event, which is another measure to slow down the rate of in-season development.
Race weekends will also be shortened, with the drivers’ press conference and pre-weekend media interviews now set to take place on a Friday (previously Thursday), ahead of FP1 and FP2 that will run later in the day – the schedule for FP3, qualifying and the race remains unchanged.
Up and coming drivers will also get more seat time, as all of the teams on the grid will have to run a driver with two Grands Prix’ or less experience in at least two free practice sessions per season. You can watch the full announcement of the new 2021 F1 regulations here: