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MEDIA RELEASE/Fomula 1 – Images F1 website

A bold new vision for the future of F1 has been unveiled. But what’s actually changing? We’ve dug through literally hundreds of pages of regulations to save you the bother, so allow us to talk you through the main points…


2021 F1 cars will have a radical new design philosophy and striking new look – with sweeping bodywork, simplified front wings, bigger rear wings, increased underbody aerodynamics, wheel wake control devices, simplified suspension and low-profile tyres with 18-inch rims.

It’s also proposed that the wheel rims will be fitted with a rotating LED display panel, to provide information to spectators, while a bodywork display panel is also proposed for the same reason.

In short, this is the kind of car kids will want posters of on their bedroom walls.

…that enable drivers to race closer.

Though aesthetics were a major consideration, the changes outlined above aren’t just cosmetic – over several years, both Formula 1 and the FIA have been working tirelessly to design cars that can race more closely.

Key to that was finding a solution to the loss of downforce that the current cars experience when running in another car’s wake. Running in dirty air behind another car, a 2019 machine could lose more than 40% downforce. But with the 2021 car design, this drops to around 5-10%, with airflow coming off the new cars both cleaner and directed higher, meaning it has significantly less impact on drivers following, giving them the chance not just to overtake, but to battle.

Fairer Finances

For the first time ever, Formula 1 will introduce spending restrictions to make the sport fairer and more sustainable. A cost cap will be set at $175m per team, per year, and applies to anything that covers on-track performance – but excludes marketing costs, the salaries of drivers, and of the top three personnel at any team.

The F1 cost cap will end the growing spending gap between F1’s big spenders and those with fewer resources, and the on-track performance differential this brings.

READ MORE: What is the 2021 F1 cost cap and how will it be enforced?


Fewer upgrades, more standard parts and more limits on components.

In addition to the new financial rules, there are some big changes to the technical and sporting regulations. Rules have been put in place to 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.

There will also be the introduction of certain standardised parts (such as fuel pumps), parts that must have a prescribed design (such as wheel covers), and increased restrictions on the number of times some components, like brake pads, can be replaced.

Power units remain the same as now, but exhaust systems have been added to the list of PU components that are limited in number per season, with each driver able to use six before penalty.

Cars will 25kg heavier as a result of the new tyres, changes in chassis and PU materials to save costs, further safety measures and the introduction of standardised and prescription parts. That will make cars slower than now to begin with.

Gearbox design will be more restricted, with configurations frozen to save research and development costs. Tyre blankets, meanwhile, will not be scrapped as once proposed, instead remaining for 2021 and 2022, albeit with restrictions.

Revised race weekends.

There will also be small but significant changes to the race weekend structure, which will be condensed, in order to improve the fan experience and help teams deal with an expanded calendar, with the maximum number of races in a season now 25.

The pre-race press conference will be switched from Thursday to Friday, ahead of the first and second practice sessions, while cars will now be in parc ferme conditions (i.e. in race trim) from the start of FP3.

FP3 also marks the point at which the teams must return their cars to the ‘reference specification’ presented for scrutineering before FP1, so any bodywork trialled in practice must be removed.

Furthermore, all teams must run at least two practice sessions during the year using drivers who have completed two Grands Prix or fewer – giving more chance for the next generation to shine.

Less wind tunnel testing.

In a further bid to reduce aero development costs, the number of wind tunnel runs teams can do each week has been slashed, with emphasis put on using CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) simulations over physical ones.

Other rules play into this. For example, the switch to low-profile tyres isn’t purely aesthetic. The high-profile tyres used in F1 at the moment tend to move around and deflect a lot, which has an impact on aerodynamics. The teams with the biggest budgets are able to look at these effects in detail and are better able to deliver solutions that give them an edge over others. A tyre with a stiffer side wall doesn’t move as much, simplifying the aerodynamics and thus reducing development investment.

These rules are only the beginning.

The 2021 rules are a watershed for Formula 1 – but they are still a work in progress, as they should be. F1 and the FIA firmly believe this is the start of a journey, not the end.

There will be discussions between F1, the FIA and the teams over the coming months about the details of the regulations, and there will be refinement between now and 2021 to ensure these rules deliver the best results for fans.

The rule makers firmly believe fans will be the biggest beneficiaries of the changes.

The 2021 regulations will put in place the conditions for closer racing, better competition and a fairer environment for all teams to compete. The process has involved open and honest discussions on all sides to come to the best outcome.

All of the 2021 changes as a package will increase competition, create a more level playing field and foster closer and more exciting racing.

Rules will take time to flourish…

Those involved are honest that it may take a year or two to see the full benefits of the changes. But once the regulations are in place we should start to see the convergence of the teams rather than the top three teams racing away with unlimited resources and freedom.

…and could yet change

The basic fundamentals of the regulations should not change but, particularly with the Technical Regulations, as the teams develop their ideas some shortcomings are inevitable. Remember this is the most far reaching change to the chassis regulations for many years if not ever. The FIA will continue to consult with the teams to hone the regulations to ensure clarity and to try and eliminate loopholes.

It could be argued that the current cars all look very similar – indeed F1 have done tests that show how hard it is to tell them apart without their liveries. The rule makers believe they have left enough freedom in the new rules to allow teams to add their own details and little touches that the avid fans love to see.

Cars may start off slower, but they will get faster

The changes are not just about speed but making racing closer. In order to make racing closer aero changes are required as well as development limitations during the race, at the factory and shrinking the overall gap between the front and the back of the grid.

The natural development rate in F1 will make up any loss of lap times as this is the nature of the sport.

Ability to battle just as important as ability to overtake

Cars will be able to follow each other more closely, so it stands to reason that we will see more overtaking. But just as importantly, we will see more battles – and that doesn’t just mean overtaking, but defensive driving skills too.

The rule makers know that fans want closer racing – but while overtaking should be made easier, they don’t want it to be made too easy.

The final ability of the cars to follow closely will depend on the development directions the teams will take as they start to experiment on their designs, so for that reason DRS has been left in the rules for now – but how it is deployed in the future is under consideration.

Science as well as aesthetics behind tyre switch

The desire is for cars to race closer. One of the issues at the moment is the current high profiles tyres can move around a lot. That has an impact on the aerodynamics and the teams with the biggest budgets are able to look at these effects in detail and are better able to deliver solutions that give them an edge over others.

A tyre with a stiffer side wall doesn’t move around as much. The 18-inch and lower profile tyre will help simplify the aerodynamics and therefore the investment needed by teams to understand and tackle its implications. The new tyres also look very modern and add to the impressive look of the new car.

Plenty of scope for different car designs

One fear heard in the run-up 2021 regulations’ unveiling was that the cars would all end up looking the same. And while it’s true that the FIA and Formula 1 have worked hard to lock down certain design areas of the 2021 car to achieve their objective of closer, more competitive racing, according to Nikolas Tombazis, the FIA’s Head of Single-Seater Technical Matters, there’ll still be plenty for aerodynamicists and designers to get their teeth into – and plenty of differences for the fans to spot.

“We do expect there’ll be numerous areas where cars will look different to each other and can look different to each other,” said Tombazis. “The nose, the front wing, the engine intake, the sidepod inlet, the sidepod shape itself, the rear wing, there’s quite a lot of areas where we see still notable performance and visual differentiation.

“Some areas of the car, not a huge number, are going to be prescribed, because there are some areas where there’s such sensitivity to control the wheel wakes that we feel that if we didn’t actually restrict the shapes, we would end up with potentially teams finding ways to overcome the key objectives.

“We feel we’ve taken a huge step towards creating rules that still allow teams to be creative and aerodynamicists to be creative – while achieving the key objectives.”

The current generation of power unit is staying put

The rule makers initially wanted to include changes to the power unit and increase the number of standardised components, but ultimately compromised, respecting the fact that the engine manufacturers have invested a huge amount in the development of the existing hybrid engine.

Will these engines be used beyond the scope of the regulations? That’s up for debate. The current hybrid is amazingly efficient and is the best engine in the world. However, it is also expensive and complex.

Formula 1 this weekend visits the Circuit of the Americas for the United States Grand Prix, with opening practice set to commence at 0300 AEDT on Saturday.


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