The rules of Formula One are headed for a major shakeup in 2021, with the changes to be on the same scale as when the sport switched to the longer, wider cars back in 2017.
The changes are aimed at improving the level of racing while maintaining F1's status as the pinnacle of motorsport, though a number of proposed changes, primarily spending caps and standardization of parts, naturally have proven controversial.
The new rules are scheduled to be revealed at the end of October but F1 organizers, namely the sport's managing director of motorsports, Ross Brawn, and its chief technical officer, Pat Symonds, on Wednesday provided some insights on the more concrete proposals.
2021 F1 racer concept 3
At the top of the agenda are more raceable cars. Following the rules change of 2017, the cars underwent a dramatic change that saw them become wider and faster, though this made it tougher for close racing, primarily due to the effects of the aerodynamic wake, sometimes referred to as dirty air, generated by a lead car on the following car's front aero.
The result is that a chasing car loses front downforce, thus making it difficult to overtake. We're talking up to 50 percent of its downforce. With the 2021 cars, changes to the aero rules mean the downforce of a chasing car should only be reduced by about 5-10 percent.
Other measures being looked at include tighter aerodynamic rules that will limit a team's ability to come up with a much superior design than the rest of the field, as well as the removal or reduction of some driver aids, including car-to-pit telemetry. It’s been proposed that a driver has a much more prominent role in managing car issues like overheating and tire wear during the race, rather than having their race engineers coach them through those issues.
Reduced costs are also a key factor so that smaller teams can become more competitive. The organizers will look to implement two main strategies in this regard: budget caps and standardized parts.
Fortunately, we aren't looking at standardization of core engine parts, which was previously proposed. On the table are the wheel rims, brake system, radiators, and pit equipment. Organizers are also looking at banning some hydraulic suspension systems, limiting the use of some exotic materials, and limiting how much a team can use a wind tunnel.
2021 F1 racer concept 2
On top of that, cost controls are set to be put in place to limit the size of teams, with the goal again to stop the big teams out-muscling the smaller ones with superior resources.
And finally the design of the cars is also coming under the spotlight. Organizers want some level of pleasing aesthetics shaping the way the 2021 F1 cars look, so much so that they're working with car designers to help shape the rules. We already know that the cars will move from the current 13-inch wheel design to an 18-inch wheel.
These are just some of the leading measures being discussed, and we won't really know what's planned until October. However, it's clear that the organizers are determined to increase the competition in the sport, and that can only be a good thing.