Are You As Convinced F1's 2021 Regulations Will Suck As Lewis Hamilton Is?

Illustration for article titled Are You As Convinced F1's 2021 Regulations Will Suck As Lewis Hamilton Is?
Photo: Charles Coates (Getty)

It is an unspoken law of the universe: when a racing series makes regulation changes, the drivers will react pretty negatively across the board. The same thing is currently happening with Formula One’s proposed regulation changes that will take effect in 2021, with championship-winning driver Lewis Hamilton being one of the most vocal of the critics.

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If you need a refresher, the 2021 regulations call for some pretty sweeping changes to be made with the hope that it’ll inspire more competitive, closer racing. That comes in the form of aerodynamic standardization to create less dirty air behind a car, along with an increase in downforce via revised ground effects; reductions in driver aids like all the software systems that make driving a breeze; and just generally better-looking cars.

There’s also been talk of changing up race format, especially surrounding qualifying. That opens a whole other can of worms—and we asked how y’all felt about it. A lot of people expressed that they were totally fine with F1's qualifying format, since qualifying isn’t the problem with F1 anyway.

But Lewis Hamilton has taken it a step further. He’s not a fan of the regulation changes and has used this qualifying proposition to articulate why. Here’s a quote from Motorsport.com:

The fact they are trying to reverse grids and all that seems to me like an excuse for not doing a good enough job in the decision process.

Why are they making the cars heavier? There’s no reason, it’s not safer, it’s not better for racing.

My points are still the same. I’m still concerned. And I don’t think that’s going to change from what I’ve witnessed in the meeting.

F1 teams have also complained about the regulations being too prescriptive (which, honestly, isn’t all that shocking; we go through this same song and dance every time new regs are announced). But I was pretty surprised by Hamilton’s comments.

It’s worth noting that Hamilton’s career has been strongly impacted by previous regulation changes. He switched from dominant McLaren to Mercedes in 2013, just before the 2014 regulations introduced turbocharged V6 engines into the regs. Mercedes was all-in on developing turbo technology; it bet everything on those turbo regs. Four World Champion titles later, I’d say Hamilton made the right call.

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But I don’t know if I agree with him in this case. In my eyes, the 2021 regulations sound like a good thing. I am freakin’ stoked to see what teams come up with as a result of new regs that sound like they’re going to make a difference in the quality of racing. I’d love to see cars able to follow each other more closely. I want drivers working hard behind the wheel. I can’t wait for all the technical deep-dives into how each team has sorted out their new ground effects. And I can’t wait to see the impact it has on the hierarchy of teams. I don’t think the decisions they’ve made in that regard are half-assed at all.

I agree that the qualifying format fiasco is kind of stupid. It’s like cutting open your knee and then slapping a band-aid on your elbow. Why change every variable when you can just focus on one and see how that plays out?

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But maybe that’s just me and my fondness for spec series talking. That’s why I’m here scouring Jalopnik’s readers for their own thoughts. Are you with Hamilton in thinking the new regs are going to suck a big one? Or are you a little more optimistic?

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

DISCUSSION

dieseldub
dieseldub

Well, his comments didn’t mention anything about the aero. I wasn’t aware the regs were also attempting to make the cars heavier, but I doubt it will be that much heavier. IndyCar/CART has run heavier-than-F1 cars for quite some time and they put on great shows. I believe they’re also required to have thicker driver safety cells than F1, which also makes sense considering, well, ovals...

I know they’re discussing shaking up qualifying, but I also don’t feel reverse grid would be a good idea. It would be entertaining, yes, but then if teams and drivers ahead of time know that the grid will be reversed, where’s the incentive to do well in qualifying? Just sandbag it and you’ll be up front! But again, I haven’t heard that as something actually being mentioned, I’m not sure where Lewis has got that from.

I otherwise am for sure excited about the new aero regs. Less dependent on the wings, more dependent on underbody aero that in theory is going to be less disrupted by following a car closely can only spell closer competition. The closer you can stay to a car through a corner’s exit, the better chance you’ll have at being able to overtake them by the next turn. This has long been a difficult thing to do in F1 because of their dependence not only on underbody downforce, but also on the wings themselves, means that if you get within a second of the car in front, you start to lose significant downforce to the car in front of you the closer you get from there, thus making you slower in medium and high speed corners.

I love the new ideas for the aero package. I will say that Lewis did have a previous comment about aero a few years ago. From 2009 through I believe 2016 they were using smaller wings and made them at least a little less aero dependent and also saw the reintroduction of slicks, where from 1998-2008 they were running grooved tires to try and reduce mechanical grip and just in general slow cars down.

The restriction of downforce starting in 2009 and the increase in mechanical grip by bringing slicks back did actually make racing a bit better compared to the previous decade. But then along came 2017 where F1 decided they wanted to dramatically increase not only tire and vehicle width, but also increase the wing size, see if they could knock off some old V10 lap records.

They were successful in regards to lap records, but it absolutely made the racing worse. Lewis was rightfully critical of the move before that season. If they had left the wing size along and just simply allowed the wider tires it could have produced some great racing. An increase in mechanical grip without increasing aero-dependence is what you want. But instead they decided to increase both aero-dependence and mechanical grip at the same time.

It was not a good move. Fortunately the new rules look rectify that.