Formula One has long been a battle of who can spend the most, with a major German manufacturer and an Austrian fizzy drinks companies dominating the last decade with dollars. Teams have recognized that some parity is needed to make the racing more interesting, retain fans attentions, and hopefully make the entire grid more competitive. That’s what we want to see, right? Racing. In order to accomplish that, teams came together on Friday to e-vote for a lower budget, open-source parts, and a totally unheard of aerodynamic regulation.
Let’s start with the budgets. Budgets were already scheduled to be cut for the 2021 season down to a still-massive $175 million. In light of the coronavirus situation, teams have been calling for a more drastic budget slash. This has been a contentious topic over the last month or so, with Ferrari not wanting to go below 145 million dollars, while teams like McLaren wanted to see numbers as low as 100 million annually. After weeks of debate, the final figure came out to $145 million, because Ferrari.
The big red elephant in the room may have gotten its way for 2021, but teams have negotiated a further decrease to 140 million in 2022, and 135 million thereafter. Apparently Ferrari agreed to the compromise and all teams voted to approve the new tiered budget structure. The hope here is obviously aimed at making the smaller teams at the back of the grid, particularly erstwhile world champions Williams, more competitive.
In the long term, teams also proposed a new aero development handicap system. In this new system, the worst performing teams are allowed more time in CFD and wind tunnel development than the teams with better results. Personally, I like this idea much better than what other series have done, like balance of performance, or success ballast. The engineering teams are still responsible for improving the car, some just might get a few extra hours in the lab to figure out the right answer. It’s far less artificial of an intervention.
Here’s how it works: A baseline standard for aero development time will be set for all teams at the start of the season. Teams finishing in the top three will only have 70 percent of that standard time to do their work. The team in fourth will get 80 percent of the baseline, with each subsequent position improving by 5 percent down to 110 percent for tenth and last place. That means, based on 2019's finishing results, Williams would have 40 percent more time in the wind tunnel or on CFD machines than Mercedes, Red Bull, and Ferrari would.
Teams have also backed a proposal to introduce some open source parts in F1. Designs for standard items like steering columns and pedals should be shared so that teams can save the research and development costs of building their own. Obviously, things like carbon fiber tubs, aero, and drivetrains will still be closely guarded secrets. This isn’t a move toward a spec F1, just cutting costs. Think of it like buying napkins and plates at the store for your from-scratch dinner rather than making your own.
Many of these ideas were first introduced by series owner Liberty Media, and following the vote by the teams it has cleared a major hurdle. Now the rule changes will need to be sent off to the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council for a final ratification. While all of these rule changes have been approved by Liberty and unanimously among the teams, the WMSC decision should be little more than a formality.
I haven’t been quite this excited for Formula One in a very long time. I hope that this will introduce a new era of privateer competitive edge and end the single-team stranglehold that has plagued the sport for years. Let’s goooooo!