The Powers That Be at Formula One have come together to decide how, exactly, they can make the world’s most elite racing series actually more enjoyable to watch. We’ve talked a little bit about this announcement before, but now we’re getting a glimpse at how things will change, and why.
Chain Bear F1 on YouTube is back again to outline those changes for us, along with some handy visuals and an easy explanation as to what those changes will actually do for the sport:
He breaks the changes down into four categories of what F1 wants: more raceable cars, more competitive grids, sexier cars and lower costs. Smaller rule changes were developed within these boundaries to achieve the trifold goal.
First and foremost, let’s get race-y. F1 is bound and determined to reduce the loss of downforce that happens when one car follows another, which makes for less overtaking and lots of tire wear. That means the series is bringing back ground effects! The downforce will be reduced on both wings and increased on the underbody of the car, which should make following and passing cars way easier.
Tires are also growing from thirteen to eighteen inches, causing Pirelli to change their approach to design in such a way as to reduce tire degradation. That way, we might just see drivers more willing to pass other cars as opposed to foregoing battles because their tire would go bad. That said, these tires aren’t going to be too perfect—we still want pit stops as a way to shuffle competition.
This is when we move into more competitive grids—something I think literally everybody who watches racing wants to see. Right now, there are massive gaps in performance between the frontrunners and the midfield, and between the midfield and the backmarkers. Basically, you have a pretty good chance of correctly predicting who can win because only a few cars can do so. As fans, though, we want the driver to make the difference in a race, not the technological ability of a team.
That means aerodynamics will become simplified and more prescriptive than it currently is, which is intended to keep a team like Mercedes from dramatically outdeveloping a team like Racing Point. As the video notes, midfield teams should now have a chance to contend for wins, while frontrunners could actually suffer championship-wise from a bad result.
It also means we’ll see a reduction in driver aids, like software and mechanical systems that make driving a lot easier. There’s also likely going to be a limit on the amount of telemetry being passed between the car and the driver. Basically, engineers can’t just tell their drivers what to do—drivers are going to have to start making their own decisions.
F1 will also be making cars ‘sexy’ (which seems incredible subjective and poorly described, but unfortunately F1 did not hire me to make their rules for them). This means the cars need to look nice. This means no penis-nosed cars. This means no box-shaped cars. This probably also means no tusks or front wings that could be mistaken for cow-catchers.
Interestingly, F1 is consulting fans about what they want in a car, which seems a little absurd given that most of us are not qualified high-performance engineers (“I want a car like this,” I say, making vague hand gestures as a fleet of Mercedes designers nod and take furious notes). Whatever happens, the cars should look... better. In some way. Maybe.
And, finally, there’s that whole “financial viability” thing to contend with. While the poorest team on the grid spends more on their cars than I will ever spend on everything I ever buy in my lifetime, they’re still not spending enough to keep themselves on pace with the frontrunners. We haven’t quite settled on a hard cost cap yet, but a lot of unnecessarily developed pieces will become standardized. The number of team members allowed at a race weekend and wind tunnel time will also likely be restricted.
Overall, the video gives you a visual sense of the kinds of changes that will be made in 2021... and I have to say, it does give me a little bit of hope that we’ll have some kickass racing in the very near future.