How Much Standardization Is Too Much In Motorsport?

Illustration for article titled How Much Standardization Is Too Much In Motorsport?
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Formula One is looking to make big changes for 2021, including proposing a lot more standardization in the rulebook regarding what parts teams can use and how much money can be spent. But is that additional degree of standardization too much?


Ferrari has already lashed out against the sanctioning body’s attempt to equalize the playing field, reports. The argument is that F1 should be about competition and development, where the best team will be the one with the most advanced tech in all aspects of the car. It shouldn’t, they say, be about making it easy for just anyone to compete.

Here’s team boss Mattia Binotto:

Binotto said that adding more standard components would not serve much of a cost-cutting purpose in 2021 given the impending introduction of the budget cap.

“And I think that, again, it’s back on the standardisation. I don’t think we need standard parts to save money, because we will anyway spend whatever is the cap. At least the top teams will spend whatever is the cap, so on the standard parts will not be affecting that respect.

Most racing series include some element of standardization. NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula E—even while there are certain places where competitors in these series can explore the furthest boundaries of the rules, there’s also a lot that needs to be kept to regulation spec.

The effect, though, is different. The technology may not be as impressive with a standard list of items each car has to use—but the racing might just be better now that the playing field has been leveled. On the other hand, prizing technology can create some stunning displays of record-breaking speed, but the stratification between the well-funded and less so becomes so defined that racing becomes predictable.


I’m all for a series imposing a pretty strict set of regulations, leaving only, say, aero and engine development open to the teams themselves. In my eyes, IndyCar and Formula E have put on some of the most exciting racing we’ve seen in recent years because those two sanctioning bodies understand how to achieve balance between tech advancement and accessibility for all. (I will also admit that I’m a real sucker for true, pure stock car racing. I’m looking at you, specifically, IROC.)

That said, F1 has always been a different beast. I respect its insistence on leaving development open just to see what the hell everyone can make of their cars. I’ve also been serially bored with some of the races and would be interested to see how some basic regulation parts could change the game.


But this is obviously a hot point of debate, otherwise we wouldn’t even be talking about it. Where do the rest of you draw the line? What level of standardization is too much? And how would you change motorsport to make sure the racing always stays exciting?

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


The Tao that can be spoken

I’m an extremist: go balls out one way or the other.

For standardized races, have the series build and own the cars then the race starts with a foot sprint as drivers try to find a car. For more fun, have more drivers than cars for some musical chairs action.

For non-standardized races, you can limit basic dimensions, tires, maybe energy storage amount, but otherwise let the engineers go crazy.