The 2019 Formula One season has been one of the best for some time. With more exciting races happening this year alone than in some past seasons, the sport appears to be moving in the right direction.
But to make the racing closer and the sport much fairer, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, or the FIA for short, has released a new set of regulations to revolutionise F1.
After the current rules have come under harsh criticism, and the cars haven’t been as able to race closely, these new guidelines are set to change all that and make F1 a better spectacle.
Here are the headline rule changes you need to be aware of before the red lights go out in March 2021.
The main problem with the current cars is the amount of turbulence or ‘dirty air’ created by the crazy amount of wings and fins currently used. This means that cars can’t follow for more than a couple of laps, as they lose downforce – slowing them down – and components overheat. The cars are faster, but the racing isn’t as close as we, the FIA or drivers would like.
The aerodynamics of the cars have therefore been severely overhauled, making the cars look simpler and produce much less ‘dirty air’. The regulations apparently cut the loss of downforce from around 50% down to just 15% – meaning cars can follow much closer.
To make up for the lost downforce from exterior wings, the FIA has reintroduced ground effect to effectively suck the cars to the tarmac. By using channels under the car, air pressure is lowered and cleaner air is kicked out the back – limiting the effect on the following car.
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It’s well known in F1 circles that Mercedes-AMG, Ferrari and Red Bull have been able to spend more money to make their cars better than the rest of the grid.
In an attempt to limit that, the FIA is introducing a cost cap of $175 million (£135m). Although that’s more than most midfield teams currently spend, it’s considerably less than what the top teams do. This will hopefully make the racing much closer and mean more shock results are on the cards.
However, driver salaries and the wages of the three highest paid staff members are outside the cost cap. Severe penalties will be enforced if teams don’t comply.
Less wind tunnel testing
If teams have less time to develop their cars, they won’t be as far ahead of everyone else. So the FIA has cut the amount of time teams can spend in their wind tunnels to improve the aerodynamics of the cars.
Not only will this mean cars are closer in terms of aerodynamic performance, it will also cut costs too. This will also make practice sessions much more important on grand prix weekends.
Shorter race weekends
For a long time, the grand prix weekend has been four days. Car scrutineering and interviews typically took place on the Thursday, before the cars run on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The FIA is set to condense the race weekend by moving all the interviews and car checks to the Friday morning, before the track action starts on the Friday afternoon.
This action could also allow for more races on the calendar, with the FIA stating it would allow up to 25 events in a single season.
These headline changes are paired to many others. The cars will be heavier, have new 18-inch wheels instead of the current 13-inch units and lap times will be 3.0 to 3.5 seconds slower. But if closer racing is produced, overall lap time shouldn’t matter.
Increased opportunities for young drivers, rules on media interactions and the reduction in complexity of the cars have also been included in the regulations – all in the attempt of making Formula 1 better for fans and drivers alike.