AUSTIN -- Formula One has unveiled what its cars will looks like from 2021 and beyond with a promise of closer wheel-to-wheel racing and a more evenly matched competitive order between the biggest and smallest teams.
On Thursday, the proposed deadline for publication on the new rules, the championship revealed a glimpse of the future ahead of this weekend's U.S. Grand Prix The main goal of the new rules has been to make cars less aerodynamically complicated and sensitive, allowing others to follow more closely, while also being less dependent on tyre performance.
At a press conference ahead of Sunday's U.S. Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas, F1 unveiled the technical and sporting regulations which include new financial rules including a cost cap to bind every team. As expected, there will be a cost cap implemented for the 2021 season of $175 million, with an additional $1 million added every time a new race is added to the calendar.
F1 racing chief Ross Brawn promised any team breaking those rules will faces the harshest penalties possible -- "If you fraudulently breach the financial regulations, you will be losing your championship".
It is hoped a cost cap will help F1 achieve the stated aim of keeping the competitive order close together by restricting the wealthier teams of simply out-developing its rivals. Brawn promised the key to winning under the new regulations will be quality, not quantity, of spend.
All aspects of the new technical regulations are aimed at creating closer racing: both in a wheel-to-wheel sense and in terms of the spread of competition. Current F1 cars only retain 55 percent of their total downforce once they are within a car's length of the car in front, dramatically reducing their ability to remain close through high-speed corners. Simulations of the new design suggest that number will increase to 86 percent in 2021, increasing the chances of close racing from 2021 onwards.
One criticism levelled at the draft regulations was the prescriptive nature of the aerodynamic rules and the lack of potential for differentiation in design. However, the FIA's head of single seater racing, Nicholas Tombazis, said the standard parts have been limited to areas where there is little performance differentiation -- such as wheel rims -- and the very prescriptive areas have been limited to parts that impact overtaking. He is confident there is still potential for visual differences in the nose, front wings, engine intake, sidepod shape brake ducts and rear wing endplates.
"We have of course restricted some areas because some areas are key to the [aerodynamic] wake performance and we don't want to throw away that massive advantage [for overtaking]."
The cars will be heavier, increasing from a minimum weight of 743kg to 768kg, and will also have less downforce. Simulations suggest the cars will be approximately 3.5 seconds slower as a result, bringing the cars in line with 2016 lap times, before the wider-body, aero-heavy 2017 regulations were introduced.
"We are expecting cars to be approximately between 3.0 and 3.5 seconds slower per lap," Tombazis said. "But we don't think that is the key parameter of the spectacle, we feel that the raceability is the main target. We haven't been focussing on an exact level of performance. Clearly we can't predict exactly where the level of downforce will end up, it will be a bit less after the development has been carried out.
"But even the car that has been developed with CFD and the wind tunnel [by F1] has got a respectable amount of performance and it has been developed by essentially a relatively small number of aerodynamicists and hours in a wind tunnel compared to a normal team. Therefore, we are quite confident that the performance will not be a ket parameter that will differentiate these cars from the current cars."
The full 2021 technical regulations can be found here.
The sporting side of the regulations has not been overhauled to the same extent as the technical, but one key change is the compression of a race weekend from four days to three. The traditional media and setup day on a Thursday will now be crammed into Friday alongside practice, with the aim of reducing the days teams spend travelling.
In order to reduce the amount of new parts that are flown in during a race weekend, a "reference specification" will be introduced that teams have to stick to for the rest of the weekend.
The full 2021 sporting regulations can be found here.
The cost cap mentioned above is the main aspect of the new financial regulations. A 'dry run' will take place in 2020 when the teams will be audited, but there will be no penalties for going over the $175 limit until 2021.
Certain aspects of team expenditure will not be covered by the cost cap, including marketing costs, driver salaries, heritage asset costs, year-end bonuses, depreciation and amortization, non-F1 activities, entry fee costs and the three highest paid people in the team. However, the penalty for breaking the other elements will be harsh, including disqualification from the championship.