Formula 1 2021 Rule Changes: Top 5 Things to Know
Here are the most important changes to the F1 racing rulebook for 2021.
If you think Formula 1 is getting a little stale, you're not alone. Fans have been crying out for years that the racing is too one-sided, with Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull dominating podiums. Luckily, the FIA saw this as a problem as well, and with the release of the new rules and regulations for the 2021 season, F1's sanctioning body seeks to fix some of the major issues with the world's fastest sport. The hope is that these rule changes will make passing easier and for more aesthetically pleasing machines without compromising the sheer pace of F1. Only time will tell if the new rules will work as intended, but for now, check out the five most important changes.
For the First Time in F1, There's a Spending Limit
It's no secret that if you want to win in F1 you need money, and lots of it. Since Ferrari and Mercedes can outspend Williams, they'll naturally have an advantage. The new regulations look to change that with the new cost cap. The teams' spending on the car will be limited to $175 million. That cap is separate from a team's budget for things like driver salaries, marketing, and transportation. This may do more than any other rule change to level the playing field in F1.
The dark art of aerodynamics plays a huge role in F1. Teams always work to strike a delicate balance between drag and downforce, but the way the cars at the front of the pack bend the air around them can have negative effects on the cars behind, leaving them turbulent air to try and make downforce with. The new rules have addressed this problem, and now cars won't leave such dirty air in their paths as they race around the track. The front wing design has also been changed and the use of venturi tunnels will replace the complicated floor panels currently in use. All this should make for tighter racing.
Less Time in the Wind Tunnel
As if the new design regulations didn't make the life of each team's aerodynamicist hard enough, they will also get less time to test their designs in wind tunnels. This is yet another measure to level the playing field, as all teams will now have to rely more heavily on Computational Fluid Dynamics simulations to get their designs right, and any slip-ups could result in advantages to different teams week in and week out. Currently, wind-tunnel testing is unrestricted, which allows the teams with the highest budgets to fully optimize their car's aero for a given track. The new rules call for a maximum of 400 wind-tunnel runs per season, and that number will drop to 320 in years following.
Race Weekends Have Been Shaken Up
Some F1 viewers might not realize how strictly these cars are regulated. Before and after each race, the cars are scrutineered to ensure no team has broken the technical regulations. Starting in 2021, the rules around race weekends and scrutineering get even stricter. Teams can no longer fly in new parts at the last minute, the car they present on Friday morning to the scrutineers must be the car they race. That means no changing the car, regardless of what the teams learn on Friday's practice session. It could also mean, perhaps, a more level playing field.
A Formula 1 car is a really complicated piece of machinery, but that doesn't always mean it's beautiful to behold. In 2021, the new cars will feature swoopy bodywork, simplified front wings, bigger rear wings, and 18-inch wheels with low-profile tires for a more futuristic and sporty look. (The images here show how they might turn out.)
There's a whole host of other changes that were made, but these were the big ones. Hopefully motorsport's top-tier series will have accomplished its goal of better racing once 2021 is said and done.