The new Formula 1 rules for 2021 are to be officially approved in October. One of the aims of the new rules is to allow more racing and wheel-to-wheel battles, or that’s the intention.
The downforce that a car loses when driving directly behind another car is to be drastically reduced. However, in theory, this sounds easier than it probably will be in practice. Every time there are new rules, the engineers immediately try to identify possible loopholes and use them to their advantage. The FIA knows this, of course. That’s why this time you want to act as a “rule-breaker” yourself and look for gaps.
Nikolas Tombazis, FIA Technical Director for Formula Racing Series, reveals that this time they want to check for themselves “whether there are loopholes in certain areas” or whether the new rules could have other “unintended consequences”. For 2021, they want to avoid rules “that could otherwise cause problems later”.
The FIA now mandates that it’s rule-makers “should think like teams” – For example, designers from the Formula 1 aerodynamics department are currently trying out “how far they can push the rules”. Among other things, they will test for themselves whether they can build a front wing that “generates more downforce and is much more efficient” than the FIA try and mandate. They’re job is to find loop holes in the regulations to do this.
“When such cases occur, we will now react and try to avoid these problems,” says Tombazis. The idea is basically not new and can be compared to software development, for example. Hackers are deliberately used there to find weaknesses in the code so that they can be repaired. Formula 1 now uses the same approach.
For example, when the team engineers build a new wing for 2021, they are not interested in how much downforce the following car loses. They are only interested in building their own wing as efficiently as possible. They don’t care about the “side effects”.
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Formula 1 technical boss Ross Brawn has already announced that the work will not be finished in October.
“The group that we have at FOM will not stop working once the rules have been published,” he clarifies. They want to continue to rely permanently on the solutions of the teams in the future in order to guarantee sustainable better racing.
Despite all efforts, it cannot be ruled out that in 2021 at least one team will again have an idea for which the rule-makers were not prepared. Brawn himself knows exactly what he is talking about. In 2009 his team famously became world champions not least thanks to the double diffuser, a loophole in the then, new 2009 aero regulations.
In fact, the teams will have a hard time trying to find loopholes in a regulation set overseen by Brawn. Ross Brawn is perhaps one of the greatest exponent of finding loopholes during his previous time as technical and team boss.
The unfortunate consequence of this could been seen as over-regulated racing, akin to a spec series where all the cars are identical.
Maybe for great racing, this is what’s required, but will fans swallow it?