Rule changes in motorsport always have the potential for surprises. The greater the technical leeway, the greater the chances that the balance of power will be remixed.
This was also the hope that many teams had attached to the new Formula 1 regulations for 2021. But it is probably this hope that will be falling well short of anticipation.
At least on the aerodynamic side, there should be very tight specifications and not too much freedom, which is why Red Bull team boss Christian Horner and his team have already lost their excitement for the season after next.
“I don’t think there’s an aerodynamics department that was ecstatic while reading the rules. Rules just aren’t part of their DNA,” Horner says. “Some rules have already been published and there have probably been long faces among the aerodynamicists, and not just Red Bull.
According to Horner, the restrictive regulations hit his team hard, but not as hard as speculated. “Our strength in recent years is not only due to our aerodynamics,” he says. In any case, it’s now a matter of getting to grips with the rules “in detail” before a final verdict can be reached.
“Questions will certainly arise which we will ask at the next meetings – of which we feel we have an infinite number. And then we’ll see what the rules look like in the end,” explains Horner.
But the Red Bull team boss is not alone with his concerns. Alfa Romeo boss Frederic Vasseur also has concrete “worries that the [aerodynamic] freedoms might be too small and that we’ll end up with a standard car that isn’t a standard car. And we would have spent millions on it.”
Günther Steiner, team manager of Haas, on the other hand, pleads for a wait and see: “It will be a few weeks before we know the concrete impressions of the aero ‘gurus’. Now they react emotionally, but they will find ways to do what they always do. My opinion is therefore not yet carved in stone.”
He even finds: “Maybe it’s good that we don’t go too far in the beginning”. Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul thinks the same way and thinks it’s “not a bad idea” to start with a quite comprehensive set of rules. “On the basis of the results, we could then see if we could gradually open up development.”
Abiteboul refers to the medium term: “It’s not as if 2021 is the end of everything. There are more seasons to come. This means that the rules will continue to evolve as usual. Then there would still be time to soften them.”
Nevertheless, he also has certain doubts and stresses the need for a flexible regulatory framework that could be adapted by referring to 2014. With the introduction of the current turbo-hybrid drives, the starting advantage of Mercedes was, so to speak, cemented by rigid regulations. “It would therefore be good to reopen the rules after they have been successfully introduced.
McLaren boss Zak Brown, on the other hand, argues from the outset for “a little more freedom” and thinks that the budget ceiling must be sufficient to ensure a level playing field. His thesis: “If the rules were kept a little more open, you could make a few more decisions”.