Motorsport: Formula 1 Reveals Its Brave New 2021 Future–Cost Caps, A Closer Pack And The Return Of Ground Effect!

Formula 1 Reveals Its Brave New 2021 Future–Cost Caps, A Closer Pack And The Return Of Ground Effect!

By News Desk
July 17, 2019

For some time, much hope has been held in Formula 1’s overhaul due for the 2021 season. Better racing, a more competitive pack and lower costs are its main aims, though there have been some some doubts about the new package of regulations, and some delays in details arriving. Yet we’ve just had some meat on the bones, as F1 and governing body the FIA have unveiled a few ways that they intend to achieve the lofty aims. And in a surprise move, they intend to reintroduce ground effect to help cars race in close proximity.

Ross Brawn, F1’s managing director of motorsports, along with its chief technical officer Pat Symonds and the FIA’s head of single-seater technical matters Nicholas Tombazis, have outlined ‘four key pillars’ of the 2021 proposals. Artist’s impressions of the new car have also been released.

The first pillar is ‘more raceable cars’, achieved via ground effect–downforce produced by cars’ shaped undersides–playing a ‘much bigger role’, aiding a major reduction in the downforce loss experienced when running behind another car, from about a 50% loss in 2017 to a 5-10% loss in 2021.


Ground effect was pioneered in F1 by the Lotus team in the late 1970s, and the technology was quickly adopted by the entire field. But with cornering speeds rising rapidly and associated safety concerns, ground effect was eliminated by regulation changes, partially for 1981 then more fundamentally for 1983 with flat-bottomed cars.

Using the underside for grip was further reduced by the introduction of the ‘plank’ in mid-1994 then with stepped undersides for 1995. However overtaking, and the ability of cars to follow each other, vastly reduced after this as cars relied more on aerofoil downforce for grip, leading many to suggest that ground effect’s reintroduction would help racing.

F1 and the FIA’s proposals also include that tyre supplier Pirelli should no longer have to produce high-degradation rubber, as it is felt this also works against close-quarter running. Symonds added that they nevertheless aim to retain in-race pitstops.

Pillar number two of the F1 and FIA proposals is creating more competitive fields, in so doing eliminating F1’s current situation where three teams–Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull–are way ahead. Brawn says “very prescriptive” aerodynamic rules will close things up. They also propose giving the driver a more prominent role via reducing driver aids and telemetry.

The third pillar is creating more aesthetically-pleasing F1 cars, done by consulting fans as well as, interestingly, using an ‘automotive stylist’. The tracks F1 visits also will be part of this pillar, with Brawn stating next year’s debut Vietnam race will be the first test of “a new philosophy of where we should take Formula 1”.

The final pillar is a more financially-viable championship, with budget caps proposed and a number of cost-reducing measures identified such as standardized parts. A reduction in wind tunnel time is also being considered, though drivers and other key personnel’s salaries, and marketing activities, will likely be excluded from the cost control. A full unveil of F1’s proposed new 2021 landscape is due in October this year.

Images courtesy of Octane Photography

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Dennis White
Dennis White
4 years ago

The current issue of Road & Track is dedicated to F1 with an excellent essay by former F1 driver Stephan Johansson with recommendations dealing principally with the cars, which seem to make a lot of sense.

Bill Meyer
Bill Meyer
4 years ago

These changes seem sensible at first glance but I have to wonder at the feasibility of a budget cap. It seems about as likely as limiting money in electoral politics.

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