Formula 1 has long been a battle over who could spend the most, with a large German manufacturer and an Austrian soft drink company dominating the last decade with dollars. Teams have recognized that parity is necessary to make the race more interesting, retain fans and, hopefully, make the whole grid more competitive. This is what we want to see, right? Races. To do this, the teams met Friday for electronic voting for a reduced budget, open-source parts, and totally unknown aerodynamic regulation.
Let’s start with budgets. Budgets were already slashed for the 2021 season to $ 175 million still massive. In light of the coronavirus situation, the teams called for a more drastic budget cut. This has been a controversial topic for the past month or so, with Ferrari not wanting to go below $ 145 million, while teams like McLaren wanted to see numbers as low as $ 100 million a year. After weeks of debate, the final figure came out at $ 145 million because Ferrari.
The big red elephant in the room may have managed to settle in for 2021, but teams have negotiated a further drop to 140 million in 2022, and 135 million thereafter. Apparently, Ferrari accepted the compromise and all the teams voted to approve the new multi-level budget structure. The hope here is obviously to make the smaller teams at the back of the grid, especially the former Williams world champions, more competitive.
In the long term, the teams also proposed a new handicap in aerodynamic development system. In this new system, the least performing teams have more time in CFD and wind tunnel development than the teams with better results. Personally, I like this idea a lot better than what the other series have done, like the balance of performance or the success of the ballast. Engineering teams are still responsible for improving the car, some may have a few extra hours in the laboratory to find the right answer. It is much less artificial of an intervention.
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Here’s how it works: A basic standard for aerodynamic development time will be established for all teams at the start of the season. Teams that finish in the top three will only have 70% of this standard time to do their job. The team in fourth place will get 80% of the baseline, with each subsequent position improving from 5% to 110% for the tenth and final place. This means that, based on the 2019 final results, Williams would have 40% more time in the wind tunnel or on CFD machines than Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari.
The teams also supported a proposal to introduce certain open source parts in F1. The designs of standard elements such as steering columns and pedals must be shared so that teams can save the research and development costs of their own construction. Obviously, things like carbon fiber tubs, aerodynamics and transmissions will always be kept secrets. It is not a move towards a specified F1, but simply a cost reduction. Think of it like buying napkins and plates at the store for your dinner from scratch rather than making your own.
Many of these ideas were first introduced by the owner of the Liberty Media series, and after the teams’ vote, he cleared a major hurdle. Now the rule changes will have to be sent to the FIA World Motor Sport Council for final ratification. Although all of these rule changes were approved by Liberty and unanimously by the teams, the WMSC decision should be no more than a formality.
I haven’t been so excited for Formula 1 in a very long time. I hope this will usher in a new era of privateer competitive advantage and end the grip of a single team that has plagued the sport for years. Let’s go!