F1’s 2021 rule changes revealed

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

Reading the F1.com article on proposed regulation changes for the 2021 season, I found a few comments positive about the direction the series would like to march toward. Whether or not the team swill endorse these directions is another story and whether the FIA or F1 listen to the team is also another story.

First up, the concept around the cars being more raceable:

“[With the 2021 car] typically, from about a 50% loss of downforce for the following car at two car distances [in 2017] it’s down to about a 5-10% loss,” says FIA tech boss, Nicholas Tombazis. “So we have a massive reduction of the reduction of downforce for the following car.”

It’s a move in the right direction and I was pleased to see they also mean to take a longer look at the tires because the current crop of high-de3gradation tires are also impacted by the downforce and aerodynamics of the car.

“We are in fairly deep consultation with Pirelli,” says Tombazis, “about how to make the tyres really step up and be in a position where they enable people to race; they don’t degrade, they don’t force people to manage the tyres so much.”

“I think we were asking completely the wrong things of Pirelli over the last two years,” adds F1’s Pat Symonds. “The high degradation target is not the way to go.”

We’ve always appreciated Pat’s view on F1 even when we disagreed with him but in this case, he is spot on and I’ve been rallying against the HD tires since 2013. It was and still is wrong for F1. The British Grand Prix showed us that as the degradation was largely taken out of the equation and teams pushed the tires harder with Lewis winning on a brilliant strategy while pushing his tires to the limit.

Second, compressing the grid via more competitive equity among participating cars is something F1 and Ross Brawn would like to see. IF queried, fans would like to see it to. I’ve said that I understand the desire for equity but I’m not a huge fan of this concept if I am honest. There is a lot of room for some seriously bad decisions here that will have knock-on effects we haven’t anticipated yet. Equality of the opportunity to participate in F1 through cost control is one thing, achieving equality of outcome is something altogether different and not something I am keen to over-manage for.

“We have three teams that can win races at the moment, that’s all,” Ross Brawn says. “Over the next couple of years, Formula 1 will be on a much better path… where a really good, moderately-funded team, can cause a lot of trouble. That’s what we want. If you get a Charles Leclerc or a Max Verstappen in a midfield team, it can make a difference. It won’t matter at the moment.”

Where I agree with Brawn is in his “prescriptive” regulatory limits that are intent on preventing teams for discovering a silver bullet that destroys the competition. He should know because he did it with Brawn GP and the dual diffuser as well as Mercedes and the hybrid engine.

“Undoubtedly,” Ross says, “from the relative freedom teams have had so far, it’s going to be frustrating. But if they can take the approach that these regulations are the same for everyone and ‘we’re going to do a better job than anyone else, we just won’t be two seconds faster, we’ll be two-tenths faster’ – that’s what we want from Formula 1.”

This is where the rubber will hit the road. When you begin putting Adrian Newey in a box, he begins finding racing boats and road car as well as kites and paper airplanes interesting and loses focus on F1 which is not what Red Bull’s Christian Horner wants or needs.

Perhaps driver aid removal, team radio reduction, car telemetry reduction etc? These are all additive to the challenge and are less design-oriented and more driver and team focused. Less design mandates or limitations and more driver reliance on resource management. I can get behind that and I have argued that making regulations more limiting in terms of design, what I’ve advocated is doing something to limit downforce so if they can achieve that through other means without limiting the genius of car design, then that may bode well.

Third, the car that sends shivers up your spine is something that F1 would like to return to. Not that these cars aren’t impressive but any future changes needs to be equally impressive if not more impressive. To those ends, Nicholas said:

“We do aim for the final product to be aesthetically pleasing,” says Tombazis. “To be a car that promotes a certain amount of passion and a certain ‘wow factor’, so we want that to be part of the new Formula 1.”

Autosport has a wonderful artist an they’ve offered their take on the new rules and that’s terrific but I’m not hearing (no pun intended) much about the sound of the car.

“The front wing, we’re still not completely pleased about,” says Tombazis, “both from an aerodynamic point of view and from an aesthetic point of view. So we’re trying to make it a bit better in both aspects. There’s good reasons why the wing is very wide aerodynamically, but we all will appreciate that it’s not the best aesthetic result, so there’s work going on there.”

This sound omission is deliberate and most likely because of the stories that Brawn has acquiesced on the current hybrid engine formula for 2021. If that’s the case, and those stories are true, then this is unfortunate in our opinion. Sound is a major element and it would have been a big impact to get these cars back to sounding great.

Last, we are facing the never-ending story of how we can reduce the cost to participate in F1. To those ends the series is looking to standardize parts but realize that big teams are still going to be big teams.

“The great teams will still be the great teams,” says Brawn. “But in all the marginal gains that they do where they have 10 people on a project instead of two, which brings 5% more performance – they won’t do that anymore. They can’t, or if they do, they’ll be losing out in other areas where perhaps they could perhaps be making better gains.”

The list of proposed standardized parts is:

  • Standardized wheel rims
  • A standardized brake system
  • A ban on hydraulic suspension systems
  • A restriction on the use of certain exotic materials
  • Standardized radiators
  • A frozen specification of gearbox parameters
  • Standardized pit equipment for all teams

What do you think of these proposed changes? In the right direction? Room for serious concern? Let us know in the comment section below so Ross can add our thoughts to his list of fan feedback…I’m sure he’s reading us. ;)

Hat Tip: F1.com

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John Cakanic

I like everything but the engine formula. Personally, I think that they know that the current engine formula is not road relevant, but they aim to placate the engine manufacturers so there’s not the obligatory “we’re leaving F1 if X, Y, or Z happens/doesn’t happen”. They know that NA V6/8/10/12 would be less expensive, but Merc, Ferrari, Renault, and most recently Honda have dumped hundreds of millions in development over the last 6-8 years and don’t want their investment “thrown away”. I would argue that if you asked Ferrari or Renault (behind closed doors) if they would dump the current… Read more »


I’m against the engine. I am disappointed because they have a great opportunity to burn everything, start from scratch, but they are inhibiting new players from joining with that engine. they also are committed to the behemoth size of the current cars with that engine. Roughly the size of a suv, length and width. quite frankly I hate the whole idea of equality of outcome vs equality of opportunity. Everyone should get an equal chance, I support a low cost cap. But within the aero restrictions, let imagination thrive! It’s what makes iconic cars and drivers! let the Brawns find… Read more »


They were never going to be able to change the engine formula as long as they were willing to cave on Mercedes’ threats to leave. Mercedes has been dominant in large part due to figuring out the engine formula quicker than anyone else, so naturally they’re threatening to take their toys and go home if it changes. I would love to see F1 call their bluff on that. F1 has been successful without Mercedes, and honestly it might be better for the sport to see them go and a more competitive championship. Let Mercedes fight on a new, level playing… Read more »