In the pursuit of a level playing field — which is currently skewed by astronomic spending differentials — Formula One teams may have found a solution.
In fact, they have done the impossible — agreeing to a new budget cap from 2021 onward, The Guardian reported.
Even Ferrari, the team with the most historical clout, agreed to the new rules.
Following lengthy negotiations, F1 will be decreasing spending on a sliding scale over several years. The cap will be set at US$145 million (£119m) in 2021, dropping to US $140 million in 2022, then US$135 million for 2023-25, The Guardian reported.
The cap is seen as a vital component of ensuring the sport remains sustainable for the future. F1 and the FIA have been pursuing a spending cut for some time but the financial implications of the coronavirus pushed the sport to go further than expected.
The agreement has also introduced the concept of an increased allowance of aerodynamic research and development on a sliding scale based on a team’s position in the constructors’ championship, The Guardian reported.
To be weighted in favour of reverse order of success, the intent is to close up the grid and is viewed as a positive development by F1 and the FIA. It is set to be employed in 2021 as the teams work on developing cars for the new regulations of 2022.
For 2021 F1 cars will have a radical new design philosophy and striking new look — with sweeping bodywork, simplified front wings, bigger rear wings, increased underbody aerodynamics, wheel wake control devices, simplified suspension and low-profile tyres with 18-inch rims.
It’s also proposed that the wheel rims will be fitted with a rotating LED display panel, to provide information to spectators, while a bodywork display panel is also proposed for the same reason.
Though aesthetics were a major consideration, the changes outlined above aren’t just cosmetic — over several years, both Formula 1 and the FIA have been working tirelessly to design cars that can race more closely.
Key to that was finding a solution to the loss of downforce that the current cars experience when running in another car’s wake. Running in dirty air behind another car, a 2019 machine could lose more than 40% downforce.
But with the 2021 car design, this drops to around 5-10%, with airflow coming off the new cars both cleaner and directed higher, meaning it has significantly less impact on drivers following, giving them the chance not just to overtake, but to battle.
In addition to the new financial rules, there are some big changes to the technical and sporting regulations. Rules have been put in place to limit car upgrades over race weekends, and the number of in-season aero upgrades, reducing the costly development arms race that can result in a less competitive grid.
The budget cap has been a bone of contention for some time, with too drastic a cut being resisted by the three highest spenders, Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, who dominate the grid.
After considerable negotiation in 2019 the teams had agreed to set a figure of of US$175 million (£142m) for 2021. With F1 facing a severe drop in income because of the cancellation of races there was pressure to readdress the issue, The Guardian reported.
After the effects of the pandemic were felt, F1’s sporting director, Ross Brawn, insisted a greater cut in spending was imperative.
“When we introduced the budget control there was always the anticipation that if we had a crisis we could turn the dial down,” he said. “The dial has been set at 11 for too long. We need to wind it down. It would be irresponsible to ignore it. We’ve all got to respond.”
McLaren and several other midfield teams were in favour of setting the ceiling even lower, at US$100 million, but are understood to be satisfied that the sport has at least achieved a successful compromise, The Guardian reported.
Ferrari, too, are believed to have supported this “glide path” reduction. The gap will mean a considerable restructuring for the big three teams.
All employ between 800 and 1,000 personnel and their current spending is estimated to be in excess of US$400 million. Staffing implications will have to be addressed by all three. Ferrari have already suggested they may shift resources by entering IndyCar.
“As Ferrari we feel strong social responsibility towards our employees and we are concerned about their future,” said the team principal, Mattia Binotto. “Which is why we are also looking at other alternatives besides F1, such as IndyCar for example.”
The cap does not include driver salaries, senior team staff, US$15 million for engine costs, and marketing and hospitality.
The package still needs to be officially approved by F1’s legislative body, the world motorsport council of governing body the FIA. It’s expected to be a formality.
One of the most radical aspects of the rules package is the plan to limit aerodynamic development for the most successful teams, the BBC reported.
There will be a defined benchmark amount of permitted wind-tunnel time and computing data, and a sliding scale of allowance of that R&D depending on a team’s finishing position in the previous championship.
In 2021, to allow for the fact that teams have to develop cars to the new rules in 2022, the team who finishes first this year will be allowed 90% of that quota, with a sliding scale at 2.5% increments so the team that finished last gets 112.5%, the BBC reported.
From 2022 onwards, the world champions will be permitted 70% of the total allowance, with 5% increments until the team that finishes last is allowed 115%.
Any new teams would be given the same allowance as the team that finishes last.
F1 has had 10 races called off this season but is hopeful that they can still try and achieve a season of up to 16 races.