This year's new season of the Formula 1 World Championships will see the roll-out of a package of rule changes. These were set to be implemented in 2021 but were, understandably, postponed. They have been designed to create cars that fit within the sport's cost-capping agreements and, crucially for race fans, will be more raceable. They have even been viewed as arguably the biggest change in technical rules that the sport has made.
One common theme we spotted over our weekly coverage of last year's season was that the sport has received criticism that it had become a parade, and that position changes (and championships?!) were determined more through 'off-track' pit strategies rather than actual out-and-out racing. The new rules aim to make the cars less prone to turbulence, allowing them to run closer together and increase overtaking opportunities, bringing back the excitement in the process.
Rule changes are spread across the four key areas of aerodynamics, engines, wheels and suspension, and component classifications.
The most comprehensive rule changes, given the aim of addressing turbulence, include a ground-effect floor in place of the current flat floor ensures that the underbody generates a greater proportion of the car's total downforce creating a cleaner wake and less sensitivity to wake, and a higher upwash of air from the floor, dissipating its energy quicker ahead of the following car.
There is also a simplified front wing and endplate also less sensitive to wake; a prescriptively-shaped rear wing that virtually eliminates strong vortices; standardised flush wheel covers to banish downforce-inducing airflows via wheel/axle geometries; front wheel deflector to limit airflow 'outwash'; limits on downforce-creating brake duct shaping; and the banning of bargeboards.
In simulation, the accrued effects of the new rules showed that, at one car length behind, the following car enjoyed 86% retention of its maximum downforce. A car designed to the previous rules would retain only 55%!
Whether you love or loathe the sound they make, the current 1.6 litre V6 turbo engine rules remain very much as-is, albeit that their design will be homologated at season start and then frozen up to at least end-2025. In line with petrol forecourt changes is the rise of advanced sustainable ethanol where at least 10% of the fuel must comprise E10.
Always the subject of heated debate, switching from the current 13" wheel rims to larger 18" items mean new low-profile Pirelli tyres. The intention is to reduce temperature-sensitivity and allow racers to push hard throughout stints while retaining a performance drop-off to maintain a strategic element. In addition to this, a standard tyre pressure monitor will be used to monitor tyres' running conditions.
Additionally, suspension has been simplified and must now be attached directly to the wheel hub, springs and dampers will now control stiffness following the banning of hydraulic suspension, and inverters which reduce the mechanical load on the suspension (known as J-dampers in F1) are outlawed.
To create cost savings against parts not deemed to be performance differentiators, there are now five different designations: Listed Parts that the team designs and owns the intellectual property to such as the monocoque and non-prescribed aero surfaces; Standard Supply Components provided by a designated supplier such as fuel pumps and tyre pressure sensors.
Transferrable Parts, for example gearboxes and hydraulics systems, that can be supplied from one team to another; Prescribed Parts built by the teams to a set specification (for example the rear-wing shape); and Open Source Parts that the teams are free to design to their own specifications. Of interest with this last category is that full design details of these must be made available to all other teams.
Whether these changes are as far-reaching as intended remains to be seen – the truth will be in the racing. However, if the net result is closer racing and even actual on-track overtaking, they can only be positive. If we can once again witness even a fraction of the heroics of, say, Villeneuve vs Arnoux for 'only' 2nd place at the 1979 French GP at Dijon then the changes can be deemed a success.
The new season of the Formula 1 World Championships will begin with the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday 20th March - and watch out for the return of our weekly updates throughout the season here on TrackDays, starting from Monday 21st March. Visit our Formula 1 Experiences page today to browse and book our range of Formula 1 driving days at UK wide venues, available from dates or purchase of our Gift Vouchers.