Formula One cars are some of the quickest cars on the planet, however Formula One first and foremost is a sport. Yes, it is a race and the first car to cross the line wins but as we have seen in recent years, when the winning car has little competition it is not such a joy to watch. In recent years, 7-time F1 Drivers’ Champion Lewis Hamilton has come across the line victoriously with a 30-second plus gap to second place. As a result of this, the sport has to respond to stay current and relevant for the viewing public. Therefore, downforce will be reduced in 2021, in a hope of bringing the grid closer together. Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team Principal Toto Wolff thinks that due to this there is no chance that the cars on the grid in 2021 will be faster than those that were on the grid in 2020.
Formula One is a fast-moving sport – literally – and it is not uncommon for rules to change from one year to the next. We already know that there are new regulations for 2021 about brake ducts (no surprise there after the ‘Tracing Point’ saga) and diffusers. However, the changes to the floor area are predicted to bring about the biggest changes.
Formula One teams will now have new restrictions imposed on them for the way they develop the floor area of the car which is located in front of the rear wheel. Tighter restrictions mean a harder challenge to improve downforce by exploiting the airflow.
For anyone posing the question as to whether the 2021 cars will be quicker that those seen in 2020, Mercedes’ Team Principal Toto Wolff’s response on this to motorsport.com was very clear.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “The aero was cut back considerably on the floor around the tyres, and it’s going to take a while to catch up.”
“We’re still right in the middle of our development for next year, but I doubt we will be there quickly. In that respect, and with the tyres going a notch harder, I don’t think we will [be] near the lap times that we have seen this year. At least not in the first half of the year.”
Formula One is a team sport and there is a great skill and craft in a team exploiting every millisecond from a car’s performance. Nevertheless, no one enjoys watching a procession around a racetrack and worse still a procession with 20-second plus gaps between the cars.
In this respect, a race fan should not mind if Formula One cars do not get quicker (or even slower) next year. If changes do not happen, F1 may find itself left behind as the other categories of motorsport overtake it and head off into the distance.