CLOSER RACING-THE ESSENCE OF F1

RULEBOOK 2021 << SERIES
ATUL KUMAR MAURYA| 29th February 2020

Since the switch to new hybrid engines in 2014, the one complaint that has echoed and haunted the whole Formula 1 fraternity has been the lack of closer racing. The bigger teams spending huge amounts of money on research and development on cars has been causing a major stir amongst the mid-table teams for a long time now. Aerodynamically as well, Formula 1 experts were trying to get in the best possible designs to encourage closer racing in the coming years. With the 2021 regulations, it is expected that the gap is going to reduce massively amongst the teams and the racing will be dependent more on the skillset of the driver.

The 2021 concept car

After seeing Mercedes use the Dual Axis System (DAS) during the 2020 winter testing in Spain, a system which helps the driver to adjust the camber and toe of the car in the required places for better balance and grip wherever necessary, it was expected that other teams will be scratching their heads before 2021 to come close to the newfound Merc-tech. Much to their relief, FIA announced that DAS will be illegal for the 2021 system under new regulations. Now the teams will be able to focus on the main issue in sight-downforce.

Floor concept for 2021

The main problems that the cars were facing was the loss of downforce, overheating and tyre damage when following the car ahead closely. This caused a major problem in closer racing and most of the overtaking opportunities came just under DRS. After the 2021 regulations, a new shape will be given to the front wings and the suspension will be simplified. The rear end layout has also been changed with the change in underfloor tunnels as well. Wheel wake control devices and low-profile 18-inch rim tyres will be another aspect that will assist the drivers in closer racing. But how will the new layout work?

As FIA has decided to continue with the 1.6 Litre V6 Turbo Hybrid engines for 2021, the new layout of the car will help it, following lose less downforce while trying to overtake the driver ahead. At present, the cars using the slipstream close to the driver ahead lose 40-50% of the downforce due to dirty air, which results in overheating and makes it difficult to overtake. With the new design in 2021, the car following will just lose 10-15% of the downforce, as the dirty air is directed higher and the cars will be able to run in cleaner air while attempting to overtake. This will have a less impact on the drivers following and they will be less reliable on DRS and more focused on producing go-karting-esque manoeuvres.

This purely brings in the aspect of the skillset of the driver in contention. With closer racing, the drivers will be able to use their in-hand abilities to overtake and gain places during the race. With this change, the FIA is expecting more overtakes per race in 2021.

The impact of the new design

Another change that will come into play in the removal of MGU-H from the engines. This will make the MGU-K unit more powerful and handy to use during the race. The deployment of the MGU-K energy will be up to the driver to deploy and use while gaining lap time or overtaking their opponents. This gives another dimension to the driver to use both their skills and intelligence to manoeuvre past other drivers.

With the 2021 regulations in play, the mid-table teams will be looking to take the advantage of the situation and hopefully the fans will be able to enjoy more enthralling closer racing that they deserve.