Analysis: What the 2021 rules delay means for F1

during the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 17, 2019 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photograph by Vladimir Rys)

It’s unanimous. F1, the FIA, and all the 10 teams were unified in their decision following their conference call to discuss the 2020 calendar which was affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, and to carry this year’s technical rules over to 2021. So, what is next?

The 2020 technical rules are carried over into 2021

In light of this matter, the 2020 technical rules the 10 teams abide this year will be carried out into the next season. As a domino effect, 2021 rules will be introduced in 2022.

As a result of the stakeholder’s conference call regarding the pandemic and its impact on the sport, teams are required to use their 2020 chassis in 2021 as well. It is hoped that this will ease the financial burden on the teams, particularly at a time when their income may be reduced due to fewer races this year.

Sticking with the 2020 chassis does raise an interesting challenge for McLaren, who is set to switch from Renault to Mercedes power for 2021 as reported last September 2019. The unique design of each manufacturer’s power unit eliminates the possibility of Plug-and-play ease, so it’s not as simple as taking a Renault out and plugging a Mercedes in.

Mercedes and McLaren are set to join forces once again in 2021 after a 20-year relationship was cut at the end of 2014. The change of course in the season’s calendar and terms will have a huge impact as it will be challenging for McLaren to fit the Mercedes power unit in their 2020 chassis.

What about the new financial regulations?

As planned, the new financial regulations is a green light for next year. The budget cap of $175m – which covers expenditure that relates to car performance – will come into force in 2021, as planned. Teams will develop their 2022 cars in compliance with the new regulations – within the budget cap framework.

This should have a greater impact in levelling the playing field, ending the growing financial gap between F1’s big spenders and those with fewer resources, ideally positively impacting the on-track differential.

What about this year’s calendar?

Several postponements have been recently made including the Dutch and Spanish Grands Prix, and the Monaco Grand Prix. Resulting in the total postponements to seven so far over a calendar of 22 races.

The aim is to get the campaign underway as soon as it is safe to do so, with the move to bring the summer shutdown forward to the spring in a bid to open up some space to reschedule some of the postponed races.

The teams are very positive with the F1 and the FIA’s efforts to restructure the calendar despite more congestion and smaller gaps between Grand Prix. It’s a tricky balance, because the teams rely on the Grands Prix to receive financial income which is critical to their budgets but they have also got to manage the demanding workload placed on their travelling race team staff.

What does this mean for 2021 pre-season testing?

Pre-season testing could be dispensed with for 2021 as teams have agreed to continue using their 2020 chassis again next year. This means the majority of teams’ cars will be largely unchanged, except for McLaren. It is clear that pre-season testing will be reduced.

It would be a good opportunity for the teams to run younger drivers, allowing them to give the reserve and development drivers some valuable time in the car to help them give better feedback when they test parts in the simulator. Further talks and development are still underway in the coming weeks and months to discuss ways to secure further cost savings.

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