Have you been wondering what the revised aero regulations for Formula 1 in 2021 are, and why they are needed? Since the FIA introduced V6 engines into FORMULA 1, Mercedes has been racing away with the World Championships every single year. Sometimes they have clinched the Constructor’s Championship before two-thirds of the racing season is over.
Fans are getting disenchanted with Formula 1 racing as the championship is getting to be a one-sided affair. The FIA is aware of this and had announced some drastic changes in regulations in 2019 which were to come into force 2021 onwards.
These regulations also specified some aerodynamic changes as well as others. The budget the teams could spend was also capped at $175 million each. But then the COVID19 pandemic disrupted the FIA’s and the teams’ plans in a big way.
In May 2020 the FIA further cut the budget for 2021 to $145 million for each team because of the loss of revenue due to the pandemic. All the constructors agreed to use the same cars the following year albeit with small changes to keep the costs low.
Recently, the FIA has stepped in again and announced new aero regulations which are to be implemented in all FORMULA 1 cars racing in F1 2021. These new regulations aim to reduce the downforce of the cars thereby marginally levelling the playing field.
Revised Aero Regulations For Formula 1
What are the revised Aero Regulations introduced by the FIA?
The FIA has reduced the width of the car floor 1800mm back of the front axle onwards. Further, the stipulation states that the cars in 2021 will have no floor slots in the floorboards before the rear wheels. In doing so the FIA aims to reduce the downforce that cars generate.
The diagonal cuts after 1800mm will reduce the car floors plan area and the elimination of the slots will reduce the pressure differential. The floors will be 40mm narrower and the diffuser fences will be limited to the step plane.
The FIA also requires that the winglets on the rear brake ducts be no more than 40 mm. These winglets create a significant downforce of their own which is fed to the rear wheels. By limiting its size, the FIA further reduces the downforce generated.
The diffuser fences which shield the diffuser are reduced by 50mm. This will mean that the diffuser will not be sealed effectively thus impacting the downforce generated by the underfloor.
F1 car underfloors generate around 60% of the total downforce of the car. According to the FIA’s estimates, the downforce generated by the underfloor will reduce by 10%. This will translate to an overall reduction of the downforce by 4-5%.
Nikolas Tombasis of the FIA contends that as a result of FIA’s intervention, F1 cars will be a lot safer in 2021 than they were this year. With this intervention, F1 has sought to make cars safer without greatly increasing the spending on the modifications.
Why does an F1 car need lots of downforce?
At the speeds that FORMULA1 cars travel, without substantial downforce, the cars would lift clean off the ground. To keep the cars firmly grounded and to increase the grip on the tarmac, downforce is created by the aerodynamic design of the cars.
This downforce enables the car’s tyres to get a better grip on the tarmac enabling the pilots to take turns at great speed. The improved grip also enables drivers to accelerate faster while without the downforce their tyres would simply spin on the track even at 160 km/h.
Faster acceleration and greater speeds on curves and bends lead to faster times lap after lap. This enables drivers of powerful cars with a good aerodynamic design to leave the competition far behind eliminating any chances of overtaking.
Mercedes has fine-tuned the technology of producing powerful engines and generating great downforce. That has greatly contributed to their success since the V6 engine was introduced. The FIA Is seeking to give all competitors an even chance in the races.
An F1 car generates downforce of around its own weight at just under 100 km/h. At full speed, it can generate downforce of up to 5 time its own weight or 5G. This helps stabilise cars and enables better grip and manoeuvring.
What do the revised Aero regulations mean for F1 cars?
As of this year, floors of F1 cars are in a straight line from the cockpit to the just ahead of the rear tyre. Now the floor has to be narrower and will narrow still more towards the rear tyre. This will reduce the plan area of the floor.
The downforce generated by the floor of a car is the product of the area of the floor and the negative air pressure generated by the underfloor. By how much the floor area is reduced will be determined by the length of the car’s wheelbase.
The FIA has also necessitated that the whole floor of the car must be a plane thus eliminating the slots on the floor today’s cars. While the longitudinal slots assist in generating downforce, the transverse slots assist in reducing the excess pressure around the car floor by the wind moving around the tyres.
How will the new aero regulations affect competition?
FORMULA 1 cars leave a lot of dirty (turbulent) air in their wake when travelling fast. This prevents the car following the leading car from following the leader closely thereby increasing the distance between the two cars.
With the trailing car far behind the leading car, the former finds it difficult to overtake even when an opportunity presents itself. Overtaking opportunities often present themselves on turns. But the trailing car has to first cover the gap before overtaking.
This gives an advantage to the car driving in front. The reduced downforce will mean lesser speeds, particularly on the turns, giving competing cars a shot at overtaking. This is what FIA hopes to achieve by reducing the downforce generated by cars.
Revised Aero Regulations for Formula 1: The Conclusion
Although all teams will work to make their underfloor more efficient, this is an opportunity for the trailing teams to improve the aerodynamics of their cars. The FIA has given them an opportunity to catch up with the better performing teams.
Aerodynamicists are however allowed to modify wings, sidepods and diffusers in order to counter the loss of downforce due to the new regulations. The FIA has indicated that improvements made to the performance of cars through conventional development are welcome.