Abu Dhabi: It’s that week of the year in Abu Dhabi — and the buzz is no less despite Lewis Hamilton already in possession of a sixth world crown and Mercedes putting away the Constructors’ title heading into the weekend. The serious followers of the sport will also have an eye on next season — the final year of the ‘Hybrids era’ before Formula One undergoes sweeping changes to become an even playing field for all teams from 2021.
The Formula 1 and the FIA, motorsports’ world governing body, have been working closely since the past few months with the prime target of making the sport a more level-playing field from 2021.
The most significant change, apart from the overhaul of the design of the cars, will be the spending restrictions that will be put in place with the aim of making the sport fairer and more sustainable. Teams will have a cost cap of $175 million (Dh640 million) per year that will cover anything related to on-track performance while excluding marketing costs, drivers’ salaries and those of the top-three personnel at any team.
The cost cap will end or at least narrow down the growing spending gap between the sport’s big spenders and those with lesser resources.
The changes will also see a new design philosophy along with striking new looks with simplified front wings, bigger rear wings, increased underbody aerodynamics, wheel wake control devices, simplified suspension and low-profile tyres with 18-inch rims — that may even have a rotating LED display panel to provide information to spectators.
Since the start of the hybrid era in 2014, F1 cars have been competitive — but it has been restricted to the creams of the teams rather than the rest of the field. The key lay in finding a solution to the loss of downforce that the current set of cars experience while running in another car’s wake. Studies indicate that running in the path of another car’s dirty air can make the engine lose more than 40 per cent downforce.
This issue has been addressed in a huge way with the new car design ensuring that this downforce drops down to around five to 10 per cent, while the airflow coming off the new cars both cleaner and directed higher. This only means that chasing cars have a better chance not just to overtake but to line up a fairer battle.
There will be changes in the technical and sporting regulations governing F1 with rules being put in place to limit car upgrades over race weekends. Besides this, there will be the introduction of certain standardised parts (such as fuel pumps), parts that must have a prescribed design (such as wheel covers), increased restrictions on the number of times some components (such as brake pads) can be replaced.
In addition, power units will remain the same as now, but exhaust systems have been added to the list of PU (polyurethane) components that are limited in number per season, with each driver able to use six before incurring penalty. The new tyres will make the cars 25 kgs heavier, while changes in chassis and PU materials will also make cars slower than now.
Perhaps, Eddie Jordan — who founded and owned the Jordan Grand Prix — summed things up best for teams looking into a more exciting phase starting from 2021. “I wouldn’t worry too much about the regulations going forward. I still believe that the really good drivers will always wind up making their own good cars as quick as possible,” Jordan observed.
Race in memory of Whiting
*Yas Marina Circuit will play host to a special event this week with the hosting of a team cycle race in memory of Charlie Whiting — the much-loved F1 race director who passed away during the Melbourne Grand Prix after a motorsport career lasting more than 40 years. Open to all travelling Formula 1, F2 and F4UAE staff who will be in Abu Dhabi, the race will use the full 5.5km closed circuit in a timed relay event. This format means each rider will complete two full laps before passing over the reins to a teammate.
*Yas Marina Circuit is offering fans the chance to purchase Golden Circle exclusive access to the Yasalam after-race concerts with prices starting at Dhs 195. Further details on: https://www.yasmarinacircuit.com/en/formula1/golden-circle-upgrades
*F1 race fans with tickets will get free parking at Yas Mall since there are no parking passes with tickets. All ticket holders will be able to avail of a free shuttle service to Yas Marina Circuit across all five days of the festival.