Formula 1 chiefs have set up a ‘rule breaking’ group made up of its top aerodynamic brains to try to expose potential loopholes that could stop the 2021 regulations succeeding.
With F1 and the FIA now in discussions with teams about finalising the details of the new car concept, there is a determination to ensure that the aims of delivering better racing are not derailed by teams exploiting grey areas in the rules.
The chief concern is that teams could find ways to exploit the regulations to boost their own speed which at the same time wreck F1's efforts to help cars follow each other closely.
Current data from the latest concept of 2021 car shows that the loss of downforce when following another rival closely has been reduced from the 45 percent at present to between five and 10 percent.
The FIA’s head of single-seater technical matters Nikolas Tombazis says that an unprecedented effort is now being made to ensure that the work on a car design that allows good racing is not derailed.
“There is work there to ‘break the rules’ - what was lacking in previous attempts [to change things],” said Tombazis.
“With new regulations, it is an opportunity to really try to push them to the extreme, and see ourselves if certain areas have loopholes, or if other unintended consequences would emerge from the rules.
“If we have an opportunity to do this ourselves, then it means we may avoid some certain rules that otherwise could create problems later.
“My colleagues at F1, in their aero department, have now put a hat on. It is not as a rule maker, it is like an aero team trying to do the work of the aero [team] and seeing how much they can stretch the rules.
“Part of that is also to establish whether finding a wing that creates more downforce and is much more efficient, if it negates some of the good things have been achieved with the following car’s performance. If such cases are found then we will react to try to avoid these issues.”
While it is hoped the teams and the FIA can agree on the rules by September 15, ahead of ratification by the FIA World Motor Sport Council by October 31, F1 is clear that work on improving the regulations and removing further loopholes will not end then.
F1’s managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn said: “The group we have at FOM will not stop work when the rules are issued.
“That group is going to carry on working. As we see the team’s solutions evolve, we will analyse those solutions and, if we understand they are starting to negate the objectives, we will steer it back again.
“This is not a one-stop shop: we will monitor and develop and tune the solutions to make sure we maintain these objectives [of better racing].”
Tombazis added: “We are aware that when development takes place from teams who don’t care what the following car performance is like, and just care about the front car, that may negate some of these gains.
“Our task is to make rules that try to prevent that as much as possible. This breaking the rules process is to avoid this happening, to keep all the gains.”