F1 and FIA shed further light on reform plans

Formula One and the International Automobile Federation (FIA) have shed further light on the direction they want the motor-racing championship to go from 2021 onwards by revealing the most detailed plan to date of their vision for the sport.

F1 stakeholders are currently engaged in talks on the future of the championship, with a host of issues on the agenda. F1’s owners, Liberty Media, first unveiled their 2021 vision in April 2018, with a cost cap and more equal revenue distribution among the host of items on the table.

Debate has since continued and it was last month announced that the regulations needed to be further refined ahead of a new presentation date on October 31 when the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) will vote on the reforms. In their latest update, the FIA and F1 have detailed their plans to create closer racing, a more competitive grid and a sustainable future for the championship.

The reforms have been broadly gathered under the four key categories of more raceable cars, more competitive grids, cars that have a ‘wow’ factor, and a financially viable championship. In terms of the racing, the aerodynamic regulations for 2021 will designed to promote competitive action by generating downforce in a different way to current cars.

In place of the current complex front wings and bargeboards, F1 will pursue a ‘ground effect’ solution that will see downforce generated underneath the car in an effort to create closer racing. A key objective is to tighten up the field in 2021 by a nominal factor of around half.

“We have three teams that can win races at the moment, that’s all,” said Ross Brawn, F1’s managing director of motorsports. “Over the next couple of years, Formula One will be on a much better path…where a really good, moderately-funded team, can cause a lot of trouble. That’s what we want. If you get a Charles Leclerc or a Max Verstappen in a midfield team, it can make a difference.”

In association with spending restrictions being put in place for 2021, the FIA and Formula One propose to simplify a range of car systems and parts in order to reduce cost and allow smaller teams to target resources more effectively. Cost controls will be put in place to limit the size of teams, with the goal of eradicating the use of superior resources to dominate the grid.

“The great teams will still be the great teams,” Brawn said. “But in all the marginal gains that they do where they have 10 people on a project instead of two, which brings five per cent more performance – they won’t do that anymore. They can’t, or if they do, they’ll be losing out in other areas where perhaps they could perhaps be making better gains.”

Brawn said circuit design will also be addressed to promote better racing, with the championship’s new grand prix in Vietnam set to be a first test of “a new philosophy of where we should take Formula One”.

It has been proposed that drivers’ salaries and those of a small number of key team personnel will not be included under cost control measures. This would also apply for marketing activities, as Brawn stated “that’s good for Formula One, that’s good for everyone”.

Fan engagement will also be used to shape regulations. Brawn said: “That’s never been done before. So understanding from the fans what it is that turns them on about Formula One, and also talking to the fans who’ve stopped watching or don’t watch – why don’t they watch, what’s stopped? So the fans are quite a big part of setting the direction of Formula One.”

F1’s current technical regulations expire at the end of the 2020 season. The series’ Concorde Agreement also expires at the same time meaning the sport is entering a key period in its history. The Concorde Agreement is the contract which divides up the commercial revenues of F1, including television rights and prize money, along with specifying technical regulations.

Formula One and the FIA stressed that progress towards the biggest change in regulations for many decades has been significant, and over the next two months more meetings involving all stakeholders will take place to further fine-tune the regulations before the October deadline.

Brawn added: “Our objective is to make F1 more entertaining, more accessible, more sustainable – from a commercial perspective not just an environmental one. There’s a lot going on, and it won’t stop. It will continue, and this is the new philosophy of where we will take Formula One.”