With four races already called off and several more in doubt, Formula 1’s 2020 season is already disrupted – and it’s no wonder a 12-month delay for the big 2021 rules overhaul is now being discussed among F1 stakeholders.
The coronavirus-induced stoppage to the current season will have financial implications for the teams, and no doubt there will be lots of financial wrangling before the final agreement of who gets what is reached.
But whatever happens, the teams will already have lost money on this year – and that will be a significant percentage of their budget for the first next-gen F1 car.
If the 2021 regulations were just put back by 12 months, this wouldn’t help the teams because they would simply spend millions improving what they have while still working on the new-spec cars.
But delaying the new rules along with measures to prevent that kind of spending, would be the right way to go if F1 wants to claw back the losses from the COVID-19 epidemic.
My suggestion is that the teams, F1 and the FIA buy into a controlled development plan. This would mean that when – and if – the first race of the year actually happens you put restrictions in place that run through to the end of 2021.
This would list the car components that you can actually redesign while freezing the rest. This could be limited to something like the front wing, rear wing and a few other small detail areas that are circuit-specific, and then freed up again when the new regulations come into force for 2022.
F1 teams will remain very competitive and determined to improve throughout this pause in racing action, so to stop the big teams spending their way to an even bigger advantage and to protect the small ones, this is the logical move.
Timetable rethink needed too
As Ross Brawn has suggested, when racing does get underway it’s the ideal opportunity to move to a two-day race weekend. There’s a lot of time wasted on F1 weekends and by condensing the gaps and rationalising the track time, you can come up with something like this for a typical race weekend and support races.
0800-0830 Porsche Supercup practice
0845-0915 F3 practice
0930-1000 F2 practice
1015-1100 F1 practice 1
1115-1215 F3 qualifying
1230-1300 F2 qualifying
1300-1400 Lunch break
1400-1500 F1 practice 2
1530-1615 F3 race 1, 40mins + 1 lap
1630-1715 F2 race 1, 40mins + 1 lap
1730-1800 Porsche Supercup qualifying
0800-0845 Porsche Supercup race, 40mins +1 lap
0900-0945 F3 race 2, 40 mins + 1 lap
1000-1100 F1 qualifying
1115-1200 F2 race 2, 40mins + 1 lap
1300-1400 F1 build up
1400-1600 F1 race
The session times can be altered, but this broadly caters for most things that happen over a current three-day weekend.
With this schedule, there could also be a tyre reduction. Currently, it’s 13 sets of slick tyres per car – that could easily be reduced. To give Pirelli an opportunity to recover some of its losses as well as the teams, I would suggest 10 sets of slicks maximum and the same distribution for everyone.
Allow Pirelli, as now, to nominate the three compounds for each track but to simplify its stock requirements – each team has to go with five sets of soft, three sets of medium and two sets of hard per race weekend.
The teams can then use them over the weekend as they want. Add to that two sets of wets and two sets of intermediates, and if it’s a wet weekend any new sets of slicks handed back can be replaced with two more sets of wets and two more sets of intermediates maximum. Combine with this allowing teams to use only 10 sets of tyre blankets per car as a maximum, as this would also reduce the amount of generators there are blasting their waste gasses into the atmosphere.
This would allow those involved to take the financial hit of losing races perhaps without some of them going out of business – and we still don’t know whether it will be three or four races lost, or far more than that – while still allowing F1 to put together a championship.
And with the prospect of plenty of back-to-back weekends, while the cut to a two-day meeting won’t counterbalance that for staff, it will slightly ease the overall workload so everyone can get through this difficult situation.
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