Formula 1 wants to be able to ban loopholes easier and faster from 2021 to stop teams “destroying” and “corrupting” the efforts behind the new technical rules.
Sweeping changes will be made to F1 cars from next season as part of a wide-ranging overhaul of the championship’s technical and sporting make-up, plus financial and governance matters.
Chief among the technical changes is a bid to slash the dirty air produced by the cars to improve how drivers can follow.
Initial estimates in the combined research conducted by F1 and the FIA suggested cars could keep up to 86% of their downforce when running one car length behind another, up from 55% in 2019.
“If one team stands out there with a solution that has never been conceived, and has never been imagined, and destroys the whole principle of what is trying to be done, the governance would allow, with sufficient support from the other teams, to stop it” :: Ross Brawn
The rulemakers accept this will be reduced as teams interpret the regulations differently to claw back lost performance, but F1’s managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn says changes set to be made to the championship’s governance will help outlaw loopholes that damage the intent of the new rules.
Presently, a decision requires unanimous approval from the teams, which means banning a design interpretation can be blocked by the team that is using it.
But the new governance plan, which emerged last year, would be for a single 30-member group to determine F1’s rules – 10 from the FIA, 10 from the F1, and the 10 teams.
Instead of unanimity, a large majority of 28 would be needed to change an issue in-season after May 1 – but a smaller majority of only 25 would be needed if the vote happens before May 1 (or relates to the following season).
Brawn wants to be able to “make changes much more on short notice than at the present time” by encouraging teams to make use of the option to query designs with the rulemakers so any loophole that is exploited is “shut down at the next race”.
“If one team stands out there with a solution that has never been conceived, and has never been imagined, and destroys the whole principle of what is trying to be done, the governance would allow, with sufficient support from the other teams, to stop it,” said Brawn on F1’s official website.
“This is a whole different philosophy.”
Brawn, who accepts that there is “hypocrisy” in him saying he does not want to see a championship won on a loophole given his eponymous team’s run to the title in 2009 was founded on its double-diffuser concept, believes this will force teams to think twice before pursuing a loophole.
That is something the FIA’s head of single-seater technical matters Nikolas Tombazis has also indicated might happen.
He told this writer last year that teams would not do so for a “charitable cause” but because of the risks involved.
“I think out of the teams a fair percentage – I wouldn’t say all – will take the responsible view,” Tombazis said.
“If they see there is an inconsistency in the rules they will be interested to report it to us and to help us find a solution.”
However, Tombazis’s view was based on finding loopholes with the research teams conducted between the regulations being published late last year and the early months of this year, when the rules as written can be tweaked.
“Is a great idea the fact that someone put a comma in the wrong place in the regulations which means a lawyer can interpret it in a diverse way?” :: Ross Brawn
He said teams would not want to “spend three months on something and have the carpet pulled under their feet”.
That logic still applies, because a team would need to decide whether to risk going into the championship with a risky interpretation that could be banned.
However, Brawn’s proposal goes even further because it would give teams a better chance of tidying up the rules as they go as well.
“A great idea is the exploitation of the regulations within what was intended,” said Brawn.
“If someone comes up with something that was a play on the words, or some interpretation that was never intended, it completely corrupts the principle.
“What is the choice? Either live with it for a year, and have something which is not a great competition, or we change it, put it right and get the competition back to where it is.”
In practice that could be trickier depending on the team that has discovered the loophole.
For example, if Ferrari finds an aerodynamic trick that is considered too much of an exploitation, many of its rivals would likely vote to have it banned immediately – but its engine customers Haas and Alfa Romeo would not.
However, if only a small majority of 25 is needed, then even a manufacturer and its customer teams could not align to block.
That is a powerful weapon for aggrieved teams and rulemakers, who Brawn said would need to be trusted to handle controversial interpretations fairly.
“They have to rely on us and the FIA, that we’re not going to penalise someone who has a great idea,” said Brawn.
“That is subjective. But is a great idea the fact that someone put a comma in the wrong place in the regulations which means a lawyer can interpret it in a diverse way?
“I don’t think it is.”