The technical revolution for the return of the ground effect in Formula 1 might have been postponed to 2022, and consequently next year we will race with the ’20 cars, but there remain some small tweaks to the technical rules.
Even Pirelli, like the teams, will be forced to cope with the delay. The move to 18″ tyres will now happen in ’22 too. Next year Pirelli motorsport boss Mario Isola has declared that the current tyres will be carried over to next year – both the compounds and the internal structure.
This situation has forced the FIA to revisit the technical regulations for the next year, to compensate for the performance step that the cars will likely make between one season and another.
With stable technical regulations, it is estimated that around 1.5 seconds will be found by the end of the year (shared between the Power Unit and aerodynamics).
As such, the current Pirelli tyres will no longer be suitable to withstand the enormous physical stresses which they are subjected to when cornering due to the greater aerodynamic load, which today’s cars are capable of. This explains why Pirelli makes “ad hoc” tweaks to the compounds and construction each season.
Initially this issue has been addressed by increasing the internal pressure, in order to make them more resistant to the strong vertical and lateral stresses to which they will be subjected to in ’21. However this has a negative knock-on effect, making the cars more difficult to drive, and the tyres more susceptible to overheating, much to the dissatisfaction of the teams and drivers.
Among the subsequent ideas that emerged, the most feasible was to intervene on the micro-aerodynamics of the floor. The FIA hopes rule changes will reduce the aerodynamic load it generates by about 10 per cent. This, it’s hoped, will compensate for the performance leap that will occur in ’21.
Although on the surface floors might look simple, they have in fact become increasingly complex with various slots and cuts to control airflow, whilst tyre squirts relieve pressure from the rotation of the wheel.
The ’21 technical rules, whilst almost identical to the current season, now mandate a smaller floor with a diagonal cross-section of about two-thirds of the width of the rear tyre. This will see a reduction in long channels (known as ‘tracks’) and slots, which will be banned.
As you can see in our technical illustration (above), the ’20 cars have a straight edge from front to rear, allowing for the various aerodynamic aids, but when referring to the ’21 car, you can see this edge now runs diagonally to the car, exposing the rear-tyre and removing the area where the slots would normally be.
The floor of the ’21 F1 cars will therefore appear much more simplified, and it will be a great challenge for the technicians to recoup these losses.