How Formula 1 is cutting downforce again for 2021

Formula 1’s 2021 regulations had already been changed once in order to cut downforce next year, so Pirelli’s current tyres would not get over-stressed by increased forces.

2021 floor rules

But the rate of progress that teams have made in the opening half of this season has made the FIA concerned the original plan – for a 10 percent reduction in downforce – did not go far enough.

So with Pirelli set to run the current tyres for their third year, before the new 18-inch design comes in for 2022, more changes have now been made to the regulations.

It is hoped that the tweaks will mean less load is put through the tyres, and that in turn will not force Pirelli to stipulate ever higher minimum pressures as has been the case this season.

Carlos Sainz Jr., McLaren MCL35, heads into the pits with a front puncture

Carlos Sainz Jr., McLaren MCL35, heads into the pits with a front puncture

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

The main changes still require teams to have a section of the floor ahead of the rear tyre cut away.

However, whereas it was still anticipated that teams might use a limited number of slots on the floor’s periphery to reclaim performance, they will now be prevented from doing so.

As an added measure, to help achieve their downforce reduction goals, the FIA is also making changes to the regulations surrounding the fins on the rear brake ducts and the vertical strakes mounted in the diffuser. 

2021 brakes fins Race
2021 diffuser central fins rules

With regards to the brake duct fins, the governing body will stress that the fins have a maximum width of 40mm below the axle line, whilst the diffuser strakes will only be allowed 50mm above the reference plane.

This latest batch of additional regulation changes won’t really change too much for the designers though, as in reality they have already been redesigning these surfaces to take into account the ones already conceived to trim downforce. 

Carlos Sainz Jr., McLaren MCL35 with a 2021 spec floor

Carlos Sainz Jr., McLaren MCL35 with a 2021 spec floor

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Teams started work on next year's car some time ago, as illustrated by McLaren’s eagerness to test a 2021 style floor during free practice at the Belgian GP.

The Woking-based team hoped this would help it understand how this will affect the balance of the car, and perhaps more critically give it some real world data to corroborate what it has already seen in its simulations and in the wind tunnel.

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