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Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB16B, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12, and the rest of the field at the start
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Analysis

How F1 teams tackled 2021's unique development war

The pandemic-induced delay of F1’s design reset until 2022 meant teams had to run tweaked versions of their 2020 cars, restricted by a token system for updates. Here's how the teams responded to the challenge of developing their carryover machines, in the knowledge any improvements faced a limited shelf-life

The immediate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic affected the 2020 Formula 1 calendar, necessitating circuits to double up on races to get in a full 17-round season within the space of six months. And its effects lingered into 2021; the calendar was largely back to normal, but the mandatory shutdowns for F1 teams to simply survive the March to June 2020 lockdown prompted the delay of the expected ground-effect regulations to 2022.

Instead, teams were effectively railroaded into producing a field of B-spec cars that were heavily restricted in their development from 2020's machinery. The FIA introduced a token system, with teams handed two tokens to spend on updating their cars for the new season. Although aerodynamic parts were largely unrestricted, larger areas – such as crash structures, geometry changes and the like – were each given a token value to stop teams throwing money they couldn't afford to spend on big-ticket items.

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