Although the pandemic has given the old Ecclestone-inspired era of F1 a year’s stay of execution for 2021 before Liberty’s full vision of the sport becomes real next year, this coming season is so much more than that. There are so many fascinating sub plots to play out in front of us even as huge structural changes are happening beneath the sweep of the radar in preparation for the brave new world.
The first part of that vision, the cost cap, comes into play this year though, and together with an aerodynamic tweak to the existing cars (the chassis of which must be retained from last year, as a cost-saving measure) defines quite a challenge for the teams, as Mercedes’ technical director James Allison recently explained. “The  aero changes came relatively late in the year and have quite a significant impact on the cars’ performance. Much of our focus over the last weeks and months has been trying to understand what the effect of those changes have on the main flow fields around the car and how to try to find the performance that is lost when you adopt those regulations… At the same time we have a set of regulations that forces the budgets of the big teams down to meet that of the midfield and where we all basically have the same financial horsepower to go about prosecuting the championship… This season hasn’t even begun yet and we’re already starting to think very seriously about 2022 [which] brings a complete revolution in the technical regulations of the car. The sort of things we have seen for the last few seasons will be dead and gone at the end of this year, replaced by a new generation of car which has a completely different technical objective – to try and make the racing closer, by making the lead car damage the performance of the trailing car less. The change is so large and the cars so different that we are going to have to spend a large part of our technical resource during 2021 in order to make sure that we are ready… We are busy doing that in a world where we are cost capped, where we haven’t even started racing in ’21 and where we have to manage our total resource so we can have an effective campaign while also building for the future.”
“Mercedes are not perfect. We can find more performance than them”