Revealed: F1 commits to ground effect for new-look 2021 car

Jonathan Noble

With discussions now underway between F1, the FIA and teams to finalise new regulations aimed at overhauling grand prix racing, the first firm details about the plans for the 2021 have emerged.

As Giorgio Piola’s illustration of what a 2021 car could look like shows, the new rules revolve around a complete change of approach to how a car produces downforce. The idea is to rid the sport of the complex aerodynamic devices that are dominant nowadays, especially in the wing and bargeboard area. There will be, for example, a much simpler and less sensitive front wing.

But the biggest change is taking place underneath the car – with a series of Venturi tunnels feeding a deep twin diffuser that will produce much of the car’s downforce. The concept is similar to what we previously saw in F1, pioneered by Lotus in the late 1970s (as shown below), before being banned in 1983.

Lotus 79 and Lotus 80 comparison

Lotus 79 and Lotus 80 comparison Giorgio Piola

Giorgio Piola

The FIA’s head of single-seater technical matters Nikolas Tombazis said: “We want to make it more possible for cars to race each and follow each other and to have more exciting battles. We want to have tyres that enable people to fight each other without degrading or only giving a short interval for the person attacking to attack.

“They are simpler than the current cars because a lot of the small components have been removed: especially in front of the sidepods, the front wings are simpler. There is a diffuser going right under the car – a venturi channel type manner. There are tunnels under the sidepods from the front to the back.”

Ferrari SF90 2021-2019 car side comparison

Ferrari SF90 2021-2019 car side comparison Giorgio Piola

Giorgio Piola

The belief is that the combination of ground effect, simpler aerodynamics and front wheel deflectors will all work together to help cars to follow each other much closer.

The current generation of cars lose around 45% of their downforce when they are two car lengths behind a rival. The latest simulation data of the 2021 idea puts the loss at between 5-10%.

Tombazis added: “Two strong vortices suck in a lot of the rear wing wake and, as a result, what the following car sees is much, much cleaner flow. So we have a massive reduction of the loss of downforce for the following car.” 

F1 hopes to reach agreement with teams about the new rules by September 15, so the process can then move forward for ratification by the FIA World Motor Sport Council before the end of October.

To further explain the thinking behind it with Jonathan Noble and Jake Boxall-Legge, check out this video...

The complexity of the current Williams FW42 bargeboard

The complexity of the current Williams FW42 bargeboard Giorgio Piola

Giorgio Piola