Ferrari’s poor 2020 season could be worth “a couple of tenths” due to aero handicap

2022 F1 season

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Formula 1’s decision to postpone its introduction of new technical regulations by one year due to the pandemic had an unintended outcome which could play to the advantage of some teams over others this year.

On Wednesday, teams will begin their first test with cars built to drastically changed rules governing their aerodynamics, wheel sizes, suspension systems and more. These were originally due to come into force last year, but were pushed back by one season as a cost-saving measure when Covid-19 forced a delay to the start of the 2020 championship.

At that time, teams had already agreed to bring in another rules change which would limit how much development work each could perform based on where they finished in the previous season’s championship. As the regulations were originally envisaged, this was going to come into force after teams had a year of work on their cars designed for the new regulations.

The postponement changed that. Instead, teams did the aerodynamic work on their new cars while restricted by the handicap on aerodynamic development. How tightly they were restricted was determined by their finishing positions in the 2020 championship.

That meant there was an upside to a poor performance in 2020. That’s exactly what Ferrari had, as they slumped to a 40-year low of sixth place in the constructors’ championship. The lower they finished that year, the more development they would ultimately be allowed to do in 2021 for the upcoming season.

In the rules, the amount of development work each team is permitted to do is expressed as a percentage. What does it mean in real terms? Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff expects it will give Ferrari a measurable lap time advantage.

“The ability of having more wind tunnel time is, of course, something you need to bear in mind,” he said in response to a question from RaceFans. “The advantage of finishing sixth versus first over the course of the season is a couple of tenths and that of course you need to catch up.”

Mercedes stand to lose most from the new regulations, having won the constructors championship for the last two years in a row. But Wolff made it clear the team support the rules which apply a ‘balance of performance’ to aerodynamic development.

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“We were part of [writing] these regulations,” he said. “I think it’s good to create competition. So we shall see wherever everyone is.

“Personally, I’m not discounting any teams. Everyone could be high up in the standings at the beginning of the season because we’ve seen it in 2009 with the double diffuser. If a team has innovated and discovered opportunities, that could be game changers. Everyone can be ahead at the beginning.”

He said he would be pleased to see a more competitive Ferrari in 2022. The team hasn’t won a race for more than two years.

“As a fan, I love Ferrari,” said Wolff. “They are the greatest name in Formula 1 and it cannot be that Ferrari is not competing for race victories and titles. Winning championships is something different, many things have to come together to achieve that.

“But I think for all of us fans of the sport, Ferrari needs to be in the mix. We have missed them in the last few years. The passion of everyone at Ferrari and also for the tifosi in Italy, it’s important to see that the car is competitive. So I hope there will be a few teams this year, a few of us are able to win races and fighting hard on track.”

Ferrari took a significant step forward in performance last year, rising to third in the championship. As a result the amount of development work they can do this year will fall steeply.

Most teams will have a tighter limit on development this year than the year before. A significant exception is Aston Martin, who will have slightly more wind tunnel time having fallen from fourth in the 2020 championship (as Racing Point) to seventh last year:

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2022 F1 season

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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19 comments on “Ferrari’s poor 2020 season could be worth “a couple of tenths” due to aero handicap”

  1. So if Ferrari win this year (which would be awesome but) have they done F1 better, or just been handed an advantage? We won’t really know. This performance balancing begs the whole question of what the competition means.

    It’s fake ‘close racing’, rigged for a new, dumber audience and their money. The only excuse is that it’s a nice teeny small difference, which begs that question as well, apart from the question of what next.

    1. If Williams beat Haas, followed by Ferrari, I would agree because they were behind Ferrari in 2020. It may be viewed as a handicap to keep the same team winning 8 Constructors Championships in a row, it may be seen as fake, or it could just be seen as helping weaker teams. Which we’ve already had for a while, the engine freeze will allow poorly performing manufacturers to catch up as well but I don’t see teams or fans criticizing that.

  2. That Ferrari is hands down the best looking F1 car I can remember in a long time, hopefully they race as good as they look.

    1. Looks too much like the Haas.

      1. LOL @peartree

        @canadianjosh I find that I react to the sidepods, maybe in combination with the colour, which should be great, as it being a bit too nostalgic a throwback to the mid nineties.

        It’s a bit odd, since that’s more or less when I started watching F1, and the rules also are sort of meant to invoke that ‘simpler’ (aero) time, but with slanted edges and arrowhead wins to be ‘fast’ and/or modern, so theoretically it should really appeal. But, it doesn’t quite for me. Still, I do find these cars interestingly looking and am looking forward to seeing how well they all work, relative to the others and don’t mind missing the filigreed bargeboards of the last few years (compensated by the new flicks that will probably appear around the cockpit, looking at the Ferrari and Haas? sigh)

        1. @bosyber I like it too. Limousine version of the 412 T2.

  3. Does anyone actually believe Red Bull or Mercedes will follow the rules and not be running secret time on the wind tunnel somehow. I wonder how much of Alpha Tauri’s wind tunnel time is actually used on their concepts given they just get knowledge drops of last years Red Bull each year. Likewise with Mercedes and Aston Martin. I just don’t buy that Red Bull and Mercedes will not be fudging figures and time in the background to get over the caps.

    1. I think this was tidied up a bit in the rules after the stuff with RP/AM @slowmo, and team have to be able to show what exactly did they do when. But when I look at the Ferrari and the Haas together, I cannot escape the feeling that there were some exchanges of ideas there, and I expect something similar with AT and RB too

    2. Don’t forget America’s Cup involvement as a nice opportunity to bend this rule. I don’t like artificial leveling of the field but it’s obvious that this is a long term F1 Americanization project. Soon we’ll have leveled field and increase in spectacular accidents which draw audience like excrement draws flies.

  4. The Ferrari certainly does look the most developed of the bunch so far. I wonder how much of this was their aero handicap advantage and how much due to shifting focus to 2022 early due to their relative uncompetitiveness in 20’ and 21’

    1. How @swh1386 does the ferrari look the most developed? Looks crude to me, massive sidepods.

  5. As soon as I read the headline, I immediately knew it was going to be an article about Toto. :D

  6. I’m not really a fan of any sort of success penalty as I don’t think success should be penalised or that those who simply didn’t do as good a job be given advantages to help them catch up.

    A team needs to succeed or fail on merit rather than because there good/poor performance from the year before gave them what could be seen as artificial benefits/disadvantages for the next.

  7. Toto has had enough from RBR, Marko and Horner. He wants a championship battle with Ferrari where he has the upper hand in the off track politics and the Ferrari management in general do always have certain limits due to the corporate culture and the brand image. In 2021, Horner and Marko have countered every single Mercedes move adding their usual flavour of vulgarity and trolling.

    As a Ferrari fan, I hope RBR will be in the mix otherwise it will be a walk in the park for Toto with regard to the political game unless Ferrari have someone like Briatore in charge who can deal with him.

  8. This looks is interesting, somehow reminds me of the 1996 ferrari, which wasn’t great performance wise, but I mean the shape, it seems closer to the 1996 one than the ones I’ve seen in recent years.

  9. “As a fan, I love Ferrari,” said Wolff. 

    Let’s make Toto the Ferrari new Team Principal, haha.

    1. There serious reports that suggested that Toto might take the role of Ferrari team principle in 2021 when his negotiations with Mercedes to renew his contract stalled and his was available by the end of 2020. Though Ferrari president John Elkann was unimpressed with his antics and his behaviour towards Ferrari when they were challenging Mercedes and decided against that move.

  10. Ferrari may not win a race this year, but damn it will look good trying.

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