The conundrum that is the June deadline for the 2021 rules


As we head into June, there are basically just over 30 days by which time the 2021 regulations must be agreed.

The main stumbling block is the financial side of things, matters such as prize money, bonuses and the budget cap, however aspects of the technical regulations are also outstanding.

Speaking at the weekend, while some were confident the June deadline can be met, others didn't share their confidence.

"Will we have a signed contract by FIA, Formula One and all 10 teams by end of June or mid-June for the World Motor Council? No, obviously no," insisted Cyril Abiteboul. "In my opinion there has been a lot of groundwork already covered. I think it's all about trying to agree what will be the key principles for 2021, from a commercial perspective, financial perspective, the key principles on the technical side and the sporting side.

"In my opinion we are probably 80% or 90% from that point," he continued, "from that milestone, so with enough faith and enough goodwill from all participants and probably a bit of a push from the key stakeholders, FIA and Formula One, there is no reason why something cannot be presented at the World Motor Sport Council that will be advanced enough to give useful guidelines for the remainder of the year, so that we have a complete set of guidelines for the end of the year. That's my opinion, obviously, but there is still some work to cover."

"I'm sure something is going to be presented," added Christian Horner. "It will probably nowhere near what actually gets signed.

"I'm sure the regulations will change and evolve," he added. "Something will come out in June, it will change in September, October, probably in November, and yeah, there's plenty of ground to cover, but there is a watershed where something will be put in front of us fairly shortly and then the fun really begins."

"When we first started these negotiations, it was a long time ago," said Claire Williams, "and we're now at that point where we need to have that full set of regulations so that we can plan and prepare out businesses for that season.

"As Christian says, I'm sure there are going to be some further negotiations after that point. For a team in our position clearly when it comes to the technical regulations we wouldn't want too much movement after that. People are going to start working on those, people are already working, and we don't need to be wasting resources with a huge change subsequent to the issuance of the first draft.

"I don't think there's much choice," she concluded. "We have to get those regulations out and so I believe it should be done and I'm sure it can be done."

"I know that the FIA and F1 have done a huge amount of work in the background on this," said Andrew Green. "We were exposed to some of it last week in a technical working group meeting.

"We could see that it's quite well evolved. It's going to need some tidying up for sure.

"We have meetings planned from now until the end of the year, which is where we all anticipate it's going to go to. It's a significant set of changes, bit like I said, they have done a huge amount of work in the background and I think we can get there."

However, while Williams wants agreement on the regulations sooner rather than later, she admits that the sooner they are agreed the sooner the bigger teams can start preparing for them, thereby maintaining the status quo, which is the last thing the sport needs after the 2019 regulation changes failed to shake up the order.

"Look, the regulation change this year; the outcome was rather predictable unfortunately," said Horner, "and it's up to us, the teams competing against Mercedes to close that gap down.

"I think for 2021 it's a clean sheet of paper, it will be a big regulation change and I think one of the things that we debated is that you need to be a little bit careful, because if you release very early regulations then the teams that have more resource quite simply put that resource earlier on than the smaller teams. So it's about finding that balance of when is the right time for full regulations to be released.

"I think the cars will be a lot simpler," he added. "Inevitably teams will get it right and teams will get it wrong. But hopefully the concept of what they are looking at should put more inference on the driver to be a bigger variable than he or she currently can be.

"That's what Formula One desperately needs," he insisted. "It needs the drivers very much to be the stars, to be modern day chariot racers and that we have wheel-to-wheel, exciting, and to a degree, unpredictable racing, because serial winning like we have at the moment, the teams in many respects are getting too good at predicting the outcome of a weekend with the updates they introduce.

"Hats off to Mercedes, they've done a better job than anybody to be in the position they are, but hopefully the technical regulations will be the biggest driver to shuffle that around and change that, and hopefully introduce more variance."

"If we can have those regulations released slightly later then clearly for a team like ours, then we're not going to be battling as a team like Christian's or Toto and Ferrari, who can all put so much resource across three programmes," said Williams. "For a team like ours, it's much harder to do that but it's just more about having clarity on when those regulations come out for us and to make sure that those regulations are defined as when they come out rather than people tinkering with them in the TWG or whatever and then there's a second draft to them.

"We just need them as soon as possible but not too soon so that people can't put an arms race against them," she concluded.

"The additional add I would have is it's going to come along with the budget cap so not only would the rules be very different, there also won't hopefully be unlimited budgets to be able to put against developing the new car," said Zak Brown.

"As far as timing, coming out, I think the later the better but they have such great resources, the teams at the front, that they will just have the ability to push out more boats in more directions over a shorter period of time so I think the technical rules, tied to the budget cap is what's going to maybe drive some change in the sport."

"The only thing I would say is that we basically need to do the opposite of what's been done this year," said Abiteboul. "I don't think the intent of this year was really to change the pecking order; it could have been a secondary benefit, but this year it was a superficial change, late and we need a drastic change early if we want to change things, in my opinion."

"The technical regulations definitely focused on allowing cars to follow more closely, I think that's quite clear," said Andrew Green, "but I think, with every season there'll always be teams that do a better job than the others so there's always going to be a quicker team and a slower team and the problem is, you line those teams up and that's the order on Sunday afternoon and I think you're going to get the same result so I think that somewhere along the line, there needs to be a look at the sporting aspect as well as just the technical side, otherwise we're just going to end up with cars that can follow each other but they're going to follow each other in a procession."

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Published: 28/05/2019
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