McLaren’s technical director James Key believes most teams will regain lost performance due to a rules change ahead of this season and that there is still a lot of potential in the current rules.
Ahead of a major rule change for 2022, the FIA and Formula 1 have introduced several minor changes for 2021 that include reduced floor dimensions in front of the rear wheels, shorter diffuser strakes and limited brake cooling winglets.
The changes were supposed to lead to a loss of about 10% downforce, but as the teams have been working on the new concept for months they have managed to make up for most of the losses that were initially huge.
“The changes had an effect in the sense that they stopped the rapid development of these cars and that’s what we needed for this extra year with these rules,” Key said.
“But there’s still a lot of development potential on the rest of the car.”
“My estimate is that by the start of the season, most will make up for all the losses. Whether it’s the first car specification or some other it’s hard to say, but I don’t think they’ve made up 100% yet.”
“Our first specification was somewhat successful at that and the first racing specification, which is still in the process of being defined, will make up for another part.”
“So I can’t give you the numbers right now in terms of where we’re going to be in the first race. But it’s a few percent difference, not 110% [of last year’s performance], let’s put it this way.”
“It was a real challenge that required new thinking because the geometries imposed by the rules are unique and we haven’t encountered them in the past.”
“These changes take your downforce from the rear end and force you to reduce some downforce at the front to balance the car so it’s a global reduction in downforce.”
The return of lost performance should mean that this year’s cars will be just as fast as last year, but after two years of using the same tyres, Pirelli prepared a more robust and heavier specification that should be about a second per lap slower and which drivers tried out late last year.
The reason is the fact that Pirelli’s tyres from 2019 found it harder and harder to cope with the increasing loads placed on them by the faster cars from 2020, which led to overheating and punctures at the British GP.