The drivers had a mixed response towards the 2021 changes to the F1 regulations – whether technical, sporting and or financial.
The long-awaited 2021 regulations has some of the most drastic changes in the history of F1, with an entirely new car, new restrictions in regards to upgrades, a condensed weekend format, and a cost-cap all being part of the revised rulebook.
As with any change of this scale, the new regulations have been the talk of the F1 paddock, as drivers and teams owners alike react to and critique the modifications made. The response from the drivers end has been mixed certainly.
Here’s what the F1 drivers collectively spoke on the 2021 matter:
Max Verstappen: “I haven’t really looked through all the things. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how it looks like or whatever, as long as it gives us better racing and we can follow better. Of course we want to be within two seconds, three seconds of what we are doing now, definitely.
“Because if it’s going to be about four or five [seconds off the pace] it’s not what we want, because then it feels a bit too slow. But I think this is just the start of it and I’m sure that teams will come up with a little bit of a different look as well.
“To be honest I didn’t really enjoy driving the cars as much back in 2016 as I do now, but of course you have to find a middle way in terms of what you want with following and stuff like that. Anyway, throughout the season the cars will improve.”
Sebastian Vettel: “I think the target that was set out was to make a step forward. Now, obviously we have an idea. I think everyone was sort of waiting for the day to come, and now we have to try and understand what that idea means. Obviously on paper the ideas are always great, I think it will materialise a little bit more in the coming weeks.
“At the end of the day no matter how the cars look if the racing is better and for us it’s more fun, then that’s a win. I would have liked a different engine – one that makes more sense and is more relevant to the road. If it happened to a V12, which I doubt it would be, even better.
“The engine is quite clear, the same as what we have, and for the cars, no matter how they look,if they are fun to drive, and allow us to follow closer, that will be a success. Obviously time will tell. A picture is one thing. This is more for the next week, it will be interesting to see the first idea of the teams of how to interpret the rules. But we’re not that far yet.
“We’ll find out how much slower they are, how much score there is in the regs, how much freedom the teams will have and so on. So, not entirely fair now to judge it as good or bad, I think we need to wait a little bit, but certainly the going up trend in weight is the wrong direction, I think that’s our collective opinion as drivers, because the cars are already very heavy and obviously with the measures for 2021 they will get even heavier.”
Lewis Hamilton: “There’s no need to just continue to go on about it because it is what it is now. But it will be interesting to see that the cars are getting heavier and heavier. I just hope they don’t keep going, adding, which looks like they will continue to keep going – adding weight because it just slows the cars down, it makes the tyres harder and the tyres are a huge element in terms of racing.
“We are struggling to follow and then the tyres always overheat because the car’s too heavy and they are pushing more in that direction. I think it just puts more pressure on Pirelli to do…it makes their job even harder in 2021. I think what’s really important is the target letter, they have never had a good target letter in terms of what to deliver for the tyre scenario.
“So the GPDA is working closely with the FIA to try and make sure that the target letter is written well. I don’t know who wrote it before but it was terrible…well, it wasn’t great. So hopefully this time we’ll have a better target letter and hopefully they’ll be able to develop a tyre which is more in the direction of what people need to help us race better.
“Nothing is set in stone [for my future] but I definitely am enjoying what I’m doing right now and I see no reason in stopping because I love what I do. When there’s a challenge, a whole massive change in the regulations, that’s a huge challenge for me as a driver to use my skills and the things I’ve learned over the years to help steer the team in the right direction to develop the fastest car and still develop consistencies and punch out performances.
“That’s probably the thing I’m most proud of, the consistency. It’s ultimately tallying up the team points through the year. I don’t particularly see myself going anywhere else. I love being at Mercedes. I love being part of the brand and the history. The idea of staying with Mercedes, I’ve been with them since I was 13 years old, even beyond F1, probably heavily involved within Daimler and beyond, is quite attractive. So we’ll see how that goes.”
Charles Leclerc: “The look of the cars looks good, then we’ll all have to see how much each team develops their cars. I think it might change a little bit the look of the cars, probably a bit more aggressive which is always nice. And then as a driver you always want to go as quick as possible.
“So, I hope we will gain a little bit of performance without losing obviously the raceability of the cars, which I think is probably the main problem at the moment, to not be able to follow close, it’s quite frustrating whenever you are in a race that you arrive, you know you are quicker, but then as soon as you get below, I mean behind a car less than one second you start to struggle to follow, overheat the tyres and things like this.”
George Russell: “From my side it doesn’t really matter how it looks or the speed of it as long as we have great racing. I think that’s what we all want. Obviously the weight is heavier which I think is not ideal for any of us.
“I mean, even driving like a F3 car it was really fun to drive but it was much lighter than what these F1 cars are. But as long as it improves the racing and brings the field together that’s all I care about.”
Lando Norris: “As long as the racing’s better and we all have a chance to fight for wins in different races and as teams we can all fight for being a strong constructor, I think that’s the key thing. That’s about it. I think it’s alright. I mean, I’ve seen the renders our designers are designing and it looks pretty cool.
“I don’t really mind too much, that’s not what I’m fussed about. I’m just fussed about the racing and having fun and being able to follow cars closely and just enjoy racing more than what we do now. To be honest, the 2021 regulations are not going to mean we are going to be winning races or we’re going to be on the podium all the time.
“It’s a much better chance for us to achieve those things and as drivers to achieve those things and experience a podium at one time. It’s going to just even up the field I hope, make racing better, make it more enjoyable to watch, more enjoyable to race for us drivers because that is something we miss.
“A lot of the drivers who are in F1 have done very well in the junior categories since karting, F4, F3, F2, whatever, so we’ve always loved it and it’s part of the feeling we enjoy so much as a team is getting on the podium and knowing we’ve been able to beat sometimes the rest of the field and we’ve done a better job because of it.”
Lance Stroll: “We need to be able to follow closer to one another and to improve the wheel-to-wheel racing, the show for the fans, and I think for us drivers, too, it will be very exciting if we can see closer racing. Hopefully it levels the playing field as well.
“If we can see the gaps reduced to the top teams and there are more opportunities for the midfield teams to score podiums and to fight for positions further up the grid, that would be exciting. I’ve loved the midfield competition this year. I think it’s been tighter than it’s ever been. You look at the gaps on Saturdays and then on the Sunday how close the racing is, it’s great for the drivers, for the fans.
“Unfortunately we are so getting lapped by Mercedes and Ferraris, even Red Bulls, so hopefully that can change in ’21. It’s great to fight for the best of the rest but when you’re seventh and there’s no reward for that. We’re always trying to score World Championship points but the podium is realistically out of reach and victories are out of the question in today’s sport.
“I really do hope that we can see some changes in ’21, closer racing as well. That is the priority, I think, with the regulation changes this year, capable of following cars nose to tail but then on top of that, if we can see the gaps reduced to the top teams the opportunity to fight for podiums and wins potentially – that would be awesome.”
Pierre Gasly: “I do enjoy these tight battles because at the end of the day I love racing and that’s what you get when you’re right there, like six to eight cars within three or four tenths. It brings a lot of excitement to the track on my side actually. I do like it; for sure, knowing that the best you can achieve is seventh is always a bit disappointing sometimes when you need to be satisfied with this kind of result because of course as a racer you want to fight for the top position.
“When you finish seventh, that’s kind of the first place you can target; you don’t get any trophy, you don’t get any champagne, it doesn’t really taste the same. Hopefully this can be improved for 2021. I don’t have the answer at the moment. Of course I think we have all the common targets with F1 and that’s what all the driver wants so yeah, hopefully it’s going to be achieved by 2021.”
Carlos Sainz: “I think it looks decent. It’s very early. I think the teams will develop those cars and make them look probably even cooler. And it looks like, for me, the right direction to go for F1 with tighter regulations, tighter budget cap. I think it’s where we need to go as a sport. You need to keep evolving.
“I don’t like that words of changing too much the sport. I think we need to change it, I think we need to evolve as a sport and I think 2021 is heading in the right direction. I think it’s a lot of money, 175 million USD. If anything I would have reduced it even more. It still sounds like a lot of money spent just to have cars trying to compete and running in circles.
“But it’s still F1. It’s still the pinnacle of motorsports, so I understand there needs to be a good amount of money involved. But if you would have asked me, I would have limited it probably even more because there’s teams that are not going to get to 175.”
Kimi Raikkonen: “Let’s hope those are real figures and how it will work. I know they’ve put a lot of effort in but it’s the same thing: until we see the cars running and we actually start following other people, then we’ll see if it’s better.
“I’m sure it is going to be better but if it’s enough to make for closer racing, we don’t know. Let’s hope it works, because it’s better for everybody, for us drivers, for the people that work here and for the spectators.”
Valtteri Bottas: It looks good and it seems like most of the things are agreed. Obviously, we will see it reality how is it in 2021 but on paper it looks good.”
The full F1 2021 regulations can be downloaded from the FIA site, here.
Here’s the details from the F1 2021 press conference
The article was co-written and edited by Darshan Chokhani