A lot has happened in Formula 1 this past week and the 2020 season still hasn’t started yet. We’re going to start with the most recent update: the possible demise of the Williams F1 team. After finishing last in the standings for two seasons in a row, the bad news continued for Williams Racing as the company reported a loss of £13 million for 2019 and a £10 million drop in revenue for the F1 team. In the same announcement, Williams revealed they have broken ties with their title sponsor ROKiT as well as ROK Drinks.
“As part of this new strategic direction, the WGPH [Williams Grand Prix Holdings] board is undertaking a review of all the various strategic options available to the Company,” said Williams in a statement. “Options being considered include, but are not limited to, raising new capital for the business, a divestment of a minority stake in WGPH, or a divestment of a majority stake in WGPH including a potential sale of the whole Company. Whilst no decisions have been made regarding the optimal outcome yet, to facilitate discussions with interested parties, the Company announces the commencement of a ‘formal sale process’.”
Williams F1 will still be on the grid for 2020, should there be any races this season whatsoever, but in a different livery of course. The question is, who might buy the team out or if 2021 will only feature nine teams on the grid. It would be a shame to see this iconic name disappear from the sport, having been present since the 1970s under the leadership of the Williams family. The team has 9 F1 world titles to its name and an impressive roster of iconic drivers like Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna among numerous others. Ideally, the brand should be able to raise enough capital without having to let go of the prestigious Williams name.
There were rumours that Renault and Mercedes may announce their exit from F1 as well. However, the Renault conference regarding organisational restructuring to reduce costs confirmed that the French carmaker will stay in the sport even though it will be laying off nearly 15,000 employees. Meanwhile, Mercedes has dismissed rumours surround its F1 future with quite some vigour, calling the speculation “unfounded and irresponsible”.
Earlier this week, the FIA and World Motor Sport Council approved the new reduced cost cap for F1 teams in 2021 which will be lowered from $175 million to $145 million and it will be lowered even more in consequent years. This drastic measure has been introduced in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic which has had a serious effect on everyone’s finances. The updated regulations still feature the same exemptions as stated before.
Another change for the 2021 regulations is the rule regarding sliding scale aero testing in F1. This is another step towards “levelling the playing field” to make the sport more entertaining for viewers, taking away the budgetary advantages of the factory teams. It limits the amount of time teams get for wind tunnel testing which currently stands at 40 runs per week. The sliding scale allocates wind tunnel testing restrictions based on team performance, the top teams get to run fewer tests and bottom teams get to run more tests. For 2021, the top team will be allowed 90% of total aero testing allowed and the 10th place team will get 112.5% of it. From 2022, it will be reduced to 70% of aero testing allowed for the top team and increased to 115% for the lowest-performing team. The scale will be reset on June 30 each year and at the end of each previous season.
That’s not the end of the regulation news updates, there’s more! New rules will work towards reducing the amount of downforce produced by F1 cars going forward. The 18-inch tyres for the new Pirelli rubber have been postponed, so the rule-makers have opted to “clip” some of the floor/ barge board to keep the downforce manageable for these tyres. The key structural points of the car such as the chassis and suspension to stay fixed till 2022 as development in those areas has been frozen until the new F1 car is introduced.
In regards to the 2020 F1 season (did I mention it hasn’t started yet?), the Dutch GP has been officially called off for this year. Luckily, Zandvoort and the Hanoi circuit will still be part of the F1 2020 video game which is due to release on 10th July so us new-age fans can still experience it for ourselves.
F1 News: 2020 Season Could Start With Austrian GP In July, French GP
Stay tuned for more updates around F1 as the circumstances continue to develop. What racing games have you been playing to keep yourself entertained during the quarantine? Let me know in the comments below.