Mercedes Technical Director James Allison says the sliding scale aero testing rule could encourage teams to tamper with their results.
Formula 1 announced that a new sliding scale for aerodynamic development would be introduced in 2021. This means that the lower a team finishes in the constructors’ championship, the more wind tunnel time it will be allowed to use to develop the car the following year.
James Allison believes this could encourage teams to finish lower than they actually would, in order to have a better starting point next year.
“There are things behind it that are a bit awkward,” Said Allison on the F1 Nation podcast.
“This regulation is being introduced next year so it will start in 2021, but consider what that means.
“In 2021, we’re all going to be running cars that are largely frozen, carried over cars from 2020. Our significant axis of work in 2021 is going to be on preparing this new-generation car for 2022.
“The large majority of the aerodynamics that you can afford to invest in in 2021 are going to be on the following season, 2022. So the amount of aerodynamics that you can bring to bear for 2022 is going to be determined by how good you were in 2020.
“So this entirely new blank sheet of paper car, which has got nothing to do whatsoever with the current generation of cars, you’re fortunate in that championship is to some extent influenced by how strong you were in 2020, two seasons previously.
“That’s a really laggy feedback system that is one that is likely to encourage you to game a championship because if you are not really very good in 2020, it suits you to be really [bad] in 2020 as long as you know you can survive into 2021 and beyond you are going to have a really good run in at this new car.
“I guess that’s the nature of the challenge, but it’s maybe not as obvious on first reading of those regulations just how long the shadow is that they cast.”
Another change is that the spending cap was lowered to $145 million in 2021, which is lower than when the sliding scale aero testing was proposed. Allison believes the rule made more sense while the budget cap was higher.
“When it was first proposed, the budget cap was at a level where many of the teams on the grid couldn’t dream of getting to the budget cap, so it was rather academic – the level it was set at.
“So the sliding ATR [aerodynamic testing regulations] was perhaps a mechanism to allow a team that couldn’t afford the budget cap a very cost effective way of getting a degree of competitiveness they couldn’t actually buy directly with their wallet because their wallet was too thin.
“There’s some logic to that, but when the thing is sliding all the way from first place to 10th place you’ve got teams that are absolutely on the same level of financial firepower being advantaged and disadvantaged to one another on the basis of a very laggy feedback system across a regulation change,” concluded the Briton.