While Formula One opted to delay its shake-up of the technical regulations until 2022 as a cost-saving measure in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 will nevertheless see cars have considerably different aero regulations, with the FIA mandating significant cuts to the rear floor and other down-force generating components.
And, although the 2021 cars will largely be a carry-over of teams’ 2020 challengers, Mercedes technology director Mike Elliott has warned that the revised aero regulations are significant enough to change the pecking order at the front of the grid.
“I think if you ask anyone that works in Formula 1 they will tell you the start of the year is sort of a mixture of nervous anticipation, dread of what you might have missed, and hope for what you’re going to find,” Elliott told The Muscle Help Foundation.
“Obviously because of COVID there is more of a carry-over car for this year, but there are still quite significant aero regulation changes, enough certainly that could knock us off our perch. So we have just got to wait and see where we are.”
Continuing, Elliott touched upon why he thinks Mercedes have been so successful in the turbo-hybrid era of Formula One:
“I think any company is made of its people, that’s where its key strength is, and I think we have a very strong team – not just technically, the morale and the culture is really strong.
“There is a want to work together and I think Toto [Wolff] is an interesting character, he definitely is a glass half-full type of person.
“He looks for all the opportunities to improve and develop…and worries. And I think when you look at long-term success, actually long-term success is difficult because gradually the cards get stacked against you and it’s really easy to get concerned and not take risks because you don’t want to lose what you’ve got.
“And the consequence of that is you are competing against a number of other competitors, so they all take risks to beat you.
The chances are that risk doesn’t pay off…eventually one of them will and they will jump ahead of you. So I think trying to get those balances right is really important.
“But you talk about the eighth [Championship], I think as a company it’s been an interesting journey from starting thinking ‘how can we win races, how can we win Championships?’ To them, it feels like suddenly we are in this position where we have won seven and we are now thinking about eight.
“I think the conversation is about how you motivate people to keep stepping up and keep doing that extra bit, and it gets harder and harder.
“The competition is tough and the world we find ourselves in is quite tough to compete in. Regulation changes, budget caps, aero rules which mean the best teams, or the top team from the previous year, gets less aero allowance to spend, and the whole situation this year with COVID as well, it’s tough.
“But I think all through the company we have good people who are willing to put that effort in and work for each other to try and achieve that Championship again. And hopefully we are good enough,” he concluded.