Formula 1
Formula 1
28 Mar
FP1 in
26 days
R
Emilia Romagna GP
18 Apr
Race in
49 days
09 May
Next event in
67 days
23 May
Race in
84 days
R
Azerbaijan GP
06 Jun
Race in
98 days
13 Jun
Race in
105 days
27 Jun
Race in
119 days
04 Jul
Next event in
123 days
18 Jul
Race in
140 days
R
Hungarian GP
01 Aug
Race in
154 days
29 Aug
Race in
182 days
05 Sep
Race in
189 days
12 Sep
Race in
196 days
26 Sep
Race in
210 days
R
Singapore GP
03 Oct
Next event in
214 days
10 Oct
Race in
224 days
R
United States GP
24 Oct
Race in
238 days
31 Oct
Race in
245 days
R
Australian GP
21 Nov
Race in
266 days
R
Saudi Arabia GP
05 Dec
Race in
280 days
R
Abu Dhabi GP
12 Dec
Race in
287 days

Why F1 teams have thrown their R&D plans "out of the window"

The enforced break from racing and the factory shutdown applied to all Formula 1 teams in the wake of COVID-19 has forced everyone to revise their original development schedules.

shares
comments
Why F1 teams have thrown their R&D plans "out of the window"

Indeed, Racing Point Formula 1 team boss Otmar Szafnauer says that the Silverstone outfit's original R&D plans for the RP20 and its successor are now "out of the window" – and he adds that the pink car will be unchanged from its Melbourne spec when it races in Austria next month.

The shutdown from March to the start of June meant that there was no opportunity for teams to do any development for their 2020 cars, and also they had no new information from track running with which to progress. So the usual step-by-step upgrades have not been coming through the system.

In addition, the goalposts have moved as the chassis and many other key elements of the current cars are frozen, and will be carried over to 2021. 

Thus for the first time teams are not embarking on a completely new car while racing the current car, so the usual schedule of gradually moving the R&D focus to next year's model during the summer no longer applies.

"It's all out of the window," Szafnauer told Motorsport.com of Racing Point's original development plan.

"We certainly haven't had any time to upgrade the car at all between Australia and Austria. In Austria we are going to run the car that we were planning to run in Australia.

"It's really, really difficult to restart now and bring anything to a race before Spa, and even Spa and Monza is going to be difficult.

"So we're looking at an upgrade for the second half of the season, if indeed we do get eight more races, and I hope we do.

"But I thought we had a good car in winter testing, and generally if you're decent in Barcelona you've got a decent aerodynamic package, and you can race well at other places too."

Planning for 2021 is completely different from the regular schedule, and the teams have to work around the freeze system.

"When you have the freedom to do a whole new car, you find a lot more, so our hands are going to be tied," said Szafnauer.

"We're going to be in July when we start racing. Usually by then you're well on your way to producing next year's chassis. So it's going to be completely compressed, which again will have an impact as to what we do this year.

"We can't change much for 2021, but you can continue to develop the car aerodynamically."

Lance Stroll, Racing Point RP20

Lance Stroll, Racing Point RP20

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Teams are allowed to use tokens to modify a frozen item that they don't want to be stuck with – but that process starts soon, and they have to inform the FIA of their intentions next month, three days after round three in Hungary.

"We have to notify the FIA pretty soon on what we're going to use the tokens on," says Szafnauer.

"We'll use those tokens appropriately, and then once we use them we'll probably have to re-optimise the car a little bit around the changes that we're going to make.

"So we'll have to change the model and start running the new configuration in the tunnel. That will all be for 2021, so I can't see big upgrades for us this year.

"You still have to do the work, so we will make some of the changes that the two tokens will afford us, and then even if it's small optimisation work, you have to do it, and that's what we'll focus on pretty soon."

That longer term view in turn compromises work on the 2020 car: "I think it's just the time that is compressed now that won't allow us to do both, to start work on next year's car with a little bit of change that we can do, as well as develop this year's car.

"We only have a finite amount of time in the tunnel, and that's being reduced as well, and now we don't have the latitude to do what we generally would have done for next year.

"But even if you have the latitude, you don't have the time. Here we are in June and we've missed tunnel time all the way from March. Now trying to do a little bit for this year and a bit for next year, you don't really have the tunnel time."

Despite the obvious frustrations that the limitations cause for the aero guys who want to make their car quicker Szafnauer concedes that there's a bigger picture in the difficult circumstances.

"It's the right thing, because if you're in the tunnel a lot, it just drives expenditure. You have to spend money on model parts, and they're usually machined or 3D printed, or made of carbon.

"They're not cheap, and then once you've found some upgrades you then have to make them into real parts and put them on the car, make old real parts obsolete, and make six or seven sets of them because you're doing triple headers all the time.

"If you have accident damage you don't have the two weeks in between the races to replenish your spares, You have to have your spares in the first place. So the whole thing will be a little bit different."

Lance Stroll, Racing Point RP20

Lance Stroll, Racing Point RP20

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Podcast: Are the new F1 game driver ratings accurate?

Previous article

Podcast: Are the new F1 game driver ratings accurate?

Next article

McLaren open to sale of F1 team shares to raise finance

McLaren open to sale of F1 team shares to raise finance
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Author Adam Cooper
How McLaren F1’s new investors have already made an impact Prime

How McLaren F1’s new investors have already made an impact

The deal McLaren concluded with MSP Sports Capital last year which will help the cash-strapped Formula 1 team pay for much-needed infrastructure upgrades, also points toward the future for F1 itself, says GP Racing's Stuart Codling.

Why Verstappen isn't interested in the hype game Prime

Why Verstappen isn't interested in the hype game

In a pre-season where Red Bull has been unusually quiet, Max Verstappen has also been guarded about the team's fortunes in 2021. Even after trying the RB16B for the first time at Silverstone, the Dutchman was careful to manage expectations

Formula 1
Feb 26, 2021
The pros and cons of F1's 2021 rule changes Prime

The pros and cons of F1's 2021 rule changes

In the strategy for grand prix racing's future, 2021 represents a significant step towards the goal of closer racing and a more level playing field. That's the theory behind the latest raft of changes, but will they have the desired effect?

Formula 1
Feb 24, 2021
What Red Bull is trying to hide with its RB16B launch Prime

What Red Bull is trying to hide with its RB16B launch

Red Bull made no secret of the fact its 2021 F1 car is an evolution of its predecessor, but in keeping the same foundations while hiding some tightly-guarded updates with its RB16B, the team aims to avoid suffering the same pitfalls of previous years

Formula 1
Feb 23, 2021
How Albon plans to fight his way out of Red Bull limbo Prime

How Albon plans to fight his way out of Red Bull limbo

Alex Albon has faced the media for the first time since he lost his Red Bull drive at the end of 2020 and dropped out of a Formula 1 race seat altogether. He has a history of bouncing back from setbacks, so here's what he must do to rise again

Formula 1
Feb 23, 2021
Ranked! Carlin's greatest F1 graduates Prime

Ranked! Carlin's greatest F1 graduates

Carlin has helped guide enough drivers to Formula 1 to fill out an entire grid, plus a handful of reserves, to create a remarkable alumni list. With Yuki Tsunoda set to join that group, Motorsport.com has ranked its graduates to grace the grand prix scene...

Formula 1
Feb 22, 2021
Why Alfa's 2021 launch says more about its 2022 plans Prime

Why Alfa's 2021 launch says more about its 2022 plans

Alfa Romeo launched its C41 with a revised front nose, but there's little to suggest it will surge up the leaderboard in 2021. As the team frankly admits, it's putting its eggs in the basket labelled 2022 and hoping to hold the eighth place it earned last year

Formula 1
Feb 22, 2021
Why Gasly’s AlphaTauri haven is a blessing and a curse Prime

Why Gasly’s AlphaTauri haven is a blessing and a curse

Red Bull opted not to re-sign Pierre Gasly even before it decided to drop Alex Albon and so the Frenchman's Formula 1 journey will continue at AlphaTauri. This has positive and negative connotations for one of last season's star performers.

Formula 1
Feb 20, 2021