In an attempt to address costs Formula 1 teams have agreed to a system of freezing some components both within the 2020 season and heading into 2021, and the full details of how it will work have now emerged in the updated technical regulations for both of those seasons. Within a system of what are now called “homologated components” there is still some scope for development via a token system. In other words, teams can decide which elements they wish to upgrade, but they can only do it with the full knowledge and agreement of the FIA.
To understand what is being “frozen” we need to know why this system is getting into place and this is actually very simple, money. We all know 2020 has been an asterisk when it comes to normality, this has also affected several teams which are the ones with the lower budgets on the grid. There is one team that indirectly has been more affected by COVID-19 which is McLaren and McLaren Automotive. It is important to also note that this “freeze” was put in place to help the new budget restrictions set to take over in 2021.
This new “freeze” is officially called ”homologated components” and was introduced on April of 2020 under the Appendix 22 of the FIA Technical Regulations. This document also reveals that the homologated components are set to be introduced periodically and in 3 phases:
R1-2020: This are the components frozen from the first round of the season (Austrian Grand Prix). The two most notably frozen parts at the start of the season were the chassis and gearbox, this barely change and represent not a big problem for the teams.
Mid-2020: This components “freeze” will take place from the eight round of the F1 Championship or October 15th, whatever comes first. The two most noticeable frozen parts will be some aerodynamic components (which are not specified) and the inboard suspension.
R1-2021: This component “freeze” will take place from Round 1 onwards of the 2021 FIA Formula 1 Championship. Some of the parts that will be frozen are: the gear ratios, driveshafts, outboard front and rear suspension, steering and parts of the cooling system.
It is important to indicate that there is no information on how many tokens will each team have. Teams are allowed to deploy two token to modify components that have already been frozen, for them to deploy their tokens they will have to do it in three phases called D1, D2 and D3.
The FIA is making it clear that there are no second chances if they change minds on their respective development routes because there are no re-founds of this tokens. Teams are allowed to revert to the original spec. It’s is also specified that if the upgraded component is a listed part that can be purchased by a costumer team, the customer team will also have to deploy its tokens.
i.e: Mercedes is set to deploy two tokens to deploy an update to their gearbox, the gearbox has been frozen on R1-2020. This “new” gearbox is bought by Racing Point/Aston Martin, so they will also have to deploy two tokens for the new version.
There is a special clause for customer teams who are currently buying and using 2019 spec components (Haas and Racing Point most notably), where if they want to upgrade to the 2020 spec for 2021 they can do it without spending any tokens. McLaren has a special provision, where they need to spend their two tokens to change from Renault to Mercedes and the same will apply if someone wanted to change to another PU manufacturer to ensure there is no performance gain by set team.
The main reason to allow changes after the freeze is to improve safety, reliability, cost, driver comforts or new driver reasons. However any change must have no performance or weight improvement and will require FIA a approval. It is important to also note that wind tunnel testing for the 2022 cars is banned until February 2021.
The most important here to note is that much of the car remains completely free, including aerodynamic elements. This means that teams like Ferrari which are current suffered from aerodynamic problems are allowed to change and bring new updates to the car for 2020 and 2021 without any problem. The token system only affects already frozen parts and to reduce costs.
There are new rules that progressively limit how often power units can be upgraded, leading to a full freeze of design in 2023. The token system previously discussed does not applies to engines as they are having progressive freezes.
Power unit manufacturers will be allowed to introduce new specifications of engine, turbo and MGU-H once per year in 2021, 2022 and 2023. Mid season updates are not allowed, there engine and parts pool will remain but they can only be changed to new versions of the same homologated specifications.
The MGU-K, energy store and control electronics will be subject to tighter restrictions. Teams may introduce a new design for each of these before the end of 2021, and a further new specification of each for the two-year period covering 2022-23. These will then be frozen.
This also means that teams like Ferrari, Haas and Alfa Romeo that currently suffer from a bad engine can change to a new upgraded engine for 2021 without spending tokens or having any penalty by changing to a new specification.
All of this means that teams are allowed to recover ground lost and still make a closer field for 2021. Ferrari will be able to fix the aerodynamic side of the SF1000 and they will be able to have a new engine. The cars in general will remain basically the same and development will remain to but in a lesser way, mainly because of the Budget Cap that kicks in 2021 and the 2022 regulations.
Aerodynamically most of the car will remain open, so teams are allowed to develop many areas of it. The tokens will be used on already frozen parts and teams are allowed to bring new engines on a yearly basis until 2023.