The Grand Prix Drivers Association will pressure Formula One to make changes to four key pillars of the regulations to improve racing from 2021.
The GPDA is inserting itself into the debate about the sport’s direction in 2021, when F1’s regulations and commercial agreements will be overhauled. The drivers haven’t typically been involved in the regulatory process, but the FIA in particular has welcomed their involvement under the association banner as it seeks a harmonious conclusion to the protracted negotiations.
Speaking at the German Grand Prix, GPDA director Romain Grosjean said the drivers have agreed to focus their contribution on the four areas they feel hinder their ability to create an entertaining race from the cockpit.
“Out of four points from the GPDA, number one is the tyre, number two is the aero, number three is the weight, number four is money between the teams,” he said. “If you solve those four points, I’m sure the racing is going to be fucking good.”
Expanded, those points refer to dramatically reducing or eliminating the degradation rate of Pirelli’s tyres, simplifying the aero configuration to help one car follow another in a duel, reduce the minimum weight to make cars more dynamic to drive and equalise the spend of the teams to ensure none has a substantial advantage over another.
Though all four are important to address, Grosjean emphasised that the tyres were the principal complaint. As supporting evidence he pointed to the British Grand Prix, which became an instant classic because due to a combination of the weather and new tarmac the tyres hadn’t overheated and degraded in the way they do at most other circuits.
“Because we didn’t suffer big overheating in Silverstone, it meant we can actually push and slide a little bit on the tyres and they’re not going away,” he said.
The following two points, relating to aerodynamics and weight, also fed into the problem with tyres, with both making it difficult to keep Pirelli’s rubber in its notoriously narrow operating window.
Weight in particular has become a key concern of drivers in recent years, with the hybrid power unit introduced in 2014 and safety features such as the halo immediately increasing overall weight without offsets elsewhere, and weight is scheduled to increase again in 2021 without an attempt to rein in the car’s already hefty total mass.
“The cars, when I started and drove in 2009, they were 605 kilograms, and now it’s 740 or whatever — 140 kilos [more],” Grosjean said. “You can feel the car, in the low-speed corners, they’re very heavy, and at the start of the race even more … and we just feel it’s too much for a Formula One car.
“[In 2021] the 18-inch tyre which is another 25 kilograms, the standard brake system which is another eight kilograms, so you’re actually adding and adding and adding while the only thing wrong is to bring the weight down.”
One solution floated by FIA president Jean Todt is to reintroduce refuelling, immediately reducing the weight of the cars at the start of a race. Currently a car can carry up to 110 kilograms of fuel — though at most races cars are underfuelled — so allowing or mandating fuel stops would slash the starting weight substantially.
However, the refuelling era has been criticised for its lack of spectacle, with most position changes happening through pit stop strategy rather than on-track overtaking.
Grosjean admitted the idea wasn’t ideal, but he insisted that the weight problem was having such a significant effect on racing that it needed to be considered.
“We want it — not because we think it’s great for racing but because we need to bring the weight of the car down to help Pirelli,” he said. “It’s a temporary fix for the car to be 70 kilograms lighter or 60 kilograms lighter.
“It’s one of the reasons we are overheating the car like crazy. It will help the tyres which is the big weakness.
“It’s the easiest and cheapest way to bring 70 kilos off the car.”