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F1 eyes 2025 rules tweak to combat 50% drop in key aero metric

Formula 1 chiefs are ready to act on aero changes for 2025 to help reverse a dramatic drop in the ability of cars to follow each other, Autosport can reveal.

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

In the wake of complaints from a number of drivers that the current generation of cars is getting as difficult to race as close to each other as the previous rules set, it has emerged that the FIA has already been alerted to the situation.

Its analysis of the performance of the current ground-effect machinery is that the 2023 cars have given away 50% of the gains that were achieved for 2022 in terms of the downforce loss that cars experience when running close behind another.

This backs up comments from Carlos Sainz after last weekend's Italian Grand Prix where he suggested that the cars were getting harder to race again.

"It's starting to become a bit like 2021 or 2020 where it is difficult to follow," said the Spaniard.

With the situation unlikely to improve into next year, being too late for changes to be imposed on teams now, the FIA is evaluating tweaks for 2025.

In an exclusive interview with Autosport's sister site, Motorsport.com's Italian edition, the FIA's single-seater director Nikolas Tombazis has revealed just how significant the drop in aero performance has been.

"If we take the 2021 F1 cars, based on being two lengths from the car in front, they were losing more than 50% of the [aero] load," he explained.

"With the 2022 single-seaters, there was only a 20% reduction in load. But now we are at about 35%. Surely there has been a worsening and, on this point, Carlos is right. We have identified what we should act on."

With teams already having committed a lot of resources towards next year's cars, it is felt unfair for the FIA to try to push through any changes for 2024, especially as this would be fairly futile because competitors would resist such efforts.

Liam Lawson, AlphaTauri AT04

Liam Lawson, AlphaTauri AT04

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Instead, Tombazis says that a proper solution will be worked on in plenty of time for 2025 to help address matters and improve the aero characteristics.

"We are studying solutions for 2025," he explained. "We have identified some parts of the cars to act on, such as the endplate of the front wing, the side of the floor and the fins inside the wheels (around the brake ducts). We could lay down somewhat more restrictive rules in these areas.

"It is clear we no longer have the advantage of 2022 and, therefore, we know that there is work to be done."

The reduction in the ability of cars to follow each other is the result of teams having pushed hard to develop designs that increase outwash, which forces airflow away from the car and tyres.

It is this outwash effect that hampers the ability of cars to follow each other closely, as the air that generates downforce is thrown clear.

One area where teams have been pushing to increase the outwash effect is on the front wing, with Ferrari having led the way in exploiting a rule change to run slot gap separators that divert airflow away from the car.

Tombazis said there were aspects of current car developments that were not helping the racing aspect, but believed this was not something the FIA could interfere with.

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"We have the right to act on flexible bodywork when we see something that does not convince us because the regulation says that parts should be rigidly secured and immobile," he said. "In reality, we know that this is not [strictly] possible, so there is a right to apply common sense.

"The regulations do not allow us to act on things we do not like on the cars. There are several aspects in the interpretation of the aerodynamic regulations that we do not like at the moment, but to change something we would need to go through the procedures to achieve a broad consensus.

"Sometimes we have tried to change things, but we have not always achieved the result we wanted. I believe that 90% of the regulations are in line with what we wanted and there is 10% that, with hindsight, we would have done in a different way."

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