Wurz: Letter from drivers sparked new F1 rules

Michelle Foster
Model of the 2022 Formula 1 car. Silverstone, July 2021.

Our first look at a model of the new Formula 1 car to be in use from 2022. Silverstone, July 2021.

Former F1 driver Alex Wurz, today’s Grand Prix Drivers’ Association chairman, has revealed it was the drivers who put into play Formula 1’s new technical regulations.

They wrote to F1’s owners, Liberty Media, as well as the FIA to explain what everyone already knew, that the design of the cars was the “enemy of overtaking”.

They asked those in charge to have a serious look at the aerodynamics and what could be done to improve the situation.

“We (the GPDA) worked on a document to be presented to the new owners, and it perfectly coincided with Ross [Brawn] and Pat [Symonds] joining Liberty,” he explained to Motorsport.com.

“We knew there was a chance to initiate and support change, so we sent our letter out to Liberty, the teams and FIA, to request a study to change aerodynamic rules.

“We asked them to study abandoning the principal concept of the front wing flow sensitivity, and move toward a more robust aerodynamic platform, which should help drivers to follow each other closely.”

Wurz, who raced for Benetton and Williams and also did a one-off appearance for McLaren during his test driver years with the Woking team, explained that last year’s cars were the “enemy of overtaking” due to the dirty air that came off the cars.

That made it very difficult for the car behind to stick close, with Wurz saying a complete overhaul was needed, not just a quick fix such as DRS.

“The air behind a race car is turbulent,” he said. “This results in the following car simply losing grip and the capacity to drive fast behind another competitor.

“That is why aerodynamics have been an enemy of overtaking and fighting on track for decades.

“Over the years, the sport tried to come up with solutions. But these were only attempted quick fixes, and not new systematically developed concepts.

“The drivers’ letter was not a scientific work, but it was a clear and strong push and request to help F1 to be confident in its own search for helping the sport.

“Therefore, I believe the new rules have been a great example of the four key stakeholder forces (F1, FIA, the teams and GPDA) being aligned and jointly working on medium and long term objectives, which are separated from teams’ own performance driven agendas.

“However, whilst I am certain the new rules are a very good direction, we have to also be realistic in what we can and cannot expect now.”

The new regulations, based around ground effect aerodynamics, mean there should be a cleaner wake coming off the cars allowing for closer racing and potentially more overtakes.

Wurz, though, has warned against expecting an abundance of the latter.

“When the best drivers compete against each other and make very few mistakes, plus with car performance being very equal, overtaking is of course difficult,” he said.

“I hope no one expects to see hundreds of overtakes per race. But, in the long run, we will see a more compact field and better natural racing.

“An overtake will always be an act of skill and bravery, which is why we all love one great natural overtaking much more than ten or more DRS overtakes….


“However, I think that initially the grid will be further apart in their lap times, which is a usual effect of new rules. One team will inevitably find the optimum of a new rule set faster than others.

“But even if we see a more spread out field in 2022, I am certain that the new rule set is key for a better F1 future.

“Once all teams work the rules out, we should get a much more compact field, and also much closer racing. Hence the prospect of the new rules are very exciting – if we remain realistic and patient.”


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