Allison on ‘awkward’ R&D sliding scale

Michelle Foster


Formula 1’s new sliding scale aerodynamic testing regulations, ATR, are “laggy” and “awkward” according to Mercedes tech director James Allison.

As of next season the Formula 1 teams will be given time in their windtunnels based on how they performed the previous season.

The team that wins the championship will have less time than the team that finished second and so it will go with P10 given more time to develop its car than any other team.

But while all the teams voted in favour of the new rule, which F1 hopes will level the playing field, Allison has reservations.

“There are things behind it that are a bit awkward,” he told the F1 Nation podcast.

“This regulation is being introduced next year so it will start in 2021, but consider what that means.

“In 2021, we’re all going to be running cars that are largely frozen, carried over cars from 2020. Our significant axis of work in 2021 is going to be on preparing this new-generation car for 2022.

“The large majority of the aerodynamics that you can afford to invest in in 2021 are going to be on the following season, 2022. So the amount of aerodynamics that you can bring to bear for 2022 is going to be determined by how good you were in 2020.

“So this entirely new blank sheet of paper car, which has got nothing to do whatsoever with the current generation of cars, you’re fortunate in that championship is to some extent influenced by how strong you were in 2020, two seasons previously.

“That’s a really laggy feedback system that is one that is likely to encourage you to game a championship because if you are not really very good in 2020, it suits you to be really [bad] in 2020 as long as you know you can survive into 2021 and beyond you are going to have a really good run in at this new car.

“I guess that’s the nature of the challenge, but it’s maybe not as obvious on first reading of those regulations just how long the shadow is that they cast.”

Allison also revealed that the sliding scale was on the table before Formula 1 decided to lower the 2021 budget cap to $145 million.

“When it was first proposed, the budget cap was at a level where many of the teams on the grid couldn’t dream of getting to the budget cap, so it was rather academic – the level it was set at.

“So the sliding ATR was perhaps a mechanism to allow a team that couldn’t afford the budget cap a very cost effective way of getting a degree of competitiveness they couldn’t actually buy directly with their wallet because their wallet was too thin.

“There’s some logic to that, but when the thing is sliding all the way from first place to 10th place you’ve got teams that are absolutely on the same level of financial firepower being advantaged and disadvantaged to one another on the basis of a very laggy feedback system across a regulation change.”

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