2021 F1 cars unlikely to match 2020 lap times due to key changes

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Despite the limited changes for 2021, Formula 1 teams doubt lap times will match those seen last season.

Due to Covid-19, key components like the chassis, suspension and gearboxes have been frozen to reduce costs.

However, concerns over the extreme loads being generated by the fastest cars in F1 history have led to downforce being cut by around 10 percent, while a new, more robust tyre construction is being introduced.

As a result, lap times are predicted to be up to 1.5s slower than 2020, and that is a delta Mercedes boss Toto Wolff doesn't see being made up through upgrades.

"I don't think so," he said. "The aero was cut back considerably on the floor around the tyres, and it's going to take a while to catch up.

"In that respect, and with the tyres going a notch harder, I don't think we will near the lap times that we have seen this year. At least not in the first half of the year."

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Though the aero changes may seem relatively minor, for the top teams the impact is quite high due to the very sophisticated floor designs they had last year.

And when it comes to who will have the edge between Mercedes and Red Bull, Max Verstappen sees adapting to those changes as key.

“Just with the floor. To recover that downforce will be very critical," he told GPFans.

"If we do that in the best way, we will be very competitive. So we will have to look at that.

“I think we learned a lot about last year's car which we will try to rectify for this year, some bits.

"We can’t do everything with the tokens but it’s going to be an important year to perform. Of course, we’re looking already to 2022 and how that is going to go.”

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The impact of the new Pirelli tyres can't be ignored either as several drivers were openly critical of the new heavier rubber which saw lap times drop by a second allow during their Friday practice tests.

"Not all of it I don't think," Williams head of vehicle performance Dave Robson said on if that time loss can be recovered.

"I'm sure once we understand them, and we look at the data properly and the aero interaction, that we can better deal with them, and I'm sure we can recover some time there.

"I don't think they will be a full second slower, but I don't think we'll get all of it back.

"I think it's genuinely a slower tyre, which is probably not unreasonable if it's stronger and has more endurance."