Symonds: How F1 is avoiding the same mistakes made in 2009 with 2021 regs

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Formula 1 chief technical officer Pat Symonds says the sport is avoiding making the same mistakes with the 2021 regs that they made in 2009.

Much like the new cars introduced 11 years ago, next year's design has been created to deal with the issue of dirty air via a much simpler design, though this time also an increase in ground effect to claw back some of the lost downforce.

A notable difference this time, however, is the 2021 regulations are imposing stricter limits on car development after designers were able to undo most of the improvements made with the initial 2009 concept.

“Myself, Rory Byrne, Paddy Lowe and the late Charlie Whiting, we formed the Overtaking Working Group where we looked at producing the regulations from 2009,” quoted Symonds as explaining at the Autosport International show.

“Now, the effort that went into that was a minute fraction of what we’ve done for 2021 because at the same time [back in 2007/08], I was also trying to win races and win championships.

“It’s quite interesting that I think we did leave loopholes in there [the 2009 regs]. The obvious one that many people know about is the double diffuser, but there were a lot more subtleties than in this whole business we talk about now of outwashing, vortices, things like that, they weren’t really on our radar because we knew what we wanted to do.

“The great thing now, and I learned so much from doing it at that time, you do learn from your mistakes," the former Renault and Williams technical chief added.

“We published the regulations on October 31 of last year, and now, although we’re still working on a few other bits of some of the prescribed components, we’re just finishing off the design of those which we have to release by January 31.

“The rest of the time, the whole of the aero group is looking for those loopholes. We have our car to the regulations, and now we’re just trying to add performance to it, in exactly the same way as if we were a racing team.

“Along the way, we find out what’s good and what’s bad for the wake of the car, which is our ultimate aim, to have a benign wake behind the car. 2009 was a good experience for us.”

F1 bosses have previously admitted that they are also reliant on teams reporting any major loopholes they might find in the 2021 regulations, but Symonds believed that is unlikely based on the process they undertook to create them.

“We’ve set a new precedent, it’s never been done before,” he said. “But at the same time, we did engage with the teams.

"So all the way along, we were giving regular updates to the teams through a series of aero working groups and more importantly, what we were doing is issuing the CAD models of our 2021 car at regular intervals.

“We were asking the teams to investigate them, to look at specific things. Each of the 10 teams did an awful lot of work on it. We were engaged all the way along."

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At the same time, Symonds insists F1's own technical department is critical regardless of any co-operation.

“I think it’s absolutely fundamental that we had this independent group because if you work in a team, you’re paid to win races, you’re paid to exploit performance, you’re paid to find those loopholes in the rules and everything," he stated.

“So, it’s really unfair to expect the teams to look above that and look at what’s good for the sport. Whereas we, as we all work for the commercial rights holder, we absolutely are focused on what’s good for the sport.”