Ex-F1 driver David Coulthard says he’s concerned by Formula 1’s decision to introduce a performance-balancing measure for 2021 that could “handicap success”.
In a bid to tighten the performance difference between F1’s top teams and its midfield contenders, the sport will adopt a sliding-scale rule that will limit wind-tunnel time and thus R&D aero development for the most successful teams.
But Coulthard believes the approach could undermine F1’s status as the pinnacle of motorsport.
“The basis, I think, of Formula 1, has always been a defined set of regulations of which everyone then has the opportunity to interpret and to deploy whatever assets they have at their disposal,” said the Scot on an Autosport podcast.
“But I am a little bit concerned about anything that handicaps success because Formula 1, for me, again, the name on the door doesn’t guarantee success.
“If it did, the biggest name in Formula 1 is Ferrari, and [so] they should be winning every few years. They should win a championship on that basis, and they haven’t.
“Now if that’s with a budget cap, fine, I still think that if you look at Formula 2, there are still better teams for whatever reason than other teams, historically.
“They’ve all got the same cars, essentially. And some might have half a million more or half a million less, which is not an insignificant amount of money, but it’s clearly what defines success in other forms of racing – [it] isn’t designing your chassis and your own engine and all of those other things.
“But Formula 1 has always been the pinnacle, and you had to have the intellectual property of the majority of the car.”
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The introduction of standard parts in another approach favored by F1 to level the playing field. Coulthard’s agrees that the specification of certain components should be generalized but a scope for innovation also needs to be preserved.
“The wetted surfaces, you know, the aero surfaces and engines and things – but it be should be open to development in my mind because that’s what aids development,” said the Channel 4 commentator.
“If we make it too IndyCar-like, then IndyCar doesn’t have the same level of global audience because it’s not the space race.
“Everyone got super excited about SpaceX because it’s still magical – developing something that sends humans into the great unknown, it’s not unknown anymore, but into outer space.
“So I think there has to be that little bit of magic, that little bit of ‘my goodness, how do they do that in Formula 1?’
“It can’t just be standard budget, standard cars. I know it’s not, the rules aren’t as extreme as that, but if we get if we become too standard, the brand equity of Formula 1 will carry that for a period of time,” he added.
“But the minute there’s something faster, then Formula 1 will lose its appeal because the public want to see the fastest form of closed-circuit racing.
“Formula 1 has to remain the fastest form of closed-circuit racing and it has to be by some margin.”
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