The key storyline building up in the Formula 1 paddock, ahead of the Imola Grand Prix, has been Aston Martin’s demand for revising the 2021 aerodynamic regulations. The Silverstone-based team has requested the rules to be revised or tweaked mid-season and are not ruling out the possibility of a legal challenge to the sport's regulatory body, Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA).
For the 2021 season, the FIA passed a new set of aerodynamic regulations that required the rear-end of the chassis to be shortened. For teams using a low-rake design philosophy such as Aston Martin, Mercedes, Williams and McLaren, the new rules meant a drastic loss of performance.
Speaking to Sky Sports F1 amidst the practice session on Friday, Aston Martin's team principal, Otmar Szafnauer, questioned the motive behind the regulation. He said, “It's hard to know the intent.” Rumors in the paddock have suggested that the FIA's desire to end the dominance of a certain silver car was the driving factor behind the rule change.
While the accusations are vague, the new regulations were in accordance with Pirelli’s 2021 profiled tires. The rules benefit cars with a high-rake design. The regulations do not result in a drop in performance resulting from the loss of rear downforce on cars following this concept.
Aston Martin team principal wants a discussion with the FIA over new rules
Szafnauer suggested the team would like to have talks with the FIA. Aston Martin want to discuss the reasons behind the new regulations:
“I think the right thing to do is have the discussions with the FIA and find out exactly what happened, and why, and then see if there is something that can be done to make it more equitable.”
Clarifying further, Szafnauer said the team would want the rules to be revised for this year itself:
“I think so because next year we have new cars. Next year this doesn't apply”.
While the possibility of a mid-season rule change is bleak, the Aston Martin team principal has been fairly assertive on the matter.
On being asked about the next step if their discussions with FIA are unsuccessful, Szafnauer said:
“I think we get to that point after the discussions. It’s hard to predict. The right thing to do is see what can be done.”
While Mercedes’ low rake car has won the season opener and been able to work around the regulations, Aston Martin’s car has slipped down the midfield order. Regarding Aston Martin's approach, Szafnauer said:
“We as a team have to work hard to try to claw back everything we can but at the same time we should be having the discussions with the FIA to see if anything can be done to make it a bit more equitable.”
Red Bull's team principal Christian Horner reacted to the comments, calling Aston Martin ‘naive’ to think of a midseason revision to the rules. Meanwhile, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff steered clear from stirring the pot, calling it a ‘tricky subject’. As teams focus on Imola, this story will gain more momentum through the weekend and at future races.