What’s worth more than an F1 stables: extra millions in the bank account or extra time in the wind tunnel to work on their F1 car for 2023? It’s a decision they have to make this week, because the final Constructors’ Championship standings decide everything.
The title battle may already be over, but there is still a lot at stake in the final race in Abu Dhabi. Shifts are still possible, especially in the Constructors’ Championship.
Constructors’ Championship? Do Formula One drivers not only wake up with the world title? Maybe so, but the final standings in the Constructors’ Championship will determine how many millions will go into the team’s bank account.
Each team will receive a fixed amount of money from the FIA - estimated at $35 million – but that may increase depending on the Constructors’ Championship.
It used to be a no-brainer: In a money-consuming sport like Formula 1, every million was welcome to make a difference. The higher the team, the better.
But now that there’s a cap on the racing stables’ expenses — in 2023 the budget cap will drop to $135 million — that financial backing is less interesting. Especially since there is another catch in the grass.
Less time in the wind tunnel
The final position in the Constructors’ Championship also determines the amount of time the racing stables take to test in the wind tunnel. An air handicap system was introduced in 2020. The higher a team finishes, the less time there is in the wind tunnel.
The basis is 320 sessions per test period, in total there are 6 test periods per year (ATPs, Aerodynamic Test Periods). As world constructors’ champion in 2023, Red Bull is only allowed to run 70 percent of those sessions, which is 224 sessions per test period. Plus, they’ve got less testing time to hit the budget cap in 2021, with only 202 sessions left.
For comparison: the No. 2 – provisionally Ferrari – is allowed to perform 75 per cent of the sessions and will therefore have 38 more sessions in the wind tunnel in 2023 than Red Bull per test period. And that can sometimes be decisive in a title fight.
For some teams, who have a good amount of money, for example, it might be more interesting to finish seventh in the Constructors’ Championship than sixth.
At Mercedes they will do the same math exercise. With an excellent weekend in Brazil, the German team are within 19 points of Ferrari, but do they want to finish second? With third place, Mercedes had at least 54 more sessions per period of testing than Red Bull in the wind tunnel.
Alpine and McLaren (fourth or fifth?), Alfa Romeo and Aston Martin (sixth or seventh) and Haas and AlphaTauri (eighth or ninth) also face this dilemma.
|Aerospace slip tests|
|initial position makers||Aero tests in 2023|
|1- The Red Bull||70%|
|6. Alfa Romeo||95%|
|7- Aston Martin||100%|
Why is the wind tunnel so important to the F1 team anyway?
The number of test days on the track is limited to the racing stables. However, in a wind tunnel, they can simulate how air currents pass over a car, hence designing which one will give the fastest result.
Previously there was no limit to the number of sessions in the wind tunnel, giving rich teams a huge advantage. With the handicap system, Formula 1 wanted to increase stress and also reduce costs.
However, the Constructors’ Champion need not despair at a lesser start. On June 30, 2023 – after 3 of the 6 test periods – the situation will be reviewed and the wind tunnel sessions will be reallocated.
For example, if World Champion Red Bull is only fourth, then he will again have 85% of sessions for the second half of the year. Mercedes, which started this season with the lowest time, was able to put things in order in the summer.
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