Written by Katherine (Kate) Krause, Edited by Meghana Sree
Formula 1 has experienced many changes throughout the years, some more beneficial to the sport than others. However, lately, the FIA and Formula 1 have announced many significant changes that will be made, specifically for the 2024 and 2026 seasons. In this article, we will dive deep into some of the more compelling developments being made to the sport, providing an insightful preview of the exciting future that lies ahead.
Audi: A New Team for 2026
One of the biggest changes Formula 1 will receive is the addition of a new team, Audi. Audi will be replacing Alfa Romeo as the Sauber F1 team, which finished sixth in the 2022 Constructors’ Championship. The Germany based manufacturer is planning to join the sport after F1 makes the switch to 100% sustainable fuel in 2026, and the partnership has been received with very positive feedback.
President and CEO of Formula 1, Stefano Domenicali, commented on the change by saying: “It is great news to hear that Audi will have a partnership with Sauber for their entry into Formula 1 in 2026.” He also talked of the excitement related to the merger because of how it would improve and create a more sustainable path for Formula 1.
Audi, unlike Alfa Romeo, will construct their power units for the car. Alfa Romeo has been using the Ferrari power unit, which is the engine that has accumulated the most Grand Prix wins in Formula 1 and is used by the teams Haas and, evidently, Ferrari. However, Audi manufacturing their power unit can be a risk that, in some opinions, is unnecessary.
In addition, the switch to Audi has already begun, such as with the implementation of Andreas Seidl, former Mclaren team principal, as chief executive of Sauber. Alfa Romeo CEO, Jean-Philippe Imperato, has commented on Sauber dropping Alfa Romeo, insisting that the team will continue to push for results even in the face of opposition.
In addition to the business personalities, drivers have also spoken up about how they feel regarding this development. In particular, the current driver for Alfa Romeo, Valtteri Bottas remarked: “Obviously it’s a really shame to see Alfa Romeo leaving the sport, because I think it’s a great brand. And it should belong in F1,” but also that “knowing the support from Audi will be coming is only a positive.”
Overall, Audi joining Formula 1 seems to be more of a positive transformation for the future. Their entry will most definitely be an exciting aspect regarding the next couple of seasons, and it will be interesting to see how they compare to the more established, senior teams on the grid.
Tyre Warmers: The Scraped Regulation Change for 2024
Since the beginning of the 2023 season, the FIA has already started trying to implement new regulations for 2024. One of these regulations was a ban on tyre warmers. In Formula 1, tyre warmers are used to heat the wheels while the cars are waiting in the garage. This ensures that the driver can get the most performance out of the car as soon as they enter the track because warmer tyres mean more grip. However, recently, the FIA tried to ban tyre warmers, and for a good reason. Tyre warmers use electricity to create heat, which, for four tyres on each car, two cars for each team and with the addition of backup tyres, is an abundant amount of electricity. Formula 1 aims to have net zero carbon emissions by 2030, so cutting back on energy consumption is the first step towards that goal.
However, many drivers expressed their opposition to the proposed ban. Mercedes driver George Russell even commented: “I will be very concerned for all the mechanics in the pitlane during a pitstop, I’d be very concerned for the out-lap in a race in cold conditions. There will be crashes, I have no doubt about it.”
Formula 1 World Champion and current Red Bull driver Max Verstappen also told the media that the ban is “not necessary” and he doesn’t think the use of tyre warmers “actually generates a lot of [excess] energy”, deeming the ban will look nonsensical during out-laps.
Despite these opinions, Pirelli, the company manufacturing tyres for F1, with the help of the FIA, have recently begun testing tyres that do not require tyre warmers. Since the beginning of the tyre warmers ban, new and innovative solutions have appeared that can help reduce energy consumption without altering the sport too much. One of those is the new wet weather tyres, which are being tested on track in 2023. Even so, the FIA have commented that these tyres will probably only be used two or three times a year if they are successful, as they have an impact on the aerodynamics of the car.
In light of the teams’ and drivers’ opinions, the tyre warmer ban was voted down, scrapping the idea and forcing the FIA to look at other areas in Formula 1 where they could reduce energy consumption. Reducing energy use is a good step towards sustainability for Formula 1, but when it impacts the races or can be dangerous for the pit crew and drivers, there is an opportunity to look for excessive energy use elsewhere and leave certain aspects, like the tyre warmers, as they are.
A Crowded Calendar
Because of the pandemic, the number of races per Formula 1 season had decreased significantly, such as a mere 17 races in 2020. However, in 2024, the calendar will look very different, unlike any we’ve seen in the sport. So far, the most races ever in a Formula 1 season are 22 races, and in 2024, 24 races have been scheduled. This will not only break the record by two races but will also mean that the calendar will be much more crowded, leading to fewer in-between breaks and more consecutive races.
Moreover, a calendar with so many races not only increases a driver's chance to score points and climb the standings but also makes the season more exciting, because of the fewer weekends with no races.
Still, there are always positives and negatives to every decision.
In this case, more races means that the drivers, mechanics, engineers, and all team personnel have less downtime to rest and plan, as well as more travelling for the entire paddock. This means more jet lag, and in consequence, more tiredness, which can hinder the performance of the pit crew, strategists, and racers.
Current Ferrari F1 driver Charles Leclerc recently commented on the new calendar, saying: “I feel like at one point, it just gets too much.” He also described the impact it would have on other working members of the teams, and rightfully remarked: “The drivers that are complaining [about the new calendar] probably don't realise that the mechanics, the engineers, the guys on the logistics are here three days before us and leave two days after.” It seems that within the teams themselves, there are more negative views on the new calendar than positive ones, as it would increase working hours significantly.
Overall, the 2024 calendar will be very exciting, with the reintroduction of past circuits such as China, and all the while still balancing the breaks and races to get the most entertainment out of the season.
Formula 1 has a promising and exciting future, with new additions to the rules and teams, but also keeping the essence of the sport the same. 2024 will be a very thrilling year, and we can hope that the changes being made will help improve the sport for the fans, drivers, and teams, rather than hinder it.