Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo, Circuit de Catalunya, 2019

FIA planning standard gearbox for F1 in 2021

2021 F1 season

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The FIA plans to introduce a single-specification gearbox for the 2021 F1 season according to a tender document published by the sport’s governing body.

Potential suppliers have been invited to join a tender process to select an official gearbox provider for the 2021 to 2024 seasons.

According to the tender document, the purpose of introducing a single supplier for gearbox is “to retain current levels of Formula One gear change performance for all cars at a much reduced cost to the competitors while also removing the requirement for teams to design or source their own gearboxes.

“The unit can be carried over between seasons so removing the need for costly continual performance development.”

The specification gearbox should be “close to typical current weights”, the tender adds. Teams will still be permitted to construct their own gearbox casings, in order to mount their individual suspension designs to them.

Potential suppliers must submit their bids by March 3rd and the FIA aims to make a final decision by the end of April this year.

As RaceFans revealed in September last year, F1 has been discussing ways to increase the number of standard parts when it overhauls its rules in 2021 as a cost-cutting measure. Formula One Management’s technical director Pat Symonds said last year parts which are not “performance differentiators” should be standardised.

Six out of the 10 current F1 teams manufacturer their own gearboxes. The rest sources their units from other teams: Alfa Romeo and Haas from Ferrari, Racing Point from Mercedes and Toro Rosso from Red Bull Technology.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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38 comments on “FIA planning standard gearbox for F1 in 2021”

  1. Surely the gearbox is an area where a team “could” develop a competitive advantage or is that no longer “a thing”?

    I guess my other question would be whether standardising the gearbox would also mean standardising the gear ratios themselves or will teams be able to determine their own ratios?

    1. @dbradock Teams already share gearboxes. I think only Williams, outside the engine manufactures, has its own gearbox if I’m not mistaken, all the others share theirs as mentioned above

      The gear ratios are already the same for everybody, the gear ratios used in Monaco are the same as the ones used in Monza. That is not only a rule on the rulebook, but I think with the amount of torque these PU have there is no need to have different gear ratios.

      My question is, will they keep the penalties for the gearboxes? Since they are no longer developed by the teams, doesn’t make sense making them pay for something that isn’t their responsibility.

      1. @johnmilk I know that ratios are the same for each race (and have to be nominated and set at the beginning of the season) but I thought each team had the ability to select different ratios for their cars individually?

        They might all use shared gearboxes bur I had the feeling that the ratios weren’t necessarily the same for each team.

        1. @dbradock this is what the rules say:

          Each team must nominate the eight forward gear ratios at or before the first race of the season. They are then fixed for the year.

          so yes, I think you are right, and in that case your question makes perfect sense. I believe that they should be able to ask for different ratios according to their PU

          1. @johnmilk I wonder if that includes the final drive ratio (differential) or if that can be changed as needed for low/high speed tracks?

          2. @rpiian didn’t found anything about that.

    2. The only thing in the gearbox that can give you a benefit is its weight and stiffness. I think all teams are using carbon case gearboxes except williams who were running cast aluminium which is heavier and less stiff.

      1. You can change the gears inside the gearbox if necessary. Open the gearbox and replace the gears by other ratio’s suitable for that track. That is how the box is created on the first time anyway. I guess they want one standard ratiosetting in any gearbox.

        1. Since 2015 you can only use one set of gear ratios per season. While different boxes might better support slightly different ratios (there are limited number of gear profiles available to make for certain size) this is pretty moot point as mercedes engined cars typically use mercedes gearbox or their own. Nobody is mixmatching gearboxes and engines so there really is not even a need for different gear ratios for different teams. Fia could easily enforce default gear ratios for next season with very little fuss.

  2. I don’t like this. Teams should be able to make such an important part of their car.

    Maybe they can also bring in a standard PU and aero package

    1. I don’t care too much about the gearbox, and would not be excited if a team wins due to a superior gearbox, @anunaki.
      If they can save a few million in multiple team developments to come up with the same answer then this is great.

      F1 should be about differentiating car design, aero, PU, and drivers.

      1. Good point! I think it’s a good initiative from the FIA.

    2. @anunaki, in some ways, this is a microcosm of the conflict that exists in the fan base between those who want increased standardisation to reduce the role of the teams and to negate the skill of the designers, and those who believe that the sport should remain a contest that is a combination of the skill of both the drivers and the designers.

  3. that’s a start, now make a standard chassis and a budget cap… let the aero work continue, but make the chassis standard to bring the field closer. its working in so many other racing series, why not f1? the best engineers and drivers will come to the fore. look how many manufacturers are interested in Formula E. look how close the racing is in IndyCar. Formula One lacks won ingredient, and that is racing, because the field is too spread in performance.

    1. Look how few spectators are interested in Formula E. I’m one of them, but the cars all being the same makes it much less interesting to watch than F1, even though the races are spectacular.

  4. I don’t see this change as an absolute necessity.

    1. It is likely not, but is an easy move for Liberty to make that will trim costs for the teams while not changing anything in terms of the product on the track. This is them dealing with the low hanging fruit and picking on something that is easy to instigate, with the positive to F1 overall well outweighing any negative, of which there is really none.

  5. Great plan – and reduce the penalty for failed boxes.

    I’ve been following F1 only since 2009, and in that time I’ve never really thought much about the gearbox other than the number of failures.

    Many other series have standardised gearboxes (among other things), so its far from unusual. I doubt most fans would even notice.

    In addition to this, the gearbox is no longer road relevant with the gradual shift to electric. Standardise it and free up budget-capped funds for the areas fans can see the difference.

    1. Potential suppliers must submit their bids by March 3rd and the FIA aims to make a final decision by the end of April this year.

      I don’t think this possible. More like another Liberty lip services. Saying the right thing, doing almost the same.

  6. Teams will still be permitted to construct their own gearbox casings, in order to mount their individual suspension designs to them.

    This bit makes it more of a non-issue, and if it saves money / directs money to other areas of development then good.

    And I guess it’s a sign that we are reaching the limits of what can be done with traditional gearboxes. And with variable (CVT) explicitly banned from the sport, there’s no reason to go any alternate route. Tick the box, we are done

  7. One more small step towards one make racing., who knows by 2030 F1 and Indy cars will be interchangeable.

  8. Great news!

    How about standard front and rear wings too and let the teams design the middle bit!

  9. This is bad news for Williams. They pride themselves for building their own gearboxes and alao have refused to go to the Racing Point model of sourcing key tech from Mercedes.

    1. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
      19th February 2019, 16:28

      And look how well it’s working out for them.

  10. Rather than standardize the gearbox I’d rather they mandate a foot operated clutch, single gear change lever and an ‘H’ shifting pattern.

    1. Not.Road.Relevant.

      Come on people, you’re seeing the tree not the forest!!1!

      1. @faulty
        By standardizing the gear box, the FIA are in essence saying it’s been fully developed and there are no gains to be had. Which means road relevance is no longer a consideration. That being the case, if they want to save money why not move away from the expensive electronic gearbox altogether and go back to something simpler and significantly cheaper.

        1. I suppose the sarcasm was lost. :shrug:

    2. While you’re at it, how about mandating no synchronizers, so they have to double-clutch?

      And mechanical linkages– enough of this hydraulic crap!

      You want heritage racing, go watch heritage racing. Keep your luddite paws off my high-tech racing enjoyment.

      1. grat, as you note, if you go back 30 years to when the paddle shift gearboxes were being popularised in the sport, the attitude of the fans was to mock those who were slow to switch from H-pattern gearboxes for being stuck in the past with obsolete technology. Now it seems that the idea of technological advancement has become an anathema to those same fans who used to mock those who tried to hold back the march of progress…

        Even in the 1950s, the sport was already trying to get rid of the H-pattern gearbox (clutchless pre-selector gearboxes were fairly commonplace, for example) – the H pattern gearbox is something of an anachronism when you look at it.

    3. “H”? I think you mean “I-I-I-I-i”
      No quite obviously it has to be sequential with lever as in Saloon car racing, or motorbikes. You dont need a clutch anyway apart from starting and stopping.
      And if you have ever had your clutch cable break (or the silly plastic clip in a Citroen) you know there are ways around starting and stopping too.
      On the other hand if you are advocating compulsory heel and toe then I am all for that, it will sort out some of the less skilled!

  11. do not like this at all, f1 should not be a spec series in anyway and i feel there is already a bit too many spec components with the ecu’s.

    this simply is not f1, its turning into indycar+ as i have said before.

    1. Much ado about nothing. The gears themselves were already quite standard based on the regs. This is just some of the low hanging fruit that is not going to affect performance and that they can ‘pick on’ in order to save money for every team and bring costs down. The teams will still be customizing their own gear casings due to their different suspension needs. This is not an indication of a spec series, and F1 will always have a huge budget compared to series’ like IndyCar. To say this is not F1 is ridiculous. It is indeed the new F1 and an F1 that if it weren’t for BE might have addressed the whole cost thing a lot sooner. We could have easily seen standardized gears for years already, and wouldn’t have noticed.

  12. I just cannot believe that Grand Prix cars have come to this. This is almost like 1960’s Formula Ford. Are we talking about the pinnacle of technological development in single seater racing cars (hopefully without the silly aerodynamics) or are we talking about ‘spec’ cars driven like dodgems for entertainments sake? Its about time F1 made up its mind.

    1. F1 is making up it’s mind that the BE era was unsustainable and so they are making sensible decisions to make it more affordable without affecting performance. The gearing was already quite standardized anyway, so this will not affect the racing in any way, but will free up time and resources and money for the teams, particularly the ones struggling to survive BE’s last 10 years, as they work toward the new chapter with some more reasonable and sensible and sustainable leadership.

      1. A large part of the money problem is due to the reduced tv audience, this has made F1 less attractive to sponsors and those that do participate, do so a very much reduced level. (Apart perhaps from PMI to Ferrari) The income to FOM was not reduced, but BE was overjoyed at calls for a budget cap as it meant both that he had to give less away to the teams and that his (FOM’s) prize money was thus far more important to the teams, giving him a stronger hand.
        Liberty are still trying to change F1 into an American style business format and have been slow to realise that the teams do not respond as the textbook for team sports says. The teams do not have common goals they all want their own advantage as far as possible. Bernie was a master at using these differences, but his “smash and grab all the money up front” model was unsustainable. F1 has to change considerably to survive, but then it will not be F1 any more, it will be some American thing, hidebound in lawyers and accountants. It is already very far from the height of technology and invention that it used to aspire to, with any new idea being banned, it used to be after one season, but now as it is conceived, so we shall never see any great innovation now until the rules are relaxed again. There is huge scope for electrical and electronic development in several areas, if it were allowed, not to mention smart surfaces etc.

    2. Just another frivolous unnecessary imposition of nonsense by the FIA. If on a given day it ain’t Liberty doing all they can to ruin the once-pinnacle of motorsport, it’s the FIA.

  13. Will gear ratios still be fixed? That is one of the stupidest rules in F1.

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