George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14. 28.11.2023. Formula 1 Testing, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, Tuesday. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

Teams exploiting loopholes in the F1 technical regulations are hurting theon-track product, but nothing is set to be done until 2026.New regulations introduced last year have equalised the field and shuffled the order to an extent, achieving in many respects the intent the sport had for the ruleset.

However, as development has progressed, and as is the nature of F1, teams have found and are exploiting loopholes.

That, according to the FIA’s director of single seaters, is part of the reason why it became increasingly difficult to follow the car ahead in 2023.

A primary consideration when formulating the current rules was to minimise the turbulent air created by cars.

And while that has broadly been achieved, those gains have been chipped away at by teams in their ceaseless quest for performance.

“Close following, let’s say the wake, has definitely got a bit worse this year,” acknowledged Nikolas Tombazis.

“We knew it would deteriorate a bit when people developed a bit more.

“There were a few particular areas of the car where some loopholes we didn’t manage to close soon enough,” he added.

“For example, the front wing end plate area was one of them, some of them wheel furniture area, brake ducts and stuff on the inside of the front wheel, these areas made the wake a bit worse.

“And I think we’ve learned a bit how to do it next time around but overall, the wake did get a bit worse compared to 2022 – still a reasonable amount better than 2021, but there has been a bit of a deterioration in terms of closeness.”

Tombazis went on to suggest that the exploitation of the loophole, which has created additional wake, is a contributing factor in the sensitivity of the tyres.

Drivers and teams often complained of thermal degradation of the tyres in 2023, and the narrow window in which the Pirelli rubber operates at its best.

Tombazis explained that the wake off a car is essentially slow moving air, which not only costs the car behind downforce but also means cooling is reduced.

Combined, it makies following closely more difficult as the car has less grip, and a tendency to overheat its tyres.

While aware of the loopholes that are being exploited, Tombazis revealed that there is no intention to close them prior to the next regulation set being introduced in 2026.

However, he also doesn’t expect the wake effect to increase, or for that matter, the ability for cars to closely follow one another to decrease by much beyond current levels.

“I don’t think it’s going to get much worse for next year because I don’t think there’s any other loopholes to scrape though – the front wing area, and so on,” he opined.

“I expect it’s going to stay very similar. I also don’t think it’s got worse during the year, I think it was just this year versus last year.”

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