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Motor racing - Drivers slow to warm to new car and regulations

SPORTS By Reuters | November 1st 2019 | 3 min read
Formula One F1 - Pre Season Testing - Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain - February 19, 2019 Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in action during testing. [REUTERS/Albert Gea/File Photo]

Formula One revealed the car of the future and new regulations amid great fanfare on Thursday but reaction from the drivers has been much more muted.

With a mock up of the new-look car, which will be on the track in 2021, unveiled at the Circuit of the Americas, Ferrari's four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel suggested it will take something more than some "fancy pictures online" to win him over.

"On paper the ideas are always great but I think it will materialize a little bit more in the coming weeks," the German told reporters ahead of Sunday's U.S. Grand Prix.

"I would have liked a different engine. No matter how they look, if they are fun to drive and allow us to follow closer than that will be a success.

"But time will tell. A picture is one thing."

The dramatic overhaul of the sport is aimed at producing closer and cheaper competition.

The new technical, sporting and financial rules include a budget cap of $175 million for each team, about half what some of the top outfits such as Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull spend at present but still much more than some others can muster.

Driver salaries, marketing costs, non-Formula One activities and the wages of a team's three highest paid executives will not be included in the cap.

The revamp follows two years of discussions between teams, governing body and U.S.-based commercial rights holders Liberty Media and other stakeholders.

They were earlier approved unanimously by the governing FIA's World Motor Sport Council, with talks continuing over governance and profit sharing.

While the biggest changes come in a restructuring of the financial regulations, it was the car that will attract the most attention. It will be some 25kg heavier, with simpler front wings, no bargeboards and bigger wheels.

Formula One's managing director for motorsport Ross Brawn acknowledged the new cars would be slower than the 2019 ones, but still quick and closer to the levels of performance seen in 2016 as well as easier to follow and overtake.

"For us it is still early days," cautioned Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who will be driving in his 100th Grand Prix on Sunday.

"At the end of the day it doesn't really matter what the car looks like as long as it gives us better racing.

"Of course we want to be within two seconds, three seconds of what we are doing now definitely if it is going to be four or five that is not what we want because that just feels too slow.

"Let's just find out over time how it is going to work out."

For the teams toiling behind the dominant trio of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, the new regulations represent a chance to finally battle for podium rather than fighting to be the best of rest each race week.

"The 2021 regulations don't mean we are going to be winning races or we're going to be on the podium all the time," said McLaren's Lando Norris."

It is a much better chance for us to achieve those things.

"It is going to even up the field. I hope." 

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