The new technical regulations for 2022 should deliver better and more spectacular races in Formula 1, but there are fears that the strict rules will lead to very little variation on the grid. However, that fear is not entirely justified.
With very strict regulations, Formula 1 and the FIA want to prevent the teams from developing the aerodynamics of their 2022 cars too far. The regulation makers want to see a decrease in the amount of downforce and thus ensure that the cars can follow each other more easily on the track next year, which should lead to more overtaking actions. Critics, however, argue that the freedom of the designers is being restricted too much. The many dimensions and requirements that must be met, combined with the large amount of standardized parts, leads to fears that the teams’ new cars will become very similar next year. In addition to the lack of variety, it will also lead to the creative minds no longer being able to go about their business undisturbed, possibly not rewarding the best team.
Play space limited, but big enough
The fear of a big uniformity has also come to the ears of Formula 1’s sporting director Ross Brawn. The Brit – who himself was involved in the design of successful F1 cars for years – is not so worried: “We know that with these prescriptive regulations, the creative brains in Formula 1 always manage to come up with different solutions. ,” said Brown. “They are so prescriptive because we have to make sure we achieve the goals we have set, but there is still plenty of room for maneuver.”
Now that Formula 1 teams are fully engaged in developing the new cars for 2022, the pre-expressed concern that the designers would be tied with their hands and would have hardly any freedom also turns out to be not entirely true. It’s true that the new rules will create a lot of similarities between the cars of the different teams, but there’s still plenty of room for difference in looks and performance.
“The new rules are very strict, that’s right,” Alfa Romeo technical director Jan Monchaux said in an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com. “I don’t expect completely different concepts in the pits next year, because the new rules don’t give you enough room for that. Nevertheless, I can see that the broad lines within which the car has to operate are quite different than with the current cars.”
“The teams that are ahead next year will have developed a much better aero platform that will allow them to make up for some of the lost amount of downforce. What we see in the wind tunnel is that some decisions that might not even be visible to outsiders can have a pretty big impact on the aerodynamic shape of the car, so how it behaves in high or low downforce. This will definitely lead to differences next year, should there be any gaps.”
“Maybe some teams are going in the wrong direction and need to go back on their plans, but I’m not sure if you’re really going to see physically the geometry of the car is a night and day difference. It would surprise me in any case, but time will tell.”
Focus on power source housing
One area where the necessary differences will probably be seen next year is how the teams pack their power source in the back of the car. Although it mainly comes down to the technical layout under the skin, it will have an impact on the appearance of the engine cover and the sidepods. The design of Alfa Romeo will have to match the design of the Ferrari power source. There is speculation that Maranello is working on a power unit that is more compact and can be placed lower in the car. Not only does that give the car the benefit of a lower center of gravity, but it also gives Ferrari and its customer teams the opportunity to develop a more aggressive bodywork around it.
“I’m not going to confirm or deny what I’ve heard about the 2022 powerplant, but the engine will be placed behind the chassis on its own,” continues Monchaux. “For us as a team, it’s a constant that doesn’t change very much. What will be interesting is what teams will do with the engine cover and the sidepods. That is definitely going to be an area where we get to see different concepts.”
“I can imagine that what people are figuring out in the wind tunnel will affect the engine, because aerodynamics often take precedence. So if you have to adjust some of the engine’s architecture for better airflow, that’s definitely not going to be left out.”
It is not yet possible to predict how big the differences will be next year, but it is in any case already certain that differences between the 2021 and 2022 designs will be immense for all teams: “You won’t hear me complain, this is something we all love. In a normal nine to five job we would soon get bored, but now we have a lot of work to do. In addition, we at Sauber are also all aware that this presents a huge opportunity to make another leap forward. This team is better and deserves better than eighth or ninth place in the championship. Everyone is starting from scratch again, so we hope we can qualify at a high level. We will see.”
“We work hard, but we do it with pleasure. If we do our homework now and give up now, we could be in a different situation next year. That also provides sufficient motivation for next year.”