Formula 1 is finally set to see a major overhaul this year, one that could change the sport dramatically. The 2021 changes were postponed, largely as a result of the financial implications of the pandemic. But what are these regulations and what they will mean for the sport?
The biggest and most dramatic change for the 2022 season will be a return to the ground-effect formula of aerodynamics on the car. The existing cars rely on wings, which produce ‘dirty air’, meaning the cars behind lose 50% downforce when close. This means overtaking is particularly difficult and therefore the FIA plan to reduce this downforce loss to 5-10%. The ground-effect design involves air being passed through two Venturi tunnels at the front of the floor.
Air is then squeezed to the closest point to the ground, turning it into a low-pressure area with suction underneath. The floor will therefore be relied on for downforce, rather than a number of bodywork components. Air will be cleaner as it comes off the car, as well as pushed higher. This will bring it out of the path of the drivers behind, meaning much closer racing. This will be exciting not only for the drivers, but also for the fans watching.
In addition, many elements of the car have been made sleeker and simpler, including the front wings and body work. Under the new regulations, front wings will be made up of a maximum of just four elements. The most striking difference can be seen on the endplates, which remain up-turned.
The nose will now be attached to the front wing. rather than being connected by additional carbon fibre. This will make likelihood of front wings breaking and drivers needing to pit much lower, affecting their races less,
The rear wings have also changed, with endplates now wrapping around the back of the car. This also helps cars being able to follow each other without any effect on their aerodynamics. With the barge boards also removed, in place of “wheel bodywork”, the impact of wheel wake reduces. This is because the cars are more reliant on the floor for downforce, making the racing fairer between teams. These wheels are also changing, with larger 18-inch wheel rims, as seen already in F2, being introduced. The removal of the current 13-inch tyres and wheel-wake control technology, should lead to fairer racing throughout the field.
One major element of the car that will not change are the V6 turbo hybrid engines. They will be built from commercially available materials though, meaning none are company exclusive. This freeze will continue until 2025, with the aim of sustainability becoming the major focus at that point. In addition, exhaust systems have been added to the PU components and are limited during a season. Drivers can use a maximum of 6 permitted before incurring a penalty.
These regulations changes mean that cars will be 25kg heavier. They are likely to therefore be slower, but racing should be drastically improved.
This year there will be a cost cap of $175 million per team. This will apply to everything that impacts on-track performance, excluding driver salaries, marketing costs and the top-three personnel at any team. Cars will be also given less wind tunnel running time. They must therefore focus more on Computational Fluid Dynamics simulation, rather than physical testing. Rules have also been put in place to limit in-season aero upgrades. This will reduce the constant developments from the larger teams which are currently impacting how competitive the grid is.
Race weekend structural changes
With a 23 race season coming in 2022, the weekend has been condensed to improve driver and fan experience. Rather than Thursday, the press conferences will take place on a Friday morning before FP1 and FP2. Cars will also be in Parc Ferme conditions from the start of FP3 onwards. This limits the upgrades that teams can add over the course of the weekend. Teams must return their cars to ‘reference specification’, meaning any bodywork being trialled must be removed.
Teams must also run at least two practice sessions during the year using drivers who have competed in two Grand Prix or fewer. This is a very beneficial change for the future of the sport! It gives opportunities to young drivers who are hoping to race in F1 in the future. At the moment reserve drivers, who have often competed in a many races, take part.
What do these changes mean for the sport?
According to Ross Brawn, these new regulations stop the serious issue that we currently see in Formula 1 where “the more you spend, the quicker you go”. This means finances won’t entirely dictate the competitiveness of a car. With so many talented drivers currently on the grid, the future of motorsport looks hugely positive with closer racing, and therefore hopefully more varied results.