Formula 1 is set to see a major overhaul in 2022, which could dramatically change the sport. These changes were meant to occur in 2021 but were postponed largely due to the pandemic’s financial implications. However, it is now time to discuss and understand what these regulations are and what they will mean for the sport.
The biggest and most dramatic change for the 2022 season will be returning to the ground-effect formula of aerodynamics on the car. The existing reliance on wings is causing the cars to produce ‘dirty air’, which means the cars behind lose 50% downforce when close. This means overtaking is becoming increasingly 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. Therefore, the air is squeezed to the closest point to the ground, turning it into a low-pressure area with suction underneath. This means that the floor is relied on more for downforce, rather than several bodywork components, as we currently see. Air will therefore be cleaner as it comes off the car while also being pushed higher, out of the path of the drivers and cars that are following. Cars being able to follow each other closely will mean much more exciting races for the fans to watch and the drivers to race in.
In addition, many elements of the car have been made sleeker and simpler, including the front wings and bodywork. Under the new regulations, front wings will be much simpler, being 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 be attached to the front wing rather than being connected by additional carbon fibre, making the likelihood of front wings breaking much lower. The rear wings have also changed, with endplates now wrapping around the back of the car, allowing cars to follow each other without any aerodynamic difficulties. With the barge boards also removed, in place of “wheel bodywork”, which minimises the impact of wheel wake, 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, taking the place of the current 13-inch tyres, with wheel-wake control technology, which again should lead to more fair racing throughout the field.
One major element of the car that will not change is the V6 turbo hybrid engines, although they will be built from commercially available materials, 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 that are limited during a season, with a maximum of 6 permitted before a driver incurs a penalty.
Cars will be 25kg heavier due to all of these changes, meaning they will be slower than they currently are, but racing will hopefully be drastically improved.
2022 brings with it a cost cap of $175 million per team, which will apply to everything that impacts on-track performance, excluding driver salaries, marketing costs and the top-three personnel at any team. In addition, cars will be given less wind tunnel running time and must focus more on Computational Fluid Dynamics simulation than physical testing. Rules have also been put into place to limit car upgrades over a weekend, as well as the number of 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 the FIA hoping to have a maximum of 25 races in 2022, the race weekend has been condensed to cater for this and to improve the 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, limiting the upgrades that teams can add over the course of the weekend. Teams must at this point return their cars to ‘reference specification’, meaning any bodywork being trialled must be removed at this stage.
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 as it gives opportunities to young drivers who are hoping to race in Formula 1 in the future, rather than reserve drivers who have competed in a multitude of previous races.
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”, which 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.