Formula One has seen the biggest car design regulation change in living memory for 2022. The purpose was to reduce the aerodynamic dependancy of the cars from downforce created at the rear of the car which created huge air vortices making it difficult for the car behind to follow closely.
The shift in concept of how F1 cars gain downforce through design is based upon an aerodynamic philosophy called ‘ground effect.’ This was a philosophy used on F1 cars between 1978-1982.
It was Colin Chapman who accidentally discovered the idea when trying out how to place the radiators on the sidepods to produce the less drag, and in testing, they found extraordinary downforce values.
Ground effect a Red Bull speciality
Ground effect is founded on the so-called “Venturi effect,” which is based on Bernoulli’s principle. When a liquid (air in the case of F1 cars) is constantly passed through a funnel, the speed at which this fluid comes out of the thinner end is greater than that of, the wider end. The pressure is reduced and makes the output speed higher.
The low pressure under the car sucks it down onto the track and this ground effect is aerodynamically much more efficient than the wings on the top surface of the car. It creates more downforce while braking the car less and producing less turbulence. Ground effect causes very little drag, so power is generated at no cost.
Mercedes may feel victimised because the only ground defect specialist who studied the phenomenon during his thesis is Adrian Newey.
Mercedes struggled with new car concept
But Formula One have moved to this aerodynamic concept because wings on an F1 car disturb the air for the car behind causing it top lose 50% of its downforce and making overtaking more difficult.
The 2022 cars are estimated to only reduce the car behinds downforce by 18%, hence the greater amount of overtaking we now see this season.
Mercedes are sticking it out with the car design philosophy for 2023 believing they can improve the performance of the car, rather than starting a design from scratch. Yet there are fundamental problems with the W13 which are likely to be impacted further by more regulations in the pipeline/
For 2022 the FIA reduced the maximum temperature teams could pre-heat their tyres on from 100 degrees Celsius to 70. Next year this will reduce again to 50 degrees and in 2024 pre-heating the tyres will be banned completely.
More pain for Mercedes
This is more bad news for Mercedes as their car philosophy’s have always been based on having good tyre wear but this in effect means it takes them longer to get them up to operating speed.
Again this rule change victimises Mercedes, though there intention is to reduce cost and improve uncertainty around the pit stop phase of the races.
Consistently throwing teams new challenges so they can’t rely on their Gigabytes of historic data, should prevent a team from winning 8 consecutive titles. Which in turn is good for the audience and the finances that flow into F1.
Originally the tyre warmers were to be banned when the 18 inch wheel rims were introduced, but Pirelli cautioned this move asking for a glide path to reduce tyre temperatures incrementally before the ban comes into effect in 2024.
“It was our request to do that step-by-step because it [the tyre warmer ban] is a big change for the construction and the compound,” Pirelli head of F1 Mario Isola tells The Race.
“There is a common idea that we just need to design different compounds and everything is fixed. It’s not like that, because with these cars and their performance, we estimate an increase in pressure from cold to hot that could be more than 12psi. And that makes the footprint completely different.
“You cannot start at a very low pressure because you destroy the tyre in a few corners. You need to start with a pressure that is the minimum acceptable for the tyre then copy with the period in which the pressure is growing then stabilising.
“But that means we would probably have to start at 20psi, or something like that, and then you go up to more than 30psi. So it’s a completely different situation and we have to design a new construction in order to make the footprint a lot more stable with a change in pressure.”
Pirelli force FIA’s hand
The Pirelli Formula 2 tyres, which are also low-profile tyres mounted on 18-inch wheelrims as of 2020, usually rise by 6-7psi from approximately 14psi to 20-21psi.
“If we have to make the same assumption on F1 tyres and F1 cars, it means that we have to raise the minimum pressure, and it means that we have a delta pressure from cold to hot that is much higher,” says Isola. “That changes everything.
“So it’s a matter of designing a new construction and designing new compounds with a much wider working range, because you need grip from 20-30°C up to 120-130°C, because I imagine they are going to stabilise in terms of temperature to a level that is similar to what we have now.
“We have to design tyres with compounds able to work at 20°C and at 120°C, which is the risk. The risk is that if you have to find a compromise, maybe you have to sacrifice the warm-up phase so that is more difficult, or you have to accept that at a certain point you overheat the tyre.
FIA extend FP2
To facilitate this process, the FIA have decided to bow to Pirelli’s demands for more testing. There will be an extra 30 minutes for tyre testing in FP2 at this season’s race in Austin. Then for 2023, all FP2 sessions will be 90 minutes long as Pirelli develop the tyres ready for no pre-heating in 2024.
“We need cars of the current generation. We have to go to different tracks where the tyres are subjected to different loads, and we must drive in different conditions,” explains Isola
“The idea of using the FP2 for testing is actually very good. The teams don’t have to travel to a track or stay longer after a race weekend,” Isola explained.
“But as soon as you have a new good idea, the teams find problems. They complain that they have to use the same cars and the same engines for the rest of the weekend. Mileage quickly becomes an issue.”
The teams are presently negotiating for another power unit allowance over and above the move to 4 for 24 races next season, to manage the extra demands of testing for Pirelli.
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