Formula One underwent the biggest regulation change in a generation for the 2022 season. The aerodynamic designs meant that even a car a full second a lap quicker when catching a slower car found the turbulent air made it difficult to overtake. Further the lack of clean air across the front wing would result in a loss of down force and cause the tyres to slide around and degrade quickly.
The reintroduction of the ‘ground effect’ principal for the 2022 F1 designs meant the lower pressure created under the floor would suck the car onto the circuit thus allowing the regulators to remove around 50% of the downforce previously required on the top of the car.
F1 overtaking improved
At the end of season Abu Dhabi test, Pirelli revealed that overtaking had increased by 30% during the 2022 season. The Italian tyre manufacturer said there was 599 recorded overtakes through the 2021 season – but in 2022, this figure increased to 785 overtakes over the same number of races.
Pirelli F1 chief Mario Isola explained that only “proper overtakes” were counted in the numbers. “Unfortunately it is difficult to have a statistic where if they overtake each other two or three times in a lap, like I don’t know Jeddah or some other races,” said Isola.
“But then on the main straight, they are in the same position, you don’t get this because it’s too difficult. It’s just real overtaking.
“I believe it’s a very good number, 30% more, considering that is informed by the facts, so it’s not exaggerated. It’s quite a good point.”
Newey criticises new regulations
Clearly this has proven a success for the FIA regulators but when the rules were first published Adrian Newey was unimpressed. He denounced the new style car design as a missed opportunity and “a shame.”
“I think if you come up with completely new regulations, we should make sure it’s right. And these rules just aren’t,” Newey observed in 2021.
However, the Red Bull technical guru has had a change of tune, following his team’s first constructors’ title since 2013.
“When I first read the rules two years ago, I was really frustrated,” he said. “They looked extremely restrictive. I have to admit that I had to change my mind,” told AMuS.
“The chassis and the front wing are in a very narrow framework, but then there are areas with a surprising amount of freedom. These include the sidepods and the floor.
“The different sidepod shapes are also easy for fans to distinguish, which is a good thing.”
Mercedes was a real surprise
The designs of the all new 2022 cars differed substantially from team to team which Newey believes points to further design progression in 2023.
“It means none of us is absolutely right and there has to be something better,” he said.
“The Mercedes was a real surprise,” added Newey. “We had overlooked that loophole and they got better and better over the year.”
The steep learning curve for the teams has in Newey’s view made the new regulations more ‘exciting’. The 2021 cars we the result of a long developmental process and the F1 teams had converged around a single design concept.
“The regulations had been in place for ages and although there were always changes, everything worked on the same principle,” Newey observed.
Gaps were smaller than expected
When Formula One has enacted such big design regulation changes in the past, the gaps between the teams has opened up yet due to the budget cap this didn’t happen this time.
Top teams couldn’t just throw hundreds of millions at their car design whilst others took years to follow their lead.
“In the beginning, with us and Ferrari, there were two teams at the same level, and towards the end of the season Mercedes was getting stronger.”
“To be honest, I was expecting bigger gaps.”
Budget cap keeps the teams apart
The budget cap should ensure the teams designs for next year will continue to differ significantly. Newey admits that the cost cap prevented Red Bull from exploring the Mercedes zero side pod concept.
“We didn’t have the time to look at the Mercedes concept in detail,” he said. “Under a budget cap you can no longer afford this luxury.
“With the Mercedes, it will be the case that everyone will only copy the concept when it becomes a lasting success. We will continue to develop our concept because we know it best.
“But I don’t dare to say whether our way is the best. It is quite possible that someone else with a better idea is just around the corner.
“Think of the double diffuser. That loophole was always there. It just wasn’t discovered.”
Toto Wolff recently admitted Mercedes were 8-10 months behind Red Bull on the design front and despite the Brackley team having 27% more aerodynamic testing time than the Milton Keynes based team, it will still be a tall order for the silver arrows to be competing for the championship in 2023.
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