2022 F1 Cars: A Closer Look
Advertised as “a revolution” and “a gamechanger,” Will Usherwood-Bliss explores the technical aspects behind Formula 1’s new car model for 2022.
Ever since Liberty Media bought the Formula One Group from the F1 Supremo himself Bernie Ecclestone back in 2016, for a whopping £3.3 billion, they have made strides in improving the sport’s appeal.
Thus far, Chase Carey, Ross Brawn and Stefano Domenicali have introduced a wide range of modifications to the sport in order to attract a new fanbase and keep their old one.
They changed the logo to a new, modern design suitable for branding purposes, brought in a new official F1 theme song (which I listen to daily), introduced a cost cap to stop the bigger teams from running away with the top 6 positions every race, introduced new hospitality such as the exclusive Paddock Club at races, and they freed drivers and teams from restrictions on social media. And, of course, allowed Netflix into the paddock to film ‘Drive to Survive’, a documentary series responsible for bringing on millions of fans to the sport.
The reason for this change, albeit not too dramatic, was down to their philosophy: looking at F1 not as a competitive sport but as an entertainment product. This has paid off in recent years, with surprise winners such as Gasly or Perez, an increase in following on social media with the likes of Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton, as well as some of the highest viewing figures in all of sports, with the Hungarian GP last season hitting 100,000,000+ viewers. Although, why anyone would choose to watch that 70 lap sleeping tablet is beyond me.
However, perhaps the latest move from Liberty Media coming into 2022 is the most striking of them all: a brand-new design for the cars themselves. The idea behind these cars is to bring the racing far closer together, even if they do look like an F1 car and an IndyCar had a surprise child.
These new cars are designed to follow three simple goals: to achieve closer racing, improve safety, and bring even more attention to the sport. And boy was it needed.
As for so many years now, despite recent surprises in performance across the grid, F1 has been dominated by Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull; in fact, Monza last year was the first time since Australia 2013 that one of those teams was not on the podium. So yeah, it was needed.
Regarding closer racing, we have to look at the chassis and aerodynamics, both of which have dramatically changed. The cost cap is already in place, but with these new car’s having so many standardised parts, from steering wheels to the sides of the vehicle, this will allow smaller teams to close the gap.
Looking through the car then, let’s start with the front and rear wings. They are far more simplified, lacking the complex panels and differentiation that we see across the grid, which often caused a lot of ‘dirty air’. To non-F1 folk, dirty air is hot air coming off the back of a driver’s car, making it difficult to follow other cars. These new wings are designed to shove the airflow over the car behind, making it easier to follow other cars up close.
The bodywork of the car is different too. While they somewhat retained the iconic shape, they removed the complex bargeboards at the car’s sides, as mentioned earlier. Again, this closes the gap for the teams, allowing far less exploitation for top teams. The car’s floor has also been redesigned; albeit the vehicles are still 2m wide, they have been shortened by around 200mm, not a huge difference but one that impacts the floor. With these cars, we saw the return of ground effect, with underfloor tunnels that allow the vehicle to stick to the track in a way that doesn’t involve aerodynamics, making it far harder to interrupt the car’s downforce with dirty air. Granted, I wish for the return of the iconic ‘fan car’, but we all know how quickly that ended.
As for the not so noticeable parts of the car, there are plenty of modifications. The tyres, for instance, are brand new to the F1 scene, increasing the longstanding 13-inch rims to 18-inches while also fitting low-profile tyres to reduce overheating due to a larger diameter. The tyres, regulated for the first time, also feature slight wheel covers, again designed to stop top teams from over-exploiting.
In terms of the chassis, it is overall 5% heavier at 790kg to suit the second aim of the cars – safety. F1 say that the front of the vehicle will be able to withstand 50% more impact from the front and are twice as durable at the sides. This development, combined with the already proven halo cockpit, which saved the life of Romain Grosjean last year, means these cars are the safest we have ever seen in Formula One.
So, will these cars truly bring the long-awaited return to consistent wheel to wheel racing? We shall have to see, but it is looking positive!
Formula One says that these cars have been in development since 2017, the most prolonged period ever for new regulations. The research in total was over a petabyte in size, roughly 7,812 times the size of the storage on your average 128GB iPhone. From this, it is clear that F1 are confident that the results will pay off.
Perhaps the only downside is the decrease in speed: the cars expecting to be over 2 seconds slower than the current grid lineup. It will be a while then until we see F1 reach the speeds of the 2020 Mercedes W11, which will likely be the fasted track car in existence for quite a bit.
But with the promise of closer racing, more safety for the drivers, all the while attracting new fans to the sport, are lap times and cosmetics worth giving up? In my opinion, absolutely.