Ronán Daly examines the changes being made to the 2022 Formula 1 regulations.
The 2021 Formula 1 season has been one of the most exciting in recent memory as Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen go into the final 2 races of their closely contested championship battle. The Saudi Arabian and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will not only decide whether Hamilton sets the record number of F1 world championship wins at eight, or if Verstappen can win his first ever championship, they are the final races of the current era of F1 cars.
For the 2022 season there will be an almost complete overhaul of the car designs with the goal of improving the ability of racing the cars in close quarters on the track. One of the biggest issues with the current set of F1 cars is the so-called ‘Dirty Air’ when driving closely behind another car, which greatly decreases the downforce of the chasing car, hindering its ability to overtake. Current F1 cars can lose up to nearly 50% of their downforce when 10m behind the car in front, with the new cars this should be reduced to just 18%.
The main changes on the new cars that will help reduce this loss in downforce are a new floor and rear wing design. The new floor should reduce the disruption of the air force behind the car and the rolled tips on the new rear wing design push air upwards, again to reduce the disruption of the air that a following driver would have to contend with. The new Pirelli tyres will also be 18 inches as opposed to the current 13-inch tyres and more work has gone into tyre development to prevent tyres from overheating.
The reason that this season has been so encapsulating is because of the close battle between Hamilton and Verstappen and Red Bull and Mercede
While the current problem with ‘Dirty Air’ and trouble with overtaking is one of the main reasons for these regulation changes there is growing effort in F1 to level the playing field both on and off the track. The reason that this season has been so encapsulating is because of the close battle between Hamilton and Verstappen and Red Bull and Mercedes. Ever since their first title in 2014, Mercedes have won both the constructors and drivers’ championships every year since, with Hamilton winning 6 of those titles only losing out to teammate Nico Rosberg in 2016. Before that Red Bull won four titles in a row between 2010-2013 with Sebastian Vettel, between them the two teams will have won every championship in the last 12 years by the end of this season.
The new car was supposed to be introduced this season but has been pushed back a year due to the pandemic, the car isn’t the only change being implemented in F1 though. Simply changing the car would not likely make any long-term difference as the wealthy teams would be able to vastly outspend the smaller teams so that any gains made by smaller teams like Alfa Romeo or Alpine would be wiped out within a couple of years.
For fans closer racing and closer competition is what is wanted and needed to keep them engaged with the sport
That’s why from the start of this season F1 introduced a budget cap of $145 million, which will drop to $135 million by 2023. This cap only applies to the actual cars themselves so drivers’ salaries aren’t included in this and while some teams may not even spend that much developing their cars it will stop wealthy teams like Ferrari, Mercedes, and Red Bull from grossly outspending those who can’t match them financially. This along with a new sliding scale aero testing rule, whereby teams who finish higher in the championship get less time in the wind tunnel testing the next season’s car, will hopefully help keep the new generation of F1 more competitive.
You can’t deny the brilliance of Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton who have dominated the sport for the last seven years, however the powers that be in F1 are right to make these changes. This year’s close title fight has made this season so special, which is what fans want to see. For fans closer racing and closer competition is what is wanted and needed to keep them engaged with the sport. Hopefully the new cars can solve the current ‘dirty air’ problem and budget caps can stop the wealthier teams from dominating as heavily as they have done over the last decade.