There are just 24 days until the 2022 Formula 1 season begins, and I for one am very excited. It’s a monumental season for the sport, with a new reigning champion, new sporting regulations and sweeping changes to the technical rules. So, in preparation for the new season, we thought now was a good time to roundup everything you need to know about F1 in 2022.
As we count down to the start of free practice one in Bahrain on March 18, we’re going to cover everything that’s changed this year. From the record-breaking 23-race calendar and the driver moves, to the new wheels and tweaked power unit regulations.
But before all that, we’re kicking off with the brand new F1 cars and why they look the way they do.
There has been a lot of hype over the 2022 F1 cars. Since the regulations were first announced in 2019, organizers have promised that the changes will bring closer racing.
In recent years, drivers have complained about a huge drop off in performance whenever they try and follow other cars, and a lot of the changes made to the 2022 cars were done to rectify that.
According to F1, sweeping aerodynamic changes means that cars will lose just 18 percent of their downforce when they closely follow another car. That’s compared to a 46 percent drop when one 2021 car was behind another.
All that has been achieved by an overhaul of the aerodynamic regulations with the sole aim of improving racing.
The major talking point this year is that instead of a car’s downforce being developed by intricate wings, bargeboards and flooring, it now relies on an aerodynamic principle called ground effect. Last seen in F1 in the 1970s, this principle means that the majority of a car’s downforce is developed between its floor and the surface of the track.
On the new racers, structures called venturi tunnels channel air underneath the car. These are specially designed channels that suck underneath the drivers’ seating position and out through the back of the car. They help to develop pockets of low pressure underneath the car, which sucks it closer to the track.
The air is then funneled out the rear of the car via a newly-designed diffuser, which has also been shaped to reduce the turbulent air it produces. Smoother air leads to smoother racing.
But this move to ground effect doesn’t mean the front and rear wings have been abandoned, oh no. But, they have been reworked to reduce the turbulence they produce.
The front wing has been simplified, with teams now only permitted a maximum of four elements in their design – that’s down on the five that was permitted on last year’s Formula 1 cars.
These simplified wings are also much more swept back, which could reduce the downforce engineers are able to extract from them. While partially to close up the field, this design will also help direct the air around the front wheels, reducing the turbulence they produce while spinning.
Further back, bargeboards are gone from the side of F1 cars, replaced by floor fences of varying lengths. These can be used by teams to better direct air into the venturi tunnels beneath the car.
Just above these new fences, you’ll see the reworked sidepods. As teams began unveiling their 2022 challengers, these have shown some of the greatest variety between constructors.
The sidepods house the radiators and cooling systems for F1's complex power units. Their shape and dimensions are governed by a set of volumes dictated by F1. But, teams have been free to interpret these regulations as they wish.
That means we’ve got teams like Aston Martin which has opted for squared off intakes and wide, sweeping side pods, while Mercedes has seemingly shrink-wrapped its engine bay with very tight, compact sidepods.
Then there is Ferrari, which has come up with some aerodynamic wizardry with its concave sidepods. The Scuderia is also one of the few teams to add cooling louvres to its car, which will help with thermal management of the engines.
Now, with several different design philosophies on display at testing in Barcelona, not every team can have managed to get this right. So, we’ll keep our eyes on the timing charts and see how the cars evolve over the coming races.
Finally, we’ve reached the back of the 2022 car and that stunning new rear wing. Honestly, I love the shape of the new wings. I’d happily hang one on my wall or transform it into some artsy TV stand. They look so damn cool.
But, it wasn’t all about looks, oh no. Again, the rear wing design was all about cleaning up the wake of a car. The rolled tips and steep angle help deflect the wake of a car higher up.
According to F1, air will flow off the rear wing and be collected by the high-speed air exiting the rear diffuser. This will be directed up and over any pursuing car, meaning that they are free to race through much cleaner air.
In contrast, the outgoing 2021 rear wings were designed to send the flow outwards, leaving all that messed up air waiting to challenge any car that might come next.
So, that’s exactly why the new Formula 1 cars look the way they do. I think they look fantastic, and any fears that every team’s racer would end up appearing the same have surely been quashed.
Which team on the grid do you think might have mastered the new aerodynamic regulations?
Watch out for our second preview of the 2022 F1 season, this time next Wednesday, in which we’ll talk wheel covers and winglets.