We could really see F1’s biggest rule change

A technical boss says the 2022 Formula 1 rule changes are the biggest in 40 years, another like the biggest he’s ever seen but while everyone agrees the impact is huge , the question of where this sits among F1’s rule revisions is historically in place. debate.

It is true that these new technical regulations have a unique scope. Big chassis changes have taken place in the past, most notably in the 21st century before that, the move to wider, higher downforce cars in 2017 and the move to “skinny” aero rules with fenders wide front and tall, narrow rear fenders in 2009. .

But generally, the flat-bottomed regulations of 1983 are cited as the most important in the professional life of those currently working in F1.

Adrian Newey, whose first F1 job was with the Fittipaldi team in 1980, described this year as “the biggest regulatory change we’ve had since the old ground-effect venturi cars were banned at the end of 1982”.

His counterpart at Mercedes, James Allison went even further.

Allison (pictured below at a 2012 Lotus F1 launch) started working in F1 with Benetton in 1991 and describes that year as the biggest technical upheaval he has been through, adding that ‘I suspect that if I had to dig Wikipedia and go through every season of the sport that there has ever been, there would be nothing to match the magnitude of change that comes with 2022”.

Lotus F1 Team E20 James Allison

Allison doesn’t claim to be an F1 historian, hence the Wikipedia reference, but he’s right. Although further on there were significant rule changes, particularly to the engine formula, the nature of the regulations and the freedoms allowed meant that whilst these could have a significant impact, the change is not as important as the most recent.

You could discuss moves such as the world championship running under F2 regulations in 1952-53 (F1 rules still existed independently), the reduction of engines from 1.3 to 1.5 liters in 1961 or the “return to power” and the 3-litre engines in 1966 sent things in a different direction, but the impact was not so sudden and dramatic.

Car design has become more and more strict over the years and 2022 is another step in that direction.

The simplification of upper body aerodynamics with the elimination of complex bargeboards and highly prescriptive regulations that give very little leeway to the design not only changes the look of F1 cars, but the whole concept. .

Venturi ground-effect tunnels on either side of the floor, which accelerate air to lower the pressure under the car, are returning – having been banned by the aforementioned 1983 flat-bottom rules – meaning that the whole rev of the car’s air circulation is transformed. How it will produce its downforce is fundamentally different, hence the reference to this as a clean sheet of paper design.

Comparison F1 2021 2022

Under the skin there are also huge changes given the changing packaging requirements, as well as the introduction of more standard supply parts as part of the reclassification of components which is explained in depth here.

In these rules, there is even something unique in the history of F1: open-source components. The designs for these must be saved on a server accessible to all teams, which means it is possible to directly copy, or take and modify, a rival team’s design for certain parts. This is a significant philosophical change, even though it only covers 17 party groups.

There’s also a big change to each of the four corners of the car thanks to the switch to 18-inch wheels. While low-profile tires have been popular on road cars for some time, F1 has stuck firmly to 13-inch rims, meaning a switch to very different rubber this year.

Although the power units remain largely the same in technical terms, they are not spared. Two important areas are affected.

Racing Point F1 engine

First is the introduction of E10 – so called because 10% of it is renewable ethanol – which engine makers found last year to cost around 20bhp. It’s unclear how much of this was recovered over the following months, but a slight dip in power is likely. It also required design changes in terms of combustion.

Also important is the engine freeze that will lock in engine specs not just for 2022, but until the end of 25. This has forced all four engine makers to be aggressive in their development stages this year.

The majority of powertrain components will be homologated in early March, between the first and second pre-season tests. The MGU-K, the energy reservoir and the control electronics are not approved until the end of September. But thereafter, modifications can only be made with authorization for reasons of reliability, cost or safety – except special dispensation.

The stakes are therefore high for engine manufacturers because, unless there are changes, they are stuck with what they have not just this year, but for the next three seasons before the planned introduction of F1’s next-generation power unit in 2026. .

But it’s how the wider landscape of F1 has changed that makes it the biggest change in history. It’s important to remember that this rulebook has been designed to address issues in F1 at all levels and that technical changes should not be separated from those that have an off-track impact.

Although the F1 cost cap, set out in the F1 Financial Regulations, was introduced in 2021, it should be considered part of this set of rules. Only the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic caused the rest of the changes to be postponed, and given that last year’s was to adjust to the cost cap – with large teams allowed to achieve this on a self -called “glidepath”. ‘ – this is the first year that the scale of the impact will be visible.

To add to that, the Aerodynamic Testing (ATR) regulations become even stricter this year, controlling wind tunnel time and CFD elements for all teams, but giving more to those lower in the constructors’ championship.

ATR 2022 1st semester

Add that to the Concorde deal finalized in 2020, which created a fairer distribution of F1 revenue shared by the 10 teams, and it’s clear that F1 teams are now operating in a completely different landscape.

All of these factors combine to make this the biggest and most impactful set of changes in F1 history. Not only do the teams design, develop and race very different cars, they do so under profoundly different circumstances.

It remains to be seen whether the regulations, designed to improve racing and make teams more sustainable and fair, work. But no matter how successful, no set of rule changes have had such a big and far-reaching impact as these.

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