This is the first major regulation change in F1 since 2014. The 2022 F1 regulation changes have brought F1 into a new era. The cars look considerably different, and so is their performance. In 2014, the regulation change mainly affected the engines and brought us into the turbo-hybrid era. This year, the regulations have affected the chassis and the aerodynamics of the cars rather than the engines. In this post, I’m going to take you through the changes in different parts of the car in detail. I’ve been waiting to make this post for a long while. I’m glad that the time has finally come that we can see these new cars in action.
The FIA devised these new regulations back in 2019. This was because this regulation change was meant to come into effect in 2021. But the COVID-19 pandemic forced teams to shut down their factories for months. Ahead of a major regulation change, teams would like to start developing the new car in the previous year. That’s why F1 delayed the change to 2022. There were still regulation changes last year. However, those changes were minor compared to the 2022 F1 regulation changes. Now, let’s get into exactly what the changes were and how they affected different parts of the car.
First of all, Pirelli have brought in new wheels to F1. The new wheels now have 18-inch rims and are low-profile tires. Low-profile tires have shorter sidewall lengths. Overall, the new tires are larger. Since as long ago as the 1980s, F1 cars have been racing on tires with 13-inch wheels. Since 2011, Pirelli has been the sole supplier of tires in F1, which means they have to find the balance between making tires durable and grippy, but at the same time, making sure there is variation in the races. If there is no variation or unpredictability, F1 won’t be as exciting. If there is no grip or the tires overheat easily, then it will be a nightmare for the drivers. So this year, Pirelli have tried to find a sweet spot with the tires.
What Pirelli are trying to achieve with these tires are less overheating, a wider working range in terms of tire temperature, and around a 0.5 second delta time between the compounds. In terms of delta time, Pirelli are trying to make the compounds each 0.5 seconds slower than the next fastest tire compound. At high speeds, these tires will deform less. This means that the airflow will be easier to manage and less turbulent.
On top of changes to the tires and the size of the wheels, wheels covers have been brought back in 2022. Wheel covers were last in F1 in 2009. The teams used to have complex wheel covers to improve aerodynamic performance. In 2022, wheel covers are there to clean up the dirty air and inefficiencies that wheels and tires cause. On top of that, winglets are allowed in F1 for the very first time. Winglets curve over the top of the front wheels from the inside. They help reduce the dirty air that the front wheels create since the front wheels create a lot of turbulent wake.
There are some major differences in the front wing this year compared to last year’s wing. This is a very important part of the 2022 F1 Regulation Changes. For this year, the purpose of the front wing isn’t the same, which is why the designs of the front wings are different as well. The front wing is one of the most important parts of an F1 car. It is absolutely crucial because it is the first part of the car that the air makes contact with. The front wing directs the flow of air over the rest of the car.
The way the front wing directs air has an effect on how the rest of the aerodynamic surfaces and devices in the car. In the 2021 cars, the front wing was largely responsible for generating downforce. The front wing would direct air through the car in such ways that areas of the car like the floor and the rear wing would receive clean air and successfully generate downforce. However, it would direct turbulent air away from the car and make the turbulent air go behind the car. That’s why it was very difficult to follow cars and race closely.
Let me explain how this negatively affected racing in F1. Suppose you are a driver and you are in P3 in the race, and you have caught up to the driver ahead. You are trying to follow the driver through the corners so you can overtake them. But the problem is, thanks to the design of the F1 cars, the car ahead is giving off dirty air. Since your front wing is directing dirty air rather than clean air through the aerodynamic devices of your car, your car is a lot slower now because it has lost a lot of downforce. That is the situation that drivers faced all the time in recent years in F1 – staying behind another car and keeping up with them was very difficult, and so the racing was less exciting. In 2022, the new front wing is designed to encourage closer racing.
First of all, it’s simplified and is less sensitive to dirty air. Because front wings in 2022 were so complex they were sensitive to dirty air. In 2022, that is not the car. The endplates are much larger and have a different shape so that the front wing doesn’t direct air in a way that creates a lot of dirty air. And crucially, the front wing elements touch the nose in the 2022 cars. That makes a crucial vortex disappear. A vortex is air that is spinning or rotating.
There was a vortex called the “Y250 vortex” in F1 cars that were created in the gap between the front wing elements and the nose. That vortex would then direct this air towards the bargeboards and away from the floor. That would keep clean air flowing to the floor, but it meant the car behind would receive disrupted air. With the gap gone from the front wing, effectively, so is that vortex! That means it will be easier for a car to follow the car ahead on the track.
The new regulations have also drastically changed the rear wing of the car. The only thing that the rear wings from 2021 and 2022 have in common is that they have a flap that opens for DRS. First of all, in the 2021 rear wing, you can see there are many complicated elements and parts. The rear wing is another crucial part of an F1 car for creating downforce. That’s why teams had such complex designs and delicate parts on the rear wing because it would help generate more downforce. However, in 2022, that’s not what the rear wing is like at all. The rear wing is one continuous line. The rear wing is only 2 elements that curve to join the endplates. Unlike the 2021 rear wing, the elements do not meet the endplates at a sharp angle.
The new shape directs the dirty air above and to the sides of the area behind the car. This leaves clean air for the car behind. It’s much better for closer racing because, in the 2021 rear wings, the dirty air came off the rear wing and the diffuser and went directly into the car behind. That will not be the case this year. The new shape also reduces the amount of air spinning off the corners of the wing. That air would spin off the wing as a vortex. Since there is less air spinning off as a vortex, and there are fewer elements on the rear wing, the rear wing generates less downforce than it did last year.
However, there is a rear wing part that was banned in 2014 that is making a return to F1. The beam wing. The beam wing is the part of the rear wing that is being pointed to in the picture on the side. It is made of two elements, with a gap in between them. It essentially serves as an exit ramp for the air flowing under the floor of the car, and it speeds up the exit air, which speeds up the air flowing under the car. That increases how much downforce the underfloor generates. So the beam wing compensates for the downforce that the rear wing has lost.
You can clearly see the differences between the 2021 and the 2022 car because on the 2022 car, there is no bargeboard there at all. The bargeboard was an area of the car that was full of delicate and complex aerodynamic elements. The new rules mean that the teams can’t use bargeboards, which has cleaned up the side of the car. In place of the bargeboards are now entrances for the air to go in the tunnels under the floor. These tunnels are tunnels of air that will generate downforce (I will get into that in detail later).
The bargeboards would push the air outwards, which would allow the air to go through the underfloor and the diffuser in a way that would generate downforce for the car. All of that bodywork has now been removed. Another change to the bodywork of the car is that there are cooling exit louvres on the car. They’re back in F1 for the first time since 2008.
The floor is one of, if not the most crucial part of the 2022 F1 car. That’s why this regulation change is the most significant of the 2022 F1 regulation changes. As you can see, the floor has a different shape this year and is curved on the outside edge. At the entry to the floor, instead of bargeboards, there is a 3D floor. The 3D floor is the entrance to the tunnels of vortices under the floor. Instead of the wings, the floor is now largely responsible for generating downforce for the car. This makes the car less sensitive to dirty air. The new 3D floor uses a phenomenon known as ground effect.
Ground effect is when there are fully shaped underfloor tunnels (two in these cars) that have a shape where there are specific areas that are relatively small. These small areas are where air passes through, and to balance the airflow enough at both sides of the small area, the air moves faster. Since the air moves faster, there is lower pressure beneath the car. However, there is high pressure above the floor, which is why there is more downforce. The lower the pressure in the underfloor, the more the downforce. The floor also better disperses air for the car behind, which reduces the dirty air that the car behind has to face.
In the 2022 F1 regulations, there are changes to safety requirements for the 2022 chassis. The chassis now has to be able to absorb 48% more energy in the front impact test. That’s why in 2022, the nose of the car is long and bulkier. The sidepods are also bulkier because the side of the car can handle more energy as well. There’s also a 15% increase in the energy the rear of the car can handle. The cars also have to achieve targets in the static squeeze test. If the teams do not achieve these targets in terms of safety, the car can’t run on the track.
Another major safety development in the chassis is that in the case of an extremely heavy impact, the power unit, including the fuel cell, will separate from the monocoque. The monocoque is the survival cell, it’s the part of the chassis that the driver is in, and it’s designed to hold and protect the driver. In Romain Grosjean’s fiery crash in 2020, the power unit was separated from the monocoque on impact, but the fuel cell was ruptured, which is why it caught fire. Now the entire power unit including the fuel cell would remain intact and would separate from the monocoque completely in the event of an impact as heavy and as unique as Grosjean’s was.
F1 has recently started pushing for more sustainability in the sport. F1 wants to use fully sustainable fuel and be carbon neutral by 2030. And one of the steps towards that is changing the fuel used in current F1 cars. In 2022, all the cars will use a different fuel, a fuel called E10 fuel. Previously the teams could use fuel made up of 5.7% “bio-components”. This year, the bio-components must make up 10% of the fuel. That bio-component is ethanol, which is what the E stands for. The ethanol must be sustainably produced and second generation, meaning it will come from waste crop. The new fuel will reduce CO2 emissions from the F1 cars, which is why the teams have to use it – it is better for the environment.
The way the power unit reacts to the new fuel will be different. The teams are expecting some performance loss with the new fuel, but are trying to claw back the time they would lose. The Power Unit departments of the teams would’ve been really busy trying to fit the engine in the new chassis in a way that would promote effectiveness and safety. Also, from 2022 to the end of 2024, there is a development freeze where the teams won’t be able to develop their engines. They won’t be able to upgrade the engines once the season starts, which means they’ll be pushing to make it the best they can during this limited time.
The 2022 F1 cars are 5% heavier than the 2021 cars. The minimum weight of the cars has gone from 750 kg to 792 kg. First of all, the new tires are heavier. The 4 wheels combined at 14 more kilograms to the car’s weight than the 2021 tires did. As I mentioned earlier, there are new safety requirements for the car. The new car has to be significantly more protective.
So there you have it! The complete lowdown on the 2022 F1 regulation changes. This is the largest regulation change F1 teams have had to face since 2014. And since there’s a budget cap and wind tunnel restrictions, the field’s going to be closer than ever. I can’t wait for the season to kick of!! Stay safe, stay on the lookout for new posts, and enjoy F1ntastic!