F1 2022: the new cars will be more efficient


F1 2022: the new cars will be more efficient

Only two days to go until Red Bull unveils their new car – but beware: Helmut Marko has already confirmed that, while Wednesday’s launch will be important for the fans and sponsors alike, it will not reveal any major detail of Max Verstappen’s 2022 challenger.

The new, young champion and his teammate Checo Pérez will drive the RB18 this season, and just like Haas, the team has confirmed that the car will be ready in time for the first session of Pre-Season testing in Barcelona. Red Bull does not want to show their cards to their competitors with so long to go until the first round in Bahrain still, but that does not apply to all of the macro-components on their “launch car”.

F1 2022: 4% average top speed increase 

According to the data we have collected, the 2022 cars will be very efficient; the reduced loads, and thus drag, will result in more aerodynamic efficiency. The first estimations see an increase in top speeds of around 4% on average. 

The new cars will therefore be faster on the straights, on the same level of the previous generation cars in fast corners and more difficult to handle in medium and slow speed sectors instead. Development will focus heavily on gaining back some of the lost downforce in the rear section of the car, especially useful around narrower corners. Teams will work on using the Venturi tunnels to “seal” the floor, as the greater the deceleration under the floor, the greater the “vacuum” effect and its ability to generate downforce will be, even at lower speeds. The budget cap and the stricter technical limitations imposed by the new regulations will however be the engineers’ worst enemy this season.

Since the new cars were developed by each team starting from a “clean sheet”, we can expect the engineers to borrow each others’ inspirations and concepts – even, and perhaps especially, in teams using the same engine. The top teams will be watching their customers carefully, as the latter will have less to lose from testing risky solutions – which sometimes can be the winning ones.  

The rear wing will be a challenging – and very interesting – component in the technical war. We have grown accustomed to judging a car’s levels of downforce by simply looking at the rear wing. Increasing (or decreasing) the incidence of this component also helped unveiling which teams might be struggling – and with what – to the point of having to run a less ideal wing configuration.

The aerodynamic flows will tend to shift and then disperse outward more easily. Having removed the endplates from the rear wings, they will produce less drag, and therefore less downforce than the previous generation wings. The main reason why the new regulations decided to get rid of this element is that it created large amounts of “dirty air”, which prevented the cars behind from following more closely, and caused them to lose front downforce due to the turbulent streams of air. 

On this note, teams will also have to work on finding the right balance, adjusting the vertical load at the front to the amount of downforce the floor and the diffuser will be able to generate. It will be fundamental to get this right from the beginning, working then on developing the rear during the season in order to maximize the car’s overall performance.

The minimum tyre pressures are also expected to be lower at the rear, with Pirelli indicating a drop of 3 to 4 psi compared to the 2021 season and a greater delta compared to the front pressures, which will also be reduced by 1-2 psi. On top of good overall performance, it will be important for both Pirelli and the teams to be able to provide decent levels of traction out of corners, in order to avoid sliding and overheating of the tyres.

F1 2022: performance in slow speed sectors will be determining

The teams who will be able to maximize their performance in slow speed sectors might have an initial advantage. In order to achieve this, the cars will have to be able to be as aggressive as possible on the kerbs – without upsetting or damaging the floor.  This is perhaps a less talked about aspect of the upcoming season, but the engineers are certainly not underestimating its importance. 

In addition to the aerodynamic load and the 18” new Pirelli tyres, the suspensions will play a key role in this particular technical challenge; this is an area of great interest in regards to the teams’ choices of suspension configurations.

We can expect some changes in the front layout compared to the previous cars; the teams who had the opportunity to compare more solutions – push or pull rod – could have an interesting advantage in the development race.

As we have gathered, the engineers seem to have prioritized flow over downforce on the front. In order to say if this was a good choice, it will be necessary to first see and compare the cars on track, with particular attention to slow speed sectors.  

As for the geometry of the rear suspensions, the first challenge for the teams were the different measurements of the wheel rims and the diffuser. However it would seem that most have worked on an evolution (not revolution) of the well-known 2021 pull-rod geometry. 

Every cloud has a silver lining, as they say. The new regulations bring us 30 years back in Formula 1 history with some macro-elements of the new cars; a better aerodynamic flow, the balance and efficiency of a “vacuum” floor concept, the need for a wider range of suspension usage. 

If these – for the moment – concepts become the 2022 reality, we will most likely see some drivers emerge from the pack. Those who will be able to extract the full potential of these cars first will have the advantage over the others; experience might not help in the handling of these new cars as much as the ability to adopt a whole new driving style.

Authors: Giuliano Duchessa, Piergiuseppe Donadoni
Illustrations: Rosario Giuliana
Translation: Sara Esposito