Teams’ developments won’t undermine push for better racing in 2022 – Key

2022 F1 season

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McLaren technical director James Key is confident F1 teams’ development programmes will not undermine the series’ goal of producing closer racing next year.

A radical overhaul of Formula 1’s technical regulations will come into force for the 2022 season. The extensive changes to cars’ aerodynamics are being made in a bid to greatly increase drivers’ abilities to follow rivals closely during races.

While admitting that F1 teams will likely find solutions to improve car performance that could compromise the purpose of the new regulations, Key believes any such impact should be minimal.

“It’s early days because there’s still a lot of research to be done on a ’22 car and how it works but certainly there’s a lot of effort that’s been put into the regulations to keep them true to their objective,” Key said in response to a question from RaceFans.

“When there were potential loopholes or areas of sensitivity which could work against the ability to follow closer than we do now then they were discussed and typically closed down or modified in some way.

“I think where we are now, probably if you released cars mid-2021, then you get something pretty close. Beginning of the year, I think they’ll still be certainly a lot easier to race than current cars, as teams begin to exploit the finer details of them. So that would drift a little bit, I suspect.

“But then ’23 will be a year where some adjustments can be made to try and offset anything which works against the principles of closer racing.”

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Key said it’s “too early to really understand” the full implications of the change but he’s confident teams’ developments won’t undermine F1’s goals. “I think the regs are rigid enough to try and enforce the principles behind the cars pretty well.”

The new 2022 technical package is the result of a multi-year project between Formula 1 and the FIA, including the involvement of FOM’s managing director of motorsport, Ross Brawn and chief technical officer Pat Symonds. Key says the process through which the regulations have evolved has been an effective one.

“I think it’s been a great project that Pat and the guys have done,” says Key. “It’s absolutely the right way to develop new regulations by going to the heart of the matter, particularly these aerodynamically-led regulations, which predominantly these are.

“Obviously we’ve got tyres and other things as well, but predominantly it’s trying to get these aero characteristics into shape so we can improve racing. So it’s a fantastic project to be able to do because you do have all the freedoms. You’re not constrained by the constraints that teams have to work within.

“But the objective is to develop regulations while F1 teams might say is to make whatever you’re facing go as quick as possible. So we will find, you know, routes through this, which maybe haven’t been considered during that period simply because our objectives are different.

“What I think has been positive is the fact there has been a lot of interaction over a long period of time now on how these regulations have been developed and teams have been proactive and inputting into that as well. So I think, yes, there are constraints, but the objectives kind of outweigh what F1 have done versus what a team would do.”

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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  • 20 comments on “Teams’ developments won’t undermine push for better racing in 2022 – Key”

    1. John Ballantyne
      22nd July 2021, 12:45

      Will the driver be able to see his wingtips? (I guess you know why I’m asking)

      1. No they can’t they should make the endtips between the wheels.

    2. James Coulee
      22nd July 2021, 12:51

      I’m afraid the only way to have cars that can race in dirty air is to create incentives for the engineers to develop cars in that direction.

      Currently, the incentive for a top team is to make a car that is as fast as possible at the front and that creates as much turbulence for the next car as possible. Engineers will do what they can to develop in that direction regardless of the rules.

      1. I completely agree. This is where some form of reverse grid at some point in the weekend would be good: If the top teams, with the top engineers, have to overtake to do well, they will make their own cars better at following/overtaking, and lobby for regulations which make other cars easier to follow/overtake. Their own engineers will come up with solutions, with ways to accomplish this goal, and specifically won’t want to work against those aims.

        1. Christ, go watch F2 or something, this isn’t for you. F1 isn’t a place to come up with gamey concepts, it’s the peak of motorsport. Video game-like overtake challenges are for developing drivers in their formative years.

          1. James Coulee
            23rd July 2021, 0:19

            A problem was identified and a solution was presented. If you have an alternative solution (I’m sure there is) we’d love to hear it too.

    3. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      22nd July 2021, 14:22

      Key seems to be arguing with himself that any innovative development that makes a car better is not good.

      1. I think what he’s saying is that any innovative development that negatively affects racing is not good. The main objective of F1 is good and close racing, which is the baseline for the 2022 cars. Engineers will want to make the cars go faster and increase performance. I don’t think the powers that be mind that, as long as it doesn’t spoil the show and we end up having a first one into turn one wins situation. I think this set of rules, with all it’s restrictions and closed loopholes, is going to force engineers, designers, aerodynamicists etc, to be a lot more clever in trying to get speed and performance and still stay within the rules.

    4. wish they got rid of the nasty thong and moved to an aeroscreen

      1. An aeroscreen is a halo with a screen.

        Reply moderated
        1. indeed @mouse_nightshirt, and thus aeroscreen is fundamentally heavier than just the metal frame of the hale itself (and with need for some amount of airflow/airco to avoid overheating driver too) @ccpbioweapon

    5. With the new front wings, it appears like there is a lower chance for punctures when a car’s front wing hits the rear tyre of another car as the sharp edge seems to be above the height of the tyre. Hopefully this will mean drivers don’t end up losing 40 seconds due to a small little touch.

      1. I don’t think it matters if it’s sharp or blunt. A piece of carbon fibre will easily rip through those Pirelli’s. The front wing looks to be a lot larger than the already huge front wings we have. It’s probably a key aspect to keep the performance of the 2022 design. I’d personally like to see much smaller wings like 2008. In general I wish they went the opposite direction in terms of size and weight. Surely smaller cars are easier to overtake with.

    6. I would wager that J. Key knows all too well that the teams will do what-ever they can to make their car faster than the others. This is without regard to any “intent” of the rules or the rule makers.
      This is after all F1, the cutting edge of anything and everything that, technical or otherwise, will make your team and driver come out ahead.

      1. Whilst there’s a massive amount of restrictions for development of the 2022 chassis, I’m certain at least one team will end up with a car that massively outperforms the others as has been the way of F1 for years.

        What concerns me a little is that F1 have already stated that if that happens, they’ll be looking to modify rules immediately to “correct” that situation. I’m really not sure I actually like that idea as it runs counter to my love of innovation that F1 brings.

        Sure, we’ve been through an extended period of dominance by one team, but that’s hardly the fault of Mercedes. The others simply haven’t really stepped up and I’d like to think that next year and beyond, a team that excels is not penalised simply because they did a better job within the constraints they have.

        I’m looking forward to 2022, but not without a slight bit of trepidation about where the series will head if true excellence is penalised.

        1. I get what you are saying @drbradock, @rekibsn; I myself read Key’s comments as saying that the fact that for 2023 the FIA might curb developments that they saw which are working to ‘dirty up’ the air too much will make teams not focus on that sort of developments too much, in favour of paths that bring performance without risk of them having to go another way a year later.

          Of course, when it really brings a lot, surely at least one team would go for it. But, they’d have to start over next year, so the scenario of a multi year advantage from that seems cut off, which seem sort of reasonable and might work to discourage an arms race in such directions (or in a negative light: will we have a yearly arms race of ‘bad devices’ before they go away next year to make place for the next ugly bits?)

          1. 2022 Winter testing headline …..
            “New performance development”.
            “Some teams using woven organic fibrous containment filled with granulated silica.”
            “Scarbs report and full analysis to follow.”

    7. Very exciting. I think next year will be very controversial. If the regulations have indeed done a good job it will be easier for cars to find their representative positions, make the overtakes quickly and move into clear air.

      Technically that’s the opposite of the stated goal of closer racing. More important to that end than aerodynamics are the prescribed parts scheme and budget caps.

      I feel as if there is too much emphasis on the “closer racing” impact of the new aero right now. Next year is all about figuring out what core concepts are the right to pursue. It won’t be until performance converges years later that the benefit of the new aero will really be felt.

    8. IfImnotverymuchmistaken
      23rd July 2021, 11:26

      For now I’m just hoping that the changes really do make the car behind less affected by the dirty air from the car in front.

      If that does happen do be the case, I don’t see how additional development can seriously undermine closer racing.

      And if that actually happens, if we do get closer racing because of the new aero regs, somebody please, PLEASE, get rid of the DRS disadvantage. I don’t mind if it stays on the cars, just let it be available to all drivers at any time.

    9. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      23rd July 2021, 11:52

      It is one thing to catch it is another to overtake!

      Just because the cars maybe able to follow closer and that it might look spectacular how does that really promote overtaking if the cars indeed are all pretty much the same performance wise?

      Swapping places under DRS or maybe not if in a DRS train again may look good but no-one is actually coming out a winner.

      If overtaking only takes place under DRS the canny driver waits for the last lap to be the last to overtake.

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