The changes which will make next year’s F1 cars “more difficult” to drive

2022 F1 season

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The drastic shake-up of the technical rules coming for the 2022 Formula 1 season are intended to address a problem which has plagued the series for decades. Namely, the difficulty drivers encounter when following other cars closely.

F1’s extensive research into the problem has produced a new philosophy for next year’s technical rules. This was evident in the strikingly different look of the show car presented by the championship at the British Grand Prix earlier this year.

The upper surface bodywork is being simplified in an effort to reduce the turbulent air generated by a leading car, allowing those behind to follow more closely. The rules even require teams to add bodywork which is specifically intended to help address this problem: This is why new strakes extend over the inside of the front wheels.

Changes like this don’t just come at a performance cost. They will make it harder for teams to tune the handling of their cars the way they like, and in turn make them trickier to handle.

2022 F1 car model, Silverstone, 2021
Sophisticated suspension systems will be outlawed
“Even if all the teams are very creative, we will struggle to recover the authority we used to have on some specific aero characteristics as was the case,” Alfa Romeo’s technical director Jan Monchaux told RaceFans.

Much of the aerodynamic performance which is lost from the upper surfaces of the cars will be regained through the enlarged ‘tunnels’ underneath. But other changes will make the 2022 machines more of a handful for the drivers.

Next year’s cars are due to get significantly heavier again, rising from 752 kilograms to 790 (and a further increase is likely). A heavier car is less nimble, slower to change direction. Making matters worse, as much of this increase will arise from to the move from 13-inch to 18-inch wheels, the added weight is therefore unsprung, which will further compromise the vehicle dynamics.

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Larger wheels will mean more weight at each corner
“The tyres and rims getting much heavier,” said Monchaux. “The unsprung weight will also make the ride more complicated.”

The teams’ ability to use their suspension systems to improve the ride will be reduced by other rulebook revisions. In recent years F1 has outlawed some of the ride optimisation devices teams have developed, notably Mercedes’ Front Rear Inter-Connected (FRIC) suspension. Next year these will be even more drastically limited.

“There are some serious changes in terms of damping,” Monchaux explained. “No new hydraulic suspension any more, so all the topics related to ride worsen.”

While the power unit remains unchanged, the extensive alterations to the cars’ mechanical systems and aerodynamics will produce a machine which is “more difficult” to handle, Monchaux suspects.

2022 F1 car model, Silverstone, 2021
Analysis: A technical director’s verdict on F1’s 2022 car model
The new cars for next season are such a departure from the current designs that it’s still not clear exactly what drivers will find when they hit the track next year, or how rapidly teams will be able to improve them. But there is a growing expectation that from the outset the cars of 2022 will be more unforgiving than their well-refined predecessors.

“I would think, all in all, if the cars have some specific characteristics less under control or not in such a large window as you used to have thanks to all the winglets, barge boards, et cetera, and the addition of the unsprung mass et cetera [and other] modifications to the regs, I would assume they might be a trickier to drive,” Monchaux concluded.

“Especially in the very windy conditions or some extreme conditions where having less tools to manage your wheel wake, you might not be able to fully recover the losses we have. But it remains speculative.

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 45 comments on “The changes which will make next year’s F1 cars “more difficult” to drive”

    1. And the weight number has already changed twice because people seemingly can’t make up their minds.
      768 was the original before changing to 775, followed by the present 790.
      Not the first time a minimum weight figure for a given season has changed at least once, though.
      I hope the next generation cars will at least be more followable & faster than every season pre-2017.

      1. Good point as always @jerejj

        I still dont get why there has to be a minimum weight – if a team can make a fast car lighter, then why shouldn’t they?

        1. Cost cutting. You need to spend more money to make a 750kg car than a 790kg one. If you don’t put any minimum weight, some teams will throw millions to save 1kg, as that can give them an edge. And then even more millions for the next one, etc.
          If you’re trying to create a sustainable formula where teams don’t go bankrupt and can compete, seems a no brainer to me.

          1. I only see your comment now (after posting below), @nordic.

            With the cost cap the minimum weight no longer serves a purpose.
            And it did not work in the past either, as the big spending teams still tried to save as much weight as possible to put it back in more favourable parts of the car as ballast.

          2. There is also some safety thinking involved @ahxshades – since efforts to shave off weight by making parts flimsier has often led to material failures in the past, as well as adding safety-devices like the Halo, side impact structures, rear and nose impact structures etc.

            But as @nordic mentions, much of it is due to limiting use of exotic materials, more complex manufacturing processes and mandatory unified designs (that are cheaper, but also often heavier due to being easier to manufacture)

        2. It used to make sense to stop teams ‘wasting’ money on minute weight gains.
          But with the cost cap it is no longer required. If they want to spend all the money on weight loss rather than aero, then let them do so.

          1. Whilst I agree in theory, the issue with removing weight limits is with the drivers. They’ll be put on major diets to shed weight and it hands tiny drivers a huge advantage. We’ve seen before that this is something the teams would go for….

            1. @petebaldwin This is separate. Drivers rule which is separate from car minimum weight says all drivers & seat will weigh a minimum of 80kg, anyone below that like Tsunoda (57kg) have to add ballast to the seat to make 80kg. So minimum car weight isn’t factored into that.

            2. @redpill – but it would be if minimum car weight was removed. That’s the point.
              The driver forms part of the total mass…. If the car weight is unrestricted, then a lighter driver is beneficial to performance.

            3. S,
              The driver and set weight remains 80kg. Thus no advantage for featherweights as mentioned by &redpill.

            4. @jff True – the combined driver/seat mass is currently controlled.

              However lighter drivers are still always beneficial, until they bring in targeted ballasting to account for where a driver is heavier or lighter than another. If they can just hide the ballast around the lower back or thighs, then centre of gravity is lower than a naturally heavier driver…

      2. Soon, my Volvo will qualify for the minimum weight limit for F1.

        *sigh*

    2. Given that these new cars will only have basic suspension, no ABS, no traction control or any modern driver aids, can we finally give up on this pathetic excuse of “road relevance” whenever engine technology is discussed.

      We should go the same way, and just use the best engines for racing. A return to “cheap” basic petrol engines, whether turbo, V12,8,6, whatever, might scare off the big manufacturers, but it would lower the prices and make it easier for new teams to exist.

      1. Environmental norms will most likely push F1 out of developed countries if it sticks to largely fossil fuels, especially if these rules are going to stay well into mid ’30s.

        Also, there is zero engineering chalenge in tuning decades old technology.

        1. F1 would have a smaller carbon emissions footprint if it used V8s similar to the pre-2014 spec than the current turbo hybrid system so this is illogical.

          1. @tambeau @ryanoceros I disagree with you or should I say that the entire automotive manufacturing industry doesn’t agree with you.

            F1 is the so called forefront of automotive tech funded by major car manufacturers, while still trying to show drivers prowess and drivers racing skills at the same time so there’s some tech left out for the drivers to make up for.

            There’s almost no major car manufacturing planning a future with V8’s or 100% ICE. That’s over for the future of cars, except for a very small gas monkey segment. Hence no large manufacture will go down that route and invest in it. I’m not saying I don’t miss the old F1 ICE cars, I truly do miss it and would love to see them racing but we also need to accept the present & future direction of where cars are going and it’s either hybrid or all electric not ICE. F1 is not about adopting old legacy tech.

            F1 would have a smaller carbon emissions footprint if it used V8s similar to the pre-2014 spec than the current turbo hybrid system

            I seriously doubt this to be the case with the tech they’re trying to improve on, when ICE is already maxed out. All aspect of the tech and manufacturing is very focused on improving the everyday impact on the carbon footprint and emissions; it’s not perfect but they’re working on it and making huge improvements. Current F1 PU has 50% thermal efficiency, the best of any hybrid or ICE in the world. That’s a very good start and now need to refine all aspects of it.

            1. A simpler engine program would require far less emissions from manufacturing and development than the difference in emissions of turbo hybrid engine vs. V8. I’m not making any claims about road relevancy just about the carbon footprint of F1 alone.

        2. By that logic, F1 teams should not spend anytime on aero because it’s decades old technology. Most teams don’t even develop their own engines.

      2. @tambeau road relevance is about whether F1 produces new technology useful to future production cars, not whether F1 incorporates every production technology into their cars.

    3. I can understand having heavier car because of larger wheels and crash tests related. What I don’t understand is why there’s a plan to increased up to three times MGU-K power output because we don’t have MGU-H in 2026 so it would still be getting fatter and fatter? That’s insane.

    4. Regardless of these changes a far bigger problem would be if they had to keep the car between the white lines.

    5. Given that the ride will worsen so much for next year, I predict the teams will start pushing for active suspension very soon. If there’s one road-relevant technology I’d like to see developed is this one.

      1. @mantresx There was some talk a few years ago about bringing back active suspension but I think it got rejected in part because the FIA were insisting that it be a spec system controlled by the FIA in order to keep costs down & prevent any team finding an advantage (Which is what F1 is supposed to be bout, Pushing boundaries & finding advantages to win as often as possible).

      2. @mantresx
        Don’t forget that next years cars will have ground effects… that should make up (mainly in the performance) for the basic suspension

    6. I’ve always held the view that the cars shouldn’t be difficult to drive. Challenging & more demanding to drive yes, But if you end up with a car that is difficult to drive then you don’t have a good car because a good car has never & should never be difficult to drive.

      I think some younger fans have this view that cars in the past were difficult to drive, But in reality they weren’t. They were of course more challenging than more modern cars areas but even in the 50s/60s & before the cars were never difficult, They were predictable & gave drivers a good feel for what they were doing which is what gave drivers the confidence to push them.
      You got those bits of video & images of cars with the back end sliding not because the cars were difficult, But because those cars gave drivers confidence to push them because they had enough feel to know where the limit was. A car that is difficult, That gives no confidence & lacks feel for the limit due to it snapping suddenly doesn’t allow you to do that.

      A car should be challenging to drive & it should be rewarding for a driver to push as well as been fun for spectators to watch because that is what creates the visual spectacle that makes watching fun. Yes you also have the racing & overtaking but it’s unrealistic to expect constant action every lap so it’s the visual spectacle of watching the cars that keeps you invested in watching during the periods of lesser action. If you have no action at that point of a race with cars & on tracks that lack the visual spectacle, That is when things can start to get boring.

      1. So… @roger-ayles, is it that “you get a HAAS and you get a HAAS and everyone gets a HAAS” for 2022? ;-)

      2. @roger-ayles – what’s the difference between “difficult” and “challenging/demanding” as far as driving is concerned? Not sure I get it from your post.

        1. I think Roger has taken ‘difficult’ to mean overly complex, unpredictable, or maybe even just plain bad – which of course they wouldn’t be, because they are designed from the ground up and engineered/tuned not to be.

          Really – difficult, challenging and demanding could be used as synonyms in this context.

    7. The big question is which drivers can cope best with difficult to drive cars. I think by doing this, FIA enlarges the percentage a driver has in winning a championship.

      1. It benefits the new batch (George, Lando, Max, Charles) since they are far more used to driving with different set ups due to their sim racing. I expect the older ones (Vettel, Lewis) to struggle.

        1. Bookmarking this for a possible future good laugh (like it was the case going through the 2013 Lewis transfer news comments).

    8. Take away their power steering like IndyCar and you’ll even more so have a “tricky” car that’s a handful to drive. It will be much better than cars so planted to the track with g-force that you just have to be in shape to handle the loads, and not a particularly talented driver. May the best driver rather than always the best car win.

    9. I expect that the 2022 cars will be different to drive but overall I don’t expect they will be difficult to drive & in the longer term I don’t think we will really see much of a difference as far as cars sliding around or anything.

      I think back to 1994, 1998, 2008, 2009 & 2014 as examples. Driver aids were removed, Downforce was reduced, Cars slowed down & made trickier to drive…. However by the start of the next season the cars didn’t look any more challenging to drive as they had been before the regulation change because drivers at that level adapt quickly & teams always find ways of clawing grip back.

      In terms of making the cars look more of a handful visually I think the best way of doing that would be to ban power steering as that will put much more feedback through the steering which will make it look like it’s more of a challenge. That’s the thing when you watch Indycar as an example, You see the feedback coming through the steering & that gives you the impression that the cars are a handful even if in reality they maybe aren’t as much of a handful as it looks.

    10. I agree with the article and makes total sense that the cars will be more difficult to drive. All the teams and drivers have to adopt to a brand new, unique, never used before platform. The new aero package is trying to redirect air flow to make cars follow and probably effects the handling compared to the highly refined aero package of todays cars that is strictly focused on helping the driver and car go faster on the track without any regards to cars behind them (except to hurt them).

      I suspect teams will develop and tune a faster and better handling car after a season or two of data, that the new 2022 chassis will match todays handling abilities or surpass it. Drivers will also learn how to drive them better over time.

      I’m predicting large gaps in performance between the teams with the new chassis in the first season. The present chassis has been so refined and developed over the many seasons that even the weaker teams have found/learned ways to close the gaps (except haas) to the faster cars and why the race has been so good & tight this season. I will miss it.

    11. Nell (@imabouttogoham)
      5th October 2021, 0:34

      How’s everyone else’s concerns in regards to F1 being a spec series?

      They gotta throw a bone to the engineers, right? One would say the whole revamping of the technical regs is doing that but it seems there are more and more parts homogenised for the sake of the cost cap?

      1. @imabouttogoham Actually I think it will get even worse in that regards with the upcoming 2026 regs. With the desire to draw in new manufacturers like VW, they’re dumbing down the PU and if I hear the scuttlebutt correctly, the battery unit will be supplied to teams from one supplier and its development will be locked during the period (makes no sense). The ICE and MGU-K will be developed and made by each manufacturer. the topic of bioFuel is different as there will be many different companies racing to find the best one racing. I’m really stumped why they wont let many different companies race to develop the best battery tech.
        Getting rid of the MGU-H will make the PU’s much less efficient but they’re not really sounding like they want engineers to figure out a way to make up for that and figure out a way to get back to 50% or better thermal efficiency.

        1. Never understood why F1 would limit something like battery tech development. Seems they really want a cheaper spec series.

    12. So, more crashes. Worse accidents in wet weather.

      The baboons in charge of the zoo never learn.

    13. To be honest I can’t wait to see how the cars and drivers perform next year – it seems an eternity since the announcement of the new regulations and the reintroduction of ground effects.

      I suspect that some engineers will come up with a few things that will give their cars a huge advantage but that’s F1 and good on them if they do within the budget cap.

      As for them being more difficult to drive, I suspect that anyone that jumped in last years RBR and some of the other top end cars would have said the same – a car doesn’t “have” to be easy to drive fast, it has to have the capability of being driven fast by a skilled driver so being difficult to drive shouldn’t even be an issue and probably won’t be.

      My only concerns would be whether or not any conditions exist that might cause ground effects to be interrupted in a dangerous way that causes a car to fly off the track uncontrolledly at high speed, something I’m sure has already been though about and engineered against.

      1. @dbradock My understanding, and I don’t have many details on this, is that they will have a ‘skirt’ like they did in the past, in order to keep air locked underneath the car and therefore the vacuum, but that the skirt will be attached to the suspension such that disruptions over curbing for example won’t ‘release’ the vacuum like as happened when ground effects was used decades ago. With a permanently fixed skirt as in the past, going up a curb would release the vacuum and create havoc. With a moving skirt the vacuum will be retained. But otherwise of course even the current cars lose their downforce as soon as they start going sideways.

        1. @robbie, my understanding was the opposite, that they weren’t having skirts specifically to avoid that exact issue, and that they were using only the underbody shaping to generate suction.

          I’m positive they have modelled the heck out of the new designs but the reality is that we won’t know for sure how they’ll work out until next season.

          Bring it on I say. Can’t wait.

          1. @dbradock Fair enough, I could have sworn I read about moving skirts but then that could already have been two or three years ago and perhaps even something they were just considering at the time. And yeah for sure we’ll only know when we know but to me it is unquestionable that the cars will be far far less clean air dependent, and that is a good and necessary thing.

    14. Re: The weight. Seems like the only option to sort this now is to bring back refuelling.

      Mandatory min 2 stops. Everyone starts with the same amount of fuel (lets say 40kg, shaving 60kg off). Still enough flexibility to mix it up with the strategy. Undercut/overcuts etc.

      1. Most teams will just drive slower to save fuel. And most if not all will just do 2 stops. Car “management” will get even worse.

    15. Leave the cars exactly as they are now, but put them on 195/15 cross ply tyres.

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