Hulkenberg not convinced 2022 cars will improve racing after simulator runs

2022 F1 season

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Nico Hulkenberg says he finds it hard to imagine cars built to new technical regulations for the 2022 Formula 1 season will be able to follow each other more closely at speed, as the series intends.

F1 has introduced new technical regulations this year which have forced teams to drastically overhaul their cars. The upper surfaces have been greatly simplified but teams have been allowed greater freedom to shape the floors to generate downforce.

The goal is for the new cars to offer similar performance to those raced last year, while being able to race each other more closely. Hulkenberg, Aston Martin’s reserve driver who has contested 179 grands prix, has driven simulations of a 2022-specification design.

“From my initial experience… the new cars are pretty damn fast and not necessarily slower than the last generation,” he said in a social media post. “The driving experience hasn’t changed that much either, at least in the simulator.”

F1 intends the cars to be less sensitive to the disturbed air produced by others. However Hulkenberg has doubts over whether that will prove to be the case.

“It will be very interesting to see whether these cars can really follow the car in front better,” he said. “In the simulator, the cornering speeds are extremely high, so the risk of ‘dirty air’ is still given and it’s difficult for me to imagine that following another car comfortably at these speeds will be easy.

“Anyhow, I hope we will positively surprised. Once pre-season testing starts drivers and teams will find out how the cars really behave on track.”

Among the changes to this year’s car is a move to 18-inch wheels and taller tyres. Hulkenberg said these “make no difference to the drivers’ visibility” based on his simulator work. “The driver will just see more rim instead of tyre wall like in the past.”

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Keith Collantine
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  • 68 comments on “Hulkenberg not convinced 2022 cars will improve racing after simulator runs”

    1. We just have to wait and see, I’m hoping it works. As I don’t like the idea of more draconian regulations if these changes don’t deliver.

      1. Draconian, or faux aids to overtaking? The 2022 design is not what Brawn wanted, it is a compromise, we knew that, we are aware that the teams (mercedes and rb) get the final say, not the fia.
        Testing hasn’t even begun and it looks like the 2022 design is a failure.
        to lessen dirty air, wings were set to become smaller, in the end, the wings are just as massive as before.
        Cars were expected to become much slower but according to recent simulations, weight corrected, the cars are even faster.
        Good omens…

        1. @peartree I’m not an aerodynamicist but I believe it’s not until the cars hit the track that the teams can fully evaluate the changes.

          Testing hasn’t even begun and it looks like the 2022 design is a failure.

          If that tuns out to be correct I would think we could expect the FIA/Brawn or his replacement to impose further restrictions on design and innovation, the new set of rules allow that to happen from race to race.
          I’m not a fan of the restrictive new rules at all.

          1. @johnrkh I haven’t lost all hope but there is a clear dissonance between the Brawn goals and the latest simulations, for instances 4 sec a lap slower turned to .5 around Brazil last year.
            I too don’t like the idea of all cars looking samey.

    2. I’m still confident, given how much thought these aero changes got, but time will eventually tell.

      1. Me too. The theory is sound, much more so than previous attempts, and the use of ground effect should make a significant difference. I doubt it will be a magic bullet, but everything I have seen tells me the performance should be far less affected by following another car than current designs.

    3. Impossible to know what following will be like from a Sim, but Hulkenberg is a very experienced driver so I have some faith in his opinion.
      As @johnrkh says above we have to wait and see.

      1. The way I understand what he said is that he based that prediction on the high cornering speed (although achieved in a sim), not on a simulator’s dirty air model. True, we’ll see for ourselves pretty soon after the first test drives; but I’m never too much of an optimist in regards to new car regs. Somehow we usually get closer racing as the midfield teams catch up and then we go back to a single dominating team that nailed the new regulations. If that’d be the case we won’t see much overtaking anyway, except that Hamilton, Verstappen or whoever else will find it even easier to lap other cars or fight from the back to the win.

    4. That’s really strange, wouldn’t have thought he would need dirty air and downforce generation explained to him… It’s quite surprising how little some drivers understand the engineering side of things. Sometimes I think Top Gear had it right.

      1. I have to agree @skipgamer, upon reading the article it really seems that Hülkenberg is not aware of how the new rules are intended to both curb the amount of dirty air, and steer the remainder a different way (that rear wing, and the tall diffuser+beam wing are designed to throw it in a narrow path well over the middle of any car behind).

        The pace being similar certainly isn’t an automatic indication the rules won’t work. Now, it might not work as well as their simulations/CFD studies suggested, maybe party due to the way teams interpret them (hasn’t happened before, right ;), but the cars being slower wasn’t a requirement for them working as intended, it was just a likely consequence of new, quite different, rules and new tyres, not to mention the increased weight.

        Well, good to hear that at least AM also might be close at least to their current (2021 a bit disappointing …) pace I suppose.

        1. The simulator doesn’t give the dirty air right as they don’t have enough info yet. But the lack of vortexs should make overtaking much easier…….
          So the Hulk can’t give his opinion as there is not enough info yet just driving rounds isn’t enough as the overall feeling is that the loss of downforce isn’t that bad (in Simulations)

          1. Even if the team would be well versed in simulating dirty air (I doubt they spent much of their allocated CFD/Windtunnel time to do so) @macleod, their driving simulators don’t include any mode for following other cars, so there really is no way to even notice another cars dirty air while using that simulator.

            As brought up above by @skipgamer and @bosyber, the fact that it seems the team has largely been able to find enough downforce to be about level with this year does not in any way mean that the change in downforce creating areas won’t have a significantly positive effect on being able to follow.

        2. @bosyber whilst there has been a focus on the upper body aerodynamics and the underfloor area, there are some aspects of the proposed rule set which may potentially have a detrimental impact.

          For all the focus on the bodywork, open wheels cause the most substantial turbulent wakes behind them. Amongst the rule changes for 2022, the diameter of the wheels is increasing by around 9% (from 660mm to 720mm), so the tyres themselves will potentially be generating a larger turbulent wake behind them – the question will be how effective the attempts at deflecting the disturbed airflow from the bodywork upwards and over the trailing cars will be at managing the wake signature of those larger wheels.

      2. I think Hulkenberg might know a little bit more about the effects than some people here.

        Personally, I think he’s right – but then I’ve been down on F1’s idea of a ‘fix’ since they first announced it – it doesn’t sound like it will work, and it most likely won’t. You can’t push something the size of a current F1 car through the air at 250+kph without leaving a huge, dirty, turbulent low pressure mess right behind – especially not when you are now allowing the teams to work the air under the car so much harder. That is the primary source of air that the following car is trying to drive through!
        But hey, F1 cars will still be the fastest, and that’s all that matters…

        1. @S

          I think Hulkenberg might know a little bit more about the effects than some people here.

          Because he drove these cars on track behind another car and noticed that the loss of downforce was the same? Oh no, that’s right, he didn’t.

          You can’t push something the size of a current F1 car through the air at 250+kph without leaving a huge, dirty, turbulent low pressure mess right behind

          Except that these regulations are specifically designed to:
          – Reduce the amount of turbulence
          – Redirect a lot of turbulence upwards, so it doesn’t hit a car that’s following.

          1. You can’t push something the size of a current F1 car through the air at 250+kph without leaving a huge, dirty, turbulent low pressure mess right behind.

            Indycar would like a word about this. The IR18 body kit follows a very similar philosophy, punches huge holes in the air at 250km plus and has done nothing but provide tremendous racing, especially at european style tracks. Certainly they will be different beasts, but the potential to create less(or raceable) dirty air in modern open wheel cars is there, we just have to hope they found the sweet spot.

            1. That’s true indeed, AJ.
              Indycar is a one-chassis series, though. Their car is strictly designed, tested and controlled so that the effects of such wake are well known, and the interaction from car to car is also equally well controlled and predictable.
              In addition to that, an Indycar deliberately creates more drag than an F1 car through both its physical dimensions and the design of the airflow around and through the car.
              It’s designed explicitly for racing together in a pack, where F1 cars are designed primarily for running in clean air, and with the freedom for the designers to optimise that aspect.

            2. And, of course, they work the air a lot less…. Compare the downforce produced by Indy and F1 at any given speed….

          2. Davethechicken
            12th January 2022, 19:29

            @aapge I think Hulkenberg has a fair degree of knowledge, after all he has spent more time in dirty air than nearly every other F1 driver ever.
            On theory the rule change should help, but it isn’t the first time we have been promised closer racing by regulation changes, and wouldn’t be the first time we are all underwhelmed, but time will tell.

          3. I think you’re underestimating Hulkenberg. Every F1 driver is deeply versed on the engineering behind the cars.

            Hulkenberg isn’t just driving the sim: he is talking to the engineers.

            He probably knows if a new way of generating vortices, or of directing the dirty air towards the sides of the car, or of generation more dirty air than expected, has been found by the,.

      3. I think you’re being rather condescending towards Nico for nothing. All he’s saying is that the reality may turn out to be quite different to the theory on paper. I’d imagine he’s more qualified than many of us to suspect that since that’s exactly how many other initiatives have gone counter to plan and he’s had the practical experience to back up his thoughts. Besides, what he’s saying also makes sense – even if the way the new cars generate downforce is very different from the outgoing ones, it is plausible that one following another may not behave exactly the same as when it’s in clean air. I guess this is why they’ve retained DRS for instance.

        1. All he’s saying is that the reality may turn out to be quite different to the theory on paper.

          Well no, he saying because the cars go through the corners at the same speed he can’t imagine this helping with overtaking… Words mean things, and he’s showing a complete lack of understanding with what he’s saying.

          1. And you’re showing a complete lack of understanding of what he’s saying @skipgamer.

            the cornering speeds are extremely high,

            Right, you’ve got that part nailed… Now for the next part:

            so the risk of ‘dirty air’ is still given and it’s difficult for me to imagine that following another car comfortably at these speeds will be easy.

            There will inevitably be a lot of dirty airflow from these cars, especially at high speed, because that’s an unavoidable direct effect of how they achieve their performance – that dirty air will perhaps be even more destructive in some ways than previously, given where it is and what it goes through to get there.
            Ah, never mind. You take whichever bit out of context that you wish.

            1. @S

              It’s still just wrong. You will get completely different dirty air between an air-drop shaped thing and a brick, if they both go the same speed.

              that dirty air will perhaps be even more destructive in some ways than previously, given where it is and what it goes through to get there.

              This is getting ridiculous. You are now arguing that a design where the goal is to minimize the dirty air to a car that is following, will create worse dirty air than for designs where that wasn’t the goal.

            2. I’m not interested in a weeing contest @aapje.
              If you think you understand fluid dynamics and are confident that F1 hasn’t compromised too much and given the teams sufficient freedom to ruin a potentially good concept, then you go with your gut.
              I’ll stick with my POV, thanks.

              And just to be absolutely clear, I’m not saying that overall it’ll be worse (nor is Hulkenberg) but merely that it won’t be what F1 have claimed. Not even close.
              And even they acknowledge that they’ll need to tweak it for quite a while…

            3. S I find it hard to grasp how you have come to your level of pessimism. I suppose since you were negative about the changes from the start, you have not paid much attention to some key factors. It starts with the unprecedented work Brawn and his team started not long after they took over F1 from BE, with the two cars in a tunnel while they studied the dirty air effect to a degree that has never come close to being done in F1 before. And this with all the teams’ input as well.

              Sure of course as you say a car going at high speed through the air is going to make dirty air for the car behind, no question. However, that inevitably has had it’s negative effects greatly reduced by several means. The cars themselves will make less dirty air than the previous ones did. The rear wings and rear diffusers are now designed to send much of the dirty air upwards and over top of the trailing car. The cars will no longer have all the little carbon appendages that had become crucial to the cars’ performance but also made them more sensitive to disruption in dirty air. The wings have now been simplified and will also be less sensitive to dirty air. And of course there’s the general massive change in philosophy to go with downforce from ground effects rather than from the wings.

              I think I’ll trust the expertise of Brawn and his team along with all the teams’ input, not to mention their signing off on this new direction, rather than NH’s vague speculations from a simulator that is inevitably missing all kinds of data. Sounds like he wasn’t even trailing a 2022 car on his sim.

              Personally I can’t see how all these well researched changes won’t help and I think they indeed will help a great deal, or if I’m wrong and things are not as they had expected initially, they will be in a far better play from which to then tweak things, and as we know that in itself is one of the realities of F1. The previous cars had to go, that we know.

            4. @S

              You don’t have to engage in a weeing contest, but I would appreciate a reading contest, as you aren’t responding to what I wrote.

            5. Davethechicken
              12th January 2022, 19:35

              I am with S here.
              F1 has promised regulation changes will even up the competition between teams and the cars being able to follow closer for as long as I can remember. (since the 1980s).The results have generally been underwhelming to say the least. Drs the imperfect exception.
              The last I big change I recall was the move back to fatter tyres, more mechanical grip was the theory,..
              The proof will be in the pudding.

            6. @robbie – This ‘pessimism’ (or as I prefer to call it, grasp of reality) comes from an understanding of what’s going on and what F1 is doing, versus what they say will happen.
              Brawn is a marketing man these days. A large part of his job is to sell the notion of a brighter future for F1.
              Sounds like he’s pretty good at his new job.
              I’d trust him a lot more on this matter if he was designing a spec car, or one for his own team.

              Yep, the cars will be a bit different and will spit air out differently than the previous ones. Better in certain scenarios, perhaps – but as good as they say? I don’t think so.
              F1 has a long, strong history of overselling itself – especially when it come to new technical regs. I don’t see anything here to make me think that this time is substantially different.

            7. I did indeed read your comments @aapje.
              I’m not sure what more I can say other than: “I think F1’s claims are unlikely to meet expectations, and are perhaps even completely unrealistic – simply because F1 is too bent on compromise, image and internal power struggles.”
              How’s that sound?

            8. @robbie

              S I find it hard to grasp how you have come to your level of pessimism.

              Didn’t you watch the 2021 season😆

          2. that dirty air will perhaps be even more destructive in some ways than previously, given where it is and what it goes through to get there.

            I don’t disagree with you, that is a definite possibility. Unlikely in my opinion given the changes and the expertise of those who made them, but we can agree to disagree on that bit.

            But if that is what Hulkenberg is trying to say, he shouldn’t conflate it with high cornering speeds. It’s not clear to me from what he’s said that he understands what is generating the downforce and how the dirty air effect is mitigated by the new body elements.

            1. Don’t underestimate the revolution in data / CFD / Machine Learning we’ve been through in the last few years.
              The chances of achieving no improvement like the infamous overtaking working group did should be a significantly less.

            2. I imagine he was shortening his sentence to get straight to the point, or talking in laymans terms @skipgamer.
              I’ve never known him to go into huge dissections of details to get his point across.
              It’s easy to underestimate someone’s knowledge and experience when they only have three sentences to fit it all into.

              Regardless – high cornering speeds are a part of the problem, just not all of it as you seem to have taken it.

        2. @emma I think it is well understood that there is always going to be some amount of dirty air no matter what, but the goal is to rather than have a car lose approx. 50% of it’s performance while in dirty air these new cars should only lose something like 20% performance, which should make a vast difference to the good in a driver’s confidence in his car, including a great reduction in front end movement and the affect that has on the front tires. My hope is that they will find they don’t need Drs and that it was only retained because Brawn had to make the assumptions that teams will still try to find loopholes and try to make as much dirty air as possible in order to disrupt trailing cars. I suspect they won’t find such loopholes, or at least not large enough ones such that they will be able to head the cars anywhere near back to the clean air dependence they had previous to now required for optimum performance.

          I’m also intrigued with the concept Domenicali spoke of a number of months ago where he spoke of using Drs merely as a way for all cars to reduce their drag in the Drs zones and thus save fuel. He spoke of the reality that they don’t need downforce on the straights anyway. So I am hopeful that if we see Drs retained it will be used differently and in a way that is not at all meant to advantage one driver over another in the usual bandage way of compensating for cars way too clean air dependent, but rather just as a way to promote better (lesser) fuel consumption. All drivers, no matter their proximity to other drivers, get to open their wing in the 2 or 3 Drs zones of a track, every time they are in said zones, strictly to save fuel. I think it would also promote higher speeds and lower lap times if that makes a difference to some, particularly those concerned with heavier and heavier cars.

          1. using Drs merely as a way for all cars to reduce their drag in the Drs zones and thus save fuel.

            Since when were DRS trains a good thing? Nobody ever asked for more of them.
            That’s exactly what would happen if they used it that way. It’s a big part of why DRS exists in the first place, to give the following car an advantage on the straights (to supposedly offset what they lose in the corners).

          2. S I suppose your comment makes sense since you for some odd reason have no faith in the massive changes to the cars. However, I think the reality is that the cars will no longer be clean air dependent to anywhere near the degree they have been for decades. So your comment about drs trains makes no sense.

            If the car is no longer hampered in another car’s dirty air there are no trains. Trains have happened with and without drs due to the large negative effect while in dirty air. Take that negative effect away and you take away the trains, with or without drs.

      4. My understanding was that whilst there was some focus on trying to reduce the amount of dirty air behind the car, the move to ground effect aero means that turbulent air will have less of an effect on overall downforce anyway. Therefore, even if just as much dirty air is put out by the cars as was last year, it should still be easier to follow another car than it previously was.

        1. Yes, that is exactly what the change in how/where downforce is generated is about @petebaldwin. So even if they have about as much downforce, it will be created somewhat differently and will certainly afect the cars differently (less, if we can accept that they know more or less what they are doing after all these years of simulating it by clever engineers)

      5. @skipgamer lets not forget these comments when the season begins.

        1. What comments? I’ve already stated elsewhere that I don’t think we’ll get closer racing in the next season, so if you’re looking for some kind of gotcha moment, well whatever, go for it.

          1. @skipgamer then I don’t get why you are questioning Hulkenberg’s reasoning. The cars were meant to be 4-6 sec slower, except even last year simulations were putting these cars, weight corrected quicker than this years.

      6. Coventry Climax
        12th January 2022, 16:34

        You read things in what Hulkenberg said – if indeed it was him who said this, and exactly like this – that I do not. I think Hulkenberg is a more than capable and technically knowledgeable driver and most likely very well aware of what’s going on.
        What I think he says, is that there’s a difference in dirty air being generated between a car on a straight and a car around a corner. Obviously, at low speeds dirty air is no problem anyways. And he may very well be right, as the designs are probably done with a straight line in mind.

        The proof is in the pudding once again, but if the new design does not improve the close racing, then they’ve met my exact expectations of having ‘proliferated upwards’ massively again in their so-called attempt to make it a real racing series again.

        In the mean time, I’ll make the prediction that DRS is still there in 10 years time.

    5. I will be disappointed but not surprised..

    6. Well no one can overtake if the car ahead is 1s or more quicker in one lap like in 2014. At least drivers can try to make an overtake if the field is close enough and we don’t see any Brawn-esques.
      Let’s hope for a cracking season

    7. not enthusing that they did not skip DRS at all …
      Apart from the dirty-air issue: I always see one and the same prototype design — and differing estimations whether there will be varied designs or not… Can someone help me, please ? will they again all look the same ?

      1. @gosac what I’ve heard is that they have been allowed to move away from this bit.

      2. Not the same @gosac, but you’ll still be relying on the livery to tell them apart at a glance.
        Or even a thorough detailed inspection….

        Technical diversity is F1’s history, not its present or its future.

      3. FIA gave the teams 3 potential concepts within the regulations to explore, what we’ve seen so far is just one of those.

        Whether all the teams come to the same conclusion or not remains to be seen, but I’d find it unlikely.

    8. Teams can barely get their small scale wind tunnels right, never mind model that in a simulator correctly at this early stage…

      1. Spot-on. Simulators are only of value once they can be correlated to the real world values. Every team’s simulator is a best guess and it’s not a surprise at all the Aston Martin simulator feels very similar to this year (because they have no idea wtf they are doing.)

        Reply moderated
      2. Spot-on. Simulators are only of value once they can be correlated to the real world values. Every team’s simulator is a best guess and it’s not a surprise at all the Aston Martin simulator feels very similar to this year (because they have no idea what they are doing.)

    9. Nico’s quote regarding the driving experience is interesting. A couple of months ago Charles Leclerc was saying the complete opposite, after he did his first run with the 2022 model in the simulator. According to Charles, drving the 2022 car felt completely different to the previous cars. But that was months earlier compared to Nico (I think somewhere in October) and the teams are making progress week after week, so I wouldn’t read to much into this. We’ll just have to wait and see.

      Somehow I can’t imagine the effect of dirty air with the new regs being similar to the 2021 cars, because the airflow should be vastly different from what we had in the recent past. Especially with the triangular shape of the front wing endplate. Unless the designers have figured out a way to still direct the airflow around the tyres and away from the rear wing, but I doubt they have.

      1. @srga91

        I would expect Ferrari to have way better aerodynamic modeling in the sim, as Aston Martin is known for just copying the old Mercedes car, without actually doing the design work themselves or understanding the design they copied.

      2. @srga91Bottas also said more recently that the 2022 cars didn’t feel ‘crazy’ different in the simulator & i’m sure i’ve seen at least 1 other driver say something similar more recently.
        https://www.autosport.com/f1/news/f1-2022-cars-not-crazy-different-in-simulator-says-bottas/7013338/

        Others however have said they feel radically different, In that article for example it says that Norris was saying that it felt closer to an F2 car in the sim.

        To be honest I don’t think they will be too different because teams will claw back a lot of the grip & drivers will adapt very quickly. I think we are already seeing evidence of that with laptime estimates having gone from been a couple seconds slower to most now seemingly thinking they won’t be that different.

        It sort of reminds me of 2009. Going into that year cars were going to be a lot slower, A lot more tricky to drive with them moving around a lot more, Able to follow closer with overtaking been more possible. Yet when we got going not much had really changed, Especially after a couple races when drivers had adapted to any differences in feel.

        We just have to wait & see.

        1. @stefmeister
          I guess it depends on the time when these statements were made, as the car keeps on developing, even throughout the upcoming season and at which point in the development cycle each team currently is.
          As you rightly pointed out, 2009 was similar in that respect. Teams were expecting much slower lap times, but with time they found more and more performance. However, the aero is now simpler compared to ’09, especially the front wing, and the majority of the downforce is being created under the car. Keeping that in mind, I do expect the racing to be better.
          I can imagine the car feeling different on the front axle, considering the front wing is now being split up in four parts, with just the upper two parts remaining adjustable. Turning into the corner, especially at low speed, should feel different.

    10. Although there is a real risk of a team finding a loophole and dominating, I think the regs are now there to corner the engineers a bit and let the teams all close up. It might not happen straight away but you can see what they are trying to do. It’s just a pity they didn’t do this 10 years ago.

      1. G yeah for sure about 10 years ago (or more ideally) but rewinding the clock that far BE was in a money grab with CVC and to appease the teams for that he gave the power to the top 4, and there was no way they were going to get together and design these types of new cars. If anything they were handed a license to make more and more downforce and more ways to make them sensitive to dirty air and more ways to make more dirty air in order to disrupt trailing cars and ensure no close racing and the ‘need’ for drs.

      2. Coventry Climax
        13th January 2022, 0:07

        Sorry, but that, I’m afraid, is a myth.
        The easiest and cheapest way to get the teams closer would have been to not change the rules at all.

        1. Coventry Climax Sure we know about the effect of consistent rules over some time causing convergence in performance amongst teams, but that doesn’t solve the issue of the cars that have been for decades too dependent on clean air. Let’s get these new cars on the track that will actually allow close racing and that will be a much better baseline from which to tweak if necessary and then hold the rules for a time.

    11. Ory (@the-orycle-26)
      12th January 2022, 13:53

      Intriguing Hulk… Can’t take you serious…. Come back when you get a podium in F1….

      1. Same goes for you comment too given you don’t have a podium in F1.

    12. Before every regulation change everyone says positive things
      After 6 months, drivers start to complain, we can’t overtake blah blah

      After 4 seasons, again regulation change

      I still remember pre 2017, all the drivers were really exited about fastest cars, lots of downforce, better drs and now see what happened

      Drivers literally wait for drs zones

    13. If these rules dont fix overtaking we just have to bring back cigar shaped cars and ban all wings.

    14. We will have to see how it develops with the 2022 cars. But, as several have already said, for the Hulk to base his conclusion on the cornering speed is odd…

    15. My understanding is that how the downforce is generated has changed and therefore speed and car behaviours may not be best way to judge impact on car behind.

    16. Every single team will have their engineers trying to find ways of making the air behind their car as dirty as possible. No one wants to be overtaken.

      At the same time, most teams will still prioritize performance in clean air (for qualifying and running at the front) over the ability to perform through dirty air.

      This, unfortunately, is where the incentives are.
      The only way around it is for the teams to have incentives to develop in a different direction.

      I don’t see any way to discourage the creation of dirty air behind.
      Reverse sprint races, though, are a clear way of making teams develop cars that car work in dirty air over working in clean air: even the top teams -that run more often in clear air- will want a good starting position for the race.

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