‘One or two teams will get new cars really badly wrong’ – Allison

2022 F1 season

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Mercedes chief technical officer James Allison believes the scale of the change in the overhauled technical regulations for the 2022 Formula 1 season means at east one team is likely to have made a serious error with their new design.

“The rule set is not only enormous – the regulations [documents] are about twice the size of what’s preceded them – but they’re all almost entirely different from what came before them,” Allison explained in a video published by Mercedes.

While F1’s complicated V6 hybrid turbo power units are unchanged, the rules governing the cars’ aerodynamics, suspension and wheels have been drastically revised.

Upper aerodynamic surfaces have been simplified while teams have been given greater freedom to shape the underside of their cars to generate more downforce. F1 has moved from 13-inch to 18-inch wheels and taller tyres, and teams have been forced to use simpler suspension systems.

Teams have also had to design their cars within the constraints of the budget cap which was introduced last year. The scale of the changes makes it “a difficult thing to anticipate in terms of what the pecking order will be” admitted Allison, whose team have won the constructors championship for the last eight years in a row.

“But it’s a brilliantly exciting thing to contemplate precisely because none of us know,” he continued. “One of the things that is the essence of sport is not knowing we all of us have done our level best – I’m talking about everyone in our team, [but] everyone in every other team – we’ll have done our level best to try to find a design and an approach that will be a happy match to this new regulation set. And we’ll all get to find out together at the start of this season and the races that unfold from there exactly how that shakes out.”

Allison expects at least one team will discover they have missed opportunities with their new designs and face a difficult season to recover.

“I would imagine, given that the cars are so new and so different that one or two [teams] on the grid will have got it really badly wrong and that they will have a terribly painful year. I would imagine that all of us, to some degree, will have will have left things on the table that we just didn’t anticipate, and we will look at other cars and think ‘oh, why didn’t we think of that?’

“Then we’ll be scrabbling around to try and get that idea onto our car as fast as possible so that we can claw our way from whatever position we land in that first race so that we can claw our way forwards. Or, if we’re lucky enough to be in front, to keep the attacking wolves behind us.

“It’s going to be quite a rush and definitely something that’s going to keep us all from having too much sleep for the whole of the season.”

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Keith Collantine
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  • 58 comments on “‘One or two teams will get new cars really badly wrong’ – Allison”

    1. He’s not wrong… One thing I don’t understand while we’re on the topic of budget caps and getting aero right.

      What’s stopping a team from paying their top engineer/aerodynamicist millions/potentially billions of dollars under the top 3 exemption. Which he then uses as now fully private funds to buy time on a Amazon/Azure compute stack to run CFD, which is then brought into work as paper napkin “ideas” / “creative genius” to explore officially as a team?

      The regulations seem so open to such exploitation that I find it highly unlikely it won’t be the usual big spenders at the pointy end.

      1. What’s stopping a team from paying their top engineer/aerodynamicist millions/potentially billions of dollars under the top 3 exemption. Which he then uses as now fully private funds to buy time on a Amazon/Azure compute stack to run CFD, which is then brought into work as paper napkin “ideas” / “creative genius” to explore officially as a team?

        “Hey, lads, we noticed you are paying your top aerodynamicist enough to run multiple F1 teams. Is there a reason for that that does not involve cap circumvention?”
        “… he’s got a really pretty smile?”
        “Hmmmm … he does, but that’s not really convincing. Have a disqualification from the championship.”

        Just because those wages do not count towards the cap does not mean it does not appear on the books the teams have to open to the FIA. Why do Formula One fans always think they are smarter than the dozens and dozens of sporting organisations that have already implemented budget caps successfully?

        1. But their pay is literally exempt from the regulations, there’s no recourse… You can’t say their pay is exempt from the budget cap but don’t pay them too much.

          Why do Formula One fans always think they are smarter than the dozens and dozens of sporting organisations that have already implemented budget caps successfully?

          It’s not so much that I think I’m smarter, but I sure as hell think the teams are, and you’d be a fool not to also.

          1. But their pay is literally exempt from the regulations, there’s no recourse… You can’t say their pay is exempt from the budget cap but don’t pay them too much.

            Formula 1 Financial Regulations 2.1.b, 2.1.d and 8.15.a all spell out that any attempt at fraudulently circumventing the cap with such methods will be treated as noncompliance with the cap and thus be subject to penalty. Paying the except personnel the kind of sums needed to achieve any positive effect would spell out “hey, we’re acting in bad faith” in an extremely clumsy way. Serious auditing companies, which are employed for this purpose as per have dealt with much cleverer fraud than Formula One teams could ever be capable of. Plus, all the other teams, in particularly the smaller ones that have a key interest in making sure the cap is functional, would be on stuff like that like flies on rotten fruit. Said overpaid staff member would probably never get to run their secret wind tunnel since they’d spend their entire time being dragged from one Cost Cap Adjudication Panel hearing to the next.

            1. Paying the except personnel the kind of sums needed to achieve any positive effect

              Let’s say Newey is being paid £5 million a year (extremely conservative given the £20 million reports), you really think that can’t have any positive effect even if only half of that is being put toward CFD? Hell, you could build a computer that easily eclipses the teams total allowed CFD power for that amount.

              Unless those auditing firms are going into personal finances, and even then, whos to say that computer wasn’t built for completely unrelated purposes. He’s a passionate engineer after all.

              You seem to think these rules are infallible but I don’t really see how “serious auditing companies” can have an impact when the regulations stipulate you can pay your top 3 staff however much you want. Once that money is paid it’s not longer under their purview.

            2. Teams are obliged to inform the FIA on money spent on CFD / windtunnel etc not just by themselves but also by any/all suppliers that do such work for them (i.e. Haas will have most of it doen by Dallara and Ferrari for example). That would include having such work done by Newey (in your example) @skipgamer.

              Sure, maybe if they try to hide it they can get away with it. But can a team count on this not being uncovered by anyone? Probably not, or not forever, since SOMEONE will we working on that CFD and there is too much contact and shifting of personnel between teams and the FIA that it would be discovered.
              And the penalties are fairly significant.

        2. Just thinking out loud, but I would wonder if intellectual property rights would get in the way. You pay Newey to develop some aero, but the IP can no longer belong to the team that way (that would definitely be breaching the rules). Ferrari come along and buy him with his IP. This would be great business for the star designers of course, who might become more wealthy than the drives! Not so good business for the teams, who now have several personalities to hang on to: their two drivers and the top three design engineers.

      2. That’s one of the reasons I balked at the exemptions. Adrian Newey for example has admitted to doing something not far off when he moved from McLaren to Red Bull. The gardening leave was only nominal – he was working on the RB3 as soon as he signed the contract.

      3. @skipgamer Probably the same reason pushing teams to start campaign in other categories or as partner to America’s Cup teams. Even if they don’t run F1 simulation in those contexts, being able to continue the development of the CFD models on another pay bill than the F1 will be handy.

        I’m also curious if the rules allow for AI generated surfaces. Since they are limited in number of runs, it might be very limiting to fully define the input geometry which could become a product of the simulation (I don’t think we are there yet for full car but certainly for parts/sections).

        In any case, even with some irregularities, that would still decrease the gap between the big teams and the smaller ones. The only ones that might be worried of such tricks are the big teams that will surely keep a close eye on each others.

        In relation with the article, should we expect catch up time to be slower with the new cars? Usually teams that were way off at the start had bad aero but could bring updates on a regular basis to test and improve their car. With so much aero moving under the car, it means getting inspiration from other teams becomes much more difficult; and bringing updates too if it means a new chassis for each new configuration.

      4. The problem is those runs are restricted but if you try to pass steps that is not allowed as you have to prove progressie proces in your development. So if you use (for example) Amazon they is a hole in you development proces and that is not allowed.

      5. What’s stopping a team from paying their top engineer/aerodynamicist millions/potentially billions of dollars under the top 3 exemption.

        Nothing.
        As long as his/her ‘private university’ eduction does not link directly to the team’s work.

        It would be embarrassing though if that engineer decides to ‘go fishing’ with the newly found wealth. It wouldn’t be the first high profile team member underwhelming ;)

      6. @skipgamer
        I said it here the moment teams agreed the budget cap. There is no way Mercedes ,RBR and especially Ferrari with their stratospheric resources will allow teams 10 times smaller like Williams and Haas to compete with them on a level playing field. The big teams have already means and contingency plans to bypass the budget cap before it was even introduced. They’ve just agreed to be aligned with the political agenda of both liberty and the FIA.

      7. I get where you’re coming from and it will be interesting to see how things like this play out. I was thinking more along the lines of an F1 aerodynamicist mentions a problem to a friend who is also an aerodynamicist and being intrigued by the problem, the friend punches it into their system at work and eventually comes up with a solution. They then pass the solution to their friend the F1 aerodynamicist at their next dinner. The F1 aerodynamicist gets a solution and their team didn’t spend a cent.

      8. @skipgamer I trust that those in F1 who discussed, planned, and implemented the budget caps, including the teams, have gone over all the fine details ad infinitum, which is why after decades of us hearing how budget caps could never be policed, they are now confident going ahead. You ask “What’s stopping a team…” and the short answer is exclusion from the season.

        Of course I realize the historic reality of teams always trying to find loopholes and bending the rules and taking them to their extremes, but I highly doubt the teams signed on to the new Concorde Agreement that included budget caps that they themselves have welcomed, and how they are implemented, to then blatantly find ways to spend beyond the cap illegally, risking the marketing embarrassment and damage for their sponsor brands and elimination from the season.

      9. A budget cap is a PR thing. It cant be policed.

    2. As I suspect Haas will be a team that will get things wrong, I’m curious how the design/build process works for them. They get engine, gearbox, and suspension from Ferrari and seem to hand chassis design to Dallara. Is there actually a design team at Haas and if there is, what do they design? If I’m mistaken about their process please correct me. I don’t understand why they are even in F1…….

      1. 2005, 2009, 2014; all examples of Ferrari getting it wrong.

        But 2017 was a welcome change.

        1. @sumedh Technical rules didn’t change from 2004 to 2005.
          2005-2006 on the engine side like 2014 & Ferrari did well.

          1. They did a bit. The rear wings were moved forward and the front wings were raised to reduce downforce. The biggest impact from memory was Bridgestone losing out to Michelin with the change to races being run on the single set of tyres. I guess that’s more of a sporting than technical rule.

    3. I hope it’s his own team 😂

      1. That’s just a poor comment isn’t it?

      2. Hamilton: Bono, my car is so slow, I need spicy power mode……

    4. If history is any guide, it is more likely that one or two teams will get it really right and the remainder will be “close but no cigar”.

      If we are really lucky we might get three; fingers crossed.

      1. Spot on. And in light of the budget cap illusion we already know who will have gotten it right.

    5. What’s to stop Lewis Hamilton privately funding some development costs to help him get the best chance of title number 8? He has the money and it isn’t included in the cap.

      1. But the development he’d be funding is included under controlled resources/expenditure.

        And if Hamilton (or anyone else exempt from the budget cap) is willing to fund illegal development, then they’ll know that they won (or lost) because of it. Hardly the hallmark of a great sportsperson.
        Would be pretty epic a few years later when it made it to the media, wouldn’t it…. Who’s the supposed GOAT then?

        Regardless… F1 has long been (partly) about cheating as much as possible, but convincing people that it was just a creative and clever interpretation of the rules.

        1. Davethechicken
          25th January 2022, 8:08

          S, sounds very much like MSC having bespoke custom made Bridgestone tyres that seemingly even his teammates didn’t get!

          1. Perhaps, but that wasn’t illegal then.
            It was a very common thing for tyre manufacturers to do around that time, and it certainly wasn’t limited to F1.
            Engine manufacturers are still doing it….

            1. Davethechicken
              25th January 2022, 11:17

              Not illegal, but nobody at the time seemed to know. It only came out after. They were clearly doing it to gain advantage. His teammates weren’t in the same spec equipment.

            2. His teammates weren’t in the same spec equipment.

              That’s F1 for you. And it still happens – just with stuff other than tyres.

            3. Davethechicken I think people knew. After all, there was a Bridgestone R&D unit right at Ferrari’s own private track where they tested at will, and since we know from RB’s comments post-Austria 02 that he was under contract to be subservient to MS, obviously it was easy to come to the conclusion that MS had designer tires for his designer car.

          2. There is twisting reality and then there is this lol

            1. Davethechicken
              25th January 2022, 11:18

              You dispute it happened or you dispute they gained performance?
              Be strange to have bespoke tyres to make you slower. Maybe that is your reality?

            2. Davethechicken, I would suspect it is over the veracity of the claim – the claim has been made about Schumacher having special tyres, but nobody seems to be able to explain what was supposed to have made them so special or unique for him, or what exactly they were supposed to have done in terms of performance characteristics.

              The idea of a tyre manufacturer designing a specific tyre for a specific car is fairly credible, because Michelin was doing much the same as Bridgestone – although we don’t see anyone affiliated with Michelin getting bashed for any work on Michelin’s part to optimise tyres for them – but whether that could go down the route of designing it for a specific driver is less clear. After all, it’s worth noting that, when you look at the tyre testing records from that period, most of the data that Bridgestone would have been collecting on those tyres wouldn’t have come from Schumacher – it would have been coming from Luciano Burti’s testing.

              A lot of the time, it seems to be a case of people basing it on their preconceptions of Schumacher (we can see it happening in this very thread), rather than on any real evidence of that happening.

          3. Bridgestone tyres that seemingly even his teammates didn’t get!

            This seems a bit farfetched to me. Ok, Bridgestone and Ferrari were in bed, and surely they designed their tyres around Schuey’s particular driving style.
            But you are suggesting that Schuey got special, different tyres than his teammate and the rest of the teams using Bridgestones. That is surely illegal, and moreover pretty hard to believe. Unless, of course, you can come up with some convincing reference(s).

            1. melanos, since you ask, if you go back to the sporting regulations of the early 2000s, they stated that “each tyre supplier must undertake to provide only two specifications of dry-weather tyre and three
              specifications of wet-weather tyre at each Event, each of which must be of one homogenous compound only”.

              In principle, a tyre manufacturer could use that to provide a different specification tyre for Schumacher compared to every other team that they supplied. However, it would mean that they’d only be able to offer one type of tyre to Schumacher and one type of tyre to every other driver, as that would count as two different specifications.

              That does seem rather limiting – you’d be sacrificing flexibility on tyre choice, since you’ve got no alternative options if one tyre doesn’t work as well as expected, and it would potentially also sacrifice qualifying performance, since Michelin could just bring a slightly softer second set of tyres and effectively undercut the Bridgestone runners – and there don’t seem to be any contemporary reports of such a thing happening either.

            2. Just to be clear imho MS had designer tires for his designer car, but I don’t believe others who were running Bridgestones had different tires. I believe the Bridgestone tires in general were modelled around MS’s car and driving style, and Reubens and all other Bridgestone runners had those tires as well…tires that worked best on MS’s car, which Reubens would have benefitted from as well except that he was driving MS’s car too, perhaps sans the latest greatest upgrades, on MS’s tires, not a car and tires that would suit Reubens as much. The issue of the tire ‘war,’ a term I really dislike because we don’t call any other aspect of competition in F1 a ‘war,’ was that naturally Bridgestone and Michelin were going to start to favour the top team(s) under their perview as said top team(s) emerged as the seasons went along, so teams not at the top were subject to tires that evolved through a season to potentially not be ideal for their cars.

            3. @robbie so, if by your own argument, you think that Michelin was also doing something similar – are you going to start criticising drivers like Alonso then as well? Or is it only a problem with Bridgestone because you have a problem with Schumacher?

            4. Davethechicken
              27th January 2022, 9:46

              “FIA President Max Mosley has said that he believes Michael Schumacher had a clear advantage over the rest of the field in 2002 as a result of Bridgestone focusing all their efforts on Ferrari.

              Schumacher walked away with the Drivers’ title at the French Grand Prix, and went on to set a new record for the most wins, and the most points scored in one season.

              Mosley feels that part of Schumacher’s success, and his fifth title, was down to the fact that Bridgestone, Ferrari’s tyre supplier, were concentrating solely on him, and designing tyres that would best suit the reigning champ.

              “There is no doubt that Bridgestone were making tyres not just for Ferrari, but for Michael Schumacher,” Mosley told ITV-F1.”

      2. Moreover the best 3 paid people on the payroll are not included. So whats stopping paying nr 3 200 million of which 10 is actually going to this person? The remaining 190 million can go to some company registered somewhere doing something. Not to mention the creativity, experience and skill level throughout the road car divisions of Alpine, Ferrari and Mercedes. Something Williams won’t have. It can be policed.

    6. Your logic is not very sound.
      Talking about possibilities, it is easier now for Honda to help Redbull with research as they have pulled out but still have an active interest in their engines and the team success.

    7. Matija Majdanac
      25th January 2022, 10:03

      Imagine how big Mercedes is, they can hide costs as easy as sunday morning, I think it will come down to money as always, turbo-hybrid engines are extremly complex to make to be competitive and require enormous amounts of money to develop, thats why Mercedes had the upper hand all these years, and it will surley come down to that with this new regulations.

      1. So there is nothing like talented engineers.
        Placing the cart before the horse is what you attempt.
        The cost cap has only recently been introduced in 2021 but Mercedes had a very good engine even when there was unlimitted spending by teams prior to last year.
        Ferrari had a new engine almost every year, Honda a new engine almost every race, yet Mercedes still had very good engines.
        Renualt were the ones who asked for the turbo engines because they assumed they will be as succesful as they were in the last turbo era.

        1. Matija Majdanac
          25th January 2022, 12:30

          Of course there are thats why its weird that in all of the turbo hybrid era no one managed to come close to Mercedes engine wise, only the last season Honda challenged them and yet Mercedes had rocket engine compared to others.

    8. Let’s hope Red Bull is one of these teams who will have it wrong. It’s a very toxic team/Max and an extremely toxic/racist fanbase.

      1. Matija Majdanac
        25th January 2022, 12:27

        Bold claim to say for someone that is toxic, in fact with this kind of comments you are the one bringing toxicity where it has no place to be.

      2. Red Bull/Verstappen fans ain’t the ones sending death threats to Latifi though, are they? F1 is starting to develop a toxic fanbase and this comment is certainly proof of that.

        1. @rocketpanda there seem to have been some who were making such threats towards the marshal in Qatar who happened to have waived the yellow flag that resulted in Max getting a grid penalty though, particularly after Horner started publicly attacking that marshal.

          Whilst it is certainly not fair to paint the whole of Max’s fan base in that light, there does unfortunately seem to be some suggestion of Max being used for propaganda purposes in certain parts of the extreme right and ultra-nationalist movements in Europe on the grounds of his ethnicity and that of Hamilton.

          It is not just with Hamilton either – even before he has raced, Zhou is already becoming a prominent target for racist abuse, with individuals targeting Alfa Romeo’s social media channels to post racial abuse against him.

          There are, unfortunately, pockets within the F1 fan base that do see such behaviour as acceptable and, as with other drivers, there are some fans within Max’s fan base that do fall into that category.

    9. There is a long list of companies and organisations which have been declared healthy by ‘serious’ international auditors only to go bust shortly afterwards. You may remember Black Rock and other banks. There are retailers, individuals and manufacturers you’ll probably remember if you give it a moment.

      No audit is infallible and no rules are watertight which is why most teams are concerned about the FIA ‘tightening’ the rules part way through the season in the mistaken belief it will level the playing field and increase competition. They know it would likely do the very opposite. They also know that in all human endeavour too much control and over regulation leads to secrets and nastiness.

      The increasingly prescriptive rules for financial and technical matters is in contrast to the increasingly loose and variable rules of racing on track. They look at the sudden extra wing tests, secret deals with Ferrari, targeting teams with aero changes for this last season………and then wonder if financial and technical rules will be enforced in the same way as the racing rules are now.

    10. I’m sure a couple of teams could possibly get it very wrong, but it’s most likely it’ll be one of the lower teams.

      If however one of the big teams gets it way wrong, they’ll probably be relegated to having a bad design for the year as budget caps will prevent them from spending their way back into competitiveness.

      Could be a real interesting season and a very painful one if someone gets it completely wrong.

      1. @dbradock Sounds like 2014 all over again, lol. Of course who knows what will happen and for sure a big team could get it wrong but I’m sure they will keep money in reserve for in-season development and likely won’t leave themselves with no money in the budget such that they are stuck stationary for a year. But hard to say right? In 2014 there were no caps (although there were tokens for a time) and yet nobody was truly able to compete for complete seasons with Mercedes until 2021.

        It is interesting though that for all the talk, perhaps mostly amongst armchair enthusiasts, about F1 now being a spec series, here we have Allison talking about one or two teams potentially completely missing the mark. Methinks there is much more room for innovation than some posters around here like to project.

        Anyway, suffice it to say whatever happens this season they needed to make these changes to the cars and the finances and they will be starting off from a much better framework from which to continue the constant work in progress that is F1, just as it is for each team with their cars and drivers. If a team or two miss the mark badly this season, I don’t see that lasting 8 straight seasons, just as I don’t see one team dominating for that long again either.

        1. @Robbie, for sure teams will leave budget for in season development, but I suspect there won’t be as much room as in the past. Having to completely rework a major flaw might not be possible.

          Whilst I welcome the new cars and the strategy behind them, I still believe that there were a few reasons why Merc remained dominant that really weren’t of their doing.

          1. Renault – after basking in their success of the Vettel/RBR years, couldn’t be bothered making any improvement to their abysmal 2014 effort until 2016 and even then it was extremely poor compared to the others both in power and reliability.

          2. RBR/Adrian Newey – probably because they lacked power, brought significantly underperforming cars to the start of every season until 2021. I know they were chasing a magic bullet because of their Renault PU but they just lost too much ground each year.

          3. Ferrari – even when they brought a really competitive package, and they did, managed to consistently do a “Ferrari” and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory way too many times.

          4. Lewis Hamilton – I think, even though I’ve never been a huge fan, we need to acknowledge that over the 7 years prior to 2021 he was far and away the most consistently high performing driver in F1. There have been very few (if any) that have been able to maintain a performance at that level for so long.

          That it took everyone until 2021 to really compete and give us such a close season to me was a travesty, but not the fault of Mercedes.

          Could it happen again from 2022? It sure could. It will be way more difficult, and I doubt it will, but it could.

          Me, I can’t wait for the season to start and the real cars to be unveiled on track. Just hoping we don’t get a 2014 whitewash.

          1. @dbradock I think a big factor regarding the 2014+ era is that with the complex hybrid units it suddenly became very crucial (imho absolutely necessary) to be an in-house works team in order to have any chance whatsoever of success. RBR as a customer of Renault were on their hind foot right from the getgo vs Mercedes and Ferrari. It took the near-works relationship Honda and RBR developed, for them to get to the level of compete they had in 2021. And as you say Ferrari did a Ferrari and couldn’t maintain their strength in the first halves of 2017 and 2018 for the full seasons.

            So for this season onwards hybrid is no longer new and now the pus are frozen and fairly close to each other in performance. What hasn’t changed is the necessity to be a factory works team in order to have much greater odds of being competitive, and of course one of the things Brawn addressed regarding the new pus for 2026 is that they head back to something a little more plug and play so that customers stand a better chance of marrying someone’s pu to their chassis while standing a reasonable chance to compete like it used to be with customers of straight ICEs.

            I think there is certainly a much better chance of at least the works factory teams being closer to each other and you’d think Mac should be ok too. But as you say there could be a dominant team at the start of 2022, but certainly the rules have not been designed for that, and the circumstances are far different than 2014. I’ll be very surprised if there is a ‘2014 whitewash’ and as with you I can’t wait for this season to start. It’s going to be so enthralling.

    11. I really really really hope it’s them

      1. I really really really hope it’s them

        I know it’s wishful thinking, but curiously, Mercedes hit the nail twice in the last 15 years. First as Brawn in 2009, and then again as Mercedes in 2014.

    12. I think Allison is being far too generous. My expectation is that one team will get very close to getting it right, and several teams will get it horribly wrong. Some of those teams may be able to correct their issues during the season and some may not, probably leading to an easing of the 110% rule at some point during the year.

      I still don’t know why they didn’t make at least temporary changes to the testing rules for this year, or add more pre-season testing dates so that teams can correct things they got wrong without an excessive penalty.

      1. …..probably leading to an easing of the 110% rule at some point during the year.

        Do you mean the 107% speed rule? I don’t know of any 110% rule…..

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