On the Thursday of the British Grand Prix, Formula 1 showed the world what its cars will look like next year thanks to a full-scale model designed to the 2022 technical regulations.
The new single-seater has been designed to look quick, with flowing lines and a futuristic-looking design, which differs greatly from the current cars which are dotted with wings and various fins.
The introduction of the new concept reminds us that this should have already made its debut, but was postponed due to the pandemic. The purpose of introducing cars so different from the current ones is essentially to encourage closer on-track battles, which should equal more action and entertainment.
Current single-seaters have aerodynamics that are very sensitive to airflow disturbances when closely following another car. A 35% downforce loss occurs when the following car is within 20 metres and that rises to 46% when it’s within 10m, which prevents attackers from staying close enough on the twisty sections of the track.
This then causes increased tyre wear for the chasing car, so it’s a double whammy disadvantage, which F1 hopes to solve with its new car and the claimed numbers from hundreds of millions of simulations suggests this is the case. A 10m gap sees a loss of just 18% of downforce and at 20m that’s just 4%.
The cars of 2022 were born precisely with the aim of drastically reducing aerodynamic sensitivity, with a more simplified shape over the entire car so as not to create so-called “dirty” air for those behind.
Most of the downforce, in fact, will not come from the wings, but from the floor and the diffuser, with the return to F1 of the ground effect through the implementation of large venturi channels, which will help the cars to stay glued to the track surface. There will in fact be large splitters behind the rear wheels, which will collect the flow of air accelerating it under the floor (which will no longer be flat like it is now).
The concept presented yesterday by the FIA and FOM still remains a template, with a fairly basic interpretation of the 2022 regulations, so expect them to look a little different when it comes to team launches early next year.
However, we have begun to see the first technical areas that differ widely from current F1 cars, which could be crucial in the development of future cars. A revolution certainly concerns the front area, where the nose will no longer be raised with respect to the front wing, but will form a single integral element. The front section of the frame will also be lower than it is now, resulting in the repositioning of all front suspension mounts.
The front wing, very different from the 2021 ones, will always remain arrowed. The bulkhead footplate should disappear. This is to avoid punctures in the event of contact between the front wing and the tyre (such as that of Gasly-Leclerc in Austria). Also note in the front area that an aerodynamic device that wraps the front wheel has been introduced, which has the exact function of reducing the turbulence induced by the rotation of the front tyre.
The design of the 2022 cars remains very clean overall, and there should be no cantilevered fins or aerodynamic appendages. Above all, the absence of all that tangled forest of flow deviators (bargeboards) behind the rear wheels stands out, which will leave room for the inlets of the venturi ducts. The external part of these outlets will instead divert the flow towards the outside of the sidepod.
The shape of the sidepod as we see is very different and much simpler compared to the current single-seaters. At a structural level, the regulations concerning impact protections (SIPS – side impact protection structures) will also change, with the transition from two anti-intrusion cones to a single shock absorption element.
This obviously allows the lower channel of the floor to be opened, where the air flow will be conveyed.
The whole floor will have a different shape, so say goodbye to slots, vortex generators and so on. The attention of the engineers will shift mainly to trying to generate downforce from under the car, trying to seal as much as possible the air flow of the venturi ducts, given the absence of 80’s style side skirts.
However, from the images taken by photographers in this area, it is still evident that there could be more freedom for the engineers in the area in front of the rear wheels, with a very tapered floor shape. The way of interpreting aerodynamics in that area of the single-seater will radically change compared to what is currently the case.
The most “futuristic” area in the design concerns the rear, with a wing that will be very different from how we are used to seeing it in F1. It will essentially be smaller to what was presented, with an endplate that will connect directly with the cord of the profiles.
Still to be decided if the DRS system will be confirmed (in the Silverstone template it has not been included). Surely a shape connected between the mobile flap and the endplate would not allow great efficiency, and indeed could further generate vortices harmful to those who follow. However, the intention would be to keep this system still active, even if its contribution in reducing drag when overtaking will be reduced.
Technically the rear part is more interesting, where the wing will be supported not only by vertical pylons, but there will be the return of the beam wing, that is the horizontal wing above the diffuser. From the photos taken of the car presented at Silverstone, the cantilevered winglets behind the brake ducts stand out, and are very large, helping to manage the huge jet of air that will come from the sides of the extractor.
However, it must be noted that the “grey areas” that the engineers and designers of the teams will be able to exploit will be very minimal. Next year’s cars will be very similar to each other, with the FIA wanting to close the gap between top teams and mid-pack teams as much as possible.
In addition, many components will be standard for all, with a single supplier. A striking example are the rims and wheel covers, which we first saw in the concept shown on Thursday.
This will be associated with the introduction of 18 “Pirelli tyres, compared to the current 13”. This will make the tyres in F1 much more like road car designs, and will change the driving style a lot. The reduced shoulder of the tyre will certainly make the single-seaters more sensitive to the roughness of the asphalt and the passage on the curbs.
The tyres will go, at the front, from a width between 370 and 385 mm to one between 345 and 375mm. At the rear, however, from a width between 455 and 470 to one between 440 and 470mm. As for the total diameter, it will go from 670mm (or 680mm in the case of rain tires) to 725mm (or 735mm).