Pre-season testing disproved some of our fears that the 2022 cars would all look identical, in fact the new technical rules have allowed for plenty of design freedom and that’s quite obvious when you look at the various sidepod solutions up and down the grid.
But Barcelona and now Bahrain have given us a glimpse into just how creative the engineers and designers have been with their interpretation of the regulations, which is certainly a very positive aspect for those keen to explore the technical workings of a car.
If we analyse the various aerodynamic choices of the various teams, it is clear that the greatest difference in the management of the air flow mainly concerns the whole part of the car that is above the venturi floor. In fact, the technical regulations have allowed enough freedom with regards to the sides, which in some single-seaters present a clear deviation from the 2021 aerodynamics.
It is mainly noted that there are substantially three to four well-defined philosophies in the management of the air flow that flows above the floor, with the aim of creating a greater difference in pressure between the air flow that flows inside the venturi tunnels, and the stream flowing atop the bodywork.
The first big difference can be seen among those single-seaters that have maintained the down-wash effect; adopting roughly the same aerodynamic philosophy present in 2021, compared to those who instead want to radically change this direction.
Ferrari and Aston Martin have in fact chosen to keep the sides of the bodywork quite high, channeling the flow of air higher towards the rear. The lower area of the AMR22 sidepods (above) act as a corridor for the flow of air, while Ferrari surprised many with its innovative and completely unconventional choice of bodywork (below).
We were able to observe on the F1-75 a pronounced gutter in the area of the cooling openings, with the intent of guiding the flow in the direction of the beam wing.
Compared to the Aston Martin philosophy, Ferrari has not provided a channel above the floor with its very square shape. From the images we observed when the mechanics disassembled the F1-75, we saw that this choice does not concern a particular arrangement of the radiators, or other mechanical dimensions.
Team boss Mattia Binotto himself stated that this choice has been driven purely for aerodynamic reasons, and leaves room for changes in case it becomes necessary to tighten the sides in the lower part. We have also seen a similar interpretation on the Alfa Romeo and above all on Haas, both of which have chosen the philosophy of high sides.
Among the teams that use the Mercedes Power Unit, Aston Martin is the only one to have proposed the tallest form. Mercedes, McLaren and Williams have taken the path most faithful to that of 2021, which through the coanda effect creates a sort of chute to bring a portion of air to the upper part of the diffuser.
The Mercedes engine has been the one that seems to offer less space for years now, as it remains very compact in the exhaust area, allowing for a very tapered design. The Mercedes W13 was the one with the least differences in the side area compared to 2021 when it debuted in Spain (above). In Bahrain however, the team introduced a major upgrade package akin to a ‘B-spec’ version (below), with sidepods that are truly extreme. The sidepods are very narrow and the protective structure has been separated and serves as a support for the mirrors.
This has caused a lot of discussion, because by regulation the safety supports cannot have direct aerodynamic functions. The support that surrounds the protection cone (below the mirror) has a wing shape, which helps to generate downwash towards the sides. The entrance to the radiators is also new, with a vertical shape. The floor with the wavy design has also disappeared and has been replaced by a rectilinear version to work in synergy with the new bodywork as teams look to best seal their floors.
However, we can see the clear difference with the Ferrari philosophy, which does not prefer a down wash philosophy, but has bodywork that tends to keep the flow high in the direction of the beam wing, despite all the cars of 2022 having a fairly closed rear end compared to 2021. This aspect is also guaranteed by the fact that the regulation has allowed the “gills” to be opened (if necessary) for cooling.
The Williams FW44 is the one that certainly surprised the most in the design of the sides together with Mercedes. The engineers of the Grove team have in fact taken the concept of down-wash to the extreme, with the sidepods that end almost immediately, and there is also an opening inside the slot of the radiators to bring even more air to the chute (arrow).
The design chosen by the British team’s engineers involved moving some heat exchangers in the upper part of the engine cover, effectively freeing up space on the side of the car.
Among these aerodynamic choices described so far, the Red Bull RB18 and the Alpha Tauri are in the middle, with a compromise between high sides and coanda effect.
The single-seater designed by Adrian Newey amazed the competition with the launch of the RB18 in Barcelona, hitherto well hidden from its opponents with a launch in February with the show car. The Milton Keynes team had wanted to hide its innovations to show its definitive forms only in tests, astonishing everyone with the extreme and refined shape of the sides.
On the last day of testing in Bahrain, Christian Horner’s team made its debut with the eagerly awaited updates that had been talked about for days. The changes that have been seen are not as shocking as those of the Mercedes, but are a development of what had already been done on the basis of the RB18 project.
The sidepods have been further excavated in the part under the radiator tray, while in the upper edge (where the Oracle sponsor is) a slide has been formed to create a cascade of flow towards the top of the floor. The team are certainly trying to find further downforce with this concept, by increasing the air flow in the upper part of the floor, in order to create a greater difference in pressure and therefore downforce.
The shape is very hollowed out in the lower part, recalling in part what was done on the Aston Martin AMR22, to allow for a greater and cleaner air flow above the floor. The overall dimensions are concentrated in the front and upper part of the sides of the car, where the air intakes of the radiators have a very advanced shape. The shape remains well squared up to the rear area, and the search for the down-wash takes place only towards the rearmost area, just before the suspension.
Also on the Alpha Tauri there is a similar layout to its big sister, but with a smoother line at the top.
All these differences between the single-seaters on the grid will diminish as the solution that clearly offers more advantages is found. During this season, however, it will be difficult for someone to go and revolutionise their form or to copy an opponent, while it is more likely that they will develop directly on the project that is available. This is mainly due to the action of the BoP which limits the hours in the wind tunnel, as well as the budget cap. From 2023, however, it is possible that all these differences are less marked.
At the moment it is not clear what the winning solution is, but it is nice to finally see Formula 1 full of technical topics, with each car offering interesting insights for analysis. 2022 will finally be able to entertain lovers of technology.