The 2022 Formula 1 season will begin a new era for the sport, with a fresh range of rules and regulations in place for the teams to follow to create a closer, more competitive championship.
Not only will there be a new car design, but updated regulations will be in place to make the sport more fair for the teams both from a technical and financial aspect, as well as small tweaks to rules after feedback and reaction from previous events.
But what exactly has changed? With the season finally upon us, The Sporting News breaks down how 2022 differs.
The new cars
Formula 1 has been researching with simulations and experiments to create a race car that would provide closer, fairer and cleaner racing for the future of the sport. The new philosophy set to debut this year is a massive shakeup in terms of aerodynamics, described by F1 as a “revolution.”
A common problem with past cars was that it was difficult to closely follow others on track because of the dirty air produced by the car ahead. The result of dirty air meant that cars lost grip with their tires when turning, and only had 55 percent of their downforce when following another car. This created less overtaking on the track and fewer exciting battles as a result.
To combat this, the cars are now cleaner with their designs, with F1 creating a blueprint for teams to follow. The overall bodywork of the cars is simplified, with a large percentage of the downforce created underneath the car with ground effects.
Ground effects were present in F1 from the late 1970s but were banned in 1983 because of safety grounds. The new ground effects will be the main source of creating aerodynamic grip, with a simplified bodywork now mandatory for teams to follow. This allows for drivers to follow each other closely as the turbulent air from the cars will be reduced, while maintaining the level of downforce the cars had from previous generations.
However, a common issue the teams are now facing with ground effects is the amount of bouncing the cars are generating down the straights, known as “porpoising.”
MORE: Leclerc claims Red Bull are championship favorites
The front wing of the cars is simplified with the endplates now connected to the nosecone, instead of pillars. The front wing aims to create less disturbed air as it travels throughout the car, again with a uniform design. The ends of the front wing from each side are also curved for tougher resistance when making contact.
Around the front wheels are fins covering the top of the tires. These are a new feature on the cars to help create additional downforce when air travels over the tires. All teams must have these fins on the cars and above the front tires.
The rear wing of the cars has been redesigned to be wider and higher than previous seasons, with new “rolled tips.” The design of the new rear wing, alongside a higher scooped diffuser on the rear, again leads to cleaner air for the cars behind.
This year also sees the introduction of standardized components, where teams are given a list of parts which they either must design themselves (such as the survival cell, aerodynamic components and the front impact structure), can buy from other teams (the gearbox, clutch , suspensions and electronics) or buy from customs (camera, wheel rims, tires, sensors).
With F1 setting a strict blueprint for teams to follow, and former loopholes found by designers and engineers closed up, all teams will arrive into Bahrain’s season opener in the unknown. That, along with the concerted aim of maintaining downforce while creating more overtaking opportunities, makes this a massively exciting time for the sport.
The engine freezes
The current 1.6 liter V6 hybrids, introduced in 2014, will remain in the sport and development on these engines will be frozen ahead of the 2022 season, meaning the power units are the same as in the 2021 season.
The proposal of an engine freeze cam from Red Bull, which wanted to retain the current power unit structure to allow the team to take on Honda’s power unit project beyond 2021, as the Japanese engine manufacturer left the sport last year. The proposal was passed by F1, the FIA and the teams in a bid to save money and be more sustainable in engine production. The power units will remain the same until 2026.
However, the power units will now be operated using new sustainable fuel named E10, which contains 10 percent bio-competent elements. F1 is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2030 and switch to fully sustainable fuel in the future, with this the first step.
MORE: The ultimate beginners’ guide to Formula 1
The new tires
Pirelli will introduce new 18-inch low-profile tires for 2022, with the tires widening in diameter from 13 inches. The primary goal of the move to 18 is to reduce the tires overheating when they slide.
The 18-inch tires have been tested before 2022 using F1’s feeder series, Formula 2, to experiment and develop data on the tire’s behavior before switching to Formula 1.
This year also sees the return of wheel covers, made mandatory for all teams to run as part of the cost cap measures, and as part of F1’s latest deal with BBS as the sport’s official wheel rim supplier.
The starting tire choice
Drivers can now freely choose which tires on which they start the Grand Prix. Under the previous rules, the top 10 on the grid had to start on whichever tires they qualified with during Q2. Now, all drivers will have the freedom to select which compound to use for the start of the race, opening the door for more creativity in strategy.
The financial regulations
In 2021, Formula 1 introduced a budget cap for teams to follow with a limit of $145 million a year, but the budget will go down to $140 million this time. The budget cap — like a salary cap structure in other sports such as the NFL, NBA and NHL — will theoretically prevent domination by one or two teams.
Areas such as car design and development, testing and race operations, and component manufacturers are areas that will be limited by a budget. Marketing, travel, power units and salaries from drivers and the top three highest-paid executives in the team are ruled out from the cap.
The 2021 campaign acted as a dummy year for teams to get use to and understand the new rules, but the budget cap this year will be monitored closely by a Cost Cap Administration, and any breach will result in fines or penalties such as points deductions, race bans or disqualification from the championship.
The safety car procedure
After the infamous 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix controversy, the procedure for the restart of a race after a safety car has changed. In the previous method, the safety car was withdrawn one lap after the last car had unlapped itself from the leader. Now, the safety car will withdraw one lap after the instruction has been given.
The ‘VAR’ and change of race director
Continuing the fallout from the 2021 finale, Michael Masi, who served as the race director for two years, has been predictably removed from the role. The FIA has restructured the race control team, with two race directors in charge: Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas. Both have served as race directors in series such as DTM and the World Endurance Championship.
The FIA has also introduced a new virtual race control system to aid the race stewards at the track with incidents and penalties. Much like VAR (video assistant referee) in football, this measure will remotely help the stewards in making decisions on incidents quicker.
The FIA has also banned team radio communications to the FIA stewards on TV to help protect the race officials. So, no more of Toto Wolff and Christian Horner screaming down the line to Masi, as much as it may have amused viewers.