Formula 1 underwent a major makeover in the off-season, meaning that the 2022 landscape will look far different to that of 2021.
Change is nothing new in Formula 1, but this time around the alterations are significant, with the series bringing in wide-sweeping changes to address a number of key issues, whether it be the on-track action, sustainability, the race weekend format, points and more.
So let’s bring you up to date with the state of play ahead of the new season, in association with Sportsbreaks.com, who specialise in providing unforgettable sports travel experiences to the world’s most exciting sporting events including a variety of Formula 1 races.
Packages include an official ticket plus handpicked hotel accommodation, plus the opportunity to add travel from the UK. A great selection of races including Monaco, Spanish, Austrian, Hungarian, Belgian and Italian, with Abu Dhabi and Singapore to follow soon.
The 2022 cars
We will start with the biggest shift between 2021 and 2022, which are the cars themselves.
For years now drivers have complained about struggling to follow another car due to the loss of downforce they suffer in dirty air, while many have also wanted a bit more unpredictability in the results.
For that latter issue, a budget cap was introduced in time for the 2021 season, but Formula 1 really has now doubled-down on their efforts to ensure that the excitement rolls on into 2022 and beyond with an even tighter grid.
Not since the 1980s have we seen Formula 1 cars relying on ground effect aerodynamics, but for 2022 they are back.
Teams have now taken the covers off of their 2022 challengers, some more tentatively than others, but even the more casual Formula 1 fans will notice differences compared to the 2021 machinery.
Formula 1 has gone down this route in order to reduce the loss of downforce for a driver when following another.
From their simulations, the series is expecting an 18% downforce loss, compared to 46% in 2021.
And if a car was 20 metres behind another in 2021, the driver was expected to lose 35%, but for 2022 the data says it will be 4% at that distance.
To keep these more overtaking-friendly cars performing as planned, Formula 1 has also tightened up the freedom which teams have to innovate.
As such, this should mean a tighter grid and more overtaking. So far we are seeing some major design differences between the teams, but we will only truly know the landscape of the 2022 grid, and whether Formula 1 has succeeded in its mission, once they all hit the track for battle.
The budget cap
Teams were capped at spending $145m in 2021, the first season that a budget cap had been enforced in Formula 1.
For 2022, the teams have been forced to tighten their budgets even further, since the cap has dropped to $140m.
While Formula 1 was hard at wok crafting the new regulations, the same was true for Pirelli as they carried out the task of developing new, 18-inch tyre compounds.
A mammoth testing session was conducted across 2021 with the teams, with 4267 laps completed according to the Italian manufacturer.
The end result was a complete set of 18-inch compounds which will come into play for 2022, replacing the old 13-inch rubber.
This will represent a major change for the drivers, who according to Pirelli, said they could feel the extra weight of these beefed-up wheels through the steering, while the mechanics will undoubtedly feel it too when it comes to the pit stops.
2021 World Champion Max Verstappen has also highlighted the impact on visibility from the cockpit with these new tyres, saying that hitting the apexes “in some tight corners is a bit more difficult”.
So, with all-new cars and tyres combining, there is a whole load of adapting for the drivers and teams to do before they are full comfortable with their 2022 racing package.
As for the internal combustion engine inside the cars, that too will have a new tool to work with in the form of E10 fuel.
Formula 1 ultimately wants to reach the stage of using 100% fully-sustainable biofuel in the power units as part of the series’ push for a greener future, so the introduction of this E10 fuel is an early step along that path.
Previously, 5.75% of the fuel used in the engines had to come from bio-components which the manufacturers could select themselves, but now 10% ethanol is mandatory.
These engines and fuels are so finely tuned for maximum performance, so even a change like this which may not seem so significant, actually has the potential to unbalance these recipes for the manufacturers.
Just how much of an impact the E10 fuel will have remains to be seen.
Hywel Thomas, the managing director of Mercedes High Performance Powertrains, believes that the E10 fuel is actually “probably the largest regulation change we’ve had since 2014” on the power unit side, the year these V6 turbo-hybrids were introduced.
One of their customer teams, Aston Martin, played down that theory, their chief technical officer Andrew Green claiming that the “power unit has minimal changes really from ’21, it’s probably the single area of the car that’s had the least amount of change from ’21 to ’22”.
As such, he does not believe that integrating the new fuel was a “big issue” for Mercedes.
Which of those views is correct will be determined on the track in 2022.
New power unit freeze
And it is not only the fuel that is new, in fact, the same is true for the power units themselves.
2022 marks the final opportunity for teams to find gains in the engine department, before a development freeze then comes into play through until 2025, with the new generation of PUs then expected to be rolled out in 2026.
Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Honda have been hard at work then, packing every possible bit of performance into these new power units while they still can.
The turbo-hybrid era has been dominated by Mercedes, who so far have won all eight Constructors’ titles on offer, but Honda ran them mighty close in 2021 while powering Max Verstappen to the Drivers’ Championship.
There is plenty of optimism surrounding the 2022 Ferrari power unit, while Alpine will have the new Renault package bolted into their car, which they are hoping will prove to be a big boost having previously run a power unit which Renault had not developed for two years.
The 2022 season is going to define Formula 1 for many years to come on the engine front.
2021 saw the debut of sprint qualifying, a 100km sprint race held on the Saturday of a race weekend to set the grid for the main grand prix.
The British, Italian and Sao Paulo GPs were where the trials took place with mixed success, but Formula 1 was satisfied enough to plan for six of these sprint weekends in 2022.
Ultimately, the budget cap became an issue though, with certain teams, believed to be Mercedes and Red Bull, pushing for the cap to be increased, by reportedly up to $5million, to account for the potential extra crash damage.
Of course the teams further down the grid were not in agreement, so once again we will have three stagings of sprint qualifying in 2022, taking place at the Emilia Romagna, Austrian and Sao Paulo GPs.
But it will not be simply more of the same, as the points system for sprint qualifying has been altered significantly, as has the way that the pole sitter for such a weekend is decided.
In 2021, the winner of sprint qualifying claimed pole position for the main race and three points, while P2 scored two points and P3 a single point.
For 2022 though, the sprint winner will no longer be recognised as the driver on pole, that instead going to the P1 driver in traditional qualifying on Friday.
But, they will now be rewarded with eight points, going down by a point per place all the way down to one point for the driver in P8.
The series hopes that this will encourage the drivers to take more risks in the sprints, rather than play it cool and prioritise maintaining a decent grid slot.
The 2021 Belgian Grand Prix was a complete washout, though arguably the more frustrating part of that Sunday was how the awarding of points came about.
The Safety Car led the drivers around for a couple of laps to get the race underway, before taking them back to the pits so that half-points could be awarded when the race was subsequently red flagged and abandoned.
For 2022 though, no points will be awarded if there has not been two laps of racing without a Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car involved.
Quarter points will be awarded if less than 25% of the race has been completed, half points for 25% to 50%, and three-quarter points if 50% to 75% of the race has run before it is stopped.
The Safety Car
Following the drama of the 2021 season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the FIA has moved to provide further clarity on the process of Safety Car restarts, more specifically the role that lapped cars play in them.
Previously, racing would resume “once the last car has passed the leader”, if the order had come from Race Control for lapped cars to overtake before the restart.
But now, the updated regulations state that the Safety Car period will end “once the message ‘lapped cars may now overtake’ has been sent to all competitors”, with the Safety Car returning to the pits at the end of the following lap.
A new Race Control structure
As part of the FIA’s follow-up to Abu Dhabi, Michael Masi was removed from his position as race director and from 2022 it will no longer be a one-person job.
With Masi alone to deal with those barmy closing stages of that race, all while Mercedes and Red Bull shouted in his ear through the radio, the FIA determined that support was needed at the top of Race Control.
Now, the position will be shared by Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, who will alternate the job. Herbie Blash, the former deputy to Charlie Whiting, will be there to support.
Much of the paddock is also united on the wish to block direct communication between the teams and the race director moving forward.
Formula 1’s take on VAR
And to further beef up this new structure, from 2022 a new virtual Race Control will be in operation.
It is believed that the remote panel of officials will intervene in the case of any emergencies, while monitoring the different scenarios unfolding during a race.
Q2 tyre rule scrapped
Since 2014, drivers that made the top-10 shootout in qualifying were required to start the race on the tyres which they used to set their fastest Q2 lap, as long as dry-weather tyres were used.
It was hoped that this would offer a strategic advantage to those outside the top 10, who had a free tyre choice, but the impact overall has not been as significant as Formula 1 had hoped for.
And so, from 2022, all drivers will have a free tyre choice for the race start.
Amongst all of the technical, sporting and financial changes going on in Formula 1, we can’t forget that there has been some major movement in the driver market as well for 2022.
The biggest name involved is George Russell, who after three impressive seasons with Williams under the Mercedes junior banner, has now stepped up to the Mercedes line-up and will partner seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton for 2022.
Hamilton’s former team-mate Valtteri Bottas meanwhile has moved to Alfa Romeo, replacing Kimi Raikkonen, who bowed out of Formula 1 after the 2021 season as its most experienced driver of all time, marking the exit also of one of the biggest personalities in Formula 1.
Bottas will be partnered by Guanyu Zhou, who makes the step up from Formula 2, and as the first Chinese driver on the F1 grid, he as expected has brought a sponsorship boost to the Alfa Romeo team.
Zhou was the first ever recipient of the Anthoine Hubert Award for best rookie in F2 back in 2019, also claiming four wins in his 2021 campaign where he finished P3 in the final standings, so there is some merit to his promotion.
But, he understandably is out to prove those wrong who are looking at him as simply a ‘pay driver’.
The 2022 Formula 1 calendar features a record 23 rounds, with hopes high that it can be completed despite the difficulties which the global pandemic has brought about over the past two seasons.
In 2022 we are set to see the first Miami Grand Prix, which will be held at the Miami International Autodrome built around the grounds of the Hard Rock Stadium.
Formula 1 is also readying to reintroduce several long-standing stops on the calendar which were absent in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.
A warm welcome back to the Australian, Canadian, Singapore and Japanese GPs!
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