Anthony Davidson believes F1’s pecking order could change race by race this season with Red Bull and Mercedes “quite unsure” as to how the R&D sliding scale will affect them.
Although Red Bull and Mercedes go into the 2022 season as the defending champions, Red Bull having won last year’s Drivers’ title and Mercedes the Constructors’, this year Formula 1 is starting from scratch with all-new cars in play.
Cars that many are predicting could somewhat shake-up the pecking order, although F1 managing director Ross Brawn is not expecting any “shock” results.
But it could see a change at the front with Red Bull and Mercedes paying the price for last year’s efforts in the championship races.
While they focused on the title race, the two teams behind them – Ferrari and McLaren – were able to spend their budget, and their wind tunnel time, developing their brand new 2022 cars.
There were signs of that in pre-season testing where Ferrari and McLaren hit the front before Mercedes and Red Bull bounced back on the final day.
The fastest times from the pre-season session in Barcelona! ⏱
— Formula 1 (@F1) February 27, 2022
“I think it is too early to say at the moment who has the edge or not,” former F1 driver turned pundit Davidson told Sky Sports.
“The cars will roll up in Bahrain and be very different to the cars we saw in Barcelona.
“This was just an early test for all the teams to go through the system checks. We saw lots of unreliability, lots of red flags coming out so very early days.
“We’ll have to wait until at least the final day of testing in Bahrain to make any kind of predictions about what we are going to see in the first race.
“Then it is just a shifting scale throughout the season with these new cars as they are finding so much time in the wind tunnel all the time.
“It is going to be an ever-changing thing as the season goes on which is great.”
Formula 1’s sliding scale for R&D, and especially wind tunnel time, could be one of the driving forces behind the changes says Davidson.
As of last season the teams had to operate under an R&D sliding scale designed to handicap the best-placed teams in the standings.
The team that finished first in 2020, Mercedes, was allowed 90% of the quota with the scale increasing by 2.5% for each position down the order, P10 receiving 115% of the allowance.
This year again Mercedes and Red Bull will have less wind tunnel time than their rivals.
Davidson explained: “The biggest thing for the top teams now is that we have this huge shift where before the top teams start the year with the biggest budgets, the most time in the wind tunnel and they go off and win both championship.
“Now there is this sliding scale of wind tunnel time allowance so we already start the season with the likes of Ferrari, who finished behind Red Bull and Mercedes, who have had 10 percent more wind tunnel time than both Red Bull and Mercedes, and that will go on throughout the season.
“So the top teams are quite unsure how this is going to play out which I’m really happy about.
“I want to see close competition so hopefully these new rules have really allowed us closer competition throughout the year.”