FIA warn it will still ‘take some years’ for new regulations to take full effect

Sam Cooper
Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc battle. Bahrain, March 2022.

Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc battle in Bahrain. Bahrain, March 2022.

The FIA’s single seater technical director believes the full effects of the regulation changes will “take some years” to be seen.

2022 saw a whole host of changes brought into the sport, designed to make racing closer by way of cars that find it easier to travel behind one another.

Before the first race in Bahrain, there had been a great expectation that the new regulations would allow for a shake-up of the established order after years of dominance from Mercedes, and although the Silver Arrows were one of the biggest examples of a team changing positions in the standings, the rest of the field broadly represented the same as what had come before.

If anything, the 2022 season allowed teams to be even more dominant with a single driver winning 68% of races and only one podium place going to a non-Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull driver.

Despite this, the FIA’s Nikolas Tombazis said a result like this was expected and predicted it would “take some years” before the full effects of the regulation changes are seen.

“It wasn’t unexpected,” Tombazis said, as per Motorsport.com. “The effect of the cost cap, it will take some years for it to sink in because there’s still an initial advantage for people.

“I think initially, it was bound to still be the better-off or well-off teams that adapted better to the rules. But I do think now people have seen what the solutions are, and are likely to be adapting for next year.

“I think it was the outcome of it being the first year of the regulations.”

Mercedes in P3 were the lowest of the frontrunners but even then, there was a 342-point difference between them and fourth-placed Alpine. Tombazis however said the gaps were much lower than previous years which saw regulation changes.

“I mean in terms of being the first year of regulations, I think the gaps were very low,” he said. “I think if it was the fifth year like that, it would be a bit more worrying, but it was the first.

“If you look back at the first year of regulations, 2014 or 2009 or whatever, or 1998 I guess, these first years usually had some fairly big gaps. I think this year it’s been much less than that.”

FIA regulations a step forward but true test is yet to come

Tombazis is right in his assessment that the true test of the 2022 regulations will come in the following seasons, but there is enough evidence from the campaign just gone to suggest the sport is on the right track.

For a start, there has been no Brawn-esque invention that has taken someone like Williams or Haas to the very top, as much as they would have liked that to be the case, which suggests the regulations have created a stable platform to be built upon.

As with any new set of rules and car designs, there will always be an unforeseen problem and that came in the form of porpoising, but as we saw in the latter half of the season, the FIA technical directive has largely eliminated that and further work to the 2023 floor will improve that further.

We did also see much closer racing with Max Verstappen’s battle with Charles Leclerc in Bahrain being the most memorable moment, but it did highlight other issues the sport needs to be looking at, most notably the use of DRS.

But there has been no great shake-up of the established order that fans were hoping for. Red Bull, Ferrari, and Alpine all finished one spot better, Mercedes and Williams two spots worse with McLaren finishing a spot behind. Haas were two places better off but the real difference makers were Alfa Romeo finishing three places better off than they did in 2021, and AlphaTauri ending the same amount of positions as Alfa, but in the other direction.

The 2009 season was exciting because it allowed a new team to compete for the very highest honours and while fans cannot expect that to happen every time the regulations are altered, they can hope there are better days ahead.

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