FIA challenge Sebastian Vettel’s assessment of F1’s new rules for 2022

Thomas Maher
Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel racing at the 2022 French Grand Prix. Paul Ricard, July 2022.

Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel racing at the 2022 French Grand Prix. Paul Ricard, July 2022.

The FIA’s Nikolas Tombazis has refuted suggestions from Sebastian Vettel that the new regulations haven’t quite worked out as planned.

Tombazis believes that the 2023 field will close up as the new technical regulations enter their second year and begin to mature, following comments from Sebastian Vettel expressing doubt the switch to ground effect has made much difference to the racing.

2022 saw the introduction of revolutionary new rules, utilising ground effect aerodynamics, in a bid to reduce the ‘dirty air’ effect for attacking cars and to ensure drivers could race closer, and for longer.

But four-time World Champion Vettel was unsure the new regulations achieved their target.

“We follow closer, but we’ve got less drag, so you need to be closer to also overtake,” explained Vettel, as quoted by Motorsport.com.

“And on tyres, the big target was to allow racing more, but I don’t think it is a big difference either. So I don’t want to say it has failed. But certainly, a lot of effort had gone in and not all the effort came out, let’s put it this way.”

The FIA’s head of single-seater matters, Nikolas Tombazis admitted that 2022 hadn’t been particularly close, as Red Bull and Max Verstappen romped their way to both titles with only occasional challenges from Ferrari and Mercedes, but expects the field to close up during this regulation cycle.

“I think [the new rules] did improve the ability of cars to follow each other so I think that, in combination with the tyres, did help,” he told Motorsport.com.

“Clearly a good race needs also [cars] to be close to each other fighting, and the second half of this season, it was not so close. There was a clear-cut winner, of course.

“But I do think that it is going to be quite a lot closer next year again. And, with the [natural] convergence, I think that, in combination with the cars being able to a) race close and b) fight more with the tyres and not overheat them, I think that will lead to some very good races.

“Overall this year, I think the races were generally quite exciting. So yeah, I don’t think it was for little gain. I think the gain was reasonable. I can confirm it was a lot of effort!”

Nikolas Tombazis: Getting rid of disturbed air is impossible

Tombazis explained that it is nigh-on impossible for the regulations to be able to completely eradicate the ‘dirty air’ factor, and can only seek to find ways to mitigate its effects.

“To not have any disturbed air is never going to happen,” he said.

“That would only be the case if the cars had very little or no downforce, like the 1960’s or whatever. So there’s always going to be a wake effect.

“In the near wake, there was still a reduction of the loss, so we went from losing 50%, to losing about 25%. It’s still a sizeable loss, but, by then, you’re into the DRS and can compensate for that partially.”

With the new rules reducing the levels of drag each car produces, Vettel had made the point that the slipstream effect was less pronounced than thge previous ruleset.

Tombazis revealed that the balancing act of trying to reduce drag while keeping a strong slipstream effect had been analysed during the development of the 2022 rules, and believes the new rules have achieved an overall net positive.

“If you simulate two cars following each other say one second apart, on the straight, that one second is about 60 metres and in the corner that one second is 20 metres because of the speed. So the percentage gain find in the corner is still a lot bigger than the loss on the straight.

“Some of the doubters of this whole approach were saying: ‘well you lose the slipstream’, which is indeed a bit smaller.

“But when you actually do the simulation about how much the car that is one second behind can approach the front car, you’re still considerably better off if you have this effect.”

Read more: Sebastian Vettel will be back in the F1 paddock at some point… but only to ‘have a look’