It’s no secret to Formula 1 enthusiasts that the FIA is putting more and more emphasis on the entertainment aspect of the series to make race weekend more competitive and provide fans with an entertaining show on Sundays.
This is why, in the past few years, there have been a lot of changes added not only to the cars, but also to the race week altogether. Just before the Portuguese Grand Prix, it was announced that this year’s season will feature a new qualifying format for three race weekends on the calendar – Sprint Qualifying.
While it was not announced which of this year’s Grand Prix will feature this new format, fans are already placing their bets and looking forward to more news.
But no matter how much the FIA decides to tweak and twist the season this year, nothing compares to the massive changes that were supposed to happen in 2021.
Back in 2019, when the world had no idea we were going to be hit with the largest global crisis of the past decades, the FIA promised a fresh and quite daring vision for Formula 1’s 2021 season. Constructors were expected to begin the development of the new cars last year, but unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented these changes from taking effect and nearly left us without the 2020 season altogether. This prompted the FIA to push the implementation of the new rules until the 2022 season.
Fans were disappointed, to say the least, but voices from inside the paddocks say this may not have been an entirely bad thing after all.
Toto Wolff: “If you keep the rules, the field converges.”
Toto Wolff, the man in charge at 7-time Constructor’s Championship team Mercedes, believes the 2022 new changes may bring even more disruption to the sport, after two seasons in which the mid-field teams have had time to step up their game.
The 2021 season kept most of the rules and regulations that were available for the 2020 season, with some small changes. This gave teams plenty of time to improve on what they already had, and the gap between the leading teams and the mid-field was significantly reduced.
Wolff explains that if rules don’t change as drastically season after season, all teams will have the time to work on their cars, and competition will become tighter.
He continues by saying this is, in no way, an easy thing for cars at the top; quite the contrary, in fact. The leading teams see less and less payoff from their efforts, whereas mid-field teams continue to improve, and this is where convergence starts to happen. This is why this season’s qualifying sessions have been so tight, especially between Mercedes and Red Bull.
In regards to the 2022 changes, Toto Wolff states the convergence he is talking about will be gone next year for sure. That’s because constructors will have to modify their cars quite significantly, resulting, again, in a disjointed field where one or two teams are battling for the championship and the rest are watching from behind, which puts us back to square one.
What will the new changes bring along?
Changes, especially in an ever-evolving field such as Formula 1 and the automotive industry altogether, are a must. They don’t only make the sport more entertaining, but many of the new technologies that end up on F1 cars will become the norm for road cars in the future.
If you were to ask fans, mechanics, drivers, or anyone that has taken an interest in the F1 universe, what they think of the 2022 changes, you would get a million opinions. Some say these changes are a gift from the F1 gods and will end Mercedes’ dominance, others agree with Toto and say it will only bring more disruption, especially now that the field seems more competitive than it was in a long time.
Still, for those of you that are still wondering what’s so massive about the new rules, we are going to outline the most important aspects below:
New design philosophy
2022 cars will look significantly different than current models, but the changes in design don’t only serve an aesthetic function. The cars will feature simplified front wings, boosted underbody aerodynamics, different suspensions, and 18-inch rim tires. These, together with other technical changes, are FIA’s solution to the loss of downforce cars currently experience when being in the “dirty air” of the car in front of them.
Standardized parts and component limitations
2022 will also see the introduction of specific standardized parts, such as fuel parts, as well as parts that must follow a predetermined design. Additionally, teams will be limited in the number of times they can replace certain car components. What’s more, Pirelli is already developing new tires for the 2022 season, with Valtteri Bottas testing them last month at Imola.
For many years now, there have been lots of complaints about the positive feedback loop that F1 supports when it comes to how much money the teams are able to spend. Teams at the top receive bigger funds for development, plus they are able to secure more sponsors, which brings even more cash to the table. While the FIA won’t necessarily change how much money constructors can secure, there will be some changes in regards to how much they can spend.
The 2022 season will see a cost cap set at $175m for each team, excluding marketing costs, driver salaries, and salaries of the team’s top three staff members, in an attempt to bridge the spending gap between teams at the top and teams that have access to fewer resources.
There is a lot of speculation about the impact of the 2022 regulations; and while we can go on for days debating whether or not these changes will have a positive or negative impact on the grid, the only way to know for sure is by observing and analyzing performances, one race weekend at a time.