Why F1's restricted 2022 rules won't make cars all look-alikes

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In fact, the push by F1 and the FIA to ensure that teams don’t overdevelop aero have led to concerns that the new regulations have restricted design freedoms too much.

The fear is that with so many compliance boxes, and increased used of more standard parts, that all the 2022 cars will looks the same, and the best outfit won’t be able to prove its brilliance.

It is something that F1 chiefs have been aware of for a number of years, but there has always been the belief that there was still enough room within what was laid out to allow teams to find better solutions.

As F1 managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn said: “We know with these very proscriptive regulations, the fertile minds of F1 will come up with different solutions.

“They [the rules] will be proscriptive because we have to make sure we achieve these objectives, but there is enough latitude there.”

As teams have got down to work with the new rules, though, concerns about them being completely tied down in having no freedom have not quite materialised.

While there is an acceptance that the rules will ensure a fair degree of similarity between the different cars, there remains enough grounds for variation of both looks and performance.

Speaking exclusively to Autosport about how work on the 2022 concept is going, Alfa Romeo’s technical director Jan Monchaux said: “It is very restrictive, that’s true.

“I am not expecting some kind of very, very different concepts along the pitlane next year, because the rules are not giving you enough freedom. But nonetheless, I see the envelope in which the car will have to operate to be significantly different than with these cars.

“I think those that will be ahead will have been doing a much better job in developing an aerodynamics platform that allows you to recover a lot of the lost performance, and also some of the stability.

Alfa Romeo Racing 2022 F1 car

Alfa Romeo Racing 2022 F1 car

Photo by: Alfa Romeo

“From what we see in the tunnel, on some decisions that might not even be visible for those outside, you can have quite a big impact on the aero shape of the car, so how it behaves when it’s [running] high and low. And this certainly will be a big differentiator if there are some gaps next year.

“Some teams might have taken the wrong direction and will have to revert, but I’m not sure you will physically really see that the geometry of the car is day and night [different]. I would be quite surprised, but time will tell.”

One area where Monchaux does see grounds for big differences between the teams is the packaging of the power unit, and especially how that integrates with the engine cover and sidepods.

As a Ferrari customer squad, Alfa Romeo’s own design must accommodate for any change that its Maranello partner is making for 2022.

There has been speculation that one area of progress for Ferrari’s new power unit will be in its size, with it fitting much lower in the car.

This will not only deliver a benefit in terms of centre of gravity, but would also free up its teams to be more aggressive with the bodywork around it.

Monchaux will not confirm what changes Ferrari is making, but expects this area of the car to be a particular point of interest.

“I will not confirm or infer what you have heard about the ’22 engine, but the engine in itself is behind the chassis,” he explained.

“For us in terms of a block, it’s a constant that is not changing massively. What will be interesting is what people are doing with the top engine cover and the sidepods. That is certainly going to be an area where we’ll have a variety of concepts.

“I could well imagine that what people find in the windtunnel will have an impact on the engine, because priority is given to the aero quite often. So if you need to change maybe some part of the engine architecture to facilitate some volume for the aero, that will certainly have an impact.

The 2022 Formula 1 car launch event on the Silverstone grid. Front detail

The 2022 Formula 1 car launch event on the Silverstone grid. Front detail

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

“I don’t know the concept of our supplier next year. I’m not supposed to know, and I’m not allowed to say as they are not sharing this.”

Exactly how different things will shape up is hard to tell now, as teams are working pretty much in isolation as best they can.

But Monchaux says one certainty is just how big a change things are going to be for everyone.

“I’m not going to complain,” he said. “It’s what we love and in an eight to five job we would get bored. Here we have a lot to do, but also we all know at Sauber it’s a great opportunity to just re-establish things.

“The team is better and deserves better than being P8 or P9. And having everyone starting from the same starting line, we are hoping that we can establish ourselves quite high. Where? We will see. And that is quite a boost also.

“We are stressed, we work a lot, but it’s not painful, because we like that. And we know that if we do our homework, and if we go through the pain now, probably we will have a different climate and also some natural motivation next season.”

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