A Formula One car is a single-seat, open-cockpit, open-wheel formula racing car with substantial front and rear wings, and an engine positioned behind the driver, intended to be used in competition at Formula One racing events. The regulations governing the cars are unique to the championship and specify that cars must be constructed by the racing teams themselves, though the design and manufacture can be outsourced.
It’s been designed specifically to promote better racing
The 2022 regulations, originally slated to arrive in 2021 but delayed by Covid-19, had one guiding principle: to allow closer racing – with the potential for more overtakes a happy, but secondary, benefit
What’s preventing closer racing currently? The effect of the "catastrophic downforce loss" – to quote an engineer centrally involved with the project – resulting from the ‘dirty air’ being churned chaotically off a leading car currently.
To put some numbers on it, research shows that current F1 machines lose 35% of their downforce when running three car lengths behind a leading car (approximately 20 metres, measured from the lead car’s nose to following car’s nose), while closing up to one car length (around 10 metres) results in a 47% loss.
The 2022 car, developed by Formula 1's in-house Motorsports team in collaboration with the FIA, and putting a heavy onus on the aerodynamic phenomenon known as ‘ground effect’ (more on which later…), reduces those figures to 4% at 20 metres, rising to just 18% at 10 metres.
The car will feature over-wheel winglets for the first time – and wheel covers are back!
Two of the striking features on the 2022 car are its over-wheel winglets and a return to a feature last seen in F1 in 2009 – wheel covers.
The inclusion of the latter is simple: sending airflow through the wheels might be an enormously potent way for teams to increase their downforce, but it also adds to that chaotic aerodynamic wake coming off the cars.
Although there have been changes to the 2022 regulations to limit what teams can do around the tyres aerodynamically, F1’s Motorsports team wanted to take a belt-and-braces approach by adding a physical seal to prevent engineers intentionally directing disruptive airflow out through the wheels.
As for the over-wheel winglets, their job is to help control the wake coming off the front tyres and direct it away from the rear wing. That’s been a role traditionally performed by vortices from the front wing – but in a way that makes them hugely sensitive when running in following car conditions. The winglets will achieve the same thing, but in a way that is more aerodynamically resilient in close racing
The car will feature 18” wheels with low-profile tyres for the first time
F1 fans will have recently seen lots of footage of teams testing Pirelli’s bigger 18” wheels in readiness for next year.
The new Pirelli compounds and constructions for these 18” wheels have been designed with the goal of reducing the amount the tyres overheat when they slide – a primary aspect that should help with closer racing.
The lower profile tyres also have the added benefit of reducing the sidewall deflection changes and the resulting aerodynamic wake effect that occurs. The teams spend a lot of effort on simulating the air flow regimes around the tyre shapes and interactions with the car bodywork. Reducing the sensitivity in this area will be a benefit in both the car design process and resource required – something that's particularly important in the era of the cost cap.