SportF1How the new rules have changed the development war...

How the new rules have changed the development war in F1

The scale of these changes means Formula 1’s traditional development battle is no longer a one-sided race, as it has been in recent seasons. This year, the teams have to find performance improvements in several areas.

The Grand Circus had become a struggle dominated by aerodynamic effort , with the brakes, tyres, suspension and set-up perfectly set up with identical regulations for a few campaigns.

However, some intriguing developments are now taking place, both on and off the track, as the knowledge that the teams had accumulated over the past decade has completely disappeared.

This has forced the teams not only to redesign parts to comply with the new regulations, but also to look for ways to improve their performance based on the new parameters and how they interact with each other.

2022 brake disc dimension

2022 brake disc dimension

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Tyres dimension comparison

Tyres dimension comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

An example is the brake assembly, which has been modified significantly, not only to accommodate the change to 18-inch wheels , but also as a result of removing some of the little tricks that teams used in the past.

Before they had found a way to balance the design of the whole, with the main function of cooling the brake elements, with the help of aerodynamics and the transfer of heat from the tire through the rim.

The regulations have been conceived in such a way that these support functions have taken a backseat, but that is not to say that teams are not looking for ideas to avoid those losses.

Red Bull Racing RB18 front brake detail
Alpine A522 brake drum detail

For example, both Red Bull and McLaren have chosen to cover part of the brake discs, which are now larger, to better manage the dispersion of heat within the entire assembly and how it is transferred to the rim and tyre.

Meanwhile, other teams have returned to the more traditional configuration for the calipers, having previously moved to a more rearward position to make it easier to use the aerodynamic channels to deflect air outwards.

In the case of Alpine, in addition to wrapping the brakes with a carbon fiber duct to supply cold air to the region, they have also decided to include teardrop outlets. These provide part of the generated heat with a place to escape, so that an exponential increase in temperature does not occur.

This will undoubtedly be an area where teams will continue to look for performance, as it is a multi-parameter union, but with the limitations of the regulations and the specifications of the wheels and hubcaps, there is more.

The introduction of a larger rim and lower profile tire had long been on the sport’s agenda, as the previous diameter consisted of 13 inches , and was considered a thing of the past due to the trend of increasing size in street cars.

Although the teams and drivers were able to enjoy some testing with cars modified for the occasion with the 18-inch wheels, they still have a steep learning curve ahead of them when it comes to finding performance.

This is a difficult search due to the limited amount of data available, and feedback from pilots is a critical factor in gaining insight in these first few months.

The change in the operating window of the new tires has also had an impact on Pirelli, reducing the maximum blanket temperatures from 100ºC to 70ºC in 2022, as well as having relatively high minimum pressures at each grand prix.

Modifications to the Italian manufacturer’s compounds have influenced the temperature curves, with teams having to adjust to the new margins on tread, volume and what effect this has on degradation.

In addition, the dynamic behavior of the tires has been altered, not only affecting the way the aerodynamicists model some parts, but also requiring the driver to modify his style according to the way the tire changes. with the various loads and stresses it endures over the course of a lap.

Suspensión del Red Bull Racing RB18

Red Bull Racing RB18 suspension

The management of these loads has become even more complex in 2022, since some suspension designs that were considered basic in recent years, such as some hydraulic elements , have been discarded.

The reduction in these tools has been compounded by the need to run the car as stiff as possible to take advantage of the switch to a more ground-focused aero configuration.

The need for these cars to be as low and stiff as possible means that the parts have to withstand more stress, while the budget limit has pushed teams to build stronger components to increase their useful life.

This, along with the increased weight associated with 18-inch wheels, hubcaps, rear wing mounts, an anti-intrusion front panel and more stringent crash tests, has inevitably led to an increase in weight of the single-seaters.

As a consequence, the FIA increased the minimum weight to 795 kilos for the 2022 season, with an additional 3 kilos after the start of the course and the possibility of adding braces in the floor section, to avoid an exaggerated excess on the scale.

These additional bottom-anchored gussets have been introduced so that teams with more porpoising headaches could figure it out, as floor flex was clearly a reliability concern.

Detalle del fondo del Red Bull Racing RB18

Red Bull Racing RB18 bottom detail

The seatstays offered some respite for those struggling with flex issues, but also offered everyone a means of compensating for the load imparted on the ground, which meant that teams could redesign this section for aerodynamic gains, by while they could save weight.

It is understood that some sets will be able to lighten several kilos in this sense, since the new pieces will be arriving in the next races. There is also an emerging trend that sees teams sacrifice visual appeal for weight reduction, as cars become more exposed to carbon fibre.

The teams have been doing it for several years, but this season they seem to have taken it more seriously, as they continue to look for ways to save even a few grams in an attempt to weigh less on the scale.

Alex Albon, Williams FW44
Williams FW44 side detail

The latest example is the Williams, which in Melbourne decided to remove paint from its front and rear wing, a nose tip region, and two lines running up the side of the nose. To this should be added the ramped outer section of the pontoon, a part of the chassis that merges with the halo, and a large section of the engine cover, including the shark fin.

However, those of Grove are not the only ones, since Aston Martin and McLaren had already removed part of the paint from the engine cover, while Red Bull and Mercedes got rid of the colored areas of the front wing. Just about everyone on the grid has taken steps in their liveries to help cut weight where they can.

There are no silver bullets

In the past, large-scale rulebook changes have led to development battles early on, where a standout solution is immediately adopted.

Under the new regulations, it seems we won’t see this, as teams are more keen to resolve any inherent behavioral issues, such as porpoising, than to find performance.

In terms of development, standing still has been seen as a weakness from the start, as continuing to push allows you to catch up faster, even though that may mean making missteps.

However, with such a steep learning curve with current cars on how to extract performance with a budget cap in place, it means teams have different perspectives on development, and standing still could be a trend going forward, especially if rivals do not get solutions.

Meanwhile, the calendar also influences when making decisions, since the Spanish Grand Prix was traditionally taken as a point of reference, due to the logistical efforts necessary to deliver larger pieces.

However, now that Barcelona is the sixth round, instead of the fifth, one would expect that the teams would have preferred to bring the improvements to Imola, given that it is the first round on European soil.

In contrast, introducing any major updates could be seen as reckless, as the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix is a sprint weekend, meaning teams only have a single test session on Friday.

Teams will prefer to spend their time perfecting the set-up, rather than spending those few minutes evaluating and understanding a wide range of new components.

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