After a crazy 2021 Formula 1 season that saw Max Verstappen take the championship title from Lewis Hamilton on the final race of the season leaving F1 fans excited for the new season. But with new rules, regulations and cars fans don’t know what to expect come the opening race in Bahrain on the 20th of March. Here’s everything you need to know about the 2022 season.
1. The new car
F1 introduces a brand-new car this year. These new cars have been created to be more ‘raceable’ on the track meaning they should be less prone to turbulence and be able to run closer together making the racing more exciting with more overtaking potential. The front wing and endplates have been simplified on the new cars. They are less sensitive to the disruptive air which hampers the aerodynamic flow of the car directly behind it. The rear wing has been reshaped, connecting the main profile of the rear wing and the lower beam wing, removing the endplates, and thus making them more aerodynamic when following cars. The only part of the rear wing that remains from previous years is the DRS.
The floor of the car has also changed this year. The change has given the team to create a large amount of downforce through ground effect at the same time whilst simultaneously producing less disruptive airflow for the car behind. Another distinctive feature is the over-wheel winglets and wheel covers. Their job is to help control the turbulent air coming off the front tyres and direct it away from the rear wing.
2. 18-inch low profile tyres
The tyre size has changed this year from 13 inches to 18 inches. The intention is for these to be less temperature sensitive and allows drivers to push harder throughout stints while still maintaining a performance drop to make strategy interesting. The tyre blankets the teams use to heat up the tyres will be reduced in temperature, 100 degrees Celsius to 70C for the front tyres and 80C to 70C in the rears. Less heating means a lower carbon footprint, contributing to F1’s sustainability programme.
Flush wheel covers have been standardised for 2022 to banish using the wheel/axle to create more downforce inducing airflows. Wheel covers are not new to F1. Teams have experimented with them in the past and by 2006 majority of team was using them before the ban in 2010. The wheel covers feature an exit duct for hot air to be released from the brake ducts. The aim is to get the low pressure are just being the front tyre to pull airflow through the brake duct to improve performance.
3. Qualifying tyres
A big change is that the cars in the third round of qualifying no longer have to start on the tyres they set their fastest lap on during qualifying two. This means that all drivers have a free choice of tyre for the start of the race. The FIA are hoping this makes the racing more fair due to the fact that previous to this rule the top teams could make it through Q2 on medium compound tyres, the optimal starting tyre, where it would take lower teams the softer tyre to make it through.
4. Power unit freeze
With Formula 1’s 2026 hybrid engine and sustainable fuel not far in the future, an agreement was made to freeze the current power units from 2022. Formula 1 is set to retain the current 1.6 litre turbo hybrid unit. This is no bad thing due to these engines are already the most advance and efficient engines available to constructors.
5. Toto worried about Ferrari
Mercedes team principle Toto Wolff has recognised what he’s up against in this coming season and has publicly admitted to the challenge that Ferrari possesses this season. With Red bull team principle Christian Horner agreeing with Wolff expecting Ferrari to be the dark horse this session due to not being championship contender in the previous season but with new regulations changes could be battling for wins.
6. 23 race weekends
After Covid-19 stopped the F1 teams going to all planned races in the 2021 season, they plan the return of the record breaking 23 races in 2022 season. They start on March 18th in Bahrain with the last being in Abu Dhabi on November 20th. The return of fan favourites of Singapore, Japan, Australia, and Canada which were cancelled due to Covid, and the new addition of the glamourous Miami this upcoming season which will help attract more American fans. The season looks to be hectic with several double and triple header weekends, and one month for summer break, it aims to generate exciting racing and increase competition.
7. Driver moves
Mercedes sees George Russell promoted to the team he signed for as a junior in 2017, partner 8-time world champion Lewis Hamilton for the 2022 season. This deal saw Valtteri Bottas head to Alfa Romeo after the retirement of Kimi Raikkonen. Alex Albon makes his return to F1 with a one-year deal with Williams. Chinese F2 Guanyu Zhou driver joins Alfa Romeo for his rookie season in F1.
8. Two-part pre-season testing
With the major change of technical regulations to deal with and the new car, F1 teams will two pre-season testing sessions. The first test in Barcelona from 23-25th of February, with the official pre-season test in Bahrain on March 10-12. The drivers will have three days to get to grips with the new cars ahead of the opening round.
9. Return of the sprint race
Some love it, some hate it. But this year we will again see three sprint races throughout the calendar. They will take place in Imola (April 23), Austria (July 9) and Brazil (November 12).
There will be a change to the point system for the sprint results. Changing from only the top three drivers scoring point, this seasons the winners of the sprint will receive eight points instead of the previous three, second will receive seven and so on down to eighth place who receives one.
10. Two lap rule
After a rain filled Belgian GP causing controversy over points being awarded after a two-lap race which ran entirely behind the safety car. The F1 Commission approved proposed an update to the Sporting Regulations on how points will be awarded when the race distance is not completed. There will be no points awarded unless at least two laps have been completed without a safety car or virtual safety car.
11. Safety Car
After the controversy of the safety car restart and final lap at the Abu Dhabi Gp in 202, the FIA have decided to change the safety car rule to unlap cars. Under the revised regulations the Safety Car period will come to an end “once the message ‘lapped cars may now overtake’ has been sent to all competitors”. The circuit should also have been declared safe before this process is undertaken.
Once the message is displayed, lapped cars are able to overtake and the Safety Car will return to the pits. This has been done with the goal of reducing the amount of time it will take for backmarkers to pass the leaders, or allow the teams more notice of racing to be resumed. The new regulations aim to streamline the restarts on clarifying what will trigger the Safety Car period to end and return to the pits, hopefully making the restart quicker.
12. Michael Massi
Michael Massi has been replaces as F1 race director after the FIA analysis of the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP. Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, who have recently worked in the World Endurance Championship and DTM respectively, will alternate the Race Director role. This will come in to place at the Barcelona pre season testing.
13. Mandatory practice outing for junior drivers
With strict limits on testing in between the race calendar, young drivers don’t get the opportunity to prove themselves worthy of a seat. A new rule is introduced into Friday practice. It is now mandatory for teams to give young drivers an outing in FP1 on at least two occasions. The teams can choose which Friday practice they use as their mandatory session and they can choose to either use the same driver twice, or two different drivers for one session.
14. New weekend format
Only a small change to the (non-sprint) weekend format. The two one-hour practice sessions will continue from last year, but it will now take happen on Friday afternoon. Friday morning will be filled with media duties instead of on Thursday, eliminating Thursday Media day. This is to cut down the time away from home for team members but keeping the on-track action still to a three-day weekend.
A lot of new things to look out for this season. We are all hoping for closer battles amongst the drivers and teams, exciting new talent in the practice sessions, and overall a better racing and viewing experience. Something we can take from last year is that the competition between teams is going to be as close as ever, with Lewis Hamilton still hunting down his eighth Championship win and Max Verstappen trying to retain his title, it a season you done want to miss.
Read more by Vicki Merrick