Contrary to all fears, the 2022 cars will probably only be half a second slower than the current vehicles at the start of the season. At least that's what the latest performance simulations by those responsible for F1 predict. The difference could then be completely made up for by the end of 2022.
When the regulations for 2022 were presented, the first estimates spoke of five seconds slower lap times. At the end of last year, some technical bosses hoped that the next generation of cars might be better than their reputation. There was only a difference of three seconds to the current vehicles. However, the new projections are a sensation. The delta may be much smaller.
Of course, the teams keep silent. There are currently hardly any more secret numbers than the lap times calculated for the 2022 cars based on wind tunnel tests and simulations. But this time there is a neutral authority. Nobody knows the secrets of the new generation of vehicles better than Pat Symonds, who invented the concept with a group of engineers on behalf of F1 management.
There is only one goal: better races
Unlike in the past, forecasts are no longer just gray theory. Symonds and his team actively developed the car in the wind tunnel and with CFD simulation. They wanted to make sure this time that their big goal is also fulfilled. It's not about lap times, it's about following behind in a group. That's why the technical heads of the teams were also asked to share their experiences with the inventors of the concept - and also to warn them if something went wrong.
Transparency was also required for self-protection. So that there is no rude awakening when someone with the super trick shows up next year. "The FIA can ban a development if they feel it is not in accordance with the spirit of the regulations," warns Symonds. Four weeks before the start of the season, that would be fatal from a double perspective. Firstly, the relevant team would have to downgrade, and secondly, every turnaround puts a strain on the budget. Not good when costs are capped.
In fact, the FIA and the F1 management technicians have already plugged some loopholes that they either discovered themselves or that were brought to their attention by teams. Of course, what exactly it is about remains a secret.
"Our biggest fear is that someone will manage to redirect the bad air that is generated in the front of the car around the outside of the car. This then creates the problems with the rear end," says Symonds. "Our plan is to channel the bad air inside the front wheels and divert it upwards at a certain point. Everything has to submit to this idea."
Only half a second slower at the start of the season
According to Symonds, the intention was never to make the cars slower.That's why the latest projections give hope for a much lower loss than originally forecast. "We can imagine that the new cars at the beginning of the season are on average only half a second slower per lap than the current ones. And by the end of the season there could be a tie. I say 'could' because we don't yet know what pace of development these regulations allow ."
The confidence of the Formula 1 veteran is based on the ratio of downforce to air resistance, which was calculated using the wind tunnel tests with the 2022 models. It is 4:1, i.e. on the same level as the current generation of vehicles. Higher speeds are expected, especially in medium-fast to fast corners, because the contact pressure increases with the speed in the Venturi effect. It will therefore be highest on the straights where it is not needed. The teams are therefore working feverishly on how to reduce air resistance.
The new numbers are also a surprise because the cars will be 38 kilograms heavier next year and the engines may lose some power due to the E10 conversion. Conversely, this means that the new cars generate more downforce. Team circles are also saying that Pirelli's new 18-inch tires are better than expected. Some lap time comes from that front as well.
Trials with aprons and vacuum cleaner
Symonds reveals that the future Venturi cars were also covered with plastic aprons as part of their own test series, just as they were sometimes allowed between 1978 and 1982. The result was real monsters. The downforce to drag ratio increased to 7:1. The cars would probably have been three seconds faster per lap.
Don't you have to fear such consequences if you manage to seal the sidepods by creating artificial wake vortices? Symonds doesn't think the architecture of the 2022 cars allows for such a trick. If it were, you wouldn't prevent it, as long as it didn't bother cars in the slipstream. "We don't worry about the lap times, just that you can drive better in a duel with these cars."
The Symonds crew ran another interesting experiment in CFD simulation. The engineers wanted to find out how fast a car would be if, in addition to the Venturi effect, the vacuum cleaner principle would also be allowed - such as with the 1970 Chaparral 2J in Can-Am or the 1978 Brabham BT46B in Formula 1. At the same time a fan sucks air from under the car. Aprons seal this space from the outside.
The special thing about this idea is that the downforce would no longer be dependent on the speed. You would benefit in slow corners as well as in fast ones.Says Symonds: "We simulated a hairpin that you drive through today at 70 km/h. Speeds of over 110 km/h could be achieved with a vacuum cleaner."
Although the concept of the future is completely different than that of the vehicle generation after 1982, the aerodynamic characteristics will not change that much. "It was worse from 2008 to 2009 than we expect for 2022," says Symonds.
A surprising experience was also made with the sensitivity of the aerodynamics to the front wheels being turned. "In the beginning it was worse than today because air turbulence was generated when turning in, which disturbed the flow in the channels under the sidepods. But we found a solution for this. The front brake scoops are now designed precisely so that this effect does not occur. "