Formula 1: How New Regulations are Shaking Up World’s Fastest Sport

formula one
Dutch Formula One driver Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing during the pre-season running sessions held at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo outside Barcelona, Spain, 23 February 2022. EPA/Alejandro García

The 2022 Formula 1 World Championship will be broadcast live on DStv, with the new season kicking off in Bahrain in March and running for 22 rounds in total, culminating in Abu Dhabi in late November.

While the epic title struggle between Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen dominated the 2021 season, the 2022 season heralds in a new era for the world’s fastest sport, thanks to a series of new regulations that should make the new campaign the most unpredictable in years.

The new rules, which were supposed to go into effect in 2021 but were postponed for a year owing to the Covid-19 outbreak, are largely designed to make overtaking easier, resulting in more thrilling on-track racing.

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Ground-effect floors, new wing designs (both front and rear), and new wheel and tyre requirements are the three key technical modifications.

The ‘ground effect’ refers to the 2022 vehicles’ two lengthy underfloor tunnels that effectively ‘suck the car toward the tarmac, guaranteeing greater downforce is generated from beneath the car rather than through the wings. The concept was popular in Formula One in the 1970s and 1980s.

“You’ve created a vacuum,” said former F1 driver and current pundit Anthony Davidson. “There’s suction to the ground, and you’re relying less on the wings to give you rear grip, and more on the floor.”

The new wing designs (with the front wing simplified and the rear wing given a ‘wavy’ but sharp look) should allow air flow over the vehicle to be narrowed and ‘cleaned up,’ allowing cars to follow closer to one another than in previous years, when the messy aerodynamic wake hampered those attempting to overtake. The DRS (drag reduction system, in which a flap of the rear wing folds away to allow for increased straight-line speed) is still in place, although it should be less effective.

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F1 has upgraded to 18-inch tyres and wheels (up from 13 inches), which are more aesthetically beautiful and should improve handling.

In addition, there are winglets over the front tyres and wheel covers which aid in ‘cleaning’ the aerodynamic wake.

All of these changes mean that every team will have to start from scratch in 2022, potentially upsetting the order on the grid. That does not rule out the possibility of Mercedes and Red Bull repeating their dominance from last year, but it should allow Ferrari and McLaren to challenge on a more regular basis, while the gap between backmarkers like Williams and Haas should narrow to midfield teams like Aston Martin and AlphaTauri.

In summary, the cars are heavier and slightly slower than last year (though you can bet the gap will close quickly as development continues), but they are more aesthetically pleasing, should allow for much more thrilling on-track racing, and will allow for more competition across the grid.

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Written by Kahawa Tungu


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