2022 F1 Regulations - Did it deliver
A jubilant Max Verstappen wins his second F1 driver’s title in a dreamy 2022 season campaign where he was head above every driver on the grid. A well deserved win to cast aside the doubts that acccommpanied his first title win from the dubious night of the 2021 Abu Dhabi race that finished leaving everyone baffled at the turn of events.
Like the Mercedes glory days, Verstapenn found himself in a Redbull car that was vastly superior to every other car on the grid. And in his capable hands, he demonstrated his immense talent, much to the frustration of his closest rivals. It was a season that had the Redbull stamp all over it. As Ferrari stumbled and Mercedes faltered. The gates to glory was kicked wide open for an effortless drive to the coveted double F1 championship titles. And l applaude Redbull and Verstapenn for a brilliantly executed campaign.
In light of the supreme dominance of Redbull following the much criticized Mercedes era that prompted the regulations of the 2022 season onwards. A regulation that was aimed at removing such unbeatable dominance that Mercedes unleashed from 2014 to 2020 in the capable hands of Sir Lewis Hamilton. To achieve this feat, the F1 Management body introduced a number of changes which in summary, included; a cost cap to bring the spend of the top teams closer to the same level of expenditure as the smaller privateer teams that typically occupy the midfield and tailend of the grid. To be fair there are no tailend teams anymore but a broader second tier of the grid.
More noticeable is the complete redesign of the architecture of the 2022 car. The aim of the design was to facilitate closer racing without the negative dirty drag air from the car ahead on the pursuing car; the performance sapping zone that prevented close fighting for positions. Apart from the restructuring of the rear-end of the car, the chassis was lowered closer to the ground to facilitate harnessing the famous ground effect. The title winning Lotus of the 1979 season demonstrtated the immense power of this trick.
Mid-season of 2021, the prototype of the new F1 car platform was unvailed to the general public with a raft of bold promises. The F1 world watched with approval and support from all on the grid.
However, the pre-season testing revealed that a majority of teams were struggling to get their cars to operate without the notorious porpoising which is a side effect of the ground effect. Most cars engaged and disengaged the ground effect as a consequence of the design philosophies of their cars, at approaches and exits of corners, even on the straights with back hammering oscillations. It soon became quite clear that the Adrian Newey penned car of Redbull was miles ahead of the pack. Verstapenn’s dominance was all too clear by the first quarter into the season. Though Ferrari was showing some good form at the early stages of the season, this was short lived.
When the F1 Management body proposed the new car layout, they promised closer racing and a broadly harder contest for wins with top midfield teams possibly having regular podium finishes. For many of us, we thought this was the end of having one team run away with the championship. This has not been the case by the evidence of the season. We still have a huge gap between the leading team and the next-best team. The status quo in the midfield remained more or less the same for teams within the same band of performance. The 2020 and 2021 seasons with the old regulation were more exciting than the 2022 season; maybe not so for Redbull and Verstapenn supporters. From my perspective, the new regulation did not change much from the patterns of the preceding Hybrid era. It was same-mo same-mo with a new leading team with a similar performance advantage to the Mercedes glory days.
Many people that l have been talking to about this seem to agree that the 2022 regulation failed to deliver on its promise of a closer and harder fight for race wins. The midfield teams seem to be the most disenfranchised by the regulations. As this is where the closer and harder fight for points seem to be happening. It has become even harder to fight for championship points in the midfield. And the gap between the sharp end of the grid and the midfield remains more or less the same as it was in the prior Hybrid era. And it has become even more crucial to have quality drivers in the midfield cars to guarantee good points haul by the end of the season, as driving errors and car damages are now doubly punished by the more competitive environment of the midfield. This does not bode well for rookies that would be joining the F1 grid in the future. The tolerance level in the first rookie year may be narrower. They may need to get up to competence much quicker. And rookie errors may also be more harshly judged by the teams.
The cost cap has had very little effect on the top teams, it seems. Even with the problems faced by Mercedes and Ferrari, they managed to out-develop the cars of the midfield teams, where progress was slower.
That said, all teams would have learnt a great deal from the 2022 season. Hopefully, we would see the positive effects of the 2022 regulations kick in during the coming 2023 season. One would hope that Mercedes and Ferrari would get their act together and turn up with cars on similar performance to Redbull. Then ,we may be best placed to see who is the real best driver (or drivers) of this new era. Luckily for Verstappen, he did not get any real challenge this season; not even from his teammate in the same car as we did witness with Hamilton and Rosberg for instance.
For Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr sake, it is good there is a change going on at the top at Ferrari. They were very questionable on a number of occasions. The very British rivalry brewing at Mercedes would also be very exciting to watch, as the coming-of-age young racer in Russell, takes on the mature seven-time F1 champion Sir Lewis Hamilton, potentially in Mercedes cars on level performance with the Redbull. There is plenty to look forward to in 2023. Hopefully, the FIA race stewards would also do an equal to or better job than they did this 2022 season.
Bring on the 2023 season.