Charles Leclerc says his first experience of Ferrari’s 2022 Formula 1 car “feels very different” as teams prepare for a massive overhaul in design rules.
Next year F1 is introducing all-new technical rules – illustrated below in mock-ups issued when they were originally announced for the 2021 season – designed to make it easier for drivers to follow others by reducing their sensitivity to the wake of the car ahead.
As well as looking different, they will be slower than the current generation of cars, heavier, and are expected to be more difficult to drive.
It is such a significant change that several teams have already stopped active development of this year’s cars in a bid to get as far ahead on their 2022 designs as possible.
Ferrari is one team to have adopted that approach and even though it is “still very very early days” Leclerc said he has sampled the 2022 car on the simulator.
“It feels very different,” Leclerc said of his first impressions.
“Then I think it’s a question mark for everyone, whether we are developing well or not.
“It’s such a different project. It’s very, very early days so nobody knows where we are positioning ourselves compared to the others.
“But we are working on it.”
Ferrari is banking on the new regulations and a bold step in engine design restoring it to the front in F1 after two seasons in the midfield.
Its 2021 car, the SF21, is a good step forward from a draggy and underpowered 2020 design but there are still weaknesses, with front tyre degradation a clear problem.
Leclerc said that the 2022 car design is still heavily in the simulation phase so his and team-mate Carlos Sainz’s roles in the development process are feeding back weaknesses on the current car as well as conducting the early work on the driver-in-loop simulator.
“It’s difficult because for now it’s only numbers and and predictions, but we can definitely give our feedback, especially in the simulator,” said Leclerc.
“We’ve got the chance to have [use of] a very good simulator in Ferrari and we can try different things on that simulator and there the driver input is very, very important.
“Then on other things for now it’s very early days for us to actually say something.
“The only thing we can do is to try and work in the best way possible with Carlos to try and explain what are the weaknesses of this year’s car, try to understand why we have those weaknesses and try to not reproduce those mistakes for next year’s car. Even though the project is completely different.
“So I will say on the simulator we’ve got quite a big input and we can help a lot. And with this year’s feedback to try and help the team to work in the right direction and for them to know exactly what we need to go quick.”