Red Bull chief technical officer Adrian Newey believes next year’s Formula 1 regulation changes are the biggest in grand prix racing since the flat-bottom regulations introduced at the start of 1983 eliminated ground-effect cars.
Speaking in the latest episode of Red Bull’s ‘Talking Bull’ podcast, Newey described this as “an enormous change” given that every aspect of the car other than the power unit is changed by the new regulations.
The new rules were originally scheduled to be introduced this year, but were delayed to 2022 as part of F1’s reaction to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and are designed to increase the ‘raceability’ of cars. This means they have a dramatically different look, as demonstrated by the 2022 show car unveiled by F1 at last month’s British Grand Prix.
Newey once described the 2009 rule changes, which introduced ‘skinny’ aerodynamic regulations and brought in hybrid power for the first time through the introduction of KERS, as the biggest rule change since 1983 but the more dramatic changes for 2022 eclipse those.
“The big balancing act we’ve got now is we’ve got this huge regulation change for next season, I would say the biggest single regulation change we’ve had since the old ground effect venturi cars were banned at the end of 1982,” said Newey.
“It really is an enormous change, in every sense of the word.
“The only thing that really stays the same is the power unit. Everything else is different.”
Newey’s comparison to the 1983 changes is particularly apt given ground effect aerodynamics are coming back, effectively reversing that change.
While ground effect itself is a phenomenon that has continued to be used in the design of F1 cars, the venturi tunnels that will feature in the sidepods of 2022 cars mean it returns in a big way next year.
The 2022 regulations combine with the cost cap rules that were introduced this season to dramatically change the landscape of F1. Originally, the cost cap rules were slated for introduction alongside the new car rules in 2021, but they were not postponed meaning F1 has been running under the new financial regulations this year.
However, the baseline figure for team spending was reduced from the planned $175million to the current $145m as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning the effect of the cost cap is more extreme than originally expected.
“We now have this balancing act, as do all teams of course, of trying to keep developing this year’s car because hopefully we have a shot at the championship, or certainly we do at the moment,” said Newey on the topic of conducting ongoing 2021 and 2022 work simultaneously.
“Yet at the same time, we can’t just concentrate on that and ignore next year, so we’re doing our best to juggle those two balls whilst also coping with the latest cost cap, which as everybody knows has meant unfortunately we’ve had to shrink the size of the team in certain areas.”
Newey added that the cost cap challenge has been complicated by the recent accident damage suffered by the team.
Max Verstappen’s crash at Copse Corner on the first lap of the British Grand Prix after being hit by Lewis Hamilton has cost the team an estimated $1.8 million, while both cars suffered damage at the first corner of the Hungarian Grand Prix as a result of Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas triggering an accident by hitting McLaren’s Lando Norris.
After the August break, F1 plans to cram in 12 races across 16 weekends – albeit with the caveat that the calendar is set to change – which will add to the strain on the team.
“The busy second half of the season is obviously a huge load on the race team itself in terms of the travel and the time away from home and it’s a strain on the factory in terms of consumption of parts,” said Newey.
“Obviously with the last two races, there’s also been a heavy drain on the factory because of the amount of accident damage we’ve now got to contend with.
“But in terms of the actual development of the car, the number of races doesn’t particularly change it.”