Will 2022 regulation changes work?

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2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Sunday - LAT Images

With the new year comes a new set of regulations including larger wheels and reduced aerodynamic downforce along with increased weight and possibly slower cars. It also ushers in the era of the cost cap to reduce the money spent by the teams. The big question is, will it all work?

I was a bit flummoxed when Liberty Media announced they hired Ross Brawn to assemble a team to really dig into the technical side of F1 in order to improve the series. At first blush, I thought they were speaking in sporting terms but it quickly became obvious that this working group was focused on regulations, car design, cost-caps and engine formulas.

When I read that, a couple of years ago, I asked the question at that time on our podcasts…isn’t this the job of the FIA and shouldn’t there remain a line between the commercial rights holder and the governing body? I was promptly reminded to be quiet because Ross has pedigree and the series needs more passing.

First, as a Ferrari fan, I know Ross’s pedigree very well and if you are a Mercedes fan or fan of the hybrid engine, then you are enjoying his handiwork as well as Toto Wolff is. His credentials aren’t being questioned in my inquiry, what was being questioned was the FIA’s role in governing the sport it legally is obligated to govern.

Regardless, now we head into 2022 and the question is, will the Brawn model of F1 work now that he has completed his job and handed over the specifications to the FIA for governance? Also, a new FIA president could see things differently or not be as excited to have the commercial rights holder so involved in the FIA’s main job. Will he want to make immediate changes?

In the end, I’ve never been one of those clamoring for prolific passing in F1 because it isn’t that kind of motorsport. I have also never demanded that any team on any given Sunday could possibly win a race. That’s unrealistic on many levels.

What I do think is that the new regulations will work in full for some issues and in part for others. The cars may make less turbulent air allowing for other cars to follow with more alacrity but perhaps the bigger impact will be the cost cap and how it neuters the teams in their development cycles. This, I believe, will be ground zero for allegations and possible litigation as team’s push the margins and try to develop beyond their cost cap if possible.

As we mentioned on the last podcast, the longer a set of regulations remains in place the more stable the costs become, the more stable and understandable the science and technology becomes and the closer the teams get to each other competitively speaking. If these regulations don’t fire on all cylinders straight off, they’ll need adjustments to fine tune them for the series. That is normal.

What could throw a wrench in the works is if the new FIA president wants sweeping changes again and this would be a very difficult situation for the teams and their cost caps. Teams are invested well ahead of revenue and making big changes regularly is a very big ask of the FIA.

Making the cars smaller with less downforce and less expensive to create is something I think needs to happen in F1. Changing the regulations frequently is not something I am in favor of. In fact, I think the regulations should be viewed in 5-year segments so all teams know where and how to budget for car development.

If these new regulations aren’t hitting it out of the park initially, then make changes needed to help them work better. Evolve the regulation set so they are effective and if that isn’t possible, then you may have to look at more drastic measures quicker.

Either way, the people to do this work are the FIA and while Jean Todt seemed more than happy to allow F1 to wrest a large portion of his organization’s duties away from him, I am not sure if the new FIA president will follow suit.

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charlie w

It should be the purview of the FIA, not Liberty, to set the sport’s specifications and regulations but FIA simply let this happen. So Ross seized on the opportunity. In my opinion, the new regulations don’t go far enough in terms of reduced aerodynamics, engine specs or cost cutting measures but that’s a rant for another time. I’m willing to give Ross and the new regs the benefit of the doubt: let’s see what happens for the first 4 to 5 races. I’m already getting a bad feeling about this new FIA president by his first few actions.

Xean Drury

Completely agree with pretty much everything you wrote. F1 isn’t about every driving around in cookie cutter cars. Even without DRS, faster cars will wait for straights to pass, and all these sweeping rule changes will do is make one team ‘get it’ and the rest toddling behind as the ‘midfield’. F1 should do what F1 does best: Allow for a wider range of strategy. Rather than one tire change, require 3 compounds be used in a race. Allow multiple rubber manufacturers. Allow refueling with minimum stop time required and gravity fed containers to make it safe. Give them more… Read more »

OldskoolNige

I do not see how the cost cap will work. Using the same thought process as the cars start without enough fuel to finish the race, the teams will all look to spend their money up front. What happens if they only budget for 3 chassis’ but due to accidents, etc. require more? Do they have to sit out the end of the season? Do they get to race but points not counted toward the championship? If the audit is after the season when is the winner announced- July ’23?

Peter

Your comments seem (as usual) sound and remind me of the reason F1 back in the ’60s and early ’70s was the most exciting… back then, the science of F1 aerodynamics was just in its infancy and manufacturers (privateers and car makers) were looking for that edge in performance with vast disparities in engines, tires,chassis, and suspension more than aerodynamics. The culmination of unknowns, car by car (even within the same teams at times Lotus Climax and Lotus BRM for example)), especially track by track allowed any given Sunday to produce a different winner. Clark winning at Spa in ’63… Read more »

Paul Kiefer

It would have been a lot easier if Ross Brawn were President of the FIA, but he’s not and we’re not even sure that Jean Todt would have done anything at all, so this is where we are and this is all we’ve got. Would you prefer that I do it instead? I don’t quite have enough knowledge and personal power to pull that off, but I could always give it a shot….

….and then you’d have to live with the results.

Worthless Opinion

I think it’s very easy for the workarounds to be worse than the original problem when one tries complex limits. For example reduced testing was meant to reduce the gap between rich and poor but the rich found something even more expensive to gain an advantage – simulators – and now the gap is bigger. So I think limits should be absolute and simple to measure and designed so that spending is useless, not prohibited. When I raced motorcycles we had a class with a specified HP max and weight min. If you wanted to spend 140 million dollars getting… Read more »