Formula One: Explaining the impact of new 2022 rules on competition with the Alpine A522 F1 car.
The drive to win and the hunger to compete!
This pretty much sums up what the Formula One race regulators have to control. They set the rules to ensure that teams and drivers compete in a safe but thrilling environment. To achieve that, they pretty much have rules governing what you can and cannot do with every part of the complex F1 car. Beyond that, they ensure the fans still get those roaring sounds, screeching tires, high speeds, and nail-biting overtakes.
In this episode, the first part of two, Ed Bernardon interviews Bob Bell, Strategic Advisor to BWT Alpine F1 team. He’s been in Formula One racing for 36 years and has won several championships with different teams. Today, he’ll walk us through the Alpine A522 racing car for the 2022 season, from front to back, explaining the changes made and the expected impact. Additionally, he’ll share with us the impact that the new rules are expected to have on the competition this season.
Some Questions I Ask:
- Who are the other members of your Grid4Good charity? (06:02)
- What is the motivation behind changing the F1 rules in the 2022 season? (06:36)
- How do the A522 wheels help with aerodynamics? (14:13)
- How does the front wing help with the flow of the air over the car? (20:56)
- What has been done to increase safety? (27:33)
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- How aerodynamics impacts braking in a race (09:34)
- Why the F1 regulations have to be clear and airtight (12:29)
- The importance of standardized components in F1 (18:14)
- The consequences of too much ground force in a race (25:24)
- How the amount of energy absorbed in case of a crash was increased (29:37)
Connect with Bob:
Connect with Ed Bernardon:
Ed Bernardon: The year 2022 has certainly been a dynamic one for Formula 1 as it brought about rule changes that significantly impacted the design of F1 cars, driving changes to ground effects, wheel size, weight, wing design, and more. The end result? One of the greatest design changes to F1 car design in years. Today, I’m in the midlands of England, home base to many of the F1 teams and we are at the Whiteways Technical Center, home of Alpine F1 Team. If you’ve been watching Formula One this season, you’ve seen that it’s a lot more competitive with wheel-to-wheel racing that is a lot closer. This is all due to the new regulations that had a big impact on the design of F1 cars.
Welcome to the Future Car podcast. I’m your host, Ed Bernardon, the VP of Automotive Strategy at Siemens Digital Industries Software, and today we’re going to take a look at how the new 2022 F1 regulations have changed the design of F1 cars. We then up-close look at the Alpine A522. And to help us do that, we are very lucky to have with us Bob Bell, a Strategic Advisor to the Alpine F1 team. We’re discuss the new rules and what they mean to the sport, how this new generation of cars compares to previous ones, and the effect all of this will have on the future of Formula One. Bob spent 36 years in Formula One, working for the likes of Renault, McClaren and Mercedes, and it’s safe to say that Bob is certainly an expert when it comes to these cars.
Bob, welcome to the Future Car Podcast.
Bob Bell: Thank you, Ed. Good to be here.
Ed Bernardon: You’ve had 36 years in Formula One. You were the Technical Director here when Alonso won the championship, your team won the constructors’ title, you were technical director for Mercedes, you worked at McLaren. Tell us a little bit about your career in Formula One, your experience in F1 and what you’re doing now with Grid4Good?
Bob Bell: Yeah, I go way back in Formula One. I started in 1982 with McLaren Automotive University, and was there for many years — 15, 16 years or so. Originally starting as an aerodynamicist and working through the organization, running the r&d department, doing a lot of technology development, everything from bits on the cars to introducing the first CAD system into McLaren. I also did a sort of a sabbatical from F1 and for several years headed up a project to develop a supersonic land speed record car, which didn’t come to fruition in the end for various reasons. So that was a great time, very formative years for Formula One and for me personally, so it was a real privilege to be there. And then I decided to go walkabout. I left McLaren and came here to this site when it was under Benetton ownership for a couple of years as an aerodynamicist. And then I got itchy feet again. And, of course, coming from Northern Ireland, I felt that no self-respecting Irishman could work in Formula One and not do a stint with Eddie Jordan. So I went over to Jordan for a couple of years as Head of Vehicle Technology. And then got a call from Flavio to come back to what was then Renault, who bought the team and came over as deputy technical director. Mike Gascoyne was the technical director at the time, he subsequently left and I took over. And then we had that wonderful series of years, as you say, culminating in 2005-2006, where we won the Double World Championships. And I stayed here for several years after that, eventually sort of becoming managing director for the site here. And then got itchy feet again, went off to Mercedes for three years — again, successfully culminating in the 2014 championship season for them. And then, got the call to come back here again.
Ed Bernardon: Back to your home.
Bob Bell: Back to my home, my Enstone roots. So, I came back here as Chief Technical Officer for the team with a sort of mandate to look both at Enstone and in Paris, where we designed and developed the engines. And did that for three or so years, and then finally reached the point where I thought, now, it’s probably time to step back a little bit. So I agreed to stay on in an advisory capacity. And so, I’ve been acting as a strategic adviser to the team for the last three years. And that’s also given me time — because it’s on a part-time basis — to do some things that aren’t related directly to the world of Formula One. And chief amongst those is a small, charitable organization I’ve set up, called Grid4Good with several of my colleagues in the world of motorsport. And basically, we try and act as a link between people in other walks of life. They may be individuals, quite literally, or they may be organizations or other charities that have got some sort of problem or issue they don’t have the resources to fix themselves. If we can help them source out resources, predominantly on a pro-bono basis from within the world of motorsport, then we try and connect the solution provider to the person looking for a solution and help them. And we’ve done everything from getting some F1 PR agencies to update some small charities branding to bring it more in line with what’s expected these days, right the way through to helping create a tandem tricycle for a disabled child so he can go cycling with his family. So we cover a broad spectrum.
Ed Bernardon: Technical and marketing. It’s both.
Bob Bell: You name it, we’ll have a go.
Ed Bernardon: Now, who does that with you? Are there other former Technical Directors, race engineers? Who’s in Grid4Good.
Bob Bell: It’s a very loose collective. The main players are myself and the former operations director here at Enstone John Mardle, but we’re also ably supported by a whole raft of people up and down the pitman. Many of them from here, including Luca Mazzocco, one of our marketing guys — he’s always helping us. It’s just a loose collective; people drop in and out when we need them.
Ed Bernardon: So big rule change ’22. The biggest change in decades, complete clean sheet redesign of the car. Why change the rules? What’s the motivation behind that?
Bob Bell: Well, I suspect there’s some motivation that I’m possibly not aware of, because obviously, as we all know, Bernie Eccleston sold the rights to F1 to Liberty Media several years ago. And I think that was always going to see a change in how the sport was run and organized, and the rules that govern it because Liberty had great plans for the future for F1, which are coming to fruition; they have done a really fantastic job. And I think they felt there were several things that were important to Formula One that they needed to get right that directly relate to the cars. And so, obviously, sporting spectacle is important — you know, there were a lot of criticisms that Formula One was more of a procession, there wasn’t enough overtaking, and so on.
Ed Bernardon: Get some real racing, going.
Bob Bell: Getting wheel-to-wheel racing back. So there was that side of it. There was also the feeling that the sport was just beginning to cost too much and wasn’t sustainable, particularly for the smaller teams. So, something had to be done about cost. There’s the ever present issue of safety; you know, we just need to keep the momentum going in developing these cars to become more safe. And really, a lot of those elements roll up into leveling the playing field. And so, they said about that with gusto. They’ve got their own technical people on board, which was a first for the commercial owner to do. They worked with the teams, they worked with the FIA to try and present a set of regulations that define what the cars look like, and define the way they are raced — the sporting side of things. And for the first time were set financial regulations, because we’ve only ever had two sets of regulations: technical and sporting. Now we have a third set, financial regulations. So they worked for several years, looking really towards introducing a new type of car in 2021, still using the 2014 introduced V-6 hybrid engines, but with a completely new chassis. As I say, the objective was to make the sport more sustainable, to reduce cost, level the playing field, increase the spectacle. And of course, a big part of that which has come in at the same time as the cars is the financial regulations, which limit how much money your team can spend to design, develop, and operate their cars. And that’s on a glide slope. That’s going to come down over the next few years to further squeeze the teams. And all of those things from what we’ve seen so far this season seem to be working. We are getting closer.
Ed Bernardon: Yeah, the races are much more exciting.
Bob Bell: So you’d have to say at first glance is doing what it said it will do.
Ed Bernardon: So a lot of it has to do with the ability of the car that’s following to get much closer. Now if you can get much closer and you’re getting close to a turn, you can outbreak when you get to the turn, better chance that you can pass. The problem before was the airflow, the turbulence would unsettle the car that was following. So in terms of making it more competitive in the ability to follow, that has a lot to do with the airflow, then, that’s going over the car.
Bob Bell: Yeah, absolutely it does. I mean if you take, for example, the motorcycle racing, where there is very little in the way of aerodynamics involved other than reducing drag, there certainly are no forces of any consequence pushing the bike down into the ground. The fact that Formula One cars, indeed, many four-wheel racing cars generate a lot of what we call downforce, which pushes the car onto the ground and therefore enables it to go faster around the corner. The consequence of that is that you pay a drag penalty. And of course, there’s always a trade-off to be had in designing the cars and running the cars between this force pushing it onto the track and this force trying to hold it back. Either way, you pay a drag penalty and the drag penalty manifests itself in dirty air behind the car. And if another car gets into that dirty air, it’s got less energy, and so, it’s less performant, you can extract less energy from it, and you lose performance in your car. Now, if it’s just about drag, that’s okay, actually, because the car in front punches a hole in the air, and you can benefit. Of course, you see that to great effect in Indianapolis and oval racing and so on. But one of the consequences is that it kills downforce on the car behind and it kills downforce differently across the length of the car, typically killing more downforce at the front of the car than the rear. Of course, that upsets the balance for the car, how it feels to the driver, how hard he can push the car and expect to keep it under control. So this loss of downforce, and this loss of stability in the cars, as a result of encountering the wake of the car up front is very serious issue. And we’ve known about it for years but nobody, really, until Liberty came along, I suppose had the courage to say, “Right, we need to do something about this. We’re going to try and create a set of technical regulations that greatly reduce the likelihood of that effect happening. And try and keep a lid on it as we move forward.”
Ed Bernardon: So you still want that car in the front to punch a hole in the air. Like you’re saying, like an IndyCar where they’re right, tail to nose. But you want to do it in a way that’s clean, and makes nice air behind, so all the aerodynamic surfaces and everything works just perfectly.
Bob Bell: Exactly. You don’t want to pull out in a tow, you’d be nicely drafting.
Ed Bernardon: Right, and then you’re unsettled, make it a little scared to make that move. And that’s the kind of moves you want them to make. That’s where you get that exciting out breaking as you go into the turns. It sounds like that’s not something easy to do. There’s got to be a lot of little bits and pieces that have to come together and make that happen.
Bob Bell: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I mean, Formula One car is a very complex beast. You only have to look at one to realize the level of complexity of the aerodynamics. It’s a relatively small vehicle, it’s not the same size as an airliner, for example; it’s heavily dependent on aerodynamics, is very closely coupled. You know, a small change at the front can have a profound impact at the back. And so, all the little details that you see on Formula One cars, they all matter and they all have an effect on this. So if you’re going to do this job properly, you really have to do a ground up look at how you design the car aerodynamically. You can’t just say, “Well, all we’re going to do is worry about the front wing, or all we’ll do is worry about the rear wing.” You’ve got to worry about all of it, in its entirety. And the other thing you have to do is the teams are really, really good poachers. If you leave the slightest grayness in the regulations, the slightest area that is unregulated, the teams will find a way of breaking it. And so what they’ve got to do is they’ve got to conceive a set of regulations that work first time out of the box — which they clearly have done — but they’ve got to find a set of regulations that will continue to work once the teams have had long enough to look at them and find…
Ed Bernardon: You want to make them tight but leave them open enough that you can actually innovate and do something exciting.
Bob Bell: You can imagine the teams having cars where it makes it easier for the bloke behind you to get past. So they’re going to do everything they can to break these rules.
Ed Bernardon: Well, what do you say we look directly at the A522 and you can explain what all these little bits are, how they come together. And just like the air flowing over the car, let’s start at the front and we’ll work our way to the back.
Bob Bell: Sure.
Ed Bernardon: You’re ready.
Bob Bell: Yeah!
Ed Bernardon: Let’s do it. So here we have it. This is the ’22 Alpine Formula One car, the A522. And start off with the wheels. Bigger wheels, bigger tires, bigger brakes. How does that help with the aerodynamics that we’ve been talking about?
Bob Bell: Yeah, well, we spoke a lot about aerodynamics. But of course, it’s not the only aspect of the redesign of these cars. One of the things that we wanted to try and achieve was actually to bring the tires slightly more into the current era of tire design. So, with lower profile tires, which is the depth of the sidewall, because if you buy a sports car now and even many reasonably underperforming conventional cars, that’s the way tire design has gone. And Formula One has been a little bit out of kilter with tall sidewall. So one of the main things was to produce tires that were a little more representative of the current generation of road car tires. Making the wheels bigger doesn’t necessarily, or making the tires bigger doesn’t necessarily help the aerodynamics situation. But it was just a package of compromises we had to make, part of a package of compromises to produce a better overall car, not just technically but there’s always a commercial element to these things. But we’ve largely been able to get around some of the problems of what a tire does to the aerodynamics of the car, and particularly the ergonomics of the car behind by introducing other changes to the car — and I suppose the best example of these fairings and the brake duct systems that you can see beneath them. And really what they’re there to do is to try and make sure that the wake from the tire, because the air doesn’t follow the shape of the tire cleanly, it gives up at some point and detaches and becomes turbulent and of low energy. And this has all helped to try and steer that wake away from where it’s most going to hurt a car following it. And so, the idea is to try and keep it in boards, sweep it up, and keep it away from the most sensitive parts of the car that’s following.
Ed Bernardon: So you’re directing the air such that it won’t impact the car that’s following.
Bob Bell: It will impact it, but hopefully, it will reduce its magnitude and also position it such that where it impinges on the car behind it has less effect.
Ed Bernardon: So the sidewall, you said, was smaller. There’s different aerodynamics over the tire, but probably mostly the smaller sidewall probably changes the stiffness, the flex of the tire. Does the driver feel that?
Bob Bell: The driver would feel that, but of course, the suspension elements in board or the car — the springs, and dampers and so on — would be retuned to suit the characteristics of the tire. So once that process has been gone through, it shouldn’t, in theory, necessarily feel any different to the car. In terms of the ride — that is, the car rides itself over the track, over the bumps — where it would feel different to the driver is the forces that the tire generates that he feels through the steering, or he feels through the car’s movement, when it’s at the limit of its traction, those will feel different to him. But, you know, these guys at this level of sport, very, very quickly get to understand how a new generation of tires work, what you need to do to be able to get the optimum performance from them. So yes, it will feel different.
Ed Bernardon: Will be a more responsive feel, since it’s a bit of a stiffer sidewall?
Bob Bell: Almost certainly, yeah. Almost certainly. You’re quite right. I mean, generally speaking, the stiffer you make a tire, the more responsive its forced characteristic become.
Ed Bernardon: Now, you mentioned the fairing and how it impacts aerodynamics. But there’s been some standardization of parts as well. So the fairing and the brake duct seem to be like one big structure now. And I believe that’s a standardized component on all of the cars.
Bob Bell: Yeah, there are lots of standardized components on the car.
Ed Bernardon: That helps the costs come down.
Bob Bell: And that helps costs come down. And it also helps level the playing field, which is another element we talked about, because obviously everybody’s using the same parts, everybody should have the same performance. Of course, that’s not F1’s DNA. F1’s DNA is you’re a constructor, you design your own car. But I think what’s been struck here with these regulations is a much better balance between still giving freedom to differentiate, which is important for Formula 1, but at the same time, not allowing differentiation in areas that could either break this desire to help the car behind, or push the costs up in areas where the differentiation opportunities are small. I mean, why spend hundreds of thousands of pounds developing very expensive, intricate bits of the car, that make very, very little difference to the overall performance? So standardized stuff like that. So we have standard components, where everybody buys the same thing off the shelf from a supplier. We have standardized designs, where you get a drawing that you make the bit to and everybody gets the same drawing.
Ed Bernardon: Make it yourself.
Bob Bell: Yep. So there’s a raft of different ways of doing it, depending on the components.
Ed Bernardon: Is it the most standardized parts it’s ever been in F1?
Bob Bell: Absolutely.
Ed Bernardon: Do you think there’ll be more of that, more in that direction?
Bob Bell: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It’s gonna happen. And I think this is just the first salvo in that campaign.
Ed Bernardon: Now, another thing that’s been done is they’ve added some sensors to the wheel. I think it’s temperature, pressure, vibration. We saw last year, there were some tire failures, and sometimes near the end of the race, I believe that some thought that may have been caused by lowering the tire pressure, possibly a bit too low. But now with these sensors, the FIA will be better able to monitor exactly what’s going on. Should make things safer and fair. Both.
Bob Bell: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the tire pressure that you run has a critical effect on the structural characteristics of the tire, as durability. There are circumstances where the teams want to run as low a pressure as it possibly can, which, generally speaking doesn’t help the structural characteristics of the tire. And so, we have to have very firm limits, saying you cannot run below a certain pressure. And of course, being able to measure that in real time to prove that you’re complying with the regulations is a good thing.
Ed Bernardon: Great example of tightening up the regulations a little bit. The front wing. Now, in past cars, the nose was a little higher, and you could see that the wing was dropped below the nose. Now it seems to be more continuous. The wing seems to be a bit higher. How does that all help with the flow of the air over the car?
Bob Bell: The main purpose of the front wing, in general, on a racing car is to provide aerodynamic balance to the car. So the car, without the front wing, will have a natural aerodynamic center of pressure, where the aerodynamic forces act on it. If that’s too far forward on the car, I can make the car very nervous, very sensitive, and unstable. Whereas if it’s too far back, it will just want to keep going in a straight line, which isn’t very helpful. And so, the front wing there is largely there to help achieve balance, and it puts the center of pressure of the car where you want it. What has happened over the years is the front wings have gotten bigger and bigger and bigger, to balance the performance gains in aerodynamics that are found towards the back of the car. But the consequence of that is that it’s right at the front of the car, so if it hits the wake of a car in front of it, it’s the first thing that’s going to suffer aerodynamically. And of course, if you do that, then you suddenly lose all the balance that you had in the car, and the central pressure moves around a lot, which makes it very difficult to overtake someone, because you don’t have the confidence.
Ed Bernardon: The front’s not gonna stick because it’s not being pulled down on the track.
Bob Bell: Exactly. So, what’s happened with these cars is that they’ve conceived the aerodynamics in a way that should reduce, if you like, the requirement for the power of the front wing, and they have reconfigured it geometrically to be less sensitive.
Ed Bernardon: So less reliance on it, because it’s not creating the downforce it used to create.
Bob Bell: It’s still crucially important, without any doubt, but there’s a slight less reliance. And more critically, perhaps, than that is the fact that with the geometry that we now have in these wings, they are less sensitive to what happens when they encounter a wake from the car in front.
Ed Bernardon: And what geometry is that, that makes it less sensitive?
Bob Bell: It’s got fewer flap elements — as you can see, that’s restricted. It, generally speaking, is a little bit higher off the ground, which makes it a little bit less sensitive. And it’s much less critical. The flows on the previous generation wings were very sensitive to the air that they encountered, whether it’s the wake of a car in front, whether it’s a crosswind. Whatever it is, those wings were really designed to operate at their best when they’re in clean air, nobody else around them, very nice conditions. But you take them outside that environment and they start to lose performance quite quick. These are desensitized, so they’re much more tolerant to what’s going on around them.
Ed Bernardon: So, a little bit less downforce, but more tolerant, and improvements to movement of the air over the wheels. And so, now we’ve moved to the center of the car. So you have to make up a little bit for the downforce you lost in the front. And there’s where probably one of the biggest changes, I think, in the ’22 car is actually the 3D floor, which really turns the whole midsection of the car into a ground-effects device.
Bob Bell: Yeah, absolutely. And what do we mean by ground effect? It typically means an aerodynamic device — a wing, for example — that runs very close to the ground. And because it runs very close to the ground, it turns out the aerodynamics cause it to become very efficient. So there’s a lot less drag for the same downforce that pushes the car onto the ground. And we last had ground-effect cars in Formula One, I think the last season was probably ’81 was the last year of ground-effect cars. And they were incredibly powerful. The forces that they generated on the car were enormous and it meant that the cornering speeds of the cars, which is really where you’re most likely to have an accident, was getting to the point that it wasn’t acceptable any longer. So in ’82, we had the flat bottom rule, which basically meant you had to have a flat floor with a little kick up at the back. But it meant that it was very little downforce you could easily generate from the floor. If you wanted to generate downforce, it really wanted to be a nice, gentle curve.
Ed Bernardon: You mentioned when ground effects was taken away, it was because of concern of having too much in the turns. Why would too much be a concern? It sounds like it would make things better.
Bob Bell: Yeah. The consequence of too much is that you go around the corner faster. So if you lose control of the car, and it’s in a corner, you’re most likely to lose control of the car, you’re going to go off quicker, and you’re gonna cause yourself more injury. And it had got to the point where the drivers were actually struggling to keep their head position. There was so much lateral force acting on their helmet and head, it was a bit of an arms race to see who could develop the biggest neck muscles. That was deemed to be getting to the point where it was dangerous. So, ground effect was, to all intents and purposes, banned, or at least the geometry that produces it was banned. And we had the flat bottom here. So what we’ve done for 2022 with these cars is we’ve reintroduced a degree of it. So it’s very highly controlled, the geometry is pretty much fixed.
Ed Bernardon: So it’s not the same level of ground effects that you had that was considered dangerous.
Bob Bell: Not at all. We have the tools to do this now. We didn’t have then. We have the analytical tools to be able to predict what the performance of these things will be. And so, it’s been chosen, it’s been sculpted, if you like, to produce a level of downforce that is consistent with the current generation of Formula One cars.
Ed Bernardon: And when you say tools, you’re talking about simulation tools that can simulate the flow of the air under car or over the car.
Bob Bell: Yeah. Computational fluid dynamics. Yeah. And those tools didn’t exist back in 1981. Or at least not that could be used practically.
Ed Bernardon: It was all trial and error back then, or to a greater extent, at least.
Bob Bell: Yeah, exactly. And so, what we’re seeing here now with these curve grand-effect floors, is that they generate the downforce levels we want for the speed we want the sport to have. But they have the added benefit of it, because they’re more efficient than the old flat bottom floors, they produce a smaller, more focused wake behind the car, which we can — not steer, but we can position so that it has less impact on the car that’s following it.
Ed Bernardon: Now, there’s also been some changes that were made for safety. We all remember the crash that Grosjean had two, three years ago, where the fuel cell was ruptured and there was a big fire. On an F1 car, the power unit, the transmission, it’s really the car — the monocoque’s connected to that. And some new things have been done as to, if there is a severe crash, and the car does come apart, there’s some new changes that have been made so that when, if such a horrific wreck were to occur, that it occurs in such a way that it would not damage the fuel cell. So what was done to increase the safety in that way?
Bob Bell: Yeah, I mean, there are several things, but I should say that these changes that specifically relate to safety, and particularly in the wake of an accident, they’re happening on an ongoing basis. They weren’t ever baked into the 2022 rules as such. They are things that happen on a year by year basis, building on experience. So, in the case of Grosjean’s accident, of course, it showed that the fuel cell can be ruptured. But of course, we knew that’s always a possibility; you’re never going to completely design that out. And details have been changed in the design of the fuel cell, the couplings where the fuel comes out of the tank, that just a raft of detail changes structural and mechanical, just to make sure that it’s less likely in the event of an accident, again, that there will be some sort of catastrophic failure or fuel leakage that could start a fire. And, as I say, when something like that happens, there is a very in-depth investigation done and it won’t just be mechanical or structural changes to the car; there will be a lot of changes introduced in how the safety teams respond and how the FIA manages the event when it happens. There’s always a lot of lessons to be learned for the whole of the Formula One family, if you like, not just the fuel cells design.
Ed Bernardon: Another change related to safety — with carbon fiber and the monocoque and really all the carbon fiber parts that are on the car, their ability to absorb energy, when there is a crash, is what keeps the drivers safe. You’ll see an accident and then the driver walks away. And there’s been an increase in the amount of energy that can actually be absorbed — I think it’s like 15% or so. Now, how was that done? What changes were needed to be able to make it so that it could absorb that extra 15%?
Bob Bell: Well, the biggest challenge, actually, is not designing a structure — and there’s a structure on either side of the car that absorbs energy in the lateral impact with a barrier or with another car or with the circuit itself. The biggest challenge is making sure that those forces that are then transmitted into the chassis where the driver sits, that the chassis is in itself strong enough to resist them. So it’s less a problem of designing something that will absorb energy, more by making sure the chassis is strong enough to withstand the forces involved in doing that. So the regulations for this year have seen a significant increase in the strength of the chassis, which is good because it allows us to absorb more energy, but it’s just naturally a good thing if the chassis is stronger for any eventuality. So yeah, those are the big changes. Again, that is part of an ongoing process. It won’t stop here. You will see cars will get stronger and stronger and more and more able to absorb energy. And of course, that’s great technology for everybody because what we’re pioneering here in the use of composite, you’re going to start seeing in road cars. Because the drive to take weight out of road cars for EVs means more and more manufacturers are looking at using plastics, composites, they have to know how to design impact structures in these materials. And of course, Formula One has a lot of experience in that.
Ed Bernardon: The nose is also a bit longer too, I believe. This whole front section. So that gives you more room.
Bob Bell: Yeah, exactly. It’s all about length.
Ed Bernardon: The more room you have to absorb energy, the easier it’s going to be to actually absorb it. All right, so the air is coming across. So what’s happened here in the back?
Bob Bell: Well, again, as you can see, actually, looking at this, it’s all been cleaned up. Opportunities for the air to misbehave itself, and therefore create an enlarged wake, which impacts adversely the car behind. So it’s been a lot of cleaning up done. The rear wing is completely redesigned, again, with a specific objective of tailoring the shape of the wake behind the car to be less impactful on the car behind it. So it’s trying to reduce the size of the wake, its lack of energy, and trying to focus it in an area where it will have less effect on the car. So you can imagine that you’ve got this dirty wake coming off the back of the car. If you are able to scoop it up, push it high up in the air, so that the car coming behind never encountered it, well, that will be nirvana. But it’s not that straightforward. But you could certainly make good strides in that direction, and that’s what this whole rear end of the car is all designed to do.
Ed Bernardon: Now this wing is smaller than the previous year?
Bob Bell: It’s not dissimilar in size, but it’s a very different geometry.
Ed Bernardon: It’s got more of a curve to it.
Bob Bell: It has done with pointing what we call the man plates that make the wing work more efficiently. No upstands to them that we had previously. It’s, again, quite tightly controlled from the geometric point of view.
Ed Bernardon: So the wings will be more similar from team to team this year?
Bob Bell: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.
Ed Bernardon: Another step towards more standardization.
Bob Bell: Yeah. And of course, there’s another element to all of this, is that we wanted the cars to look reasonably aesthetic, which is a very difficult thing to do, because form follows function in Formula One. But when these rules were conceived, there was some input from some designers to try and do it in a way that at least looked slightly more futuristic and pleasing to the eye.
Ed Bernardon: And actually through the center section of the car, if you look at last year’s car, there’s all sorts of bargeboard and all those little bits of carbon fiber. It looked very complicated. And that’s all gone.
Bob Bell: Yeah. And it was very complicated. Incredibly sophisticated aerodynamics to achieve the effects that were being looked for. But it meant that you were having to devote an awful lot of resource to fine-tuning tiny aerodynamic devices in the car. Of course, another consequence is, when someone hits you, and those will break off, you just litter the track with tiny, sharp, very hard pieces of carbon fiber and titanium.
Ed Bernardon: Right. They just love to cut those tires.
Bob Bell: So I suppose that’s another benefit from getting rid of them.
Ed Bernardon: One last thing on the back is the exhaust. There’s some changes in the exhaust area as well, there’s just a single exhaust this year.
Bob Bell: Yes. So the main pipe that you can see there, there’s a waste gate pipe from the turbocharger feeding in. So not substantially different than what we had before. Because the engines for this year are pretty much the same engines as they have been since 2014. So, no great changes there, other than those engines are now effectively frozen in specification until 2026 and you’re not really supposed to be or allowed to change those engines without good reason. The good reason has to be either reliability or cost saving. We’re not really allowed to go looking for performance.
Ed Bernardon: You’re allowed one upgrade, then, before that. Now, there has been some changes, though, to the fuel to make it more sustainable.
Bob Bell: Yeah. So we’re running IE10 with whatever 10% bio stock from sustainable sources. So the second generation stuff. So it’s the first step on a roadmap towards sustainable fuels in Formula One. And of course, you know, I think the truth is that, you know, the drive to tackle climate change is going to require a lot of different solutions. I mean, a good example, I suppose, is the aviation industry. You’re not going to be able to ferry large numbers of passengers across the Atlantic in electric-powered drones. We’re still going to need large passenger airliners. They’re going to need sustainable fuels. And so, the concept of sustainable fuels and their use is not new, it is going to be a big part of the future. And Formula One is taking a step down that route with the petrol that’s used in these cars. So yeah, there will be further changes as we move and more and more sustainable elements in the fuel. It’s just part of F1’s roadmap to make sure that it is as carbon neutral and doing its bit for the environment as it possibly can.
Ed Bernardon: Now, if you look at the overall car, the amount of weight that has been lifted a little bit, so you’re allowed to be a little bit heavier, there’s change in the wheelbase, it’s gotten a little bit smaller. Why the change in the weight?
Bob Bell: Well, the main reason was that these wheels and tires are a lot heavier than the old ones.
Ed Bernardon: So you can accommodate those, then.
Bob Bell: You might actually have got a feel for it in the races because it’s taking longer to do a pitstop now, because these things are heavier for the mechanics to have to put on, take off the car.
Ed Bernardon: The pit stop’s a little slower, you think, because of that?
Bob Bell: Yah, yeah. They are, at the minute. These wheels are a lot more difficult to throw around.
Ed Bernardon: What’s a wheel weigh?
Bob Bell: Tens of kilos. And the weight limit has gone up by the same amount that the tire and wheel weight has gone up to allow us to accommodate those. We keep an eye on the weight limit of the cars. And when we mandate changes, usually for safety reasons that we know is going to dictate additional weight on the cars, then we tend to creep the weight limit up. So it’s just part of a normal process. It’s not peculiar to 2022.
Ed Bernardon: There is a cover on the tire as well. That probably adds a little bit of weight. It’s probably more for aerodynamics, though.
Bob Bell: It does, but then, it has the benefit of cleaning up the aerodynamics, so that’s a good thing. And the covers don’t weigh very much.
Ed Bernardon: A shorter wheelbase probably also makes the car a little bit more responsive.
Bob Bell: Yes. Yeah, the wheel wheelbase has got a sort of maximum attached to it now. They’re all part of trying to lock down the regulations so that people can’t find a way to break the aerodynamic requirements for these cars to allow closer racing.
Ed Bernardon: I’ll tell you what, greater overview of the car. Why don’t we sit back down, and let’s talk a little bit about what’s going to come up next in Formula One.
Bob Bell: Okay.
Ed Bernardon: That’s part 1 with Bob Bell. Join us on our next episode with Bob when we’ll continue our discussion on the new look of F1 cars today and what may happen to F1 in the next 4 to 8 years. Will they be all electric? Hydrogen? Some form of hybrid? Who knows?
And as always, for more information about Siemens Digital Industries Software, make sure to visit us at plm.automation.siemens.com. And until next time, I’m Ed Bernardon, and this has been the Future Car Podcast.
Bob Bell, Alpine Racing Strategic Advisor
Over the course of his career, Bob has worked in a technical or managerial role that has helped secure nine Constructors’ Championships and 10 Drivers’ Championships. He graduated from Queen’s University Belfast with a PhD in Aeronautical Engineering in 1982 he then worked with McLaren International as Head of Aerodynamics, Research and Development. He then moved to Benetton Formula One as Senior Aerodynamicist, Jordan Grand Prix as Head of Vehicle Technology, Renault F1 Technical and Managing Director roles, before joining Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd as Technical Director from 2011 to 2014. Bob joined Renault Sport Racing in 2016 as Chief Technical Officer, overseeing the outputs of both the Viry and Enstone sites to provide a strategic approach to their endeavours. Bob is currently Alpine Racing Strategic Advisor.
Ed Bernardon, Vice President Strategic Automotive Intiatives – Host
Ed is currently VP Strategic Automotive Initiatives at Siemens Digital Industries Software. Responsibilities include strategic planning in areas of design of autonomous/connected vehicles, lightweight automotive structures and interiors. He is also responsible for Future Car thought leadership including hosting the Future Car Podcast and development of cross divisional projects. Previously a founding member of VISTAGY that developed light-weight structure and automotive interior design software acquired by Siemens in 2011. Ed holds an M.S.M.E. from MIT, B.S.M.E. from Purdue, and MBA from Butler.
If you like this Podcast, you might also like:
- Behind the Scenes of Formula One Design with Elizabeth Apthorp, Composite Design Engineer Alpine F1 Team
- Carlo Mondavi’s Autonomous Electric Tractors for Sustainable, Affordable Farming – Part 1
- The Next Leap for Electric Vehicles with Will Graylin, Indigo Technologies – Part 1
The Future Car Podcast
The tech-driven disruption of the auto industry cuts across domains, from silicon and software to sensors and AI to smart traffic management and mobility services. Get the chip- to city-scale story in regular interviews with technologists at Siemens and beyond.