With the 2022 Formula 1 car-reveal-season in full swing, Tech Draft looks at the upcoming milestone, pre-season testing, and what we can expect out of it.
This week, another milestone on the path towards the new era of Formula 1 was reached, as the much-anticipated new car-reveal season commenced. Whilst it is debatable whether the reveals are legitimate, or rather PR exercises designed to fulfill some form of perceived obligation, it is the next phase of F1 2022 that many of us are really anticipating, the commencement of preseason testing.
When the circus hits the Catalunya circuit on February 23 in just under 2 weeks from now, a completely new and foreign technical age dawns on F1, and it is this stage in the progression towards an era designed to produce closer competition and more overtaking where us, the sports consumers, will begin to be able to quantify and concretize the changes that the new regulative framework affect.
The more fanatical F1 follower (no malice intended with that reference) would be used to a pre-season testing plan based on systems checks progressing reasonably promptly into setting the baseline performance window, progressing to the establishment of the baseline limits, and then implementing developments that have already been researched with the aim of expanding or refining that performance window.
Formula 1 pre-season testing a different affair in 2022
However, the pre-season process that we have become accustomed to is derived on the normative that the technical regulations from year to year are reasonably consistent. Sure, over the last 25 years or so there have been technical changes, some that many have labelled as significant, but make no mistake that the 2022 F1 technical regulations are a paradigm shift.
A change so tangible leaves the engineering teams in F1 in a different predicament in comparison to recent years gone by as there is no benchmark, no defined and quantified starting point on which to begin the performance development for the new era.
So, where do the teams start, what do they do, and how will it differ to what they (and us) are used to?
Interestingly, the fact that this year’s first preseason test at Barcelona isn’t even classified by the FIA as an official test is telling.
Being the first opportunity to run their new (initial) designs in real life, I can’t see the Barcelona test diverging from a pre-systems check baseline.
Sure, as we all know teams in the modern era virtually simulate to the Nth degree before ever hitting the track, but it is important to remind ourselves that these simulations are based on already quantified and validated assumptions, because the simulations have been of the development type.
Revealed 2022 F1 cars are far from the finished product
On February 23 this year, the data on which many of the teams’ simulations have been based will need to be validated first before any performance progression can even be considered. Many fundamentals will need to be validated; drag, weight transfer, yaw rates, braking pressures, distances and distributions, gear ratios, tyre slip points and activation windows… The list would seem endless.
The technical changes for the 2022 season are so significant that the starting points for each team’s performance development is going to be an exhaustive progress, and it will be those who are either the most efficient or luckiest that might get the initial performance advantage for the start of the season.
It might even take many of the teams longer than the initial 3 days at Barcelona to gather and validate enough data to give them the confidence levels required to start investing their limited and capped financial resources in performance developments to start chasing speed.
Personally, I think that this is the rationale behind the generic nature of the 2022 team reveals to date. I don’t think there is any reluctance or risk mitigation involved. I don’t think anyone is afraid of giving up some form of revolutionary advantage to their opponents.
Rather, I think it is more than likely that the there is a generic starting point that the 2022 technical regulations have influenced, one that will need a huge amount of data confirmation before we see any sort of innovating.
But I must remark, I just can’t wait for February 23 and the dawn of a new age for F1, one I truly hope will be as exciting and interesting as any of the other great eras our great sport has produced.