Nico Hulkenberg Thinks 2022 F1 Cars Are “Pretty Damn Fast” But He’s Not Impressed
The 2022 season will bring in many regulation changes to make the new-gen cars “more competitive”
Formula One ace and Aston Martin reserve driver, Nico Hülkenberg, has been testing the 2022 cars, and he sounds….skeptical. The German driver believes that the new regulation cars will be “pretty damn fast.”
So, what’s the catch? FIA was set to introduce a new set of regulations for the 2021 season. However, it was delayed by a year due to the current Covid-19 pandemic. The new rules were aimed to make races more “driver-focused” and more “competitive.”
But after trying his hands on the simulator, Hulkenberg believes that the new cars may not deliver on everything that’s being promised. Taking his thoughts to Linkedin of all places, Nico said:
“They aimed to be a bit slower, more challenging to drive, to have more focus on drivers that can make a difference rather than car performance and aerodynamics dominate. From my initial experience, however, the new cars are pretty damn fast and not necessarily slower than the last generation.
“The driving experience hasn’t changed that much either, at least in the simulator.
“It will be very interesting to see whether these cars can really follow the car in front better. In the simulator, the cornering speeds are extremely high, so the risk of ‘dirty air’ is still given and it’s difficult for me to imagine that following another car comfortably at these speeds will be easy.”
According to an engineer involved with the project, the current crop of cars are losing their competitive edge because of “catastrophic downforce loss.” This happens when dirty air is being channelled chaotically from the leading car.
As per FIA’s research, current F1 machines lost 35 per cent of their downforce, when around 20 meters behind the leading car. This loss only escalated while closing up the distance, with a 47 percent loss at 10 metres.
To make things more competitive, FIA collaborated with Formula One’s in-house motorsport team, to make some big aerodynamic changes to the new-gen cars. With a new set of regulations, FIA believes the loss could be reduced to 4 per cent at 20 metres and 18 per cent at 10 metres.
Additionally, the 2022 cars will also feature over-wheel winglets and wheel covers (last seen in 2009). The latter will help send the airflow through the wheels, thereby increasing the downforce. However, this also adds chaotic aerodynamic wake coming off the cars. This is where the over-wheel winglets come into place, which helps in controlling the wake coming off the front tyres and directing it away from the rear wing.
Not to mention, the new-gen cars will also sport bigger 18-inch wheels with low-profile tyres to reduce the tyre overheating while sliding.
Similarly, the new set of cars will also feature a new front wing shape, rolled tips on the rear wing, along with other aero changes. Powertrains will remain unchanged, but will now run on more “sustainable fuel” with 5.75 percent bio-components.
Safety has been paid special attention too, with the flashback of the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix crash involving Romain Grosjean. The power unit will now be separated from the chassis in a safe manner without exposing the fuel tank. Additionally, the chassis itself will need to absorb 48 percent and 15 percent more energy, respectively, in the front and rear impact tests.
All of this does sound good on paper, but it isn’t only Hulkenberg who has expressed his skepticism over the 2022 cars. McLaren driver, Lando Norris was mentioned saying that the new generation cars were much different to drive and “not as nice.”
Regardless, we’re keeping our fingers crossed.
(Image credits: Formula 1)