TECH TUESDAY: The most improved, most innovative, best developed and most dominant F1 cars of 2022

Following Red Bull and Max Verstappen’s record-breaking run to the 2022 titles, Mark Hughes takes a look at the most innovative, improved, developed and dominant F1 cars of the 2022 season, with technical illustrations by Giorgio Piola.

Most Innovative: Ferrari F1-75

Two of the biggest novelties of the season were in the same car, the Ferrari F1-75. Its aerodynamics, with outward-projecting sidepods and unique channeling in the upper surface, gave an excellent combination of floor and rear wing performance.

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Ferrari’s sidepods caused a stir when the F1-75 was unveiled

Second, under that shapely engine cover was the new 066/7 power unit that was quite unlike anything else and gave the car explosive low-speed acceleration.

The turbo was smaller and the intake routes longer than on rival cars, a combination that aided low-speed response when combined with a super-fast ignition system, allowing it to make the most of fuel pressure. of 500 bars allowed by the regulations.

The combination of the unique aerodynamics and power unit made for a car that established that dazzling sequence of poles, even if the reliability still needs work. More than anything, it illustrates the depth of creative talent that exists within Maranello.

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Ferrari’s engine brought them a big performance boost in late 2021 and into 2022

Most Improved: Haas

Haas went from slowest in 2021 (3.2% less than qualifying pace) to eighth fastest and 2% less in 2022.

It may sound relatively modest, but it represented the biggest performance gain on the grid and was the difference between being in your own race separate from the rest of the field and being able to mix it up in the middle of the field, even leading it on occasion.

Kevin Magnussen’s fifth place at round one in Bahrain made him the highest finisher behind the ‘big three’ teams and in Brazil he was on hand in Q3 to seize the brief opportunity of a dry track to establish that surprising pole position. for Saturday. Pique. Such feats would have been unthinkable in 2021.

Magnussen’s P5 in Bahrain underscored how much Haas had improved for 2022

The VF-22 car was the team’s Ferrari-inspired response to new aerodynamic regulations, while the ’21 car could trace its origins back to 2018.

While a significant part of its improvement came from the powerful new Ferrari 066/7 power unit (Ferrari and Alfa followed Haas to achieve the top three competitive gains), it was also relatively good aerodynamically.

The use of all Ferrari components defined its cooling and thus its aerodynamic concept as quite similar, with large sidepods removing air around the car. He also shared with Ferrari the ability to quickly fire up his front tires, which was a big part of why Magnussen was able to set that Interlagos pole in wet conditions on slicks.

Haas Ferrari-style scalloped sidepods

Major development in season: Mercedes W13

Mercedes’ troubled W13 was often half a minute behind the winner in early season races as the team struggled to understand and control its mechanical bouncing and aerodynamic problems. In the penultimate race, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton were able to give the team a one-two.

It represented the best rate of improvement during the season for any team, although it must be accepted that there was plenty of room for such improvement.

READ MORE: Ferrari says Mercedes’ end-of-season speed ‘was not a surprise’ and feels it should have won a race before Brazil

It was not achieved through a relentless series of updates, but rather through deep analysis of the root of the car’s problems and a better understanding of how to fix them.

Some of the fundamentals that trigger those issues—the large exposed floor area, the limited range of the rear suspension—were incorporated into the car. But progress came from finding a viable window in which to operate it within those limitations.

Mercedes’ slim sidepods were one of the W13’s many unique features, but porpoises and bouncing hurt its 2022 hopes.

Porpoising was an aerodynamic problem suffered by many teams, but one that required the car to initially run at a higher ride height than it was designed for. However, it could only run so high due to limited suspension travel. This, in turn, meant the suspension had to work even stiffer, and that brought its own problems by creating the bouncing phenomenon.

Taming the floor’s tendency to induce stalling and trigger porpoises meant it didn’t generate the downforce suggested by the simulation, and generally the car had to run with larger wings to compensate, which hurt its drag, particularly compared to the Red Bull.

READ MORE: ‘We ended up with a car we didn’t want,’ says Hamilton as Mercedes suffers first mechanical DNF of 2022 at Yas Marina

That floor tuning, along with innovations to the front wing to give better wake control around the front wheels, helped tame the car aerodynamically and with its large wings it produced very good downforce.

On tracks not too rough and with not too long straights, it could become competitive, especially after an Austin update to the front wing and floor together with significant weight savings. These changes coincided with three tracks – COTA, Mexico City and Interlagos – ideal for the car and the performances there were strong, culminating in that victory for Brazil.

The braces were part of Mercedes’ efforts to counter the rebounding.

Biggest performance advantage: Red Bull at Spa

The key to the Red Bull RB18’s advantage seemed to be the amount of downforce it retained in the slower corners when the rear ride height is maximum. The big powerful lows regulated to exist in 2022 were capable of massive downforce at high speed, with the car squashed on its suspension.

But as speed drops in the slower corners and the car rises, much of that performance is lost. The aerodynamic battleground became not so much who could generate the most downforce at high speed, but who could generate the best downforce distribution across the entire speed range. In this, the RB18 was clearly the best, and the Spa design was the perfect showcase for it.

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Red Bull was in a class of its own at Spa-Francorchamps

The long straights of Sectors 1 and 3 are punctuated by slower corners (the bus stop, La Source, Les Combes) and combine with the high-speed downforce demands of sector 2. It’s a sequence that demands everything from a car aerodynamically and the Red Bull was in a different league than everything else.

Although Max Verstappen started on a penalty 14th after setting the fastest time in qualifying, he was leading the race and trailing by a third of the distance. His fastest lap when he still had around 30kg of fuel on board and on medium tires was quicker than Charles Leclerc’s attempt with almost no fuel and new soft tyres.

He suggested that the actual advantage of the RB18 (had Verstappen pushed it correctly in qualifying, rather than just doing what was needed) might have been on the order of 1.5s.

It was by far the highest level of performance superiority displayed by any car all season.

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