But while there was no doubt big progress was made in improving the ability of cars to follow each other closer, the season just gone was not without its faults.
Red Bull’s dominance meant the championship battle was pretty much a foregone conclusion after the summer break and, while some of the racing was good, it was not the dramatic improvement some had hoped for.
As one of the key architects in helping put together the planned racing revolution, F1’s outgoing managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn readily admits that things were not perfect.
He insists, however, that getting everything right would have been a Utopian dream, especially when you consider how some of the key issues that overshadowed the early phase of the season were more down to teams’ own actions than anything to do with F1.
Asked by Motorsport.com for his rating out of 10 for the success of the new rules, Brawn said: “I think sort of eight or nine out of 10, [which] was towards where we wanted to be.
“I think a couple of things we moved on probably, retrospectively, we wouldn’t have done. If you remember, there was a period when the teams were claiming the rules were too restrictive and the cars would all look the same.
“As a consequence of that, under pressure, we loosened up a little bit and we gave more freedom on various areas. But the consequence of that was that we got exploited! But that’s Formula 1, you know that is going to happen.”
‘Sucked in’ to porpoising
Carlos Sainz, Ferrari F1-75, battles with Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13
Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
The biggest talking point during the early races was the porpoising, which affected the majority of the grid – and would prove to be the biggest headache for Mercedes over the course of the year.
Brawn concedes that while F1 chiefs and the FIA were well aware of the potential for ground effect’s comeback to trigger a porpoising return, they did not expect things to be as bad as they were.
But he also suggests that some teams got greedy in chasing downforce gains that were in theory there if you ran close to the ground, but could not be achieved in the real world.
“I think obviously porpoising was a bigger issue than we anticipated,” he explained.
“A ground effect car by definition can porpoise because of the very concept. And those of us who experienced that years ago probably were more aware of how you should approach those things – and Adrian [Newey] in particular, I don’t think their car had hardly any issues.
“We all know that with a ground effect car you can’t run it rock solid, close to the ground. It’s just too critical. And I think some of the teams got sucked in, excuse the pun, to seeing how much performance there was if you ran the car close to the ground and as hard as possible. But, in the real world, you couldn’t do that.
“Then, they were stuck, because they designed a car to operate in that regime. And it was quite difficult to move out of it: especially as they saw the performance loss they got from moving out of it, which they didn’t want to give up.
“But I think they’ve all found a good compromise now. We haven’t changed the rules and there’s very little porpoising going on now. So, that was a bit of a hiccup with the start and that was a bit of a distraction, which was a shame.”
Running closer together
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18
Photo by: Alastair Staley / Motorsport Images
While the focus of the 2022 rules was on allowing cars to run closer together, with a view to increasing overtaking chances, drivers said the improvements were not night and day.
In fact, Sebastian Vettel questioned whether the gains had ultimately been worth it for all the expense and effort that was put in to create new rules.
“They’ve always been tricky, but let’s say it like this: the big push this year was to make the cars able to overtake and follow a lot closer. But I don’t think there’s a big difference,” said the four-time F1 champion.
“We follow closer, but we’ve got less drag, so you need to be closer to also overtake. And on tyres, the big target was to allow racing more, but I don’t think it is a big difference either.
“So I don’t want to say it has failed. But certainly a lot of effort had gone in and not all the effort came out, let’s put it this way.”
Brawn says that without active aero to deliberately hobble cars in front then it will be impossible to ever create a racing car that is as quick following behind as it is running alone.
However, he suggests there were a number of under-the-radar improvements that did make a big difference to the quality of the race.
“What’s often not talked about, which we became more aware of as we got into it, was the side-by-side interference,” he said.
“We all think about back-to-back, but what we hadn’t appreciated until we started doing the work and we created the models where we could run two cars in proximity to each other, is how much impact being side-by-side had.
“So those scenarios where you see a driver trying to hold a tight line in a corner and a guy comes alongside him and he drifts out – he’s lost downforce. As soon as that car gets alongside him, he’s losing grip. And we hadn’t appreciated that scenario so much.
Ross Brawn, Managing Director of Motorsports, FOM
Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
“With these cars, it’s much less as well. So, I think those wheel-to-wheel battles we see where there’s two cars, or sometimes even three cars, going through corners – I think they have much more confidence that they’re not going to have anything strange happen.
“And the other comment that I got from the drivers – because I was quite keen when we introduced these cars – was that they’re predictable.
“The balance doesn’t change dramatically. So, you do lose downforce, but you know what the car is doing. You don’t get the sort of understeer, oversteer – you don’t get the unpredictability that you had last year.”
Brawn also thinks that it’s wrong to make a straight comparison between the old cars and the new cars, because sticking with the previous formula would have left F1 on a downward trajectory.
“We mustn’t forget that the cars we had were getting worse and worse,” he said “And with no stop, no hiatus in the way, they were only going to get worse and worse.
“So who knows what a 2022 car would’ve been like if we’d let them carry on another year? And who knows what a 2023 would’ve been like if we’d let them carry on another year?
“So not only have we found what I think is a much better direction, but we halted the descent into unraceable cars that we had facing us.”
A new mindset
Stefano Domenicali, CEO, Formula 1 and Ross Brawn, Managing Director of Motorsports, FOM track walk
Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images
Perhaps the biggest success of the rules in Brawn’s opinion though is not anything tangible seen on the track, it is the impact it has had on attitudes among the rule makers.
It has shown that there is only upside to regulations being framed and pushed for as a mean to make things more exciting.
“I think it’s been a great success and I think to me what’s important is that the principle now has been endorsed, and should now be very high, if not at the top of the list of any future rule changes, [which is] how raceable are these cars?
“I think we’ve seen that both anecdotally on the track and objectively on the data. Even the sceptics, and there were some sceptics about whether this was worthwhile, they’ve put their hands up and said ‘no, definitely much better than it was’.”