Scuderia Ferrari (and most likely all of the other teams) will have to solve the problems of the car for the current season before the summer, when inevitably focus will shift and concentrate on the design of the new generation cars.
F1 development race 2022
With the Bahrain Grand Prix behind us, it is possible to look at the strengths and weaknesses encountered by the various teams on their cars. However, this year the time available to carry out the necessary corrections and experiments will be more limited than ever. According to Italian daily newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport, Scuderia Ferrari has already sent the parts to be “updated” on the current car into production, which will be gradually implemented until the race in Barcelona or the Monte Carlo Grand Prix. After that, the Maranello team’s attention will shift to 2022, the year in which the big regulatory change promoted by the FIA will give life to totally different cars than those currently on track.
In fact, the delivery of the drawings of the so-called homologated parts for the 2022 single-seaters, including the chassis and gearbox, is already scheduled for the end of June. And the same goes for all the other teams, including those that play for the top positions, such as Mercedes, which will have to solve its balance problems soon to keep up with Red Bull this season and work at the same time on development for 2022.
The spectrum of the freezing F1 power unit in 2022
But the difficulties are not over. 2022 also marks the first year of “freezing” for the development of the power units, which will remain the same for three seasons. The new engines will be homologated at the beginning of 2022 and from then on they cannot be modified. Ferrari will therefore have to hurry to close the performance gap with the top of the class or risk not being able to count on a strong engine for three years. The signs are encouraging and certainly the Ferrari power unit has made a qualitative leap compared to 2020, but it is certainly not yet at the levels of Honda and Mercedes, as demonstrated by the battles on the track with McLaren and Aston Martin, both powered by Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel’s counter-overtaking on the straight was significant, with very worn tires, against Charles Leclerc on fresh tires. The Monegasque obviously immediately regained his position, but at that point the different performances between the two power units became clear.
Also for Red Bull the challenge is not a small one. Honda, which currently supplies the Austrian manufacturer with the power unit, announced its farewell to Formula 1 at the end of the season. The two sides have reached an agreement whereby Red Bull will inherit the intellectual property of the Honda engine and continue its development with a company founded for this and called Red Bull Powertrains Limited. Honda will therefore have to make every effort to leave the team a competitive engine that will decide the fate of Red Bull for the next three seasons.
Budget cap: a further obstacle
In this context, the obstacle of the budget cap also comes in: the spending cap imposed by the FIA to cope with the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic, while trying, at the same time, to rebalance the competition on the track by giving the same possibilities to all participating teams. The limit is set for this year at 145 million dollars, a considerable cut considering that the costs for major teams was around 350-400 million in past seasons.
In short, the teams are called upon to completely redesign the cars and design a power unit that can be competitive over three seasons with a limited budget. It is no coincidence, therefore, that certain low-ranking teams, such as Haas, have decided to completely abandon the 2021 development to focus directly on the design of the 2022 car. The 2022 regulation was designed to reduce the differences in performance between the teams and the smaller teams hope to take advantage of the opportunity to compete on equal footing with currently stronger rivals.
It is no coincidence, therefore, that some of them have decided to focus all their efforts on next season. One wonders, however, if a team like the Haas, which seemed to be in obvious difficulty from the first outing of the season, will be able to recover from the damage to the image it will suffer as a result of the disastrous year that seems to lie ahead for them.
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