The aerodynamic Formula One revolution of 2022, with the reintroduction of ground-effect cars and the simplification of aero elements and wings, had the primary goal of allowing closer duels between drivers, more overtaking, and consequently, a better spectacle.
While at the beginning of the new era, we indeed witnessed a significant step in this direction, subsequent rule interventions aimed at solving the porpoising problem and excessive tire wear have effectively nullified this advantage.
The directives introduced by the FIA to combat porpoising, imposing a greater minimum ride height and stricter checks on the flexibility of the floor and wear of the plank, have reduced the downforce obtained from ground effect. Additionally, some outwash aerodynamic solutions found by teams for wings and the car body have dirtied the wake and reduced the ability of drivers to stick to the car in front.
To make matters worse, we witnessed a lot of tyre management in 2023, a season in which it was exceedingly difficult for many teams to fully understand the behavior of their cars with the various tire compounds even in minimal track conditions. Drivers were often forced to manage degradation exhaustively, guided like robots by their pit wall, limited to pushing only in small parts of the race.
The federation has declared that it will intervene again on many aerodynamic aspects, blocking some outwash solutions adopted by almost all teams, but it will do so only in 2025. F1 cars next year will be simple evolutions of those from 2023 rather than radically different designs, as there will be minimal changes to the technical regulations. This has raised concerns that overtaking may continue to become more difficult, and races increasingly conditioned by tire management.
This concern is widely shared by many stakeholders, including Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff: “We have to wait and see what happens in Bahrain next year and how the season develops. Let’s see how the Pirelli tires will handle next year’s cars. In the end, overtaking has worsened, and it’s all about thermal management.” – the Mercedes boss pointed out.
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There has been much talk about the possible introduction of two mandatory pit stops, as happened due to particular issues in Qatar, but in the end, this solution was discarded. Toto Wolff cited precisely this race as an example of a virtuous innovation that favored the spectacle: “I would like to have races like the one in Qatar where you just go flat out.”
The new rules introduced halfway through last season and at the beginning of the 2022 Formula One season have therefore failed at least one of the set goals. Now, the FIA has the obligation to think about the on-track spectacle rather than the one provided by increasingly dazzling frames and weekends with alternative formats; we’ll see if anything changes and, above all, if the changes will truly move in the direction of the much-anticipated F1 spectacle.