Ferrari's 2022 F1 advantage has been hiding in plain sight


With victory in Bahrain and a closely-fought battle in Saudi Arabia, it's clear that Ferrari has nailed the new regulations looking beyond the race results

Ferrari, 2022 Bahrain GP

Ferrari has stolen a march on its rivals and it's evident even without the Bahrain race result

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A lot of Formula 1 pre-season testing was spent debating which team had perfected the new 2022 regulations.

With new regulations placing emphasis on ground effect, Ferrari turned up with a sculpted sidepod concept, raised high on the outer edge but dipping inward towards the centre of the car forming a channel between the floor edge and engine cover.

Mercedes brought a radical new design that resembled an almost entirely inverted concept of the sidepod, squeezing the cooling narrow at the top edge and wider where it meets the floor, forming an almost entirely absent sidepod area of the car.

And Red Bull implemented a late upgrade on the third and final day of testing, with a shrink-wrapped section of the sidepod leading air to the floor which brought with it great performance gains in tandem with a modified floor design.

But until the Bahrain GP weekend, it was unclear which of the three teams had perfected the new design philosophy.

On first viewing, it appears as though Ferrari is the team that has nailed it, but the fact Charles Leclerc leads the championship isn’t the primary indicator.



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W13 – the gap at the rear of the car and the track surface has been highlighted in yellow and is a sizeable chunk more than its rivals

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Mercedes has been affected heavily by the new regulations and its super-skinny sidepod concept hasn’t been the magical answer to its problems.

Its new design had everyone talking but the drivers were still bouncing massively on the Bahrain straights with porpoising a massive problem for the W13.

The team attached metal stays at the rear of the floor to help reduce the phenomenon but that hasn’t solved the issue as much as it has reduced it, and taken away potential performace with it.

“We are having to throw away the basic performance of our car to get bouncing under control”

Because of the severity of the porpoising the team is suffering with, the easiest ‘fix’ has been to raise the rear ride height of the car but that has lost the team a great deal of performance according to Lewis Hamilton.

“I’m not being given exact numbers, but I know they’re large,” he explained ahead of the Saudi race.

“Those that have had to raise their car, it’s much steeper steps that we’ve seen compared to previous years. And there’s lots of performance [to be gained] when you can reduce some of those steps obviously.

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“The cars that are ahead of us, for example, have an incredible amount of low-speed downforce.”

As seen in the image above, Mercedes has had to raise the rear ride height of the W13 in order to reduce the bouncing, a huge detriment to performance through a loss of downforce produced by the underneath of the car. Compared to the other two, it is almost running a high-rake concept, something that is not desirable with the new generation of car.

The team echoed those concerns also.

“Porpoising is something that caught all of the teams out when they first launched this generation of cars just a few weeks ago,” the team’s chief technical officer James Allison noted after Bahrain.

“The mechanisms that cause it, while not completely understood yet, are rather different from what the commentators are providing on the web and on your TV screens. How quickly each team can get on top of it and fix it is going to be quite an important thing for determining what the pecking order in the sport will be.

“We were caught out by it quite badly, especially when we put our first race upgrade package on in the last winter test, the amount of porpoising we saw has been quite extreme.

“We are having to throw away the basic performance of our car as a smaller problem, in order to get the bigger problem – the uncontrollable bouncing – slightly under our control.”

Upgrades are on the way for Mercedes but there’s little use trying to find pace elsewhere in the car if basic set-up issues related to the bouncing cannot be squared away.


Red Bull

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RB18 – Red Bull has opted to run the car a little higher than Ferrari but comfortably lower than Mercedes and isn’t experiencing porpoising issues

Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

Red Bull had long been the kings of running a high rake on its cars but in the new era, having the floor of the car as close to the track surface as possible is the way to generating better laptimes.

Aero and design guru Adrian Newey is arguably the key asset heading into a fresh set of regulations focused on design over engine. But even though he is one of the very few engineers to remain around since F1 last faced porpoising 40 years ago, the issues have been unforseen, partly due to speed limits at which teams can run wind tunnel simulations at.

But as the team did last year in the 2021 title battle, Red Bull has moved fast with upgrades. The sidepod and floor updates which were both unveiled on the final day of pre-season testing appears to have worked wonders.

Of the three teams fighting for podium in Bahrain, Red Bull’s solution has lessened the porpoising phenomenon the most, with little to no bouncing visible outside of riding bumps under braking in Sakhir. Likewise in Jeddah, the RB18 was settled much more than the Ferrari.

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There’s still work to be done though. Max Verstappen was forced into retirement late-on during the Bahrain race due to a fuel pump issue and couldn’t find the laptime over a single lap in Saudi Arabia.

“I think I do know what I want to go faster, it’s just I don’t have it yet,” Verstappen said ahead of the Saudi Arabian GP.

“I’m trying to find that balance to go faster but with these cars, the extra weight and low speed makes it quite a tricky car to set up. But of course it is also very track dependent. So Bahrain has more low speed corners, it’s really hard on tyres. So I’d say low speed it doesn’t feel fantastic.

“Here it’s completely different where street circuits so grip is different, but also a lot more high-speed corners. So you’re definitely chasing something else from the car. I hope it works for us, but we’ll find out soon.”

The Red Bull is in the middle of things in the ride height department. It has run the least wing out of the three teams across the opening two rounds of the season which could be down to porpoising issues but the RB18 hasn’t been bouncing as much as its rivals.

It looks to be well on top of the issue, no doubt down to Newey’s technical nous, and looking very quick already. If it can dial in more wing as the year progresses without enduring more porpoising, Red Bull is looking very good for the 2022 season.




F1-75 – Almost flat to the floor, Ferrari’s 2022 car is able to run lower than its rivals by some margin

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Already in Bahrain during testing, Ferrari was confident it had nailed a solution to the issues teams were facing with bouncing on the straights.

The stays attached at the rear of the floor has been the adopted solution up and down the grid but a revised floor on the F1-75 appears to have had the desired effect for the Italian team.

Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz looked much more comfortable going down the straights than the Mercedes duo but the Ferrari hasn’t lost the speed it had during pre-season as a result.

Being able to run the car lower to the ground to maintain the attachment of air and maximise the downforce produced without the bouncing is a crucial component in producing laptime with these new cars.

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“I think porpoising, as we call it now, it’s not gone, but much better compared to our pace in Barcelona, and it was one of our priorities after the Barcelona testing, so it looks good,” Leclerc said in Bahrain after testing.

“We are working well, and any time we find ourselves in a difficult place, we have managed to work and get out so it’s positive, for now.

“The consistency is good, balance is good, which are two positive things.”

In Jeddah the Ferrari was bouncing visibly more than the Red Bull but it was still able to maintain good speed around the fast sweeps. When the Ferrari does experience bouncing, it looks much more capable of dealing with the phenomenon and maintain performance versus Mercedes.

This allows Ferrari to run the F1-75 lower to the ground and generate downforce without losing time having to raise rear ride heights or move away from its high levels of wing to compensate.

It makes sense that Ferrari has addressed the issue quicker than either Red Bull or Mercedes. The Scuderia has more wind tunnel and CAD/CFD design time than its rivals by virtue of its finishing position in the championship last year. The team is very conscious of not squandering this advantage in the early phase of the season.

“In car design, we have improved our [wind] tunnel, technologies, processes and simulations and so today we are much better prepared than in the past to do a good job with development,” Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto said ahead of Australia. “We [also] have a budget cap which will affect the rate of development – we need to make sure we have the right policy on that, as it could be a game-changer in the fight for development.”