How Aston Martin plans to conquer F1's biggest ever rule changes


Aston Martin is expecting a rapid rate of development and plans to change its entire 2022 concept should rival ideas prove to be quicker

AMR22 2022 F1 car

Aston Martin unveiled its 2022 car on Thursday to give us the first real insight into how the new F1 cars will actually look

Aston Martin

Thursday’s launch of the Aston Martin AMR22 gave us the first proper insight into what this year’s Formula 1 cars will look like, and the early signs are encouraging.

While the new models are just as big and are in fact a little heavier than last year’s, the Aston indicates that they will look a lot sleeker and generally less fussy, thanks to welcome rule changes such as the loss of the brilliantly engineered but inevitably ugly bargeboards.

The previous week Haas had shown some renders, and the day before Red Bull had unveiled what it claimed to be the RB18, but which was quickly unmasked as a take on the 2022 show car that the F1 organisation released last year.

To the Aston’s great credit, the team unveiled a real car – and we know it was the genuine article as it was completed early in order to undertake its first shakedown at a filming day at Silverstone on Friday.

Teams always have a difficult call to make with signing off on a new car. Do you finish the build as late as possible before its first track run in order to make use of extra precious days of development time, while also delaying the opposition’s first look at what you’ve done?

Or do you run early and show your hand, but have the advantage of gaining extra time with which to assess what you’ve learned from your shakedown before proper testing starts?

Aston chose the latter route, and no doubt rivals were eager to see what the team had come up with – although inevitably the AMR22 will change by the first race in Bahrain and thereafter throughout the season as the team finds more performance in the new rules, and reacts to what others have done.

We are going to witness a fascinating development race between the teams, one made more intense this season by the tighter cost cap, which will rein in the big spenders and stop them throwing infinite resource at their new models, as was the case prior to 2021. It helps also that the teams were not allowed to conduct proper aero work until January 1 last year, which stopped the big players with more resources from stealing a march.

Andrew Green worked with Gary Anderson on the original Jordan 191, and apart from a spell at BAR, he’s been with the Silverstone team through its various iterations ever since, always making the most of scarce resources.

Now Aston Martin’s chief technical officer, he’s had to oversee the development of the new car while also building up staff levels and new layers of management. While Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari have been downsizing to meet the budget cap, Green has had to try to make the best use of an increased budget.

“It’s by far the biggest change in regulations I think the sport has ever seen,” he explains. “My career goes back to 1991. I think it trumps everything as far as F1 is concerned. It’s a completely new concept, but also a completely different way of approaching a regulation as well.

“So it’s been a massive challenge. It’s been exciting, for sure, as there’s so much to do, there’s so much to learn. And we’re only just starting this exploration of these regulations. We’ve really only been attacking them and looking at them and developing them since January last year.

“We haven’t had a lot of time. We started in January, as the first time that the wind tunnel runs and development started in anger – and we had to be releasing a chassis six months later. So it was intense, it really was intense. It was a lot of work.

“And then we’re trying to combine that with trying to compete in a season last year as well, which made things even harder. And on top of that, we’re trying to expand, we’re trying to get ourselves aligned on our ambitions for our five-year plan.

“The expansion is a difficult process to manage as well. It needs managing, it takes resource away from what would normally be pure development. So all-in-all it’s been a really, really challenging year, and it’s been the most intense winter that I’ve ever, ever experienced. I’m really proud of what we’ve done, and what we’ve achieved as a team, to get this car ready.”

The new ground effect aero package and the move to 18-inch Pirelli tyres are the most obvious novelties. However, they fed into the whole car, ensuring that every aspect of it has undergone change.

“I think the development challenges were wide and varied over the course of the last 12 months,” says Green.

AMR22 2022 F1 car

The sidepod area of the Aston Martin is a lot wider than the images released by Haas of its 2022 car

Aston Martin

AMR22 2022 F1 car

Green says the team is aware there are plenty of different philosophies at the rear of the car

“And I think that probably the most challenging aspect was there were so many challenging aspects. Trying to try to juggle so much change, place the resource where we believe to be the right place, and to be able to get the maximum out of that area where we think the performance is going to emanate from, was by far the trickiest area of development.

“There wasn’t a specific item on the car, because every area needed to be developed, whether it was from the chassis strength, or new suspension, or the overall aerodynamics. Everything had to be redone, so the challenge was allocating enough resource to each area to get the job done, while trying to maximise the performance overall.

“And I think the challenges that we’ve just had over the last 12 months are probably going to fade into insignificance compared to the challenges that are ahead of us.”

Green stresses that it wasn’t just the major aero changes that teams have had to address, but also a fundamentally new approach to what the regulations now specify.

“The ability to change layout and sidepods is on the table for us in 2022”

“This is not just a new concept as far as it’s ground effect. The way the rules are written, the application of the rules, is completely different as well.

“It used to be a case of the rules were written where you had certain regulated boxes that you were allowed to draw whatever you wanted in, most of the time. You were free to draw whatever you want. It was ‘here’s a box, you can make something this high, this wide, this long, you can fill it with whatever you want.’

“Those regulations have gone now, and we actually have sort of pre-defined surfaces that you have to work with. The amount of deviation you can actually get from these regulations is massively reduced from before. And that’s why I think teams will converge relatively quickly.”

Andy Green, Aston martin 2022

Andy Green (left) and Tom McCullough talk through the new AMR22 during the team’s launch

Aston Martin

Green is also confident that while launch cars we see in the coming days may not look similar to each other, inevitably the successful ideas will soon be picked up by rivals, and they will converge.

“I think we will see different approaches initially. I think there are lots of different ways of approaching the problem with the ’22 regulations. And I think initially you will see a few variations. But I don’t think it will be long before we all align as far as the big visual aspects of the car.”

Intriguingly Green says Aston is ready to change its approach should other concepts prove to be better: “There are several routes as far as sidepod design. And we’ve explored one route. And I know that there are plenty of other routes available.

“One of the design requirements for the car was to give ourselves flexibility. I didn’t want us designing a car down a development cul-de-sac, I wanted us to be able to move and be able to research different areas relatively freely in 2022. So the ability to change radiator layout and sidepods is on the table for us in 2022.”

“We’ve seen a 50% increase in performance in a matter of months, which is something unprecedented”

The pace of progress has already been fast: “We’ve been in one of the steepest development curves that we’ve ever seen, we’ve seen a 50% increase in performance in a matter of months, which is something unprecedented.

“The cars that we’ve just discarded are highly-developed cars. And now we’ve taken a lot of steps back, and then we’ve got to try build up again.”

As previously the Aston uses not just a power unit and gearbox supplied Mercedes, but also the Brackley team’s rear suspension. As much as Green and his crew would like to do their own, it simply doesn’t make sense to not accept the full W13 kit.

“The reason for the rear end from Mercedes is it comes in a nice, neat package. It is aligned. We’ve been through just buying a gearbox, and putting our own suspension on it and the two fighting each other, for too long.

“It seemed like the right thing to do is just to have the suspension on the gearbox that the gearbox has been designed for. It really was as simple as that, and try and give ourselves as much freedom everywhere else.”

The rules allow teams to take a rival’s front suspension. However, Aston chose not to do that simply because it bolts onto the team’s own chassis rather than the Mercedes-designed gearbox, and it would be too constraining.

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“Then you’re into trying to align a chassis to a suspension system that you get late. We’d have to wait for the suspension to be defined before being able to define our own chassis. And that just wasn’t something that we could really consider.

“Especially with the timeframes and timescales we have, we would have to define a chassis quicker than Mercedes, because we would get the information later than them, and we’re not in that position to do that. So that’s the reason.”

Teams have just six days of testing, with the Barcelona session that kicks off on February 23 followed by another in Bahrain, shortly before the first race. There’s much to be learned, and not just about the cars themselves.

“Tyres are going to be a massive unknown to everybody,” says Green. “No one really knows what’s going to happen with the tyres when we start running them. As much as much as we’ve done some testing pre-season, the Abu Dhabi test and all the in-season testing last year, nobody has run these tyres with the ground effect car. And that’s going to be a real challenge.”

We can only hope that the rules do what was promised on the tin, and allow cars to follow each other more closely, and thus overtake more often. That will mean little if there’s a big performance spread, but as noted in theory the development race should be tighter than previously.

“I hope now with the cost cap in place we’ll be able to bring updates at least as frequently as Red Bull and Mercedes,” says Green. “We’re still working our way up to the cost cap, that’s for sure. We’ll be close this year, and we’ll be attacking it next year.

“I think the finances of the team are really strong, and we’re not really cash limited any more. Where we are limited is the resources that we have, the tools that we have at our disposal to develop the car, and to make good decisions on developing the car.

“I think that’s really where we’re hindered slightly, that’s what we’re working towards improving over the coming years.

“I don’t think the finances are going to stop us upgrading, I think it’s just our ability to come up with good ideas, and develop those good ideas before putting them on the car. But I think you will see a lot of development on this car over the course of the season – a lot.”