The Formula 1 2022 season brought with it sweeping regulation changes designed to improve racing by allowing cars to follow closer for longer.
In theory, cars were to be less affected by the ‘dirty air’ or wake when within close range of a challenger ahead, something that has plagued the sport in recent times as aerodynamic designs have become hyper-sophisticated and complex.
Simplifying the parts and bodywork and switching to ground-effect aerodynamics – as well as the budget cap introduced in 2021 – was hoped to increase overtaking and bunch the pack up this season, to the point that midfield cars could challenge for the odd race victory and podium.
But theory and reality rarely meet eye-to-eye and the pressure was on following the titanic title battle between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton in 2021.
So, were the 2022 Formula 1 regulations a success? Total-Motorsport.com journalists Andrew Wright, Nigel Chiu, Ed Spencer and Adam Dickinson discuss…
Nigel Chiu: Best we could’ve hoped for
F1’s new regulations definitely worked. Just because the championship wasn’t close doesn’t mean they didn’t.
Don’t forget Verstappen and Charles Leclerc went side by side at one point in each of the opening five races, plus their battles in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia were simply stunning.
Rather than struggling to stay within two seconds, the gap between cars in a train is usually between one and 1.5 seconds, so the drivers can use DRS and subsequently give us better racing.
Realistically, it won’t get better than this, unless you get rid of DRS, but that’s a debate for another day.
Having a close championship battle requires thousands of factors to come together, like we had in 2021. It doesn’t matter what the regulations are and ultimately, the top teams – Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes – will come out on top because they have the most experienced and clever engineers with all due respect.
Anyone who thought the pecking order would flip completely was living in dreamland.
Ed Spencer: Too early to judge
When the new regulations were announced in December 2019, Ross Brawn hailed them as a great leveller for the sport where David could slay Goliath on a weekly basis.
His prediction hasn’t aged too well as the pecking order in 2022 stayed relatively the same, giving some paddock judges the view that the regulations have failed.
But the amount of overtakes increased in 2022, and this year has seen the smaller teams punch above their weight, making several Q3 appearances and snatching the odd pole position now and then.
Yes, the racing was a little tepid, and yes, the sequel to 2021 was always going to be a damp squib, no matter how much marketing fluff you believed.
Yes, cars became a bit heavier and clunkier to drive than the previous generation, but still, they were easier to use in wheel-to-wheel combat.
But let’s judge whether the regulations are a failure or not in a couple of years when they’ve been adequately tested, and if the racing fails to improve or if the top six remain at the front of the queue for the spots on the rostrum then it will be time to go back to the drawing board.
Adam Dickinson: Time will tell
It’s really hard to not sit on the fence on this one. I absolutely think the regulations were a success in allowing the cars to race closer for longer and we had some really good Grands Prix where that was a key factor in the race.
Saudi Arabia helped the season start with a bang but the real highlight for me was the end of the British Grand Prix. Nine overtakes in six laps between a top four featuring three different teams (with a midfield runner able to mix it there too) was fantastic drama and really showed the new cars at their best.
But regulations are only as good as the designers who follow them and it became a painfully one-sided struggle as the season wore on.
For all the improvements to enable cars to race better within a second of each other, that does nothing if teams can’t get within a second of the leader in the first place and Red Bull were just dominant.
Andrew Wright: They weren’t broken – why try fix them?
Last season’s duel was always going to be an impossible act to follow, but that aside, I think the new regulations have disappointed more than they have delivered.
I say that because I can’t remember a season in which so many races flattered to deceive. Especially after the summer break.
Yes, there have been some highlights but they have been few and far between, surely far less than the powers that be would have hoped for and expected.
Even the British Grand Prix only turned into the thriller it was because of a late Safety Car, while the sport remains heavily reliant on DRS.
In addition, the jury remains out on the aesthetics of the cars. This modern, sleek revolution remains in its infancy, but 2022’s challengers looked cumbersome both on and off the track.
It seems like most F1 fans, myself included, will cling on to any hint of a redeeming quality so there is optimism for the future, but I don’t think the previous rules were that broken.
Last year’s cars looked better and, after seven years of Mercedes dominance, it seemed like the pack was starting to close up. Now, it has been spreadeagled all over again.
My worry is that this cycle will continue to repeat itself and pile pressure on the sport to introduce measures to manufacture drama amid rising popularity. That’s a dangerous road to go down.