Man with gloves making 2022 f1 car changes to rear wing

Previously I wrote that downforce was the king of Formula 1 physics. However, that is about to change for the 2022 F1 season with a massive set of regulation changes. If you've seen these changes but feel lost about how they work, don't worry, we'll catch you up to speed. First, let's understand why these 2022 F1 car changes were needed. 

Tough to Race

With the current regulations, last season was entirely focused on downforce — the effect air has to push the car down into the track while flowing over the car's surface, thus creating more grip — and we've witnessed a compound effect that results in races that may be boring. The issue is that the teams create their cars to generate the most downforce possible, which ensures the most grip possible. As they should; the regulations demand this approach! 

The effect of this is that the air coming off the back of the car is "dirty" (turbulent). Think of when you're in an airplane and experience turbulence — it's the same thing. An F1 car experiences this if they're too close to the car in front. The result is that the car behind cannot generate the same level of downforce. Due to this, through turns, the tires "scrub" across the track's surface instead of sticking to the track and wear more quickly. It's no wonder why the 2022 F1 car changes were enacted by the FIA. 

Last year, drivers solved this issue by hanging back from the car in front, so they are less in the turbulent air and preserved their tires. They will only attack the car in front when they know they have a good chance to pass so as not to destroy their tires prematurely. Because drivers only attack when they have a really good passing opportunity, we end up with some races that look more like parades, and the action on Saturday at qualifying may be more interesting. Fortunately, new 2022 F1 car changes are coming, which makes this year's races to be much more exciting and unpredictable. 

The Solutions

The FIA wanted to solve this problem rightly, and I think they've gone about it in a very smart way which means the 2022 cars will look rather different from the previous years' lot. Here's what is included in the Formula 1 2022 car changes. 

Man in vest rolling away f1 race car wheels on a stand


The first upgrade from the 2022 F1 car changes you'll notice is the move from 13" wheels to 18" wheels. By "wheel," what I mean is what many people may refer to as the "rim" - the metal component that the rubber tire is mounted on. The diameter of the tire itself is also larger. The net result is that the amount of tire sidewall has been reduced, so teams will need to re-work their suspension systems as most of an F1 car's suspension travel was in the tire sidewall previously.

Among the 2022 F1 car changes, this isn't the change that will help the racing action. The FIA is mandating wheel covers. These are pieces of bodywork in the center of the wheel that help smooth out the surface. Rotating wheels moving through air generate a lot of turbulent air. Wheel covers (we last saw them in the 2009 season) help smooth the outward "wash" of air and do part of the job that the bargeboards did previously. We also see the addition of over-wheel winglets that will also clean up the air as it travels over the wheel. Due to these Formula 1 2022 car changes, the use of bargeboards has been banned completely. A nice result of that is the massive reduction in cost to develop bargeboards as well as the immense amount of debris they leave on the track when broken.

Front Wing

One of the most exciting 2022 F1 car changes is the updates to the front wing. You'll notice that they have been simplified, and there are limits on the number of elements and where they can be implemented. 

Man making 2022 f1 car changes to front wing of race car

Rear Wing

The rear wing sees a big change as well. According to the Formula 1 2022 car changes, the rear wing will now direct their shape to take air coming from under the car (through the diffuser) and eject it as high as possible as soon as possible. The idea is to take air that was under the car and eject it over a car that may be following behind, leaving less turbulence for the car behind to deal with.


The floor sees the biggest update among the 2022 F1 car changes and brings back something previously banned - ground effect. The shape of the floor is allowed so that air will be channeled with Bernoulli's principle sucking the car into the track from below the car rather than relying on downforce to press the car into the track. There are also additions to the edges of the floor that help seal the air underneath under the car and prevent it from escaping, generating more suction into the track. As a result, less drag means better aerodynamics, improved speeds, and faster lap times. 

Two men lifting up a 2022 F1 race car floor board

What it all means

These Formula 1 2022 car changes all focus on reducing turbulent air. The FIA is doing this by moving the regulations away from downforce by smoothing the surfaces of the cars and replacing it with ground effect. Of course, expect teams to find and exploit loopholes the FIA haven't thought of! Loophole exploitation is the part I'm most excited about — F1 teams always have some very clever brains in the paddock.

For the last few years, if a car followed 3 seconds behind, it would lose about half its downforce. With these new 2022 F1 car changes, it's estimated the driver will need to be directly behind the car in front to lose that much. In aggregate, all of these 2022 F1 car changes should help the racing action because cars are able to follow much more closely than they were able to previously and attack the driver in front more often. 

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April 24, 2022 — Jared Nichols

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