« We only reused part of the steering wheel from last year », explains Frédéric Vasseur, director of the Alfa Romeo team.

It’s a change like Formula 1 hasn’t seen since 2017. The new single-seaters that take to the track on Wednesday February 23 in Barcelona have nothing to do with those that were running last year. « We didn’t reuse any parts, only part of the steering wheel », confides Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal (director of the team) at Alfa Romeo, to franceinfo: sport.

The consequence of a change in regulations on most elements of the cars which will inevitably have an impact on the season and mark the beginning of a new era. The most visible of these is the appearance of 18-inch tires (compared to 13 previously) which modify the balance of the car and lead to a different management of these tyres, one of the major issues for the drivers during the race.

All the aerodynamics have also been redesigned to promote the ground effect prohibited since 1983, thanks to a wider part under the car facilitating downforce. A new design of vehicles aimed at reducing « dirty air », that is to say the aerodynamic disturbances which caused losses of support for the cars which followed them on the track. The single-seaters should therefore follow each other more easily, especially in turns, without losing performance. A novelty favoring overtaking.

« We will only know in Bahrain (first Grand Prix of the season, editor’s note) if it is really effective, tempers Frédéric Vasseur on the possible rapprochement of the cars on the track. The grid crunch comes through stability. With the rule changes, we have rather discrepancies in performance. »

But the hopes of an intense and tight season between several drivers and teams remain. Especially since Mercedes and Red Bull redoubled their efforts last year in the race for the world championship. At the same time, the other teams were already preparing for 2022.

« We had the new regulations at the end of 2020, we attacked the project very early on, sacrificing 2021 to devote ourselves to this new car. »

Frederic Vasseur

france info: sports

And no one will be able to spend lavishly with a budget capped by the FIA. Already in place last year, it will be carefully scrutinized this season because the development of new single-seaters has resulted in a much higher cost than in 2021. Regulations designed here too to rebalance the balance of power between the teams.

Pierre Gasly during a video shooting session in Misano (Italy), February 15, 2022. (Red Bull Content Pool via AFP)

Expectations are all the higher for the teams since in 2014, during a previous upheaval of the rules, Mercedes had pulled off a masterstroke to take over Red Bull, untouchable until then, and begin a series of eight consecutive Constructors’ Championship titles. A domination that could fade with a return in particular from Ferrari. The historic team which will celebrate its 75th anniversary has not been constructors’ world champion since 2008 and experienced its worst ranking in the last forty years in 2020. The change of era is therefore welcomed with enthusiasm in Maranello, historic headquarters of the stable in Italy.

An excitement felt in the paddock. Fernando Alonso, on his land for the tests, is impatiently awaiting the first extinguishing of the lights on Sunday March 20 in Bahrain. « I came back to F1 in 2020 for these new regulations », confided the forty-year-old, double world champion at the time of the presentation of the new Alpine A522, Monday in Paris.

« We are always excited at the start of the year, it’s back to school but here it’s true that it has a particular taste », admits for his part Frédéric Vasseur. A season full of novelties for him with, in addition to the regulations, a Ferrari engine which has experienced a « step-up » and two new drivers: Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou. In Barcelona, ​​they will drive their new single-seater for the first time and will have a month to fine-tune the final adjustments before the start of a season that could be full of surprises.

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