How the F1 drivers reacted to the 2022 car design reveal

The launch of the 2022 Formula 1 show car at Silverstone on Thursday was a PR exercise for the world at large, but it was also of interest to the drivers.

How the F1 drivers reacted to the 2022 car design reveal
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All 20 drivers were recruited for a photoshoot with the new car, and it gave them a proper opportunity to walk around it and do a bit of proverbial tyre kicking.

While they had seen drawings and in some cases wind tunnel models, the full scale mock-up gave them a real idea of what next year's cars will look like. The glitzy paint job was possibly a bit distracting, but what really mattered was the aero package.

Just as with fans, the true reactions of the drivers were no doubt mixed, but inevitably they were wary of saying anything too negative – it wouldn't be politically correct.

There was a brief social media furore when a clip appeared to show Daniel Ricciardo criticising the new look, but the McLaren driver denied later that the 2022 car was the subject of his comments.

"If they managed to accomplish what they set out to do, it's going to be great for the drivers," said George Russell. "And we just all want hard, fair racing. And that's been a little bit tricky, with the current cars, current regulations.

"But I think the direction we're going in, it's going to be great. So as long as you have a fast car, that's what we care about."

For the drivers, the significant point is that this isn't just a styling exercise – some very clever people from both F1 and the FIA have spent years on the project.

"I think that's the exciting thing," said Ricciardo. "They haven't just whipped it up in the last six months and said, 'Oh, we need to make a change, and this is what it's going to be.' There's definitely been a lot of a lot of thought and effort.

"So it definitely fills us with not only confidence, but just excitement that it is going to be cool and fun. And actually, even now, the more I look at the car, it does look pretty cool."

The 2022 Formula 1 car launch event on the Silverstone grid. Rear three-quarter detail

The 2022 Formula 1 car launch event on the Silverstone grid. Rear three-quarter detail

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Charles Leclerc agreed that the pool of technical knowledge that went into the project gave him some encouragement.

"Obviously the more people involved that know the sport the better it is," said the Ferrari driver. "Because they know exactly what we need to do to have better racing.

"So I just really hope that it will perform as expected, which is more raceable cars. That is basically what we all want, to have more exciting racing. That's the main target of this car, and I hope this will be achieved."

AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly also appreciated the fact that under F1's new management so much effort has gone into the future car concept and also into every aspect of the championship.

"I think that's really positive," said the Frenchman. "It's important to always question what you do and question what you have and try to improve the product you have. So especially in these days, at the end of the day, F1 is entertainment, and we've got to keep people entertained.

"And the more you improve the racing the more chances you have to increase your audience and following, and your fan base. So I think that's what they're trying to do. If we achieved what they're planning and what they'd like in terms of racing, I think that will be a win for everyone.

"For us drivers it will be more exciting to drive, and to fight on track. All the TV [companies] will be happier, and all the spectators and fans following on TV will get more excited as well. So I'm quite looking forward to seeing what we get next year."

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The key to the 2022 car concept is making it easier for drivers to follow through corners and then be in a position to make a passing move. Solving that issue has been something of a Holy Grail for the past couple of decades, and previous attempts had limited results.

"It's very, very important," said Leclerc. "It's very difficult to explain what's going on whenever we are behind a car with these cars, but it's just very, very difficult to follow. We are losing a lot of time, and then it just makes it impossible to overtake. So hopefully the raceability of these cars will be better."

"I think that's everything," Ricciardo said of the following conundrum. "That really is the key to really improving the sport.

"They were showing some old race replays on our TVs before, and it was 2019. And I was behind Carlos [Sainz] for the last 10 laps, and you could see I would catch and then just lose everything through the corners.

"It was clear that I was quicker at that time and had a fresher tyre or whatever, but couldn't do anything just because of the dirty air. And if this improves that, I think you're gonna see so much more racing, and even side-by-side racing. That's really the hope, and I think there's enough data to support it."

Ricciardo confirmed that the issue has been there throughout his 10-year F1 career, to varying degrees.

"I think looking back 2014 was probably the best year for racing. So I liked 2014, because the cars were narrow as well, and you could kind of crisscross a little easier. It's always been a problem, but '14 less so."

The 2022 Formula 1 car launch event on the Silverstone grid. Sidepod detail

The 2022 Formula 1 car launch event on the Silverstone grid. Sidepod detail

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Gasly gave a good explanation of just how much of an issue following is in modern F1.

"You're losing a lot of downforce," he said. "And then the thing is it's having an effect on your brakes, it's having an effect on your aero, it increases the sliding on the tyres, and the tyres can't cope with it at the moment.

"And then basically in the space of three corners, you're losing six, seven tenths, and then you can't put the pressure on the guy, you can't get close enough to try some things. So yeah, it's a real problem.

"It's not an easy fix, because honestly, we are going at such speeds. It's very, very difficult, just physically to achieve following closely. But I like that they are trying their best to make it happen. And that's positive."

The data Ricciardo mentioned earlier was presented to the drivers some time ago by Ross Brawn, and they appreciated the fact that the F1 managing director made the effort to explain in some detail what the intention of the aero changes is.

"It's always good to see numbers on paper," said Gasly. "I mean, looking at the numbers, it looks really positive. Obviously, in this world you learn to not always trust the numbers, because sometimes you expect certain things, and then for whatever reason it's slightly different.

"I really like the approach of making a change and trying to improve the sport. And the philosophy, I think that's clearly the right way to go, with the budget cap, trying to limit the areas to develop performance.

"Because at the end of the day, as an athlete, you want to feel that you have a big impact on the performance, if it's all dictated by the car, it's not that great, and it's not that fun.

"At the same time as a driver is never nice when you fight against another driver and you know he's got one second in the pocket, thanks to his car.

"So the more we reduce these gaps between the cars, the more focus we will have on the drivers, and I guess the more entertainment we will get. So hopefully these new cars bring this to life."

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