For Pat Fry, the new aerodynamic regulations that came into effect for the 2022 Formula 1 season were amongst the most complex of his extensive career in the sport, and he says it will be interesting to see how the ten teams on the grid interpret them heading into pre-season testing.
Speaking at the launch of the A522, Fry, the Chief Technical Officer of the BWT Alpine F1 Team, says the Formula 1 rule book has grown significantly since he debuted in the sport in 1987, but he understands why the changes were made ahead of the 2022 season in order to make following other cars easier and the racing closer.
“Quite simply, it’s a massive overhaul of the technical regulations for this year, which Formula 1 have been working on for five years or more now,” said Fry. “I’ve seen a number of big rule changes in my Formula 1 career and this one is certainly up there in terms of its complexity and how restrictive the regulations are.
“When I first started in Formula 1 the rule book was relatively short and now it’s very extensive! The main concept of the change is to make overtaking easier and allow cars to run closer together, though, the complexity of the rules does heavily restrict what we can do aerodynamically.
“It’s going to be interesting to see the ten different versions of the cars as each team brings their own interpretation to the track. Of course, there is always an opportunity to get these things right, or wrong, so it will be intriguing to see what our rivals have come up with.”
Fry said the team started the design of the A522 with a clean sheet of paper, but it was important to exploit every rule in order to maximise the potential of the car. He also acknowledges it is important to have the right people in the right places, with the tools they need and the methodologies in place.
“With any set of rules, it starts with a clean sheet of paper,” he said. “Our job is to dig into the wording of what each rule means and then see how we can exploit that within what is legal.
“The more people you have, the more ideas you can generate and the more ground you can cover. Rule changes are always exciting from a design point of view, but you have to remain sensible and realistic.
“Performance in Formula 1 comes down to three things: the people, the tools they have to work with and the methodologies. We know this set of rules are quite restrictive.
“We’ve done the best we can and everyone at the team has done a great job. We’ll keep improving
the aforementioned three core pillars and the aim is to keep moving forwards.”
“The key area for this year for every team is getting the most from the floor”
Fry says the floor of the car has become an important design area for all teams thanks to the new regulations as teams bid to find extra downforce to cover what has been lost in other areas.
He also says the relationship between Enstone and Viry has ensured they have a relatively compact design with the A522, all whilst remaining within the new weight limit and staying within the new budget cap.
“In terms of the car, the key area for this year for every team is getting the most from the floor as it needs to work very close to the ground and, at the same time, you need to get the cleanest possible airflow to the rear of the car,” Fry revealed.
“There’s also been a huge amount of work at Viry to produce a completely new power unit for this year, before its specification gets homologated through to the end of 2025. In addition, close collaboration between Viry and Enstone on packaging the power unit has allowed us some extra freedom in shaping the rest of the car and better exploiting the latest technical regulations.
“Keeping the car to the weight limit is always a challenge, made especially difficult this year with the large increase in the chassis load tests for safety, which are, of course, for very good reason.
“There’s also the financial regulations and the cost cap to contend with and that presents a number of ideas and strategies for car development, which we’re looking to capitalise on.”
Fry is anticipating many differences between the cars on the grid as everyone interprets the new regulations in different ways, and it is with intrigue that Alpine go into the first test of the year looking at their rivals and seeing if they have missed anything that could benefit them.
“I strongly expect there to be many differences between the cars, especially at first when we see for the very first time how we’ve all interpreted the rule book,” he concluded. “Some parts are fairly set such as the rear wing and the front wing.
“I’m sure there will be some interesting concepts that we’ll see from other teams, which we’ll assess back at base after the tests and, equally, that will work vice versa. The intrigue is all part of the excitement when you roll out of the garage for the first time at testing.
“Of course, we’re all looking forward to seeing the A522 on track and seeing all the hard work at Enstone and Viry over the last couple of years come to fruition.”