As the first real cars emerge, several big contrasts between the challengers have been notable, with close examination of the two real cars we’ve seen so far – the McLaren and the Aston Martin – proof that the teams have tackled the new regulations in very different ways.
That comes with a caveat about the front wing, because while we’ve seen physical versions of both cars, only one has been bumped so far. That’s not to say that what we’ve seen from McLaren is inaccurate, just that with such a rapid pace of development expected in the first months of these regulations, there are bound to be changes. It should also be kept in mind that the renders of the MCL36 differed from the physical version presented at the factory.
MORE: Why F1’s Fake War Is On And The Real Battle Is Coming
However, there are already suggestions that two schools of thought have emerged regarding how teams want to set up airflow on a path that will reap other benefits down stream. Where we see the biggest contrast between the two is their approach to mainplane design, with some leeway for teams in terms of height off the ground.
Here, Aston Martin has opted for even more clearance for its main plane in the center region of the wing, to promote more airflow under the assembly and to the large tunnels under the floor. In return, this forces the team to load the central part of the upper flaps more. Meanwhile, McLaren appears to have gone in the opposite direction, with a spoon-shaped midsection at its main plane, with a more elevated outer section.
Where the teams have found common ground is that the main plane and the second element have more agreement than the upper strands, while both seek to overcome regulations in the outermost part of the l wing to generate more overhang than expected.
The nose design isn’t too different, with the two creating a slender body that tapers towards the chassis. Of the other two cars we’ve seen, the Haas also follows this trend, while the AlphaTauri approaches things from a different angle, with a longer nose and all four front fender elements joined to it.
However, the front suspension layout choices of Aston Martin and McLaren are diametrically opposed, with the former preferring to stick with the well-known pushrod layout, while McLaren were more adventurous and opted for the pull rod. Both options have their pros and cons but, from a driver’s perspective, it’s likely to make little difference.
The front brake duct assembly is another area where F1 has worked hard to reduce flow, further limiting the team’s ability to create washout and detract from the overall intent of the rule change. This means it’s much less difficult to get airflow through the assembly and generally we’ll see much smaller inlets.
However, the two teams proceeded in different ways, with Aston Martin sporting a slightly smaller sized entry than we’ve grown accustomed to – but still big enough for the team to tape them down for the shakedown at Silverstone.
MORE: The big team tightrope Aston Martin must walk
Meanwhile, McLaren have opted for something very, very small, although both teams have moved the brake duct fence slightly away from the sidewall to help capture some airflow between the two surfaces, while still slightly moving the wake deflector overhead.
The teams opted for very different paths with regard to the design of the pontoons and the entrance to the tunnel under the floor. These are decisions that were also made in light of their commitment to the overall wheelbase of the car and where the front axle was fixed relative to the front point of the chassis. The regulations allow a certain margin in this respect, the front axle being able to be positioned at a maximum of 100 mm behind the most forward part of the chassis.
Looking at the two challengers from above, it’s clear they are at odds in this regard. Aston Martin has chosen to place its front axle quite far behind the chassis line, while McLaren is behind but with a much smaller margin.
McLaren MCL36 vs. Aston Martin AMR22
Photo by: Uncredited
It also highlights the distance between the front edge of the front wheel and the trailing edge of the front fender (highlighted in yellow on the AMR22, although probably exaggerated in these shots by the parallax effect), this which will have a dramatic effect on the front wing performance. In addition to this, the wake deflection elements that are mounted to the front brake duct are also positioned further forward, creating an aerodynamic domino effect on the design of the car downstream.
Looking at the forward edge of the sidepods, we can see that the McLarens are positioned further forward. The flow diverters that extend from the edge of the floor are of different lengths and also set at conflicting angles. This only serves to highlight the contrasting behavior of the airflow when it reaches this region and how teams are forced to deal with it.
The most noticeable difference between the two cars for a viewer is the design of the sidepods, with the two making very different choices. These are based on how the teams have packaged their internal components, such as radiators, intercoolers and electronics, while taking into account how the airflow from the front of the car must be used by this section of the body.
Aston Martin’s favorite box-shaped inlet is set back slightly and gently descends into a high-waisted sidepod design that has the internals in a more relaxed position than we’ve grown accustomed to. This creates a lot of clearance under the pontoon, with the airflow returning to a narrow region of the coke bottle, which is possible due to the cooling vents above the pontoon responsible for rejecting the heat created inside .
Meanwhile, McLaren’s sidepod leading edge starts further forward when viewed from above. But the MCL36’s sidepods slope down from this leading edge, and the bottom of the entry is set back further.
McLaren opted for a similar general layout for its sidepods to the one it used in 2021, with the initial bodywork tightened in the coke bottle region. Due to the different inclination of its sidepods, cooling is achieved by a larger rear cooling outlet compared to Aston Martin. However, just like last season, this outlet is raised above the coke bottle line, so heat is rejected to a less sensitive area of the car.
The Haas VF22 is not relevant to analyze here, as the renders are from an earlier development stage. However, while we are evaluating the sidepod solutions, we can also take a look at the AlphaTauri AT03, which shares some qualities with the AMR22.
The forward section of the pontoon shares the same box-like inlet design, with the radiators, intercooler and electronics all angled similarly as well. This leads to the body being held higher than what we’ve grown accustomed to, as it seeks the maximum undercut under the intake to provide airflow with better passage around the sidepod.
However, where the AlphaTauri differs from the Aston Martin is at the rear of the pontoon, where it tapers down to the ground and pulls the airflow moving over the top of the pontoon down into the coke bottle region.
The teams continue to take the differences into account when we come to the rear of the car as well, with McLaren having completed their total suspension overhaul, with a pushrod layout being preferred. This is probably a choice motivated by the desire to raise the interior suspension elements away from the diffuser, which is higher and cannot start further forward than in previous years.
The upper wishbone also appears to be a multi-link arrangement, with the front arm mounted lower than the rear on the upright. It’s likely a response to the loss of the vertical extensions that teams have used for the past few years, are banned for 2022. These are decisions McLaren can make despite taking the Mercedes power unit as it continues to design and build its own gearbox and support in-house.
Meanwhile, Aston Martin’s retention of a pull rod layout suggests the Mercedes W13 will also feature the arrangement.
Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR22
Photo by: Aston Martin Racing
Finally, the pair have opted for different configurations when it comes to rear wing mounting pillars, with Aston Martin opting for two, while McLaren has just one pillar in the centre. Again, this is a trade-off between weight and aero, with the single pillar weighing slightly heavier in order to accommodate the associated loads.
Meanwhile, the twin-pillar layout favored by Aston Martin will require a slightly different approach to rear wing design to overcome the small aerodynamic losses associated with the extra pillar.
It’s fascinating how different teams come up with very different design concepts, all under a very tightly controlled set of regulations. And that bodes well for other variations as the other teams unveil their true 2022 challengers over the next few days.