F1 2026: FIA announces new engine regulations

Alex Pennington

The FIA recently approved the long-awaited engine regulations for 2026, the biggest overhaul since the 2014 introduction of the V6 turbo-hybrids. Following the finalisation of the regulations, Audi has confirmed its entry into the sport in 2026 as an engine manufacturer, with its buyout of Sauber as well as Porsche’s Red Bull partnership expected to follow shortly. With such big changes coming for the whole of F1, let’s take a look at what the regulations actually involve.

Audi’s show car at the Belgian GP

Unfortunately, the side effect of all this will be a familiar one in F1’s recent history, and that is increased weight

The big talking point of the new regulations, and F1’s future more generally, is sustainability. The new engines will run on 100% sustainable fuel made from municipal waste and have the same power output as the current generation, at around 1000 horsepower. Another major difference will be the increased reliance on electrical power, with the batteries now providing up to 50% of total power output. This is all in the name of a more sustainable sport with better applications for road cars, which are shifting ever more towards electrical power. However, this will not impact the racing we know and love.

The other change, which is even more significant on the technical side, is the removal of the complicated and expensive MGU-H. The MGU-H is an engine component which uses exhaust gasses to spin a turbine and create energy. This energy is then stored and used to artificially spin up the turbocharger’s air compressor under acceleration. This eliminates turbo lag (the period between acceleration starting, and the turbocharger starting to work to create additional power) and increases the efficiency of the engine. It is, however, a very complex and expensive part to develop, so much so that it has little real-world application and has been a major barrier to new engine manufacturers entering the sport. Its removal was essentially a necessity for Porsche and Audi to agree to enter the sport.

A Mercedes MGU-H (left) attached to the turbo housing and turbine (right)

Other changes to the regulations go along with the current drive to reduce costs and improve close racing. There will be a cost cap on engine development (separate to the overall cost cap) of $95m per year from 2023-25 and some parts of the engines, including the engine block and crankshaft, will have development on them tightly restricted. This should help to ensure that performance is relatively similar between engine manufacturers, and that the new manufacturers can enter and be competitive right from the outset.

Unfortunately, the side effect of all this will be a familiar one in F1’s recent history, and that is increased weight. This year’s cars are already 50kg heavier than the previous generation, and the new engines will have much larger battery packs and a move away from expensive, exotic (and lightweight) construction materials. The loss of the MGU-H, on the other hand, will only be worth around 4-5kg.

All of this means that the new engine regs will essentially bring three things: more sustainability; more manufacturers; and more weight. Some drivers and teams have already voiced concern about the weight issue (not to mention the extra money allocated to new manufacturers for development), but on the whole a more sustainable and competitive Formula 1 can only ever be a positive thing. As fans we will just have to accept that the quickest cars in the sport’s history are, at least for now, behind us. If the new engines create close, exciting racing, that seems to be a sacrifice worth making.

A current-gen engine with energy store/batteries

Formula E: An Electrifying Race Weekend in London’s ExCeL centre

Sophie Clare reviews her first Formula E race experience, reflects on the racing format and details some of her favourite memories from a busy race day.

It was such a fun (and fairly affordable) way to see the skill of drivers and support a more sustainable mode of racing.

On Saturday 30th July I was excited to attend the Sabic London E-Prix, my first Formula E race weekend.  After an early start and a succession of trains and tubes, Aakash, Marina, and I arrived to the distinctive noise of electric engines, enjoying a glimpse of free practice from the DLR station. 

Our train had slowly but steadily filled with easily recognisable fans, showing support for their teams with baseball caps and polo shirts.  Entering the Allianz E-Village gave an overview of the activities on offer, revealing the true scale of the race site.  The unique track winds around – and through – the ExCeL convention centre and adjacent to the Royal Victoria Dock.  The indoor/outdoor layout poses the challenge of differing light levels and track conditions, it is fascinating to watch during the race and see the drivers negotiating in and out of the indoor track, trying to use the transition to their advantage.

After exploring the site, Marina and Aakash checked out the grandstand and track while I paid a visit to the Media Centre.  This provides working space for the array of team representatives, journalists, photographers, and Formula E officials who bring the racing action to fans via. print and online media.  It was a quiet and focused space, definitely a contrast to the crowds of fans who were attending the race and enjoying the activities on offer in the E-Village.  It’s also where the pre and post-race press conferences and media pens take place, so I enjoyed getting a glimpse behind-the-scenes.  I also took the opportunity to explore the paddock, where I had the chance to chat with Sophie Liger, PR manager for the DS TECHEETAH team.  It was great to see inside the garage as the team, drivers (and indeed the cars!) were getting prepared for qualifying.  Later in the day we also saw Izy Rekiel, who Aakash and I first met at the Extreme E Jurassic X Prix last year.  Izy kindly caught up with us in between providing a musical backdrop to the race weekend as DJ in the BOSS|EMOTION Club.

Qualifying consists of a group stage followed by a series of Duels, where pairs of drivers go head-to-head to decide the qualifying order.  We found that this format – along with the accessible race length of 45 minutes + 1 lap – is a crucial part of Formula E’s growing appeal, particularly to fans who might not have engaged with motorsport before.  For new viewers at home or first-time race attendees, Formula E’s almost bite-sized format provides fast-paced, punchy racing action interspersed with a range of activities, including music performances by Nina Nesbitt and Jax Jones.  Additionally, the race still provides the tension and excitement of strategy calls, overtaking and battles for position, just concentrated into a shorter race time.  With thousands of fans cheering along in the grandstands, waving flags to support their favourite teams, it was a truly unforgettable atmosphere.

Watching the race itself – round 13 of this year’s championship – was an incredible experience.  Almost every lap when the cars whirred down the straight and through turns 1 and 2, we watched a slightly different succession of cars passing by our grandstand.  Lights on the halo of each car indicated whether the driver had initiated Attack Mode, a sort of DRS equivalent for the Formula E cars.  This gives a 6-minute power boost and can be activated twice during the race, with each team and driver working to build a strategy which could best employ the power boost to their advantage.  As the race continued, it was particularly exciting to watch the battle for third place between Nick de Vries and Nick Cassidy, a tight battle which saw de Vries cross the line first but Cassidy taking third position, with de Vries taking a five second penalty post-race.  Perhaps most noteworthy was Jake Dennis’ dominant run to a podium position for the Avalanche Andretti team.

It was close and hard fought, and I really enjoyed the fact that the commentary was broadcast into the crowd.

I asked some of the CUMFS members who attended the race about their experience and their responses were unanimously positive.  It was the first live motorsport event that most of them had attended, with the range of fan entertainment and sustainable racing being big factors behind their enjoyment.  Izzy thought that “it was such a fun (and fairly affordable) way to see the skill of drivers and support a more sustainable mode of racing.”  Several members particularly enjoyed seeing British driver Jake Dennis British top the podium.  Aakash also appreciated the unique track layout, in particular how it “took great advantage of the Formula E cars.”  He reflected my own thoughts on the racing: “it was close and hard fought, and I really enjoyed the fact that the commentary was broadcast into the crowd.”

Ultimately, I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience of a Formula E race weekend, both in the grandstands and behind-the-scenes. It was great for so many of our members to attend an in-person motorsport event, many of us for the first time!

Has the London E-Prix piqued your interest in the sport?  We’ll be incorporating further coverage of Formula E into our blog and social media, so stay tuned for more articles in the future.  If you’re interested in writing for the blog, please get in touch with Libby, our Social Media officer.

RECAP: Extreme E Jurassic X Prix 2021

Image Credits: Sophie Clare

Sophie Clare reviews her time spent trackside at the 2021 X Prix in Dorset, hosted by Extreme E, and recaps her favourite moments.

On the weekend of December 17th & 18th, I was lucky enough to attend the Extreme E Jurassic X Prix in Dorset with Aakash, our Speakers and Events Officer.  Not only were we representing CUMFS, but we were also able to attend on behalf of Volta Future Positive.  Our fantastic behind the scenes access to the inaugural season finale of the innovative off-road electric racing series made this a day to remember.

I arrived on the Saturday morning – this meant that I had plenty of time to explore the race site, get my bearings, and prepare for race day on Sunday.  My first port of call (after receiving my accreditation and wrist-bands) was a tour of the paddock.  The team garages, storage units, canteen, media centre, medical structures and the Command Centre are all formed from inflatable shelters created by Airshelta.  This means that much of the race site can be packed up and shipped between race locations via the St Helena, the series’ floating paddock.  During the race weekend, the St Helena was docked in Poole harbour; it was great to talk to some of the crew members from the ship over the course of the weekend.

After exploring the very muddy paddock and getting a glimpse into the teams’ trackside operations, I was able to speak with Catarina Silva from Continental Tyres, and Adam Bond, CEO of ASC Energy.  Continental provides unique, ultra-high-performance tyres for Extreme E, designed to provide optimum performance across the range of conditions encountered during the season.  These have included extremes of both heat and cold in Saudi Arabia and Greenland respectively, as well as the variations between sandy, muddy and icy terrains.  It was particularly interesting to hear about Continental’s plans for recycling and repurposing the tyres Extreme E has used over the course of the year.  AFC Energy provides the Extreme E paddock with hydrogen fuel cell technology.  As a result, the race fleet is charged off-grid, using sustainably generated zero-emission energy.  The only by-product of the process is water, which can then be used elsewhere on the race site.

The racing action we got to watch over the course of the weekend included Qualifying, the Crazy Race, Semi Finals and Final. The Crazy Race was particularly fun to watch because it provided the three slowest qualifying teams the chance to fight for a single spot in the Final.  Andretti United rose to the occasion and the Semi Finals then determined the rest of the final line up: x44, Rosberg X Racing, JBXE and Acciona Sainz XE.  One of several opportunities to hear from the drivers involved in the championship was a Q&A session with Jamie Chadwick, Sébastien Loeb and Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, who discussed not only the racing, but their thoughts on Extreme E’s Legacy Programme- this included their learnings about the environment and climate change.  They were interviewed by Extreme E Impact Correspondant Izy Rekiel, who has been living on the St Helena ship and reporting on the progress of the championship.  If you want to find out more about the different behind the scenes aspects of the St Helena, Extreme E in general, and how the Legacy Programmes are carried out in each of the different race locations, her reporting on this is invaluable.

On Sunday, Aakash and I set off to the race site ready for a busy day.  First we went down to the fairly quiet paddock, where we could watch as the teams prepared for the Semi Finals. Our early-morning exploration also proved fruitful as we were able to speak with Nico Rosberg, team principal of Rosberg X Racing and 2016 Formula 1 World Champion!  He gave us an insight into his experience being team boss rather than driver, as well as sharing his enthusiasm for the sporting series and its focus on taking action on issues relating to the environment and gender equality, amongst other things.  Over the course of the day we were also able to interview the founder of the series Alejandro Agag, as well as several drivers such as Dakar legend Jutta Kleinschmidt and the brilliantly funny Christine GZ.

A selection of the people Sophie and Aakash were fortunate enough to meet over the weekend.
Image Credits: Sophie Clare

We got to watch in the paddock as drivers from each team took part in Grid Play proceedings – one of the range of fan engagement opportunities utilised by Extreme E.  Fans vote for their favourite drivers and the team with the most votes gets the first choice of starting position for the Final.  This then filters down to the other teams, with the Crazy Race winners getting last choice.  The teams which don’t make it through to the Final still get to use their votes, by donating their votes to one of the finalist teams.  Track position made a big difference in the Final, since a starting position which avoids the muddiest areas would give drivers the traction necessary to make a strong start to the race.  

We grabbed some lunch after this – a delicious Christmas dinner in the canteen with Clare from Volta Future Positive.  It was a nice chance to take a breather following a busy morning, and again demonstrated the actions Extreme E takes to “race without a trace” – everyone brings their own reusable cutlery and plates, which they then have to wash up in a designated area before returning to the paddock.  This saved a considerable amount of single use plastic being used because items such as disposable drinks cups, cutlery and plates were not necessary.

Soon, the stage was set for the culmination of a year of closely fought racing – the Final. Five teams were vying for a coveted place on the podium, but the focus was on Rosberg X Racing and Lewis Hamilton’s x44.  Each team had the chance to win not only the Jurassic X Prix, but the inaugural Extreme E championship.  Ultimately, x44 did indeed top the podium, however RXR finished 4th, leaving both teams equal on points in the championship standings and delivering victory for RXR based on count-back to their previous race wins. 

Watching this tense battle unfold on large screens across from the switch zone and viewing platform was exhilarating!  The atmosphere was fantastic and the excitement of everyone watching was palpable.  We could see the start line in the distance and had a good view of the ending stage of each lap, but our main vantage point was of the switch zone.  This is where the two drivers of each team swap out following the completion of their first two laps of the three lap race.  There were some very entertaining tactics so that the drivers avoided picking up too much mud on their race boots, as well pouring jugs of water over the cars to clean mud away from the windscreen. 

Seeing the electric SUVs up close emphasised the huge scale of these vehicles – the car’s peak 550bhp output is capable of bringing the 2.3-metre wide vehicle from 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds, at gradients of up to 130 per cent.  Each powered by a Williams Advanced Engineering battery, the distinctive electric whine when they charge away from the switch zone is really striking.  When driven at slower speeds, however, the Odyssey 21 is almost silent – meaning that a few honks of the horn are used to notify those in the paddock that the car is turned on!

It was a very surreal experience to watch the podium celebrations in person, instead of on the TV, particularly when the national anthems were played and champagne was sprayed.  x44 celebrated their first podium after qualifying fastest in every race weekend, while Rosberg X Racing were crowned inaugural Extreme E champions and celebrated with a mud fight!

x44, JBXE and Andretti United drivers on the Jurassic X Prix podium
Copyright: Sam Bloxham, Extreme E Media Centre (using Creative Commons License)

Just in time for the post-race Press Conference, we picked up some hot chocolate in reusable coffee cups produced by Lyfecycle.  These perhaps demonstrate the attention to detail in implementing Extreme E’s environmental message: these are the first fully biodegradable coffee cups which decompose completely without leaving microplastics in the environment.  Armed with our hot chocolate, we took our seats in the media centre and heard from Alejandro Agag, as well as the drivers from Rosberg X Racing, x44, JBXE and Andretti United.  It was great to ask them our questions and hear their reflections on the race weekend and the series as a whole.  We made one last trip back to the paddock which was particularly atmospheric in the dusky, misty evening.  George Imafidon, an engineer from x44, gave us a tour of their garage – a particularly exciting experience for Aakash as the resident engineer on the CUMFS committee.  He took the opportunity to ask some technical questions while we were looking around.  My quest for an x44 beanie was also fulfilled – ending the weekend on a high note.  Bundled up in our college puffers (naturally) and mud-covered wellies, it was time to start the journey home after an incredible weekend!  

Do stay tuned for more of my writing on the race weekend and Extreme E, which will be published by Volta Future Positive.  Thank you to Extreme E and Volta Future Positive for the opportunity to attend my first ever race weekend – it’s an experience Aakash and I are very grateful for!  Do let us know your thoughts about Extreme E – we will be holding watch parties for the upcoming races of its second series, the first of which will take place in Saudi Arabia on the 19th-20th February 2022.  We’re hoping to plan some exciting events (virtual and in-person) with Extreme E in the near future, so if you have any suggestions please do let us know!

For more information, check out our Instagram – where we posted about our experience.  The Extreme E website (https://www.extreme-e.com/) is full of information about the racing format, drivers and teams, and the Legacy Programme.  Check out Izy Rekiel’s reporting from the St Helena, which is most easily found on her Instagram @izyofficial.

F1 2022 Season Preview – McLaren and Ferrari

Image Credits: Pixabay

Alex Pennington provides his penultimate article in the F1 2022 prediction series, this time expanding on two of F1’s old-timers: McLaren and Ferrari.

McLaren 

It’s been a season of two halves for McLaren. They started solidly, with Lando Norris even holding P4 in the championship for quite some time, and always seemed to be one step ahead of rivals Ferrari. This culminated in their stunning 1-2 finish in Monza, with Daniel Ricciardo taking his first win since leaving Red Bull. 

Since then, they’ve seen a bit of a rough patch in form. During the recent triple-header they scored just three points, all courtesy of Norris, and with the exception of his P3 in qualifying for this weekend’s season finale, they haven’t quite seemed to have the same pace as earlier in the season. 

Looking to next year, however, there are reasons to be optimistic. Firstly, the team’s recent financial struggles seem to have been resolved, with a new leasing agreement on their HQ and factory, as well as a massive influx of sponsors over the last two seasons. This gives them a stable platform to work from in F1’s new era in their push back to the top of the sport. 

Then there is their driver line-up. Lando Norris has truly come of age this year, a transformation which started during the final year of his partnership with Carlos Sainz. He has been consistent and hugely quick, and heading into Abu Dhabi he remains just 4 points away from P5 in the championship, despite the team as a whole sitting 39.5 points behind Ferrari. 

The cause of most of that deficit is, unfortunately, Daniel Ricciardo. He has had perhaps one of the toughest seasons of his career so far, being outpaced and outraced by his teammate more often than not and struggling with the McLaren’s handling in the mid-corner. Next year, however, is a blank slate, with every driver starting from zero: for Ricciardo, it’s in a car which he will now have had development input into. It’s been a tough season for sure, but Ricciardo is an absolute top-level driver, and the combination of these two should be a dangerous one in the new car. 

The team’s leadership is also one of the strongest on the grid, with the enigmatic Zak Brown its figurehead, and Andreas Seidl providing a calmer, more reserved Team Principal, but one who commands respect and is very well-liked within the team. They are in very good shape heading into 2022, and I think we’ll see them fighting for podiums and wins more regularly, with at least a P3 constructors’ finish on the cards.

Ferrari

It’s been quite the turnaround for the Scuderia in 2021. Off the back of their worst constructors’ championship placing since the 1980s in 2020, they have bounced back in style: they lead McLaren by almost 40 points heading into Abu Dhabi, almost certain to take a convincing 3rd in the standings.  

So far in this series, it’s been normal for me to write a small section on a team’s finances, but this is almost not worth doing here. As is well-known, Ferrari are one of the wealthiest teams on the grid- even with the new cost cap in force, they will have had a substantial head-start on spending when the regulations were announced in 2019, before the cap was implemented. This immediately gives them a boost going into next year. 

Then, there is the driver line-up. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz have both been superb in 2021. There have been mistakes, of course, with Leclerc’s crash in Monaco which cost him a potential race win being the most obvious of these, but on the whole they have been one of the best pairings on the grid. Sainz has been particularly impressive, almost matching his teammate in his first year at Ferrari and showing that he will not accept being a definite number two drive going forward. With the possible exception of Mercedes, I think that this is the strongest pairing on the grid for 2022. Editor’s note: Carlos went on to beat his teammate in the driver’s standings, topping off his year with a 5th place overall.

The team also has momentum, both in terms of results and development. Coming into this year, Ferrari’s engine was woefully underpowered and likely the worst on the grid. Now, they are solidly competitive, with what several other teams believe to be the best hybrid system on the grid, allowing them to deploy energy earlier, and for longer down the straights, than any other car. This year’s engines are carried over to next year, and development then frozen until 2025. This puts them in a good position going forward. 

Other kinks and weaknesses have also been worked out this year. Their famously inconsistent pit stops have been mostly resolved, with competitive times in the box now being the norm. The strategy team also appears to be in good shape, with clear instructions to the drivers and a smooth double-stack allowing them to pull off a one-stop in Qatar while their rivals were hit with punctures.  

This year has been one of redemption for Ferrari, and of course for Mattia Binotto, whose job was in question heading into it. He has seemed calm, collected, and in control, even while splitting his responsibilities between the track and Maranello, putting his engineering expertise to use on development of the new car. 

Make no mistake, Ferrari is a team on the up again. At the risk of jinxing them with the famous ‘next year…’ phrase that has become so common when talking about the prancing horse, keep a serious eye on them. I would not be surprised to see them fighting for – and maybe even winning – both championships next year. 

Next week, it’s the final article in the series. With this year’s championship decided, we look at its protagonists, and what to expect from them next year. Have they pushed too hard and compromised themselves? Or will the two-team dominance seen since 2010 continue into F1’s next era? 

Sundays spent in the living room at my Grandad’s: my love affair with Ferrari

Picture Credits: Francesco Crippa via Wikimedia Commons, via the Creative Commons License

Bella Manfredi recollects her affinity for Scuderia Ferrari, describing how she got into Formula 1 whilst sat in her grandparents’ living room as a child.

When I think of my Grandad, I always remember him with his paint-stained work trousers, his wide-eyes, and his Ferrari caps. As a child I was fascinated with them, and I attribute my love affair with Ferrari to him. My Grandad was born in Italy and lived in Setterone, a mountain village in the North of the country. He moved to the UK when he was an adult for work purposes and met my Nana. They had three children, the oldest of which was my dad. The love for F1 runs through my dad too, as well as his younger brother, and over time it percolated to me and my own siblings.

I fondly remember visiting my grandparents’ house most Sundays. For those of you that are familiar with F1, you’ll know that most race days occur on Sundays, so we frequently watched Alonso and Massa trying to capture points whilst crowded in their living room. I myself have three younger brothers, all of whom show some degree of interest in the sport. Whilst a couple of them adore Lando (let’s be real, who doesn’t?) due to his streaming away from race day, the one thing that unites us is the fact we always want the same people to get podiums. I’ll leave it to you to speculate who we prefer, but given that we were brought up by a family of Schumacher fans…have a guess!

Has it always been easy loving Ferrari? No. There have been some frustrating years, especially the times where Ferrari have been good but not quite good enough. Sebastian Vettel was a force to be reckoned with during his days at Red Bull, and I vividly remember how infuriated that living room would be when he just won and won and won. Schumi won his last Driver’s Championship (DC) when I was three years old, so I don’t really remember this- is anybody surprised? It’s been a painful drought for Ferrari fans, and there have undoubtedly been times where I’ve felt annoyed that I couldn’t have just supported Red Bull or Mercedes.

Although Kimi Raikkonen won Ferrari their last DC in 2007, and I do remember this, there have been many times where drivers should’ve perhaps seen silverware. Massa and Alonso defined my childhood, and their short-comings were painful. Growing up I adored Fernando, most likely because my favourite Liverpool player was also coincidentally named Fernando Torres. Both Liverpool and Ferrari have been used to coming close but not close enough for most of my lifetime… it’s annoying, I know. So why stick with them? Why endure the pain of knowing that the most you can really hope for is third place in the Constructor’s Championship?

Under the guise of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, two incredible drivers, the Scuderia unit are becoming fun to watch on and off screen. Yes, some results may not align with the hopes that the team may have, but both Leclerc and Sainz have had some stand-out performances this season. Not many cars can come close to the Red Bull and Mercedes units at the moment, but the Ferrari duo are on an upwards trajectory. Are the days of DNFs and poor pitstops behind them? There’s no guarantee, but you’d think so, given the impressive back-to-back stop executed at Qatar a few weeks ago. Not only this, but the team have the new regulations to look forward to next year. Could this pull them back into line with Mercedes and Red Bull? You’ll get a better answer to this from Alex Pennington’s upcoming article, I’m sure. Development is ongoing for the 2022 car and progress on the year’s vehicle was halted in June, so hopefully there’ll be something to smile about for Ferrari fans in the future.

McLaren are also a force to be reckoned with, with British star Lando Norris and the experienced Daniel Ricciardo, who has taken a little longer to adapt to the new team but has still had some decent performances. A challenge should emerge between the two sides to secure third in the CC, although it appears that Ferrari will beat them to it this year. However, there are concerns about funding entering 2022, with the Italian side normally one of the ones with more money to dispose; I’ll forgo speculation for now and just nervously anticipate what next year could look like.

The reason I can’t abandon the team is my Grandad. He was fiercely proud of his Italian heritage, and it’s the reason I support Italy when watching football too. Some may laugh at the idea of supporting an F1 team based on being 1/4 Italian, but others would understand the link. My Grandad meant the world to me and introduced me to F1, and sticking with Ferrari is the least I cam do to make him proud.

We’d love to know more about how you got into motorsports/Formula 1, so feel free to write an article for us! Contact ikm22@cam.ac.uk if you’re interested.

F1 2022 Season Preview- Alpha Tauri and Alpine

Fernando Alonso (who is still killing it on track) Picture Credits: Ann64, Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons License

Alex Pennington adds his third instalment to the F1 2022 preview series, this time focusing on the hopes of midfield teams Alpine and Alpha Tauri.

Moving further up the midfield for the third part of our F1 2022 preview series, this time we’re taking a look at Alpha Tauri and Alpine. The two teams find themselves in very different situations heading into F1’s next era, and both need some closer analysis.

Alpha Tauri

Red Bull’s junior team have found themselves having one of their best seasons to date this year, especially in the hands of Pierre Gasly. Some unexpected pace has seen the outfit outqualify, and occasionally outrace, the likes of McLaren and Ferrari right at the front of the midfield pack.

It’s been a promising season and the team certainly has some momentum behind it going into 2022. Its (official) status as Red Bull’s ‘sister’ team also means it will never struggle for financial resources, unlike some other midfield rivals, and it also has a useful technology partnership with its big sister. This should, theoretically, put it in a good place for next season.

This same partnership could actually turn out to be a thorn in Alpha Tauri’s side. It’s difficult to see them ever being allowed to outpace Red Bull, through a variety of means. Red Bull, as of next year, will be controlling the production and development of its own engines, now free of their Honda badges, and of course is the only one of the two teams with a wind tunnel. Further, it is unlikely that Alpha Tauri would be able to poach big names in aerodynamics or engineering from F1’s title challengers; everybody knows, after all, that Alpha Tauri is not the team to work for if you want to aim for a championship. All this leaves the team in a bit of an odd space between pushing as hard as they can in the midfield, and never being given absolute free rein financially and developmentally to achieve their potential. 

This potential is hardly trifling, either. Pierre Gasly has undoubtedly been one of this year’s top performers, often putting drivers in quicker cars to shame, and vastly outshining his teammate. His best finishes of the year include a podium in Azerbaijan, and two P4 finishes in Zandvoort and Mexico. He has qualified in P6 or higher on 13 occasions so far this year, and his consistency has been massively impressive. On his current form, this is a man who could challenge for a title in the right car. Of course, this has led to much speculation and questioning over potential moves to a better team for his future career prospects.

On the other side of the garage, Yuki Tsunoda has been less impressive, taking just six points finishes (at the time of writing) in 2021. His inconsistency compared to his teammate has arguably damaged the team’s fight for 5th with Alpine considerably, and although there have been improvements in the second half of the year, he has quite some way to go to compete with Gasly.

So, in Alpha Tauri we have an accomplished midfield outfit with a good driver line-up, albeit one of whom needs to be more consistent, but with a strange position in relation to its development and inter-team ties. In the face of competitors like Aston Martin, Alfa Romeo and Williams, I see their P5 fight this year being a bit of a high point for the team, before settling back to a more usual battle in the lower midfield next year.

Alpine

Alpine is a team in a slightly odd position within F1. On the one hand they have massive backing from the Renault Group, and a solid driver line-up in two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso and increasingly consistent and accomplished teammate Esteban Ocon. On the other, they have consistently struggled to convert all this into results, and to truly fight in the upper midfield, or break out of it.

This year, the team has possibly been one of the most inconsistent outfits on the grid in terms of pace and results. In Qatar they appeared to be in the mix to be the third-fastest car on track (with Alonso taking a spectacular podium) while in Mexico he was knocked out in Q1. In the three races to Mexico, the team scored three points, compared to Alpha Tauri’s 22. It has been an odd, unpredictable season for them. 

The trouble is that these struggles are actually quite inexplicable. As mentioned above the team has massive financial assets, a good line-up, and a lot of experience operating in the sport. With this kind of setup, it’s difficult to know what to say about the team. Undoubtedly some of their struggles have been due to what is generally accepted to be the worst engine on the grid, but according to Alonso the problems have often been aerodynamic this year, with the car only responding well to a specific corner type.

If the team has something to be optimistic about, it’s that it has maximised results this year when the car has been on the pace. The massive points haul from their 1-4 finish in Budapest, as well as Alonso’s Qatar podium, have been instrumental in carrying them towards their possible P5 in the championship. Even after his P17 qualifying in Mexico, Alonso finished P9. Looking ahead to next year, they seem to be running an efficient operation that knows how to strategise and has two drivers that know how to race wheel-to-wheel.

This leaves them needing to extract consistent, outright pace from their package. Of course, 2022 is the best opportunity for this kind of reset, and apparently they will be arriving next year with a significantly reworked engine which they hope will help to reduce or eliminate their deficit in this area too. 

The problem is that heading into next year, there are teams with better momentum behind them, and teams starting from stronger positions than Alpine are. I can see them fighting in the upper midfield again, and possibly looking to build some momentum in the medium-term from there, but for next year, I expect Alpine to stay put around P5 or P6 in the standings.

In next week’s article we’ll be getting into the sport’s heavy hitters, and discussing what McLaren and Ferrari’s recent upward trajectories could mean for their hopes in 2022.

F1 2022 Season Preview – Williams and Aston Martin

Image Credits: Pixabay

Alex Pennington continues his five piece set with a look at the upcoming season for both Williams and Aston Martin.

Following on from the first part of the 2022 season preview series on Haas and Alfa Romeo, it’s time to look at two of the biggest names in motorsport, and two of the sport’s three traditionally ‘British’ marques: Williams and Aston Martin.

Williams

It’s genuinely tough to know what to say about Williams when looking forward to F1’s next era. The team is – by constructors’ championships – the second most successful in the history of the sport, behind only Ferrari. In drivers’ titles, only Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes have more. Williams is a true giant of the sport. In recent years though they have seen massive struggles. 

Financial worries which led to F1’s only remaining independent team being sold to US investment firm Dorilton have been the hallmark of the last few seasons, culminating in two years where the team took a total of 1 point: these were the worst performances in Williams’ long and storied history.

Moving forward, I do think that they have more reason to be optimistic. The aforementioned Dorilton Capital have effectively solved the team’s monetary issues, while allowing it to maintain its name and heritage. The budget cap now in place at $145m a year will also be of help and, even if not immediately, should certainly start to help them draw level with their competitors over time. Their poor showings in recent years may even be a medium-term positive due to F1’s new sliding scale for CFD testing of aerodynamic parts. Finishing last in 2020 gives them the largest amount of development time of any team, which will be absolutely crucial heading into the new regulations.

Next year’s driver line up is a bit of an unknown. Nicholas Latifi – who will be heading into his third year in the sport – will finally get a taste of life outside of George Russell’s shadow. He has been comprehensively beaten by the Brit since joining Williams, only outqualifying Russell once (excluding Sprint Qualifying). He has shown big improvements though, and that deficit has been shrinking continually. What remains to be seen is if he can stamp his authority on Williams as its most experienced driver and lead it forward. 

Meanwhile, Alex Albon re-joining the grid is an exciting prospect for next year, especially away from what some see as the toxic pressure and driver development environment at Red Bull. He certainly has raw talent and pace, and a fresh start with new regulations could be just what he needs to shine. There’s also his experience with Red Bull as test and development driver, which will have massively improved his feedback skills, a crucial aspect of maximising performance at the beginning of F1’s new era.

All of this combined means that Williams now has a stable, sustainable financial platform to work with, increased development time compared to others, and a driver line up which, while not the best on the grid by any stretch, is solid enough to fight well in the midfield. Do I expect them to pull a Brawn GP next year and come away with the championship? No. But I do expect to see them more solidly embedded in that midfield fight in 2022.

Aston Martin

This is a team whose 2021 season has been a story of frustration and underperformance. Aston Martin is, of course, the same Racing Point/Force India team which became renowned for pulling incredible results out of a small operation with limited finances. After a 4th place finish in 2020, and with new backing from Aston Martin and billionaire Lawrence Stroll, they were expected to do well. The revised technical regs this year, (supposedly) devised to peg back Mercedes, have had a knock-on effect for all teams running a low-rake philosophy though, and left them struggling towards the bottom of the midfield. Next year is a chance to reset and restart their push to the top.

Organisationally, Aston Martin is in superb shape. Lawrence Stroll has a huge amount of involvement in the team’s management and certainly knows how to run a successful business. Team principal Otmar Szafnauer is a very well-respected figure in the paddock, and his leadership style certainly seems to be effective based on past results. Further, using Aston Martin’s new and significant financial backing, they have made some serious personnel investments. Just the latest in a line of hirings is Eric Blandin, Mercedes’ chief aerodynamicist, moving after the 2022 season. Red Bull’s aerodynamics head, Dan Fallows, has also been announced as the team’s future technical director, along with Alfa Romeo’s chief designer joining as engineering director. On top of this, ground was recently broken on Aston Martin’s new F1 factory and wind tunnel, a £300m project which will give them the largest development and production campus of any team on the grid. 

Of course, these changes will all take time to take effect, so what about the immediate future? What can Aston Martin expect from their drivers next year? Lance Stroll has come under constant scrutiny since his entry into F1 for being the son first of a billionaire, and then for being the son of a billionaire who owned his team. Is his uncontested hold on that seat fair? Probably not. But Stroll has proven to be a capable midfield driver, and more than able to fight through the field, even if this is usually as a result of poor qualifying.

On the other side of the garage is Sebastian Vettel. The 4-time world champion is a huge asset to the team, commercially and in development terms. His detailed notebooks are famous in F1, and he has often been described as working like another engineer, such is the depth and accuracy of his feedback. A team with big ambitions could not ask for more. Four championships and two on-track podiums in a 7th-placed car this season should also serve to allay any fears over his quality as a driver when the car is underneath him. 

Aston Martin is a medium-term project, make no mistake. It’s very difficult to place them for 2022, and I don’t see them troubling the top teams for at least a couple of years, but I do think they will be firmly in the battle to top the midfield in the first year or two of the new regulations. 

In next week’s edition of the F1 2022 preview series, we’ll be moving on to look at two slight oddities on the grid in Alpha Tauri and Alpine, currently embroiled in a battle for 5th in the constructors’, and what their ambitions will be moving into 2022. 

F1 2022 Season Preview – Haas and Alfa Romeo

Image Credits: Pixabay

Alex Pennington starts his five-piece preview set, kicking off with Haas and Alfa Romeo, about what we should expect from teams in the upcoming season.

With the season approaching its end – even with many battles far from over – Formula 1’s teams have already turned their attention towards next year, and the sport’s much-anticipated new regulations. As we head towards the conclusion of a thrilling title battle, it’s worth doing the same, looking ahead to what we can expect from the teams next year. 

Over a series of five articles, I’ll examine each team’s 2021 season, and what we should look for from them and their drivers next year. They’ll run in reverse championship order (at time of writing) and, importantly, should be read as a (undoubtedly contentious) bit of fun. So, without further ado, let’s get started; don’t forget to set a reminder for this time next year to tell me just how wrong I was. 

Haas

Of all the teams heading into next year, Haas seem to be in the most uncertain, and possibly weakest, position. It’s hardly been a positive couple of seasons for them, and unfortunately that seems unlikely to change in the immediate future.

The American outfit is the only team this year yet to score any points, despite some of the chaotic, mixed-up, and wet races the calendar has seen: barring any true miracles, this looks unlikely to change before the end of the season. Hardly ending the era on a high, then. 

They also seem to have the biggest financial struggles of any team, taking that mantle from Williams in the last couple of years. Gene Haas still funds some of the team personally, and the rest is now done by Nikita Mazepin’s father, via his company Uralkali. This has, of course, helped to plug the gap, and the budget cap coming in for 2022 will also go some way to mitigating the issue. The fact remains though that Haas’ financial viability is linked to one of its drivers remaining with the team. Budget cap or not, it’s hardly an enviable position.

So, what about the drivers? For the avoidance of major controversy, let’s just say that one of the two has had mixedPR results for his new team. Aside from that issue, there is that of experience. Heading into completely new regulations, they have only one year apiece in Formula 1. Of course, all of the teams are in the dark heading into the new regs, but most teams have at least one more experienced driver who knows how to give development feedback and has been with their team for several years. Haas may have dedicated all its 2021 resources to next year, but throwing money alone at an issue will not be enough. 

Do I think Haas will be as far off next year as they have been next year? No. If they are, I think there is a risk of them dropping off the grid as their risk/reward calculations start to turn out some concerning answers. I see their 2022 spent in a similar position to Williams and Alfa Romeo this year – not quite able to fight with the big midfield names, but not always a million miles away.

Alfa Romeo

Speaking of Alfa Romeo, what can we expect from the Swiss outfit next year? Well, it’s not an Andretti takeover, but it is an exciting – if controversial – new driver line-up, and the promise of big things from boss Frederic Vasseur.

Alfa Romeo currently sit 9th in the standings with 11 points, 12 behind Williams, with only three races to go. This, compared to their expectations at the start of the year, will be disappointing, given Williams’ weakness in the last few seasons and Alfa Romeo’s lower-midfield consistency. 

They do however have reason to be optimistic in 2022. Alfa Romeo recently renewed its financial commitment to the Sauber team, and they also have new financial support in the shape of Guanyu Zhou – but more on the driver line-up soon. The team has doubled its number of personnel over the last 2-3 years according to Vasseur, and has operated for years underneath F1’s newly introduced cost cap. This means that it has to make no adjustments to its spending at all, as opposed to famously big-spending Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull who have had to deal with major organisational changes, as well as the challenge of developing the new car.

Valtteri Bottas will also be a valuable addition to the team. He is now an experienced, proven entity in F1, someone capable of beating Hamilton on his day, and with invaluable development experience. Alfa Romeo could not have asked for a better replacement for Kimi Raikkonen. There is, of course, the matter of newly announced Guanyu Zhou. His appointment has been controversial, but with multiple F2 wins and a title challenge still underway, he is anything but slow. He will need a season to bed in and adapt, and I expect a Tsunoda-esque year from him next year, but with all the drivers starting from square one with their new machinery, he couldn’t be joining at a better time.

Compared to Haas, Alfa Romeo have reason to be optimistic. A small, efficient operation with a potentially strong driver line-up could see a decent step forward, and it would be unsurprising to see them challenging for seventh in the constructors, fighting in the upper midfield on a good day.

So, there’s the rundown on where F1’s current bottom two teams stand ahead of 2022. The second article in this series, out next week, will tackle two of motorsport’s biggest names – Williams and Aston Martin – and how they will be looking to change their mixed fortunes in F1’s new era. 

Haas and Miami aren’t the answer to F1’s US marketing problem. Andretti just might be.

Image credits: Pixabay

Alex Pennington examines the history of US teams in Formula 1, the desire from F1 elites to generate a larger US audience, and whether the addition of a new American team on the Formula 1 grid would provide the following that is so sought after.

Rumours have surfaced in recent weeks that US-based Andretti Autosport is in talks to take over a majority stake in Sauber, which (despite the name) still owns the Alfa Romeo F1 team. Given the importance of the Andretti name in motorsport, and the fate of the last US name to make an appearance on the grid, it’s worth taking a look at them – and why, if the takeover happens, this time it will be different.

Let’s look at that surname. Haas entered F1 back in 2016, and after a couple of seasons spent establishing itself and its operation, they finished fifth in the constructors’ championship in 2018. P5 in the standings after only three years in F1 is no mean feat, and the signs looked good for a competitive US team in Formula 1. The team’s story since then is hardly as successful. Their farcical relationship with Rich Energy in 2019 compounded their performance issues in a season where they finished ninth, a result they replicated in 2020. So far in 2021, with an all-rookie driver line-up, they sit last, the only team yet to score any points. 

The problem we want to focus on here though is marketing. When Haas entered F1, it was lauded as an opportunity to finally draw in the US audience F1 has craved for so long. Five years on, F1’s peak viewership for the entire season so far (1.2 million viewers in Silverstone) is still lower than the average viewership for the Mid-Ohio IndyCar race in July, at 1.38 million. The Indy500 this year peaked at over 7 million viewers. For an international racing series owned by a US company, with a US team competing, something isn’t quite working. 

The first problem, at least recently, is that Haas just aren’t competitive. It’s difficult to draw supporters and viewers to a team that finishes 19th and 20th at almost every race weekend. And then there’s the sponsorship. At the risk of opening a whole other can of worms, a car with a white, blue and red flag on its engine cover and ‘Uralkali’ in the name doesn’t exactly play well in the US market. Money and performance struggles, combined with Russian sponsorship, have meant that Haas has not been – and won’t be, at least for the foreseeable future – the answer to F1’s struggle to finally break into the US.

What about races, then? This weekend’s US Grand Prix was first held at the Circuit of the Americas back in 2012, and has been every year since, except 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This followed a hiatus from 2007-2011, before which the race was held at Indianapolis. On the whole, it’s been a big success: close racing, title deciders, and Kimi Raikkonen’s hard-fought final victory for Ferrari have all been seen here. Holding it in the States’ motorsport-mad deep south only adds to the appeal. The growth F1 has seen in the US has been hugely aided by COTA’s success. Now, though, we have to talk about Miami.

Miami’s circuit was confirmed in 2020, although some fans have questioned why the US should have two races. Image taken from Pixabay.

The circuit confirmed a deal with F1 in 2020, with a provisional layout having been revealed back in late 2019. It’s a very all-American affair, taking place around the Hard Rock Stadium, the home of the Miami Dolphins. It’s touted as being all about the fans, with a big capacity, and entertainment in the stadium during the race weekend. This could be a big success. But the track itself – which looks like an oddly deformed version of F1’s Sao Paolo track – might pose a problem. There are big braking zones, which is a positive, but the combination of twiddly, slow-speed sections and flowing, medium-speed corners means that overtakes are likely to be under DRS, and prolonged side-by side battles are going to be tough. Of course, we won’t know for sure until the race is held for the first time, and it’s always best to be optimistic, but the fact is that if a track is boring, it’s unpopular. F1’s last race in the car park of a US landmark was hardly a resounding success, either. Looking at you, Caesar’s Palace.

Then there’s the issue of the calendar itself. It’s been confirmed that China, another big growth market for F1, is out for next year, whilst the US will now have two races. F1 says that they want to bring China back in the future, but with a 23-race schedule, and more and more tracks signing long-term deals, just how likely is that? Miami comes at a cost to the east Asian market, and has already raised questions over just why the US, as well as Italy, has two races. Campaign groups set up by local residents unhappy with the idea of an F1 race being held in their already busy backyard have also reinforced negative opinions.

So, with Haas a backmarker and Miami a somewhat controversial unknown quantity, how could Andretti be different? Firstly, it’s a bigger name than Haas. Haas is originally a NASCAR team and machine tools company, and even in the US, NASCAR is a regional sport. Andretti, on the other hand, is a name with F1 heritage, and huge brand exposure. Mario Andretti (current team owner Michael’s father) was 1978 F1 world champion, and Michael himself is an ex-F1 driver and IndyCar champion. Andretti Autosport is also one of the biggest names in IndyCar, and so should bring a lot of American excitement – and importantly, fans – to F1. 

NASCAR can draw in 1.38 million viewers for top races. Image taken from Pixabay.

Of course, it’s easy to bring fans, but harder to keep them without performance; based on this year, Alfa Romeo might not seem like the most attractive candidate. That could very much change in coming seasons. The rule changes for 2022 are a completely blank slate for all the teams, and combined with the cost cap, they provide the best chance in years for those at the back to mix up the pecking order. Add to that an improved Ferrari engine, a newly committed Alfa Romeo, and the combined racing experience of Sauber and Andretti, and the ingredients for a competitive team start to come together. Then there is Valtteri Bottas, an experienced driver who on his day can challenge Lewis Hamilton.

Things, then, would be looking good for the Swiss-American outfit. But who would partner Bottas? Rumours have been around for a few months now that Guanyu Zhou is the most likely candidate, but negotiations have apparently hit a stumbling block over the fact that he wants a three-year deal which the team is unwilling to agree to. With the possibility of Andretti entering the sport, though, another name has been thrown into the ring in the form of Colton Herta. The young IndyCar driver has turned heads in that series, and it seems that Andretti are very keen to get him an F1 drive. An empty seat at an Andretti-controlled team would be the perfect opportunity for this, and has the added marketing value of an American driver with a new American-backed team. 

Some readers will already be protesting that Herta only has 32 Super Licence points, out of the 40 required to drive in F1, and therefore shouldn’t be anywhere near the conversation for that second Alfa Romeo seat. He does have a way of getting in, though. The FIA can technically override the 40-point requirement for a driver whose season/s have been affected by “circumstances outside their control.” 

In 2018, Herta competed in the IndyLights series, and his position should have earned him 12 points: instead it earned him zero due to the low number of competitors that year. The fact that fewer people than usual chose to participate hardly seems within Herta’s control, not to mention the two COVID-affected seasons since then. An exception like this would be unprecedented, but if it made commercial sense for F1, it is likely that the FIA would at the very least consider it. 

All of this adds up to the potential for a new name on the F1 grid for next year, with huge US marketability, and even an American driver for the first time since 2007. Of course, rumours of new names entering F1 are hardly rare at the moment, and it could all come to nothing. But after the commercial failures of Haas, and the Miami GP yet to prove its worth, the sheer possibility is an exciting prospect for the future of the sport. So, among the excitement of this year’s title race, and the start of a new era for Formula 1 in 2022, remember to keep an eye on Andretti Autosport and the USA, because there are interesting times ahead. 

A Guide to Pitching

Image credits: Pixabay

Bella Manfredi briefly introduces pitching articles to CUMFS, and what we look for in an article.

If you’ve never written an article or you’re a seasoned pro, we want you to write for us! We’re looking for submissions all year round on a casual basis: you submit a pitch whenever you’d like to write! There is no commitment and you can write as much or as little as you’d like. Anyone can pitch an idea- click here to submit yours, or email Bella (Social Media Officer) via ikm22@cam.ac.uk .

“I have no idea what to write!”

Despite the blog being open for various types of article, we’ve listed a few examples below to get you going.

  1. Opinion Pieces: disagree with a penalty that a team/driver has been given? Want to see more teams reducing their carbon footprint? Write an opinion piece for us and let others see your ideas.
  2. Spotlight Pieces: has a particular driver or race caught your eye? Why? Tell us more about it!
  3. Fun Pieces: whether it be a meme review or ‘5 ways in which a Cambridge degree feels like an F1 race’, we want your best comedic pieces! You take the wheel on this one, and make it as fun as you’d like!
  4. “Blast from the Past”: take us through a past race or event that stands out to you.
  5. Race Review/Race Preview: what should we be looking out for? Did something really interesting happen? Write about it!
  6. Other: you can pitch us anything and we’ll get back to you shortly!

It would be impossible to list every idea (and I definitely don’t have the time to do this!) so do take creative reign a little on your pitches.

“Okay, I know what I want to write about but have no idea how to pitch it.”

Pitching can be scary- I know this! A good pitch is short and to the point. Things you could include are:

  • outline the topic of your article/ area of interest- be as specific as you like, but this does help.
  • why you’re the best person to write this article/ any experience you have writing (not essential at all, and we’d still love to work with you!)
  • why you want to write this article
  • anything else you feel is necessary

Try and keep pitches between 100-200 words, but don’t worry if pitching isn’t for you! Just drop us a message and outline your article however you wish. It is good getting experience doing a formal pitch, but we’ll just be happy to hear from you.

“I’ve pitched my article, now what?”

If you haven’t already written your article, write it now! In terms of recommended word count, it can vary. Opinions pieces may be 500-600 words, whilst longer analytical articles may be 1000+. We’re all busy students so don’t worry if you need longer to get an article to us, prioritise your degree first! Once finished, send your article to Bella (email above) for editing, and it should shortly be uploaded to the blog.

We can’t wait to see al of your submissions!