F1′s tech battle has finally started for real in Spain…

Aston Martin came to Spain with a "lookalike" Red Bull. As always in Barcelona, heavily updated cars among most of the teams

Aston Martin came to Spain with a ”lookalike” Red Bull. As always in Barcelona, heavily updated cars among most of the teams

For 2022 the Spanish Grand Prix is back to conforming to a Formula 1 stereotype – that this is the race loads of teams bring big upgrades to.

In recent years the early rounds of the season have always featured a variant of the same question: ‘Are you bringing something big to Barcelona?’

And the response was usually words to the effect of ‘we’ll have something, but we try to bring something to every race to improve the car’ – basically, F1 development had evolved to a point where it was necessary to almost constantly bring new bits. Teams couldn’t afford to wait several races and then introduce an all-new package. 

Now, it’s different. Now, teams can’t afford new parts every race. The budget cap era has eliminated continuous development and with all-new technical regulations this year, teams have had to work out how best to spend their limited cash while on a steep slope of improving their cars.

Returning to the scene of pre-season testing, the majority of the 10 teams have something significant this weekend. Here is a rundown of what you can see, with a little help from the FIA’s new-for-2022 mandated declarations of new components.

Aston Martin

Aston Martin has the biggest visible change of any team with an all new sidepod design and accompanying floor. There are big Red Bull vibes from the new-look AMR22 – so much so that the FIA investigated how it came up with this upgrade.

But the FIA is satisfied that Aston Martin hasn’t broken any rules around intellectual property or reverse engineering, unlike when it was known as Racing Point and copied the 2019 Mercedes.

What it has declared:

Aston M1

Aston Martin2

Mercedes

Mercedes had a filming day at Paul Ricard prior to the Spanish Grand Prix. It looks to have some new solutions on the underbody – sprouting a new bib vane underneath the front of the monocque, like Ferrari and Red Bull, and revising the floor edge by adding a slot to improve performance when it is lower to the ground.

What it has declared:

Mercedes

McLaren

McLaren’s first major upgrade of the season is easily the biggest of any team in Spain. The list is huge – front and rear wings, suspension changes, new bodywork and a revised floor are all on it. And having spent the first few races with a temporary (but pretty effective) fix for the chronic brake cooling problem it suffered at the second pre-season test, McLaren has a permanent fix for that too.

What it has declared: 

Mclaren rätt

Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo is another team with a major set of updates here: very similar to McLaren’s package overall with new wings, suspension, and bodywork.

What it has declared:

Alfa Romeo 1 Alfa Romeo 2

Ferrari

Finally, Ferrari has put something major on its F1-75. An updated floor is designed to combat porpoising and allow Ferrari to run the car lower to the ground. There are some changes to the winglets on the rear brake ducts and also a track-specific high downforce rear wing, which Ferrari has been missing so far.

What it has declared:

ferrari

WHAT ABOUT THE REST?

Even though its early-season upgrades have prompted Ferrari to question how sustainable the development strategy is, Red Bull is not yet relenting on improving RB18. There is a new front wing to add downforce specifically for the Barcelona circuit and a revision to the floor to create a “blister” to improve flow conditioning. Lightweight parts are also introduced (although these don’t get disclosed).

Alpine has a new rear wing that’s circuit specific and then some minor upgrades in various places – the front wing endplates and rear brake ducts.

Wililams has new front and rear wings and a cluster of six winglet elements on the rear brake ducts.

AlphaTauri has a high-downforce rear wing that’s new but no generic updates. Its first significant upgrade came at Imola.

Haas also has nothing and intends to bring a major update to the French Grand Prix, which is still two months away.