Formula 1: 3 teams that could win the development war

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Formula 1 (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)
Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Formula 1 (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images) /
Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen, Formula 1
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Formula 1 (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images) /

Restricted by the $140 million cost cap, who will best manage their assets and deliver the most impactful upgrades throughout the rest of the 2022 Formula 1 season?

A mainstay in the recent history of Formula 1, “development wars” have been a central part of car progression throughout past regulatory eras. With exceeding financial resources compared to competitors on the grid, powerhouse manufacturers were formerly able to throw money at their problems and eventually discover incremental pace improvements.

This practice was one of the key motivators in implementing the cost cap that currently resides at $140 million for each team. With this newly installed regulation theoretically leveling the playing field amongst manufacturers, emphasis will no longer be placed on having the most funds but on using them the most efficiently.

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With a unique opportunity for smaller teams to remain on pace with front-running manufacturers, the wise application of upgrades throughout the 2022 season and beyond will become a critical practice that will continue to be perfected over the coming seasons as the cost cap is gradually lowered.

With that being said, which teams can be expected to make the biggest gains on their competition in 2022’s development war?

Formula 1 development winners: No. 1 – McLaren

With one of the most disappointing opening weekends for a Formula 1 manufacturer in recent memory, McLaren experienced the tragic fall from testing front-runner to backmarker at the dawn of the 2022 season. Having to work around a lacking Mercedes power unit, where can the iconic British manufacturer make significant gains?

Some of the issues the team have faced thus far include extreme overheating of front brake components, overall lack of downforce, and being overweight (an issue currently being addressed by all teams). The issue of weight is one that will come with time and financial investment, but the issues of brake temperatures and downforce can be more immediate fixes.

With some of the highest downforce venues coming early on the calendar, McLaren can make the reasonable expenditure of an expensive early upgrade package with significant aerodynamic gains for tracks such as Barcelona and Monaco.

The issues of front brake temperatures are also a problem that is expected to be fixed in the near future and noticeably improve the race pace of the papaya car.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Formula 1
Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Formula 1 (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images) /

Formula 1 development winners: No. 2 – Haas

Having been operating under a shoe-string budget since their inception, Haas are no strangers to competing under financial limitations in Formula 1. In the final season before the implementation of the cost cap, they were operating under a budget of just $80 million, compared to the likes of Mercedes with a budget of $450 million. The inherent advantage to Haas in this new era is easy to see, but not because of their own experience.

Coming off of budgets exceeding $400 million, front-running manufacturers have had to make major cuts in their expenditures, including their personnel. Leading personnel within each of these organizations have also never had direct experience competing under equal financial conditions.

Leading executives in powerhouses such as Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes will all be wrapping their heads around the team management concepts which Guenther Steiner and Haas have been perfecting since 2016.

Haas have also directly benefited from said staff cuts thanks to their close ties with Ferrari, as they received Ferrari senior design engineer Simone Resta as their new technical director along with numerous other personnel.

They also received a new facility located directly next to Maranello. After strengthening ties to a present frontrunner and central figure of Formula 1, Haas are set to feed off of the strength of Ferrari.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Formula 1
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Formula 1 (Photo by Peter J Fox/Getty Images) /

Formula 1 development winners: No. 3 – Ferrari

With Ferrari currently sporting the fastest car on the grid in conjunction with Red Bull, the development battle between the two championship-leading manufacturers would typically be thought of as inevitably titanic in cost if not for the budget cap.

After bringing conflicting philosophies to the grid for the first race of the season, the two teams are endeavoring on uncorrelated development paths in order to find pace.

Historically a low performer entering new regulatory eras, Ferrari have finally gotten it right with a package that could give Charles Leclerc his first genuine run at a world championship. The rate of development throughout the season should also outdo that of Red Bull with added wind tunnel time from their third place constructor championship finish in 2021.

It was widely believed that Red Bull would feel some backlash in 2022 from their desperate charge for a championship in the final season of the previous regulations, but most projected those consequences to surface at round one of the season.

Instead, Red Bull have managed to produce a front-running car that will only experience consequences from 2021 in the form of reduced wind tunnel time relative to their competition.

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Although their American partner may be far more inexperienced and technically lacking, their previously mentioned experience navigating a marginal budget will provide an opportunity for Ferrari to more quickly adapt on an organizational level to the new challenges they face in terms of the impact of their financial investment.