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Alfa Romeo's F1 floor mystery: A launch red herring or a design dead end?

Alfa Romeo's shakedown of its new Formula 1 car served to raise eyebrows last week when its new C43 ran without one of the most intriguing aspects of its launch images.

Alfa Romeo side details

Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

Giorgio Piola is the preeminent Formula 1 technical journalist. Born in Genoa, Italy, Giorgio has covered the F1 World Championship since 1969, producing thousands of illustrations that have been reproduced in the world’s most prestigious motor racing publications.

When Valtteri Bottas took the new car out of the garage in Barcelona for the first time, it was running a completely different floor to the original renders from when it was revealed.

On the real car, it was a much more traditional edge compared to the radical serrated side that had been present on launch day. In fact, so unique was the jagged floor that it looked like the sort of thing that would be used as a tyre cutter in Wacky Races.

The absence of this bold design has prompted some intrigue about whether the squad has deliberately revealed a red herring to distract the opposition for a few days, or it was an unintentional consequence of a design path that was considered early on but later abandoned.

We may have to wait for some answers from the technical chiefs at the first test to find out the truth.

What's interesting about the serrated solution seen on the C43 is that whilst it seems out of the norm for an F1 car, it is actually a perfectly acceptable approach to dealing with these regulations.

It could therefore easily have been an early example of what the team worked on when looking into the new 2023 rule changes, and there didn't seem much need to update the renders for the launch if it had gone off in a different direction.

From a legality perspective, the vertical flap and the nine winglets attached to it appear to obey the regulations laid out for the floor edge and the 'edge wing', with the vertical flap they are anchored to being aided by the brackets that are also allowed.

Alfa Romeo C43 floor channel
Alfa Romeo C43 floor flap slot (dotted yellow line)

Other than the winglets being mounted upon the vertical flap, there were two interesting side effects to note in this solution.

Firstly, on the left, we can see that the flap would provide a corridor for the airflow between it and the sidepod's flank.

Secondly, on the right, we can see that the flap is mounted above the floor edge's level (dotted yellow line to help show the separation), with the brackets allowing the airflow a route with which to circulate to the outside of the flap.

For now, that floor has not appeared on the car, with the version at the shakedown being a more benign solution that appeared to have far more in common with the designs seen throughout 2022.

There's design inspiration from up and down the grid within this floor edge arrangement too, from the Gurney-like flick-ups first seen on the Red Bull, to the scythe-shaped edge wing on the Mercedes, to the rear cut-out and wing jutting out from beneath the Ferrari.

Given the regulation changes for 2023 and the performance sensitivity that the region provides, we're sure to see a decent turnover of design ideas on the floor's edge, and Alfa Romeo has already given us plenty to think about…

Alfa Romeo C43 floor edge

Alfa Romeo C43 floor edge

Photo by: Alfa Romeo

The varied approaches teams made

The new ground effect cars have put a premium on under-car aerodynamics, so it's no wonder that the floor edges have been a focus for clever thinking.

Last year, there was no consensus on the grid about the best solutions with teams all approaching this area of the car in a different way.

Mercedes W13 floor comparison

Mercedes W13 floor comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Mercedes started out its 2022 campaign with an altogether different machine from the one that arrived at the Bahrain test. One feature that was quickly consigned to the annals of F1 tech history was the ruffled floor edge.

Mercedes W13 fins

Mercedes W13 fins

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The arrival of the zeropod bodywork coincided with the use of a much simpler floor edge design, something that the team would work on throughout the course of the season in order to improve performance.

Ferrari F1-75 and McLaren MCL36 floor comparison

Ferrari F1-75 and McLaren MCL36 floor comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

McLaren's use of an L-Shaped edge wing at the first test / shakedown at Barcelona caught the attention of onlookers and rival teams alike, with Ferrari adopting its own version quite quickly as a consequence.

Red Bull Racing RB18 floor detail

Red Bull Racing RB18 floor detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull's RB18 lacked a visible edge wing, with the team instead favouring a collection of cutouts, height variation between sections and a tapered rear floor section reminiscent of the 2021 solution.

Red Bull Racing RB18 floor

Red Bull Racing RB18 floor

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Small feature details were changed on the RB18's floor during the season, including the use of this Gurney flap on the forward section of the floor.

Mercedes W13 new floor comparison

Mercedes W13 new floor comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Mercedes progressed to a scythe-shaped edge wing during the course of the season, whilst also making contour changes to the surrounding surfaces to leverage the new airflow parameters.

Red Bull Racing RB18 new floor detail

Red Bull Racing RB18 new floor detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull took note of the cutout and flap arrangement that some had deployed in conjunction with its 'ice skate' solution and added its own.

Aston Martin AMR22 floor comparison

Aston Martin AMR22 floor comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Aston Martin, which had already moved in the direction of Red Bull's sidepod and floor concept earlier in the season, developed its floor edge further still, adding Gurney's and the rearward cutout and flap jutting out from beneath it.

Alpine A522 floor detail

Alpine A522 floor detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Alpine also joined the party late on in the season, adding its own version of the cutout and flap combo.

Mercedes W13 floor detail

Mercedes W13 floor detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Meanwhile, Mercedes continued to add flourishes to its floor edge, with strakes added to the rolled-up surfaces.

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