Are Z-shaped floors the way to go in F1 2021?

Formula 1 teams appear divided over the best floor solution for the 2021 rules, as a new set of regulations once again resulted in two opposing design trends appearing.

Are Z-shaped floors the way to go in F1 2021?

But, have we seen enough evidence from just the first race to judge who's on the right track and who'll have to think again?

On one side, we have the conventional thinkers who have taken the new rules at complete face value when it comes to dealing with the lost floor section.

Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Haas, McLaren and Williams all have floors that taper at the rear as the regulations intended. They have largely steered away from having too much aerodynamic furniture on the floor's edge to redirect the airflow too.

Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Haas, McLaren, Williams floor comparison

Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Haas, McLaren, Williams floor comparison

Photo by: Uncredited

Meanwhile, Mercedes, Aston Martin, Red Bull and AlphaTauri all have a very different solution that's been on their cars since testing, while Alpine joined their ranks at the first race of the season.

The five teams employing this floor design have created a Z-shaped edge to their floor, with a section cutout around 200mm back from where the floor starts to taper. This has resulted in the teams giving up some of the total floor space that's available, but affording them more flexibility in terms of the floor shape.

The yellow highlight area (below) shows where the floor would have previously extended to in 2020, while the dotted line represents where the edge of the floor would be, had the teams followed the intent of the regulations.

Red Bull and Mercedes floor comparison

Red Bull and Mercedes floor comparison

Photo by: Uncredited

The teams that have opted for this Z-shaped cutout have essentially returned to a floor edge that's parallel to the car's centreline, as it was in previous years. This suggests they were unhappy with how the tapered edge affected the flow to the rear of the car.

That's not to say they've all followed the same path though, with this image making it abundantly clear just how much individuality there can be with this design.

In particular, Red Bull has opted to design the edge of its floor to have a much longer section so that it is parallel to the car's centreline compared to what Mercedes has opted for.

The Z-shaped edge also helps these teams to create flow structures/vortices at a point on the floor where other flow structures might otherwise be breaking down or deviating from their intended path.

They're accentuating this further with contouring to the floor and the fins mounted alongside it, with Aston Martin perhaps the most aggressive in this regard.

The fins (two rows in Aston Martin's case - see lead image) are placed at a point on the floor where it will have an impact on how the airflow as it moves around the sidepod. However, its role in regards to the floor will be to realign the flow structures with the straight floor edge in mind.

This area of the car is set to be a hotbed of development this season, as each team finds incremental gains from the interacting flow structures and fine-tunes them accordingly.

Alpine, for example, has already made a serious effort in this regard (see image below), as while it not only joined the four other teams already using the Z-Shaped floor cutout in Bahrain, but it also had a number of parts to try in combination with it.

Alpine A521 Floor comparison

Alpine A521 Floor comparison

Photo by: Uncredited

Alpine's test programme highlights where the team's interests lie at this early stage of the season, with two key areas seemingly the most ripe for development - the area around where the floor begins to taper and the area ahead of the rear tyre.

In Alpine's case, the floor tested during pre-season didn't have the Z-shaped cutout or fins (V1 Blue). But, having installed a floor with the cutout, the team tested two other solutions, one of them (V2 Blue) not only had the two silver coloured fins mounted side-by-side and offset from one another, but also had two shorter triangular shaped fins mounted further downstream (red arrows).

It decided to race a slightly less aggressive solution though, with just a single fin mounted on the edge of the floor cutout (V3 Blue).

A batch of solutions was also tested just ahead of the rear tyre too, with the single element strake used during the pre-season test cast aside (V1 White), firstly in favour of the trio of strakes used during the later stages of the pre-season test (V2 White) and then in a combination test with two other solutions (V3 White and V4 White).

V3 and V4 both have four sections to them, albeit in a slightly different way, with V3 only having slots a portion of the way down the surface, whilst V4 is made of four individual strakes.

Not a one dimensional problem

As we've seen from the restructuring of the pecking order in the opening races, it's not a one-size-fits-all equation though, with each of the teams at a different stage in the development cycle, having used resources in different ways.

There's also a tug-of-war for resources too, as while the floor is by far the largest change to the regulations, there's other changes that could have an impact on them and on overall car performance too.

Mercedes W12 and Mercedes W11 diffuser comparison
Red Bull RB16B Vs RB16 rear detail

The reduction in the height of the strakes, for example, could play a role in the difference between the low- and high-rake runners, as their proximity to the ground plane is extended further still.

In the case of the low-rake runners, teams have likely exploited the vorticity that's created by the strakes ground proximity in the past, which in-turn generally helped with flow through the diffuser.

PLUS: How the 'Great F1 Rake-Off' delivered a Bahrain GP showdown

The overall design of the Mercedes diffuser is almost identical to 2020, at this stage, bar the design of the strakes, which have been reduced in height by 50mm to comply with the new rules.

McLaren is the real outlier in this respect, so far, having used a clever interpretation of the regulations to maintain taller strakes in the mid-section of the diffuser.

Connecting its strakes in the central 500mm of the car to the transition wall has allowed the team to keep the taller strakes. But it does come at a cost, as it must maintain a single section in that region.

This means that if you were to take a slice through that section you'd have no breaks in the slice. This does compromise the overall shape of the boat tail, and means there can be no slots in the strakes to optimize the flow around them.

It'll therefore be interesting to see if there's any changes in this area throughout the course of the season, as the designers search for ways to improve the aerodynamic hand off of flow structures from one area of the car to the other.

shares
comments

Related video

Seidl is best team principal in F1, says Brown
Previous article

Seidl is best team principal in F1, says Brown

Next article

Wolff doubts Bottas came close to F1 retirement after team orders

Wolff doubts Bottas came close to F1 retirement after team orders
Load comments
Why Red Bull can win a Spanish GP that looked perfect for Ferrari Plus

Why Red Bull can win a Spanish GP that looked perfect for Ferrari

Formula 1's return to Spain on Friday ended with Ferrari leading the way from Mercedes, while Red Bull could only manage third fastest overall courtesy of Max Verstappen. But its chances of victory are far from remote with a deeper dig into the times despite Ferrari's strong start

Explaining the key aspects of Porsche and Audi's planned F1 entries Plus

Explaining the key aspects of Porsche and Audi's planned F1 entries

The VW Group’s German superpowers of sportscar racing have all but confirmed they are coming to F1 when the next set of engine rules come into force in 2026. Here's why both manufacturers are all set to take the plunge, and crucially how it might work

Formula 1
May 19, 2022
How Vegas went from byword for F1 indifference to grand Liberty coup Plus

How Vegas went from byword for F1 indifference to grand Liberty coup

Holding a race in Las Vegas – party central, a city of dreams and decadence and, yes, more than a smattering of tackiness – has been on Liberty Media’s most-wanted list since it acquired Formula 1’s commercial rights. But, as LUKE SMITH explains, F1 has been here before and the relationship didn’t work out

Formula 1
May 18, 2022
Why de Vries' F1 practice debut could add a new path to his current crossroads Plus

Why de Vries' F1 practice debut could add a new path to his current crossroads

A Formula 2 and Formula E champion, Nyck de Vries is currently considering where his future in motorsport lies. Continuing in WEC and Formula E is possible and he's also courted glances Stateside after impressing in an IndyCar test. But ahead of his Formula 1 FP1 debut with Williams, he could have another option if he impresses...

Formula 1
May 18, 2022
Why Leclerc's historics crash shouldn't put off F1 drivers tasting history Plus

Why Leclerc's historics crash shouldn't put off F1 drivers tasting history

OPINION: For a demo run ahead of Monaco's Historique Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc was blessed with the opportunity to drive Niki Lauda's former Ferrari 312B3 - but a brake failure at Rascasse suggested Leclerc's Monaco hoodoo transcended contemporary F1. Although an awkward incident, Leclerc deserves credit for embracing F1's history

Formula 1
May 18, 2022
Why the lack of “needle” between Red Bull and Ferrari in F1 2022 is a mirage Plus

Why the lack of “needle” between Red Bull and Ferrari in F1 2022 is a mirage

OPINION: The fight for the 2022 Formula 1 world titles between Red Bull and Ferrari so far features little of the public animosity that developed between the former and Mercedes last year. But that isn’t to say things are full on friendly or won’t get much worse very quickly…

Formula 1
May 17, 2022
The underdog F1 squad that thrust Senna into the limelight Plus

The underdog F1 squad that thrust Senna into the limelight

The Toleman TG184 was the car that could, according to legend, have given Ayrton Senna his first F1 win but for Alain Prost and Jacky Ickx at Monaco in 1984. That could be stretching the boundaries of the truth a little, but as STUART CODLING explains, the team's greatest legacy was in giving the Brazilian prodigy passed over by bigger outfits an opportunity

Formula 1
May 16, 2022
Why Aston Martin is unlikely to repeat Jaguar’s F1 mistakes Plus

Why Aston Martin is unlikely to repeat Jaguar’s F1 mistakes

Two famous manufacturer teams born out of humble midfield origins, splashing the cash while attempting to rise to the top of F1 in record time. There are clear parallels between Lawrence Stroll’s Aston Martin and the doomed Jaguar Racing project of 22 years ago, but MARK GALLAGHER believes struggling Aston can avoid a similar fate

Formula 1
May 15, 2022