Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis
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Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

How F1 teams have responded to 2021 floor challenge

Formula 1's winter rule changes to slash downforce proved to be a big headache for teams over the winter – and became a big talking point in Bahrain last weekend.

How F1 teams have responded to 2021 floor challenge

The changes to the floor, brake ducts and diffuser were originally aimed at cutting downforce by 10%, although indications suggest teams have already clawed back a not-insignificant amount of that.

Of more intrigue in Bahrain was how the floor tweaks in particular had favoured some teams over others, with the low-rake concept cars in particular looking like they have lost more.

Thus, many of the main developments that were unleashed for the first race were focused on the floor, as teams rapidly act to try to make up for the losses.

Aston Martin, like Mercedes, appears to have been much more aggressive with the design of its floor and the associated aerodynamic appendages, likely tied to its lower rake set-up when compared with the rest of the field.

Following testing, Aston Martin added more changes to its floor package in a bid to further recover the performance taken over the off-season and reduce its disadvantage to the teams around it on the grid.

 

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Aston Martin has not used the full bounding box available to it for its floor, opting to introduce a right-angled cut-out ahead of the point where the floor must taper.

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

For Aston Martin and the others running a similar solution, the loss in floor space is made up for by the aerodynamic gains on offer compared to having a more conventional straight edge to the floor.

At this square shaped cut-out during testing (inset), there was only a trio of fins behind that - but Aston has introduced six further fins on top of the right-angled part of the floor to further direct airflow outwards and help shape any tip vortices produced which can assist with sealing the floor.

Meanwhile, the cluster of fins that previously resided on the edge of the floor just ahead of the rear tyre have also made way for something more complex (red arrow).

This structure is broken up into two main elements, with the primary structure comprising numerous outwash fins, all housed within a large enclosure, whereas the secondary structure takes on more of a flapped shape and sits lower to the floor.

 

Red Bull had already made some changes to its floor during the pre-season test, adding a fin at the midway point and two shorter, curved outwash fins ahead of the main outboard fin.

However, in Bahrain the team added another curled fin in the central section of the floor as it looked to improve the airflow's transit across and around the tyre and, perhaps more critically, reduce the influence that the turbulence it creates has on the diffuser's performance.

Williams FW43B floor detail
Alpine A521 floor detail

Williams has a more simplistic approach to this region of the car at this stage in the season but did arrive with some new parts for the Bahrain GP, installing a trio of winglets to help drive airflow across and around the rear tyre (red arrow).

Alpine also had several new parts available to them in Bahrain with two new floor configurations amongst those.

The first of these (pictured, right) featured an additional vane midway along the floor (red arrow) and two additional, triangular shaped vanes a little further downstream.

The other floor option tested saw the fins ahead of the rear tyres conjoined with shorter slots in the upper section, rather than the full length ones that are ordinarily used.

But, just like the additional halo winglets seen here on Esteban Ocon's car during free practice (below), none of the parts were raced by Alpine, suggesting it needs more time to understand whether they're offering the expected performance uplift that its simulation tools would suggest.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A521

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A521

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Ferrari did not have a raft of new parts on offer for the first race but it's still worth another look at a novel solution that was discovered on the SF21 during the pre-season test.

Mounted on the edge of the diffuser are three tall fins that are being used to redirect the airflow and turbulence in that region in order that it doesn't impinge on more important flow structures created to improve the car's overall performance.

 

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Alfa Romeo step

Not all teams focused on floor changes, however, and Alfa Romeo has opted for a new solution on its front wing this season - adding a slot in the footplate which allows the airflow to migrate to the underside of the wing.

It's not a wholly new solution, as AlphaTauri introduced something similar at the tail end of last season and has continued with it this year.

Albeit with different shapes and positions, the solutions appear to be performing very similar roles: encouraging the air to deviate from its normal path across the upper surface of the footplate and influence the airflow it converges with beneath.

 

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The airflow that continues to reach the latter phase of the footplate is shunted outboard by both the triangular strake and the trailing edge Gurney flap, both of which play a role in creating the outwash that the designers are searching for in order to reduce the turbulence created by the tyre behind.

F1 teams always run on the absolute limit when it comes to cooling, as opening up bodywork reduces the car's aerodynamic efficiency.

However, this is a price that must be paid at circuits in warmer climates. But rather than sacrifice performance at the rear of the car and open up the rear cooling outlet, Mercedes opted to run the maximum cooling outlet in the panel beside the cockpit.

Perched on the joint between the halo and the sidepod (below), this interchangeable panel will have different configurations throughout the year in order to find the right trade-off between the prevailing cooling demands and aerodynamic performance.

 

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

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Series Formula 1
Author Giorgio Piola
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