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

How teams are pushing back against F1's bid to stop outwash

A great deal of time was taken in framing Formula 1's 2022 regulations, as the world championship made a genuine attempt to improve a pursuing car's ability to follow another.

Mercedes W14 front wing comparison

Factors that had limited this in the past were viewed as the outwash - the flow of air coming from the trailing edge of a wing - generated by the front wing, plus the various tricks employed with the front brake ducts and axle.

This was why F1 chiefs and the FIA put a great deal of effort in to ensure that the regulations were pretty robust in these areas.

A soft launch of these ideas was carried out as an interim measure in 2019, with some of the more complex surface geometries, cascades and winglets stripped from the outer portion of the front wing. Blown axles were also banned.

And, while the 2022 regulation changes went several steps further, teams are simply not going to relinquish the power these areas commanded.

Furthermore, even if the intent of the regulations in improving the racing is sound, teams have no obligation to follow what's intended. Instead, their remit is to increase the performance of their cars, while staying within the bounds of the regulations.

One such example of this was the introduction of a new concept by Mercedes at the Miami Grand Prix in 2022 (below). The Silver Arrows had looked at the regulations and realised that there was an opportunity to expose the rear lower half of the endplate if they contorted the front wing flap's tip section.

In order to do this, the upper two flaps were angled back on themselves and joined the endplate much further forward than the regulations had intended.

Mercedes W14 front wing

Mercedes W14 front wing

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Of course, the solution might not be as potent when compared with the designs seen prior to 2022. However, it's surely something that's worth having for the teams if it can generate more outwash. That's why there's still a push to create the effect, even if it's been diminished by the regulation changes.

It's no wonder then that Mercedes has found a way to circumvent changes put in place by the FIA to this year's regulations, as the W14 sports a similar concept. Rather than have the flap's wing tips angled back on themselves, they are now detached from the endplate, save for some slender metal brackets.

This allows the tip section of each flap, which now includes the flap ahead too, to be shaped with a more precise aerodynamic intent, as a stream of vortices will likely be shed from each of these surfaces.

Add to this that there are two winglets that sprout from the endplate too, both of which face down toward the wing tips. With the rearward one actually connected to the rear flap, they will undoubtedly work in unison to enhance the outwash characteristics of the wing.

Mercedes is not the only team to have found a use for winglets in this lower rear quadrant of the endplate this season either, as both Haas and Red Bull have their own solutions that are worth our attention.

It's also worth noting that while the make-up of the winglets are different, so is their orientation, as they need to match the aerodynamic characteristics of their tip section and endplate juncture.

In the case of Haas, this has resulted in a two-tier winglet arrangement, with a slot found in the surface that lines up with the slot gap in the flaps below.

Haas F1 Team VF-23, front end plate
Red Bull Racing RB19, detail front wing

For comparison with Mercedes, the winglet on the VF-23 is also angled upwards, whereas on the Red Bull RB19 it's just a single-element winglet that's mounted fairly neutrally.

In all of these cases it comes down to the winglet having to work cohesively with the rest of the wing, otherwise their presence won't yield any additional performance.

Aston Martin's front wing doesn't carry the aforementioned winglets in the rear lower corner. However, there is an outwashing solution in play on the AMR23 that's worth mentioning in the same breath as the others.

In Aston Martin's case, it has focused on the connection of the uppermost flap and endplate, with the flap skewed relative to the endplate, creating multiple shedding surfaces for vortices to propagate.

In order that the wing is still able to meet the requisite load tests to comply with the regulations, there's been metalwork embedded in that region too. It extends forward to the rear section of the flap ahead of it, where another small cut-out has been made.

Ironically it appears that the changes that have been made to the regulations for 2023 might have inadvertently opened the door for more potent solutions to arrive this season.

It means we can expect more development in this region as the season unfolds, as teams will look to exploit the outwash effect wherever possible.

Aston Martin Racing AMR23, front wing endplate

Aston Martin Racing AMR23, front wing endplate

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

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