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Red Bull gap shows 2022 F1 rules less restrictive than expected - McLaren

McLaren team principal Andrea Stella thinks Red Bull's dominant form shows that the 2022 Formula 1 regulations package is less restrictive than teams had expected.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, leads Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23, and Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60

For 2022, F1 switched to a car concept based around exploiting the ground effect from the floor, with the aim of making it easier for drivers to race each other by reducing the turbulent wake.

The regulations were also tightened to make it less likely that one team would steal a march on the opposition. Alongside the effects of the budget cap, it was hoped that F1's new era would produce a grid that is much closer.

While the rules appear to have hit the mark with a midfield that is becoming closer than ever, early suggestions that F1 would become more like a spec series have proved unfounded.

According to McLaren F1 boss Stella, teams were wary about the lack of scope for innovation the new rules were going to provide, but after developing the cars they have found plenty of potential to make a difference thanks to various new floor development avenues.

Red Bull and Ferrari came up with two competing floor and sidepods concepts that each proved competitive in 2022, while Mercedes went for a radical design that it is now set to abandon.

PLUS: How Red Bull made its most complete F1 car yet

"I have to admit, and I think most teams should admit the same, that before the new generation of cars touched the ground, we thought that the regulations were quite restrictive," Stella said.

"But interestingly, as soon as you start the journey, you realise there's a lot of performance, especially on the floor. This ground effect can be exploited from a technical point of view beyond what I think anybody in Formula 1 would have anticipated.

Andrea Stella, Team Principal, McLaren

Andrea Stella, Team Principal, McLaren

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

"If you see the level of sophistication of the geometries, you may see on some cars, especially possibly in the parts facing the ground, so not necessarily very visible, and the complexity of the flow field, and the vertical structures that you want to generate under the car, then these went beyond what the regulations would have expected.

"That's, from a technical point of view, a fascinating journey."

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Stella thinks this unexpected potential to develop the complex floors has rewarded teams who got it right, as evidenced by Red Bull's huge advantage on the rest of the field in 2023.

"From a spectacle point of view it means that whoever does a better job, like Red Bull is doing at the moment, can gain a consistent competitive advantage beyond what could have been anticipated," he added.

"So there's technical reasons why that is, and ultimately means there's a premium for those who do a better job than the others."

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