Stella says rivals dismissing F1 sidepod gains are like “Pinocchio”

McLaren team boss Andrea Stella says any rival claiming that sidepods do not make a difference to Formula 1 car performance are like “Pinocchio” in not telling the truth.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

The shape of teams’ sidepod designs has been thrust into the spotlight in F1’s latest ground effect era as initially there was a fascinating variety of different concepts at play.

However, the advantage that Red Bull appears to have gotten from its downwash concept appears to have won out as many of its rivals have followed suit in copying it.

Ferrari abandoned its in-wash solution at the Spanish Grand Prix to move closer to Red Bull’s idea, while Mercedes moved away from its zero-pod idea a race earlier in Monaco.

But while there has been an obvious change of path for teams, many of them have played down the significance of what they have done, insisting that sidepod shape does not make a critical difference in the overall performance of a car.

But that is a viewpoint completely dismissed by Stella, whose own team has aggressively changed its sidepod shape this year and which has helped it make a dramatic step forward in performance.

Instead, Stella thinks that the way that the sidepod helps with airflow both over and around the car and floor area is key to lap time.

“If there's any team that says that the bodywork and the sidepods don't have an effect in the current regulations, there's this long nose, Pinocchio style,” said Stella, in reference to the fictional wooden puppet whose nose grew every time he told a lie.

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“Every aerodynamicist from simulation, to wind tunnel, and measured data at the track, knows that the two things actually work together.

Andrea Stella, Team Principal, McLaren, in the Team Principals Press Conference

Andrea Stella, Team Principal, McLaren, in the Team Principals Press Conference

Photo by: Motorsport Images

“It's a further dimension that makes this business interesting, because actually we see how much variety we have achieved from a sidepod shape point of view and the way this is interacting with the floor.

“Now it looks like all teams are kind of converging towards the same direction, and I think this process may continue more and more in the future.”

Stella has long been clear that, while the floor of current F1 cars is important for performance, the effectiveness of the underside can be increased a lot by the right design of sidepod.

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He suggests that having a wide sidepod helps to trigger the airflow to seal the floor better, similar to the way that skirts did in the previous ground effect era to help increase downforce.

Speaking about the benefits of the Red Bull-style sidepods, Stella said: “I wouldn't say simply downwash. I would say wide sidepods.

“I think it's actually the primary concept that seems to interact very well with the floor, because the sidepods in simple terms, act a little bit like mini skirts.

"Aerodynamically these wide sidepods help the suction in the floor. So that's the concept that it looks like you can't do without if you want to maximise the suction in the floor and the load on the car. And it's very clear that everyone is converging in that direction."

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