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

The group mirror test that hinted at 2023 F1 rule change

As the centrepiece of a triple header, Formula 1’s Dutch Grand Prix was always going to deliver very little when it came to actual car upgrades.

The group mirror test that hinted at 2023 F1 rule change

Indeed just four teams opted to bring new parts to a circuit that has very different demands to the two circuits that are either side of it in the schedule.

But that did not stop Friday’s free practice session offering a little bit of tech intrigue, as there was a group test being carried out on behalf of the FIA.

It followed tests by Red Bull in Hungary and Mercedes in Belgium of larger rear view mirrors, which the governing body is potentially looking at introducing for 2023 and beyond to help improve safety.

Rear view mirrors have long been an issue in F1, with aerodynamicists keen to mitigate their ill effects even at the expense of the drivers’ ability to see what’s happening around and behind them.

In their quest to suppress the aerodynamic inefficiencies the mirrors pose, the designers have taken not only to having the smallest body around the mirror that’s possible, they’ve also lent into a trend that uses flow conditioning appendages to alter the course of the airflow too.

As you’d expect as part of a test across the grid, there was an array of different solutions amongst the teams as they hoped to glean some insight for both themselves and the FIA.

Mercedes W13 2023 mirrors dim
Mercedes W13 2023 mirrors dim
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Whilst the main body of the mirrors are going to be increased, this is the consequence of the mirror’s reflective surface being enlarged.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Mercedes W13 mirrors
Mercedes W13 mirrors
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The solution presented by Mercedes saw the W13 fitted with a mirror casing that’s almost doubled in height when compared with its regular solution.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull Racing RB18 mirror detail
Red Bull Racing RB18 mirror detail
3/14
The solution tested by Red Bull is also much larger than we’re used to seeing, with the height almost doubled as a consequence.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull Racing RB18 mirror detail
Red Bull Racing RB18 mirror detail
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For comparison, here’s the usual solution that Red Bull would use, with the smaller main mirror casing framed by winglets top and bottom.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB18
Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB18
5/14
This shot is great for comparative purposes as Red Bull actually opted to mount both the regular and larger mirrors on either side of the car.

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

AlphaTauri AT03 mirror
AlphaTauri AT03 mirror
6/14
Alpha Tauri opted to widen their mirror assembly, rather than increase the height.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

AlphaTauri AT03 mirror
AlphaTauri AT03 mirror
7/14
Here’s a comparison shot showing the normal width mirror assembly.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Aston Martin AMR22 mirror
Aston Martin AMR22 mirror
8/14
Aston Martin probably had the most developed solution on the grid, with the team making a wider version of its regular design, complete with all the aerodynamic appendages it would usually have.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75
9/14
Ferrari opted for the lengthened version of its mirror, albeit without the vortex generators that are normally on the underside of the assembly.

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Fernando Alonso, Alpine A522
Fernando Alonso, Alpine A522
10/14
Alpine’s mirror was a simple extension of the mirror layout normally found on the A522.

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Alex Albon, Williams FW44
Alex Albon, Williams FW44
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Williams, meanwhile, opted for a much larger mirror body overall.

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL36
Lando Norris, McLaren MCL36
12/14
The enlarged mirrors used by McLaren meant that the team disposed of the usual framing winglets.

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL36
Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL36
13/14
For comparison the regular mirror configuration has a smaller body and a winglet that surrounds it.

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C42
Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C42
14/14
Alfa Romeo’s test mirrors were also extended to make them wider than they’d usually be.

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The actual updates

Alpine has been one of the most proactive teams on the grid this season when it comes to delivering new parts, with the Enstone-based outfit having something new available at every race of the season so far.

Obviously some of the packages that have arrived have been more substantial than others, but it’s interesting to see that it has been able to keep a steady stream of development coming through that not only takes influence from those around it but has its own design hallmarks stamped on it too.

For the Dutch Grand Prix, the team had some optimisations that looked to improve upon the pre-existing downforce package that it planned to use at this venue.

At the front of the car this has resulted in a minimal change to the front wing’s design, with a new flap introduced to reduce downforce and help balance the car for the changes imposed at the rear.

Alpine A522 rear wing detail

Alpine A522 rear wing detail

Photo by: Uncredited

The beam wing has been modified by Alpine at the rear of the car, with a shorter chord upper element being employed in its stacked, bi-plane-like arrangement.

It’s worth noting it had two configurations available until now, medium-high downforce and low downforce. This new arrangement will fit somewhere in between the two, or possibly outright replace the medium to high downforce option.

AlphaTauri targeted the Dutch GP as an opportunity to make improvements to its rear wing, with the Faenza based squad making changes to the transition where the wing elements meet the endplate. 

AlphaTauri AT03 rear windetail

AlphaTauri AT03 rear windetail

Photo by: Jon Noble

The arc is now much more tightly wound, which increases the span of the mainplane and top flap, with a larger wing-tip cutout employed to compensate for the additional vorticity that might otherwise have ensued.

Williams had a new front wing at its disposal for the Dutch Grand Prix, with the team making changes for the first time in this area since its update at Silverstone. 

The changes didn’t require an entirely new wing to be manufactured either, which is obviously good when we consider the cost cap, with the outboard section of the upper flaps and the transition with the endplate singled-out as a point that could result in a performance uplift.

Williams FW44

Williams FW44

Photo by: Jon Noble

This section of the wing is relatively sensitive given the performance trade-off that has to be accepted between creating downforce with the flaps and using the juncture to influence the outwash that the wing generates.

Alfa Romeo made changes to its rear brake duct at the Dutch Grand Prix, with the team targeting an increase in performance that wouldn’t only be limited to the track characteristics at Zandvoort. 

On this occasion, it’s the deflector shape that’s been altered, with the team anticipating an uplift in performance to the local flow while coming with the secondary benefit of improving flow through the diffuser.

The team fitted a large kiel probe rake at the rear of the C42 during free practice to ensure the parts performed as its simulations had predicted (below).

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C42, Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C42

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C42, Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C42

Photo by: Alfa Romeo

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