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

The key floor trends that have defined F1 2022

Formula 1 teams are still in the early stages of understanding how best to extract performance from the new 2022 regulations.

The key floor trends that have defined F1 2022

With the new floor and diffuser of the ground-effect generation of cars offering very different design challenges compared to the past, the learning curve is still pretty steep.

Alongside the sidepods, these two areas offer the most design freedom and this is the primary reason as to why we're seeing such variation up and down the grid.

However, as time moves on, it's understandable that we'll start to see some convergence, especially if teams stumble upon 'shortcuts' to make their current arrangements more potent before being able to develop more mature solutions.

We've also seen instances where teams have bought new parts but have quickly abandoned them, either realising that they don't offer the same level of real world performance that they possessed when tested in a simulated environment, or having found more potent solutions that don't require them.

Red Bull Racing RB18 new floor detail
Red Bull Racing RB18 new floor detail

One such example of this would be Red Bull's attempts to follow in Ferrari's footsteps, as it applied a cutout in the edge of the floor just ahead of the rear tyre and added an extension that jutted out from beneath the floor at the British Grand Prix.

The solution was used once again at the Austrian Grand Prix. However, this was unceremoniously dropped at the French GP when the team made changes upstream that likely cancelled out the need for this cutout and extension.

Red Bull had been the only team to have combined two fences in the outermost portion of the floor in the opening part of the season, a situation that was only changed when Aston Martin unveiled its reworking of the overall Red Bull concept. However, at the French GP the team applied the more classic approach of a singular outer fence and three internal baffle fences.

Ferrari F1-75 floor development

Ferrari F1-75 floor development

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Meanwhile, we've seen Ferrari yo-yo back and forth on its floor design, first opting to follow a similar route to McLaren, which opted for an L-Shaped floor edge wing design that caught everyone's attention during pre-season testing [1].

It followed this up by making a switch to the 'ice skate' solution that Red Bull had implemented on the RB18's floor and has since found its way onto other cars, including the Alpine.

This quite dramatically different interpretation of the edge wing is mounted to the underside of the floor and not only helps to define the passage of airflow in that region, it also serves to limit the floor's travel vertically when we consider there's a chance that the load might cause that portion of the floor to bottom out against the track's surface.

At the same time, the Scuderia also adopted the chine-like design seen on both the RB18 and the McLaren [2]. Albeit Ferrari opted for just a single chine, whereas its rivals both preferred a three chine approach.

It's expected that this design might propagate useful vortices to help power the diffuser, but it's likely more about improving flow stability over a range of rideheight conditions, as the chines will soften the airflow and pressure distribution as the car undergoes the various rigours thrown at it.

The latest iteration of the floor seen on the F1-75 discarded these chines though, as the designers iterated towards another feature seen on the RB18, whereby the forward section of the central lower body of the floor is sculpted in order to work harmoniously with the fences which are splayed outwards beside it [4].

Mercedes W13 floor comparison

Mercedes W13 floor comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Meanwhile, over at Mercedes there's been plenty of work done on the floor's upper surface since the start of the season as the team has looked for ways to improve the car's behaviour.

This has not only involved alterations to the aerodynamic furniture that presides over the floor's edge but also the stiffness and/or flexibility of the various sections of the floor.

The team was quick to install a metal stay in the rear section of the floor to help reduce flexion during pre-season testing and was likely relieved that the FIA made changes to the regulations that allowed all the teams to use them at the first race of the season.

The ruffled floor edge is a feature that we've seen Mercedes employ before but it didn't stick around for long, as the team switched out the solution for a more simplistic arrangement.

Downstream of this, Mercedes initially seemed reluctant to deploy the sort of edge wing that's allowable within the regulations and could be found on many of its rivals' machines, perhaps preferring instead to resolve the other issues it faced.

However, as its performance improved, a scythe-like edge wing was introduced, paired with alterations to the floor's geometry (below).

Mercedes W13 new floor comparison

Mercedes W13 new floor comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The changes being introduced for 2023 will undoubtedly have an impact on the development battle during the second half the season too, as teams shift their focus and have to consider tangential development streams.

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That's not to say research they'll conduct into the regulations for next season won't yield results for this season though, as they offer a different way of looking at a similar challenge.

Teams often find performance that's transferable under these conditions, so they could be more developments bolted on in the latter stages of 2022.

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