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How F1 teams battled the porpoise and unleashed performance

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As each race unfolds, teams accumulate more data and have a better understanding of how to maximize performance, while combating the ill effects posed by the porpoise.

The phenomenon, which took most of the field by surprise when its cars first hit the track, has been the main focus for teams, as reducing its width will unlock greater performance. All teams suffered from porpoises to one degree or another, due to a number of factors that lead to their occurrence.

A simplistic approach to quelling the problem is to increase the car’s ride height, but this would not only compromise aerodynamic performance but also drastically reduce the available set-up options. For many, this means looking for a more root and branch approach, and some teams needing to be more pragmatic about how long it will take to find a suitable solution.

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Meanwhile, the development battle continues and teams have been busy using new floor designs, not only as a means of improving aerodynamic performance but also to save weight. The latter is exceptionally important when you consider that a large part of the field has not been able to reach the minimum weight, even when it was raised just before the season to 698kg.

Given the increased loads now supported by the floor, the teams had to build additional margin. While some of that will have been removed by having a better understanding of the real-world loads imparted on different areas of the floor, the late change in regulations to include a metal bracket in front of the rear tire has also been significant. Not only does this reduce porpoise, but it also makes up for the stiffness it offers against any weight reduction plan.

Considering the lead time to fabricate the floor, which is by far the largest component fitted to the car, the teams have opted for a patchwork style of padding, allowing them to swap out sections of the floor, rather than of having to build a completely new floor every time.

While this does add some weight, it makes them extremely agile when it comes to development and lowers costs, which is an extremely important factor when we consider the cost cap ramifications on teams this season.

Ferrari F1-75 and McLaren MCL36 floor comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Mercedes W13 new floor comparison

Mercedes W13 new floor comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

One of the most obvious areas of development, up and down the grid, is at the edge of the floor, with teams not only able to decide whether to use an ‘edge wing’ but also the geometry of the floor edge and its discontinuity. in front of the rear tire.

McLaren created a ruckus during pre-season testing when its interpretation of the edge spoiler was first seen. However, any irregularities were quickly ironed out and a number of teams, including Ferrari, have since copied the design, having clearly seen promise when they carried out their own CFD and wind tunnel analysis of the design.

While Mercedes hasn’t gone the McLaren route, its flat did feature a lip spoiler as part of the latest revision. The W13 is more of a scythe shape and has allowed the team to alter the geometry of the floor it flanks. Stretcher flaps were added to the periphery of the floor, just forward of the wing edge, and the raised section ahead of the rear tire was also optimised.

Red Bull Racing RB18 Keel Splitter Comparison

Red Bull Racing RB18 Keel Splitter Comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Another area where teams have been monitoring the progress of rivals’ designs is the belly pan, with Aston Martin putting the wheels in motion in a solution that has found its way into several other cars. Ferrari was the quickest to respond in this regard, having a version of the ‘bib wing’ ready for the F1-75 launch just a week after it was seen at AMR22.

Red Bull quickly followed, with the Alpine A522 and Mercedes W13 now sporting versions of the winglet too, along with optimizations to the keel shape to take advantage of the new flow conditions.

Red Bull has forged its own path in many ways, with the RB18 featuring one of the most refined floor designs on the grid. Unsurprisingly, some of those design features are now making their way into rivals’ designs too, so let’s dig into what Red Bull is up to…

Red Bull Racing RB18 Flat

Red Bull Racing RB18 Flat

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The contour level you see on the bottom of the RB18 is considerably different than what you see elsewhere. While most teams seem to have a gentle bend in the boat-shaped center section, Red Bull has an abrupt kink. [2] approximately in line with where the outward angled strakes meet the edge of the floor.

To smooth out this sudden transition, there is also a series of embossing on the sidewall of the tunnel. [1], which itself appears to have a much more vaulted ceiling than many of the other solutions its rivals use. While this means you’re not using the maximum clearance allowed by regulations, it’s likely to reduce flow instability over a wider range of ride heights.

Red Bull has also employed a multi-step keel design as the floor tapers towards the diffuser section at the rear of the car. [3] and it’s a feature Ferrari has incorporated into its latest redesign and something we’ve seen at McLaren too.

Ferrari F1-75 Floor Comparison

Ferrari F1-75 Floor Comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Floor McLaren MCL36

Floor McLaren MCL36

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

This region is not a one-size-fits-all solution, with each team sporting their own interpretation. For example, the Red Bull and McLaren floors have three steps, the Ferrari one only has one.

Another interesting Red Bull design feature that has hit the headlines recently is its ‘ice skate’. There were initially questions about how it’s possible to have such a feature here, but it’s since become clear that it’s Red Bull’s interpretation of the lip spoiler, sitting under the floor, rather than on top.

The ice skate is comprised of a strake that hangs from the bottom of the deck from six allowable mounting brackets.

Red Bull Racing RB18 Mini Skirt Detail

Red Bull Racing RB18 Mini Skirt Detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The supports are made of metal, as is the strake, as the team has erred on the side of caution given that it could come into contact with the track surface as the floor flexes toward the ground.

Although not its primary function, the choice of material could also result in the skid offering some stiffness to the ground, although this may not be necessary as Red Bull has perhaps the most comprehensive internal suspension strategy on the grid (see below). ).

The main function of the skid is aerodynamic, with a strake in this location, although not intended by the wing edge standards, providing support for the various flow structures around it.

Not only will this help improve the performance of the underground tunnel, but it will also reduce tire blast from entering the diffuser section by altering the airflow path and vortices that are already in motion.

Red Bull RB18 floor detail

Red Bull RB18 floor detail

Photo by: Uncredited

Returning to the top, the team made an interesting change to the floor as part of the upgrade package unveiled in Spain. A large teardrop shaped blister can now be found embedded in the floor next to the pontoon which appears to open a path for airflow to expand from within the pontoon into the channel running alongside it (red arrows).

Air flowing through this channel then appears to exit from a nozzle-shaped outlet below (upper right inset), with the topography of the panel in which it is housed optimized to accommodate both outlet flow and ambient conditions. external flow.

The blister also appears to offer neat flow adjustment features as the airflow moves around the sidepod notch as well (smaller, lower box).

Red Bull RB18 Floor Comparison

Red Bull RB18 Floor Comparison

Photo by: Uncredited

Further ground changes were made for Azerbaijan, as the team not only optimized the ground strake and ground boundary transition (blue arrows, old inset), but also ground leading edge height and geometry .

Previously, the leading edge had sunk to meet the chassis below the equator, making the outside of the floor higher than the inside end (red arrow, old inset).

The leading edge has now been raised in this region and sits on the side of the chassis, resulting in different flow characteristics for not only the ground but also the airflow moving through the notch of the pontoon.

Red Bull also eventually found a need for the external floor suspension that the FIA ​​introduced ahead of the season to help teams mitigate the effects of the porpoise.

The short wire bracket required a small change to the floor to accommodate its anchor, and is much shorter than many of its rivals, as it intersects with the side wall of the floor next to it, rather than having to go all the way width to engine cover.

Red Bull Racing RB18 Floor Comparison

Red Bull Racing RB18 Floor Comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

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