RACING

Why more extreme F1 bodywork could be on the cards for 2023

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With fewer opportunities for designers to think outside the box for innovative solutions, the likelihood was of a grid-like ground-effect machine.

Things didn’t quite play out that way, with one of the most striking differences between the teams being their sidepod solutions.

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At the start of the year, there was a wide variety of different pontoon concepts in play, with Ferrari’s inwash, Red Bull’s downwash and Mercedes’ podless solutions all at different ends of the spectrum.

As the season progressed and teams better understood which ideas worked best, there was a general convergence of designs.

This evolution was triggered by the realization that the performance of the 2022 car does not only depend on the quality of the airflow management in the critical floor area.

Instead, the teams have come to the conclusion that body shape is an equally valuable tool to use when it comes to further improving floor and diffuser performance.

And that means that, as teams look to their 2023 cars, there are plans to focus a lot more on trying to get even more aggressive with body shapes.

Different body ideas are one of the best ways to make cars different.

Alpine sporting director Alan Permane said teams were pretty stuck on what could be changed for this year, with big things like radiators and exhausts not being able to be moved short term.

But if teams now commit to moving the locations of those components to 2023, it could open the door to more revealing body solutions for next season.

Fernando Alonso, Alpine A522

Picture by: Alpine

“We’re still finding a lot of gains with the floor, upper bodies and stuff like that,” Permane said of the performance drivers of the current cars.

“I suspect what we learn this year will inevitably lead to more extreme examples next year. Where we’re limited by wrapping radiators, exhausts and stuff like that this year, of course, anything can be changed for next year.”

McLaren technical director James Key said the value of good bodywork had actually increased as teams realized they were so limited with what else they could do on their cars.

“It’s been a real learning exercise because we have so many fewer tools to manage and you’re using different tools now because of that,” he said.

“So bodywork has become more important. It’s one of the few areas where you have a lot of freedom.

“While you could have done similar things last year, it was a much smaller player compared to deflector and diffuser fences and that kind of thing.

“That’s all gone, so you have to go back to the next layer, so the bodywork is definitely playing its part.”

Much attention has been paid to Mercedes’ unique zero pod solution, with various opinions being put forward that the impact of bodywork on airflow to the ground has played a role in its porpoising issues this year.

Mercedes insists its sidepod design isn’t a trigger for its headaches, but Key says airflow around the body is a critical part of the performance of the current generation of Mercedes-Benz cars. F1.

George Russell, Mercedes W13

George Russell, Mercedes W13

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“What you’re doing with your sidepods will complement what you’re trying to do underneath in many ways,” Key added.

“There are still different ideas there. Look at Ferrari, they are still washing themselves and it is still a very fast car. So I think there is still at the level of immaturity to well regards with these regs.

“There is still a lot to learn and there is no agreed practice on how to design a floor or a pontoon. There is still diversity, and I’m not sure it will stabilize over the year. next either.

“Yes, everything revolves around the ground, but everything that is made around the ground and connected to it somewhere, like bodywork, suspension, etc., is there in one way or another to complement it. .”

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What will be fascinating to see is exactly what will happen to teams with next year’s designs. Will the opportunities to get aggressive produce wilder variations between teams, or will they all end up converging on similar ideas?

That’s something we won’t find out until the 2023 launch season.

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