Design convergence doesn’t guarantee performance parity in F1
Although there appears to be a trend towards design convergence among the 2023 Formula 1 cars, this does not necessarily mean that teams will perform more closely together on the track. Simply copying designs is not sufficient; it is essential to understand how a specific design will benefit the performance of one’s own vehicle.
Moreover, crucial parts that generate performance, such as the underfloor and internal components like suspension elements, will remain concealed for some time. This leaves room for potentially significant differences in performance between the teams.
It is also worth considering the impact of engine tuning and energy retrieval and deployment systems on overall performance. Teams are employing different strategies in these areas, leading to different on-track behaviors. Given the potency of the RB18’s straight line speed, it may prove challenging for teams to replicate that performance, particularly as Ferrari has opted for a different approach.
Overall, I anticipate that all teams will make strides forward this year. Running the cars in 2022 should have provided valuable insight into the intricacies of ground effects cars, allowing teams to address any issues from last year.
If Ferrari can keep their engine running without issues, it could result in a genuine competition among the teams. However, I do not expect to see any major shakeups in the pecking order. Any such changes would be surprising.
The majority of the teams competing in the 2023 season have unveiled their cars, with only Red Bull Racing, the reigning world champion, having yet to reveal their vehicle. At present, Red Bull has only shared details regarding the livery and sponsors that will adorn their RB19.
Red Bull Racing conducted a private test of their new RB19 at Silverstone, away from the presence of cameras and photographers. The public will have to wait until the Bahrain test, which commences this Thursday, to get a proper look at the car.
While it should be noted that the Red Bull car has yet to be fully revealed, the 2023 Formula 1 cars are noticeably more alike to each other compared to the 2022 models.
The shift towards increased similarity among the 2023 Formula 1 cars began to emerge during the previous season, with teams such as McLaren, Williams, and Aston Martin significantly altering their initial aerodynamic designs using development packages.
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Regarding the 2023 Formula 1 cars, it’s evident that there has been a certain level of convergence, particularly in the central and rear portions of the vehicles.
Nearly all teams have adopted the philosophy of the rear end of the Red Bull sidepods, in which the body directs the airflow downwards towards the rear. Based on this feature, the 2023 Formula 1 cars can be divided into two main categories: those with high bodywork (Ferrari-Haas) and those with drop-down bodywork (all other cars).
Of course, there are some teams that fall somewhere in between these two design philosophies, with Mercedes being a notable example. While the team has somewhat moved away from the zero-sidepods concept, it has still retained its unique design identity by placing itself midway between Ferrari and Red Bull.
Compared to last year, the Aston Martin car has undergone significant changes, incorporating elements of the Ferrari/Alpine concept such as a flare in the upper edge. The team has done an excellent job with the overall aerodynamics, resulting in the AMR23 being a vehicle that contains numerous innovations compared to its lackluster predecessor, the AMR22.
Among the teams, Alpine has undergone the most significant changes in terms of mechanical design, thanks to its new pushrod rear suspension layout.
Alfa Romeo has made significant changes to the wishbone layout compared to the 2022 car, moving the pushrod strut forward of the wishbones. This design solution was also observed on the RB18 in the previous year.
McLaren was the last team to test their car, and their Bahrain test run confirmed that the MCL60 that was unveiled at the launch closely resembled the actual vehicle.
Much of the important design work for McLaren’s MCL60 has been focused on the ‘undercut’ area beneath the sidepod, with the team borrowing heavily from Red Bull’s RB18. One of the most intriguing elements of the design is the upper edge of the floor, which submerges the lower side impact system in a manner that creates a genuine flow diverter. Although the floor appeared somewhat subdued in the shakedown photos, it is still largely consistent with the final 2022 specifications.
One of the most intriguing design solutions on the new 2023 Formula 1 cars was the channel located within the sidepods, as seen on the Ferrari SF-23.
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The channel inside the sidepods of the Ferrari SF-23 may prove difficult for other teams to replicate. The design appears to be optimized for generating downforce and directing a flow of air with greater energy, taking advantage of the bump in the Ferrari’s bodywork. In contrast, the hot air that is expelled from the engine cover vents is of lower energy compared to the cold airflow.
Ferrari’s repurposing of the front wing flow diverters is also notable, particularly as the design was initially seen on the Mercedes at Austin last year. However, the FIA deemed the Mercedes design to be illegal.
Ferrari has taken advantage of a modification made to Article 3.9.8 of the technical regulations and has carefully studied it to adopt an improved version of what Mercedes attempted with the front wing flow diverters. While the gain in aerodynamic performance may not be significant, as acknowledged by Ferrari’s own engineers, the design does aid in finding the outwash effect of the front tire to reduce drag.
Mercedes, on the other hand, has primarily concentrated on “making legal” the endplate that was introduced in Miami last year, taking advantage of the rule tweaks that have occurred since then. The endplate can now be cut further to favor the outwash effect, similar to the design used in 2022. However, Mercedes has also invested significant effort in the micro-aerodynamics of the shape of the external flaps, which direct the flow outwards. This design solution may prove to be popular among many teams.
Several teams have followed in the footsteps of Red Bull and Alfa Romeo, both of which investigated the use of wishbones with an aerodynamic function to aid the venturi channels in the previous year.
Ferrari (and therefore Haas), Mercedes, McLaren, Alpine, and Aston Martin have all made significant alterations to the arrangement of their wishbones in order to direct the airflow towards the venturi inlets.
Ferrari and Mercedes have adjusted the steering rod, aligning it with the lower wishbone to ensure better flow cleanliness in the upper part of the suspension, where the air raised by the flaps of the front wing travels.
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