James Allison is not a big fan of Formula 1 single-seaters conforming to the technical regulations introduced in 2022. Mercedes F1‘s technical director points out that the rake, meaning the inclination of the previous generation single-seaters, was a central topic, but these new cars are very different.
“You used to talk all the time about high or low rake as if it was the only thing that mattered. A high-rake car had a height of 140 mm. A low-rake car is around 120 mm or something like that,” recalls Allison.
“In both cases, these are stratospheric numbers compared to these cars. They are all cars that start with a height around 60 mm. There might be a few millimeters of difference between them, but they are all glued to the ground.”
Operating F1 cars is challenging.
The limited space above the ground also poses a problem for engineers, whose room for maneuver is reduced: “We might end up with a somewhat one-dimensional car on tracks that are the same.”
“Thus, if there isn’t a wide range of speed, you might be able to tune your car so that the corners match your strengths and you don’t suffer terribly from a power drop on one side or the other.”
“But when you go to a place that’s a bit more of a comprehensive test for a car, like Austin for example, where you have really fast corners, slow corners, medium corners, straights, and bumps, it will test the part where performance is lacking.”
“It will test the failure [of the downforce] on the straights, you need to remain strong in the [fast] corners. And it’s hard to persuade the car to do all these things with a set of rules that want nothing more than to be close to the ground.”
Even Verstappen might not enjoy them.
Allison is not very pleased to see F1 cars operating so close to the ground and would prefer them to be more versatile. He believes that even a driver as skilled as Max Verstappen might not find much enjoyment in this.
“I’m sure I talk about it a lot because it’s one of my pet peeves, but personally, I don’t think it’s a good thing. I don’t think it’s right for the cars to operate, when they come out of the garage, with just this much space from the ground (he shows a few millimeters with his fingers, editor’s note).
“You have the person who is winning the championship by one of the biggest margins ever, who has every reason to absolutely love his car, and I doubt they would tell you that this is a good thing. It’s not like it was a few years ago.”
F1 Cars’ Ground Clearance Unveiled by Mercedes’ James Allison f1 2024. F1 Cars’ Ground Clearance Unveiled by Mercedes’ James Allison f1 2024.