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F1 ground-effect debate

Dirty Air Dilemma: F1’s Overtaking Challenge Rises

17/03/2024

In the wake of races in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, discussions around F1’s ground-effect vehicles and “dirty air” challenges are heating up, signaling a potential shift in racing dynamics.

Following the first two races of the season in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, renewed discussions have emerged in the paddock about the direction ground-effect F1 cars are taking, diverging from the spirit of the 2022 regulations.

Observations indicate that the impact of “dirty air” (turbulence that hampers overtaking) is becoming increasingly significant, making it more challenging for many to closely follow an F1 car… but not for everyone!

Mercedes F1 driver George Russell states it’s “entirely natural” for this to happen as teams exploit grey areas for performance gains. Hence, expect following and overtaking to become even more challenging until the end of 2025, ahead of new regulations.

“I’ve heard the growing complaints. I wouldn’t say it’s getting easier. It’s either staying the same or getting slightly worse. But I think it’s entirely natural as we all increasingly deviate from the initial regulations.”

“Engineers are always smarter than any rule, and you see a lot of different concepts in F1, even though there was an outcry that the 2022 F1 cars would all look the same. In the end, they’re more diverse than the cars at the end of 2021.”

For Charles Leclerc, the sentiment regarding complaints is similar… but the Ferrari driver has noticed improvements in this area!

“I’ve heard that too, like George. However, on our side, this year has been a bit better than last. So, I don’t know if that’s part of the characteristics we’ve improved compared to last year, which made our car very difficult to drive. But this year, it’s a bit better for us to follow. But yes, it might not be the same for George!”

In the pack, Nico Hülkenberg also lacks a definitive stance.

“Yeah, it’s pretty much the same as Charles. It probably depends on the car.”

“Some cars handle dirty air better than others. I think, as George says, it’s certainly not getting better in any case. Maybe a bit worse, but it also depends.”

“If you have a group of cars ahead, so two or three, it’s worse than just one in terms of dirty air. There are several factors at play.”

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