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F1 Ground Effect Regulations

“Not the Regulator’s Fault”: Allison on F1’s Ground Effect

15/03/2024

Despite Red Bull’s clear dominance in recent seasons, Mercedes’ James Allison believes F1’s ground effect regulations haven’t failed, pointing to broader competition goals.

The Formula 1 ground effect regulations have not failed, despite Red Bull’s dominance, according to Allison. Paired with financial regulations (on capped budgets), the new technical regulation of 2022, featuring the return of ground effect F1 cars, aimed to enhance the show in F1 by closing the competitive gap and allowing for more on-track battles.

The aerodynamic regulation was even intended to limit engineers’ freedom, thereby converging technical solutions and, hence, the timings.

Yet, Red Bull dominated the competition in 2022 and crushed it in 2023, winning all but one Grand Prix…

So, has the 2022 regulation been a failure? Seen in this light, one might assert it.

However, James Allison, Mercedes F1’s Technical Director (whose team missed the mark with this new regulation), doesn’t fault the FIA but rather all teams, except Red Bull, for not maximizing the regulations.

“I don’t necessarily think the regulations have failed in those terms because our job is to try and ensure we can have good on-track battles.”

“But Red Bull is doing a good job, and the rest of us need to do better. I don’t think it’s the regulator’s fault.”

Nonetheless, James Allison does not favor everything in these regulations…

“But there are things in the regulations that don’t serve any of us well.”

“I don’t think it’s reasonable to have cars that are glued to the ground – almost becoming one with it – as these cars do. The notion that we get good races by controlling airflow while ignoring the tires… it feels like a ’tilting at windmills’ type of challenge. This aspect has been tested to destruction quite evidently.”

Should F1 therefore take a step back on ground effect in 2026, for the next aerodynamic regulation? Especially to reduce the bounce damaging drivers’ backs…

“I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with the floors and ground effect, but the specific design of these flat bottoms should lead to raising the ride height at the car’s rear. Currently, the situation isn’t particularly good for the cars, so it’s not something we should carry into 2026.”

“Among the teams, a pragmatic response to this issue would be well accepted. I believe the FIA is still very much inclined to prioritize weight management above all else, sacrificing other aspects. Adopting a more balanced approach in this regard would be helpful.”

As for 2026, Red Bull seems untouchable again in 2024. And perhaps in 2025 too, since the regulations will remain stable next year…

But James Allison isn’t ready to give up just yet!

“Ah, come on. It’s a 24-race season.”

“We’re going to move forward, trying to be competitive this season.”

“And even more so next year and the year after, so don’t be so pessimistic [laughs].”

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