How F1 teams narrowed their technical focus in the final races of 2022

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The result of this delay in performance parts arriving at the track inevitably leads teams to narrow their focus even further, with teammates often running different setups and aerodynamic configurations during free practice as they seek the balance needed throughout the lap .

As qualifying approaches, this usually leads to convergence on both sides of the garage, but as we’ll find out, that’s not always the case either.

Last weekend in Abu Dhabi, the Mercedes couple started on the same footing on Friday by spinning the rear wing with medium downforce, featuring a top flap with a cutout in the trailing edge (top left). However, while the drivers were looking for a bit more performance in the middle part of the lap, both tried another option with less downforce (top right).

The top speed advantage this provided did not provide the overall lap time boost they were looking for, due to losses incurred in the first and third sectors, and so changes were made to both cars prior to qualifying.

George Russell actually took his setup one step further and opted for a stretcher on the trailing edge of the top flap which was not featured on Lewis Hamilton’s W13. However, while Russell had used the top back quarter endplate recess on his breakout weekend in Brazil (inset), he opted for the full height variant for Abu Dhabi.

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Ferrari F1-75 rear wing comparison

Red Bull RB18 rear wing comparison

Red Bull RB18 rear wing comparison

Red Bull and Ferrari also played with different rear wing configurations during practice, as they both tried a higher downforce option (bottom images) before both choosing their lower downforce counterparts.

Ferrari also used some practice time to evaluate a revised floor design (below), likely as a precursor to changes the team expects to implement for 2023, which would require real-world data to validate their findings in CFD and the wind tunnel .

The revised design focuses on changes made to the area of ​​the floor just in front of the rear tire. A scrolled rim will change the course of the airflow, resulting in a change in behavior as it meets the surface of the tire.

Ferrari F1-75 floor comparison

Ferrari F1-75 floor comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

It’s a relatively minor change, but one that could prove useful in the team fighting the problems of tire inflation, a phenomenon that robs the diffuser of consistency and potency when airflow is pushed sideways from the tire into the diffuser’s path.

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McLaren also had test items at its disposal during the final race of the season as it also looked to validate a new development trajectory for 2023.

Unlike Ferrari, the research resulted in a more thorough overhaul of the floor rim, including the rim wing. The test item had a design more in line with the one championed by Red Bull, which has subsequently been copied by others up and down the grid.

The scroll, complete with power diverters, in the front part of the floor’s edge was replaced by a more simplistic Gurney, with a recess found behind it where a lower part of the floor then resides, while the remaining part of the floor tapers for the rear tire.

McLaren MCL36

McLaren MCL36

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

McLaren MCL36 floor detail

McLaren MCL36 floor detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Unseen as it is under the floor, McLaren also made its first foray into using an ‘Ice Skate’, a solution first seen on the Red Bull this season and subsequently found on the likes of the Ferrari F1 -75, Alpine A522 and Aston Martin AMR22.

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There is also a small tab connected to the skate that protrudes from its side and can be seen in the frame created by the cutout in the floor at the back. This acts on the airflow relative to the height of the skate, rather than the floor around it, and should help combat some of the problems caused by tire spray.

The skate therefore has several functions, as it not only forms a physical constraint against the track surface when the car is compressed, but also has aerodynamic benefits as it changes the path of the airflow to the rear.

McLaren was clearly keen to see just how powerful this could be in real-world conditions, even noting this in its pre-event entry: “We’re aiming to evaluate the effect of this floor edge on the car’s ride height behavior.”

This data will now be analyzed as the 2023 Challengers anticipate their build for the upcoming season.

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