Why has the floor become the main playing field in F1?

The new ground-effect floor concept is perhaps one of the biggest changes Formula 1 teams will have to adapt to the new regulations.

Where in the past the key to aerodynamic performance was wings and other aerodynamic surfaces, now it is possible to maximize the overall percentage of downforce by making maximum use of the car’s underbody.

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When we talk about flooring, we’re not just talking about the visible top surface. We should also consider the underside, which will adopt a deeper design pattern from 2022.

Previously, the rules required a flat surface, the rear diffuser section allowed for added vertical volume. The new rules allow for more variety in floor geometry, allowing engineers to create more variation in the transition to the reference plane and the overall shape of the floor.

The floor of the Red Bull Racing RB18

The floor of the Red Bull RB18 (above) probably provides the most extreme example of this, with visible curves on all surfaces. It’s not just about creating maximum volume, but more about controlling the flow through the created “tunnel” and distributing the pressure that inevitably arises along the way. These variables are also likely to play a role in the response to changes in ride height, a critical factor under the new regulations.

Note the stepped “boat tail” section of the transition zone (1 and 2) running through the floor partitions. [3] gradually changes the volume of the curved part of the tunnel to the diffuser area (take the horseshoe-shaped piece of metal in the middle of the floor as a reference).

On the outside of the mat, Red Bull also took a different approach to the outer fin design than the other teams at the start of the campaign. The team chose the “ice skate” solution [4] instead of forming a horizontal extension separated from the floor, it acts as a vertical buffer. As the skid height drops, it creates a physical boundary for this part of the floor, while also providing aerodynamic support for competing flow structures spilling over this part.

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Other teams have noted some of these design features, as seen above in the Ferrari F1-75 (above left) and the McLaren MCL36 (right). They didn’t just adopt the step boat tail solution [1] also incorporated its own version of ice skates, something Ferrari did early on [2]And McLaren tested one at the end of the season.

We could say goodbye to deflectors in 2022, but teams have four elements to improve flow, starting with those in front of the leading edge of the floor. And as you’d expect, we’ve seen a wide variety of solutions in this region, with every team wanting to use them as a link in the floor’s aero chain.

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Once again, we’re looking at one of the most innovative interpretations of the Red Bull (above left), as the outer element is combined with one of the inner partitions to combine their influence both in front and under the floor. However, the team reverted to a more traditional layout at the French Grand Prix, separating the (inner) outer partitions as part of its development efforts at all levels.

At the same time, the Scuderia changed over the course of the season from a low outer element to a longer and longer version (dotted line, inner part shows the original height and length of the outer bulkhead), while also changing the height. the F1-75, which adopts a two-level layout.

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The edge of the floor, which has been the subject of intensive development in recent years, is an area where teams will once again spend significant funds in 2022, although the rules have somewhat reduced the freedom of players.

And while much of this development depends on the shape and size of the edge fins used, there have been some changes to the shape of the rest of the floor, both sourced and indirectly, with cuts and geometry introduced to improve performance.

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