Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis
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Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

F1 technical analysis: Say goodbye to the bargeboard

An all-new Formula 1 car design for 2022 means it’s the end of the road for the bargeboard, which has been a major aerodynamic element in the sport for decades.

F1 technical analysis: Say goodbye to the bargeboard

Ross Brawn, together with F1’s technical working group, immediately singled out the complex aerodynamic solution as one of the changes required in order to reduce the aerodynamic wake created by the cars and help produce closer racing in future.

In recent years, driven by the openness of the regulations in that region, the bargeboards had become so complex and sprouted so many sub-sections that they accrued the title ‘bargeboard cluster’.

But they had much humbler beginnings, so as a swansong let’s take a look at how life started for the bargeboard and how, over time, it became an incredibly powerful series of aerodynamic surfaces.

McLaren MP4-8 airflow

McLaren MP4-8 airflow

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The McLaren MP4-8 (above) was the first F1 car to appear with what we consider a bargeboard, a simple, single-piece affair that was mounted between the front suspension and sidepods. However, while these appendages featured on the car at the first race of the season, in Kyalami, they were absent when the team arrived at the second round of the championship in Brazil.

They made a return for the European Grand Prix at Donington, the scene of Ayrton Senna’s wet weather masterclass, where the Brazilian driver, starting in fourth, lost a place at the start but finished the first lap in the lead, having overtaken Michael Schumacher, Karl Wendlinger, Damon Hill and Alain Prost.

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The bargeboards didn’t appear again until Monaco and would make one more appearance at the Hungaroring, suggesting that the team were using them at tracks that required a slightly different aerodynamic configuration – notably at the higher end of the downforce range.

The bargeboards helped position the airflow around the rear of the car differently, turning the flow ahead of the sidepods and the floor for improved performance at lower speeds.

Ayrton Senna, McLaren MP4/8 Ford

Ayrton Senna, McLaren MP4/8 Ford

Photo by: Motorsport Images

What came before the bargeboard?

The MP4/8 had what we consider to be a traditional bargeboard, but it could be argued that there were examples prior to this, with teams using a shorter wheel-wake deflector behind the front wheel during the ’80s.

Click on the arrows in the images to scroll through them

McLaren MP4-2B 1985 turning vane detail
McLaren MP4-2B 1985 turning vane detail
1/6

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Lotus 97T
Lotus 97T
2/6

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Alfa Romeo 185T 1985 detailed overview
Alfa Romeo 185T 1985 detailed overview
3/6

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Benetton B186 1986 detailed overview
Benetton B186 1986 detailed overview
4/6

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Brabham BT55 1986 detailed airflow overview
Brabham BT55 1986 detailed airflow overview
5/6

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Lotus 98T 1986 detailed overview
Lotus 98T 1986 detailed overview
6/6

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

More teams go down the bargeboard route

Following on from McLaren’s use of bargeboards in 1993, it didn’t take long for the other teams to see the merits of exploiting this region of the car as a means of improving the overall aerodynamic performance.

Jordan 194

Jordan 194

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Benetton B194

Benetton B194

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The Jordan 194 and Benetton B194 seen above are just two examples of the designs being deployed the following year. 

Ferrari 412 T1

Ferrari 412 T1

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

As Ferrari looked to overcome some issues with the original design of the 412T1’s sidepods, it also incorporated bargeboards within their design to help tweak the airflow's passage around them (above).

The period that followed saw teams develop their bargeboard solutions in-line with the evolving face of aerodynamic development and the ever-changing landscape of the regulations...

Click on the arrows in the images to scroll through them

Ferrari 412T2 (647) 1995 overview
Ferrari 412T2 (647) 1995 overview
1/5

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Williams FW19 1997
Williams FW19 1997
2/5

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Benetton B197 1997 overview
Benetton B197 1997 overview
3/5

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari F310B (648/2) 1997 overview
Ferrari F310B (648/2) 1997 overview
4/5

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Stewart 98
Stewart 98
5/5

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Perhaps the most controversial moment to involve bargeboards came in 1999, as Mika Hakkinen battled Eddie Irvine for the drivers’ title in a duel that would go down to the last race of the season at Suzuka – but only after the FIA overturned its own decision from the previous race in Malaysia.

Both Ferrari drivers had been disqualified from the Malaysian Grand Prix, when in post-race scrutineering it was found that the bargeboards on their F399’s did not comply with article 3.12.1 of the technical regulations.

The Ferrari barge board which caused their disqualification

The Ferrari barge board which caused their disqualification

Photo by: Sutton Images

3.12.1 All sprung parts of the car situated more than 33cm behind the front wheel centre line and more than 33cm forward of the rear wheel centre line, and which are visible from underneath, must form surfaces which lie on one of two parallel planes, the reference plane or the step plane. This does not apply to any parts of rear view mirrors which are visible, provided each of these areas does not exceed 90cm² when projected to a horizontal plane above the car. The step plane must be 50mm above the reference plane.

This requires any part that can be seen beneath the car between the dimensional criteria to be on either the reference or step planes, meaning that no part can exist above those planes if they are not shadowed below. In the case of Ferrari a section of the bargeboard’s footplate (highlighted in yellow, below) was missing on the reference plane and when viewed from beneath allowed you to see the main vertical surface.

Ferrari F399 (650) 1999 undertray and turning vane detail

Ferrari F399 (650) 1999 undertray and turning vane detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari argued that this was a manufacturing defect and no intent had been made to subvert the regulations for performance gain and further called into question the FIA’s methods for measuring for legality, as they contested it fell within the +/- 5mm of tolerance cited in article 3.12.6 of the regulations, rather than the 10mm the stewards had suggested.

How the bargeboard evolved over time

In the years that followed, the designs became evermore complex, as teams searched for ways to unlock the performance of the surrounding structures, as well as the bargeboards themselves, optimising them in harmony with one another.

Click on the arrows in the images to scroll through them

Sauber C19 2000 original sidepod detail
Sauber C19 2000 original sidepod detail
1/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Benetton B200 2000 bargeboard development
Benetton B200 2000 bargeboard development
2/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari F2001 new chassis
Ferrari F2001 new chassis
3/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

McLaren MP4-16 Side Pods
McLaren MP4-16 Side Pods
4/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

McLaren MP4-16 bargeboard
McLaren MP4-16 bargeboard
5/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Bennetton B201 bargeboard reduced in height (usual height highlighted in yellow)
Bennetton B201 bargeboard reduced in height (usual height highlighted in yellow)
6/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Prost AP04 2001 French bargeboard development
Prost AP04 2001 French bargeboard development
7/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

McLaren MP4-17 2002 Imola bargeboard development
McLaren MP4-17 2002 Imola bargeboard development
8/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari F2002 (653) 2002 bargeboard update
Ferrari F2002 (653) 2002 bargeboard update
9/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Sauber C21 2002 bargeboard
Sauber C21 2002 bargeboard
10/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari F2003-GA bargeboards (note canard on smaller bargeboard)
Ferrari F2003-GA bargeboards (note canard on smaller bargeboard)
11/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Renault R23 twin bargeboards
Renault R23 twin bargeboards
12/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

McLaren MP4-17D 2003 bargeboard
McLaren MP4-17D 2003 bargeboard
13/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Toyota TF103 2003 bargeboard detail
Toyota TF103 2003 bargeboard detail
14/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Minardi PS03 bargeboards
Minardi PS03 bargeboards
15/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari F2004 pre bargboard (arrow shows how airflow is pushed out and around)
Ferrari F2004 pre bargboard (arrow shows how airflow is pushed out and around)
16/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Renault R24 bargeboard extension arched
Renault R24 bargeboard extension arched
17/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

McLaren MP4-19B 2004 twin bargeboards
McLaren MP4-19B 2004 twin bargeboards
18/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Renault R25 2005 bargeboard detail
Renault R25 2005 bargeboard detail
19/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari F2005 barge boards
Ferrari F2005 barge boards
20/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

McLaren MP4-20 2005 bargeboard and turning vanes
McLaren MP4-20 2005 bargeboard and turning vanes
21/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

BMW Sauber F1.06 2006 bargeboard
BMW Sauber F1.06 2006 bargeboard
22/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

BMW Sauber F1.06 2006 sidepod detail
BMW Sauber F1.06 2006 sidepod detail
23/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari F2007 (658) 2007 top view
Ferrari F2007 (658) 2007 top view
24/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Toyota TF107 2007 top view
Toyota TF107 2007 top view
25/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Williams FW30 2008 sidepod turning vane detail
Williams FW30 2008 sidepod turning vane detail
26/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Renault R28 2008 Silverstone bargeboard
Renault R28 2008 Silverstone bargeboard
27/27

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

As Formula 1 entered a new phase in 2009, the sport had looked at ways to shape the regulations in order to facilitate closer racing and improve overtaking. The small technical working group tasked with doing so had very limited resources at their disposal, especially when we compare it to those working on the 2022 regulations.

Nonetheless they identified key areas of the car that needed to be changed, with the dimensional criteria of the front and rear wings altered dramatically, significant curtailment of the aerodynamic furniture that had grown up around the car's rear end and the removal of the bargeboards.

The teams drew the line here though and intervened as some changes were made to the regulations, including a box region that allowed them to continue to harness the power of the bargeboard, albeit in a much more constrained manner.

Brawn BGP 001 2009 bargeboard comparison

Brawn BGP 001 2009 bargeboard comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The BrawnGP BGP001 was the standout car of the season, as Jenson Button took the drivers’ championship and the team the constructors’ crown. Although resources were stretched thin throughout the campaign, the bargeboards did receive some of their focus, with the slightly taller, triangular shaped element (inset) exchanged for the stepped and shorter version later in the season.

As we moved into the hybrid era, in 2014, the regulations once again underwent a transformation but, with some aerodynamic changes made to the regulations and the likes of blown diffusers removed, the overall downforce levels of the cars were reduced.

Furthermore, an increase in weight tied to the introduction of the power units had led to that generation of cars being considerably slower from a lap time point of view.

In order to counteract these issues, the FIA set out plans that would help the teams recoup the lost lap time, with the new regulations coming into force in 2017.

Ferrari SF16-H front end comparison with 2017 regulations

Ferrari SF16-H front end comparison with 2017 regulations

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

When bargeboards went wild

Bargeboards were one area where the FIA had decided to loosen the noose on the designers as part of the regulation overhaul, with a much larger box region available in which bodywork could be placed. 

This not only led to much larger bargeboards but also much more complex shapes and connecting structures, as the teams looked for ways to connect the bargeboards with the surrounding physical structures, such as the turning vanes and the expanded sidepod deflectors, in order that they worked more harmoniously...

Click on the arrows in the images to scroll through them

Mercedes AMG F1 W08 sidepod detail
Mercedes AMG F1 W08 sidepod detail
1/7

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari SF70H barge board, Spanish GP
Ferrari SF70H barge board, Spanish GP
2/7

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull RB13 barge boards, Spanish GP
Red Bull RB13 barge boards, Spanish GP
3/7

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari SF71H bargeboards, United States GP
Ferrari SF71H bargeboards, United States GP
4/7

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Force India new barge board
Force India new barge board
5/7

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Toro Rosso STR13 barge board Brazilian GP
Toro Rosso STR13 barge board Brazilian GP
6/7

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Sauber C39 bargeboards
Sauber C39 bargeboards
7/7

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

You’ll note that many of the teams began using a trick that allowed them to add slots into the surface of the bodywork on the reference plane, making for a much more aggressive and heavily-detailed lowermost element.

In order to accomplish this they added slots in the surfaces above, which meant they couldn’t fall foul of the same issue that Ferrari had in 1999, as looking up from beneath the car, the alignment of the slots in each of the surfaces meant that they complied with the regulations.

In order to rein-in the teams a little, the FIA made some subtle changes to the regulations for 2019 and once again the bargeboards were on the agenda, although it could be argued that they didn’t go far enough with the changes to have a quantitative reduction in their performance.  

Reducing the assemblies’ allowable height by 150mm, the governing body gave 100mm of additional freedom in the area ahead of where the bargeboards could start during 2017-18. 

And while some are happy that the FIA has finally done away with bargeboards for 2022, it’s hard to argue that they would be out of place if hung in a gallery with other fine works of art...

Click on the arrows in the images to scroll through them

2019 bargeboard regulation
2019 bargeboard regulation
1/20

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Mercedes AMG F1 W10, barge board Japanese GP
Mercedes AMG F1 W10, barge board Japanese GP
2/20

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull RB15 new bargeboard, Russian GP
Red Bull RB15 new bargeboard, Russian GP
3/20

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

McLaren MCL34 barge board
McLaren MCL34 barge board
4/20

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Renault F1 Team R.S.19 barge board
Renault F1 Team R.S.19 barge board
5/20

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Williams FW42, barge board
Williams FW42, barge board
6/20

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Mercedes AMG F1 W11 bargeboard at Spa
Mercedes AMG F1 W11 bargeboard at Spa
7/20

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull Racing RB16 sidepods detail
Red Bull Racing RB16 sidepods detail
8/20

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

McLaren MCL35 barge boards
McLaren MCL35 barge boards
9/20

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari SF1000 side wings
Ferrari SF1000 side wings
10/20

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari SF1000 new bargeboard detail
Ferrari SF1000 new bargeboard detail
11/20

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Renault F1 Team R.S.20 barge board
Renault F1 Team R.S.20 barge board
12/20

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Mercedes AMG F1 W12 full side
Mercedes AMG F1 W12 full side
13/20

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull Racing RB16B new bargeboard detail
Red Bull Racing RB16B new bargeboard detail
14/20

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

McLaren MCL35M Bargeboards
McLaren MCL35M Bargeboards
15/20

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Williams FW43B bargeboard detail
Williams FW43B bargeboard detail
16/20

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari SF21 bargeboard detail
Ferrari SF21 bargeboard detail
17/20

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull Racing RB16B bargeboard detail
Red Bull Racing RB16B bargeboard detail
18/20

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

McLaren MCL35M bargeboard detail
McLaren MCL35M bargeboard detail
19/20

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Alfa Romeo C41 bargeboards detail
Alfa Romeo C41 bargeboards detail
20/20

Photo by: Uncredited

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