Ferrari and Williams join F1's Z-shaped floor gang

Ahead of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, the Formula 1 grid has been split right down the middle in terms of the way they approach the new floor regulations.

Ferrari and Williams join F1's Z-shaped floor gang
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Half of the grid has been using Z-shaped floor cutouts, whereas the other half favoured the fully tapered option.

However, as so often happens in grand prix racing, one solution often becomes the preferred option – and for this weekend at Imola two more teams have joined the Z-shaped gang.

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Floor tweaks

As with every rule change there’s an opportunity to either follow the classic interpretation of the regulations or find ways around it to boost performance.

For 2021, that battle is being fought on the edge of the floor where the FIA intended there to be a simple tapered edge ahead of the rear tyre. This, in combination with a package of other changes, was hoped to reduce downforce by around 10 percent.

The teams were having none of it though and set about finding ways to recover their losses, with the floor seen as a large piece in that jigsaw puzzle.

Four teams settled on the Z-shaped floor cutout solution during pre-season testing, with Alpine joining their ranks at the first race, as we revealed here.

But, at just the second race of the season, we have two more teams breaking rank, with the solution now seen on the Ferrari and Williams cars too.

 

Ferrari tested the new floor solution on Carlos Sainz’s car during FP1, whilst Charles Leclerc continued to gather data for the team with the old specification (inset). This back-to-back analysis is incredibly important as the team looks to establish whether the new parts provide the performance that its simulation tools obviously suggested would be the case.

Aside from the obvious Z-shaped floor cutout there are also changes in terms of the topside aero devices used to move the airflow across the floor’s surface. The trio of fins mounted midway down the floor have been removed (red arrow, inset), whilst a new fin creates an aerodynamic fulcrum where the cutout begins (blue arrow).

 

It’s a similar story for Williams, as it too has the Z-shaped floor arrangement at the second race of the season.

Like the other teams using this solution, it also added a trio of fins next to the forward section of the cutout to help amplify the effect that it’s creating.

However, it has also retained the trio of fins that it added in the middle of their floor at the first race in Bahrain.

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Making it personal

Even with seven teams having now decided that the Z-shaped cutout is a design concept worth pursuing, there is, of course, a varying degree of solutions amongst them. So, let’s take a look at each of them and the fully tapered alternatives too...

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Mercedes tried its best to throw rivals off the scent when it unveiled the W12, going as far as to cover up this area of the car. However, once out in the limelight, it was clear it had forsaken some of the available floor space in favour of the Z-shaped cutout.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Red Bull also opted for the Z-shaped cutout but its interpretation sees even more floor removed in order to return to a more parallel edge. Also note the row of fins it has alongside the sidepod to help nurture the discarded airflow and then use it to maximise the performance of the floor.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin AMR21

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin AMR21

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Aston Martin is already on its second Z-shaped floor variation, having extended the cutout and parallel section as part of their revamp in Bahrain. It’s the most aggressive variant on the grid now and has also been combined with two rows of fins around the forward cutout as it looks for ways to mitigate the issues that appear to have hurt the low rake runners the most.

Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri AT02

Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri AT02

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

AlphaTauri made no attempt to disguise its Z-shaped cutout when it launched its car, even if it tried to obscure other aspects. For the second round of the championship it has an update too, as a cluster of outwardly angled fins have been added to the section ahead of the cutout as it looks to work the floor even harder.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A521

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A521

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Alpine joined the Z-shaped floor brigade in Bahrain and has combined the cutout with just a singular fin but did test various variations, whilst also testing a variety of strake solutions ahead of the rear tyre too.

 

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

The Z-shaped floor cutout solution trialled on Sainz’s Ferrari SF21 during FP1.

 

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

George Russell getting a taste of the new Z-shaped floor cutout on his Williams FW43B during FP1

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

McLaren was the first team to test a 2021 specification floor during last year’s campaign and remain steadfast at this point in using the fully tapered solution.

 

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Alfa Romeo also has the fully tapered floor solution, although it has lined up a selection of fins close to the point where the floor begins to taper in an effort to trigger a compound effect.

 

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

As we know, Haas have suggested that its focus is on 2022 and, whilst there have been developments on the VF21, the floor has not been cut back in the way some of it rivals have.

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