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FIA "won't hesitate" to act on F1 2022 flexi-floor "abuse"

The FIA has warned Formula 1 teams that it will have no hesitation in clamping down on any flexi-floor tricks in 2022 if it feels the rules are being "abused".

The 2022 Formula 1 car launch event on the Silverstone grid. Sidepod detail

F1's all-new rules era this season has led to a shift to a more ground effect concept, with much more of a car's downforce generated by airflow running under the floor.

The new cars have large Venturi tunnels on the underside to help direct the air, and the design changes have prompted a rethink about finding fresh performance gains.

As teams have better understood this new generation of cars, they have quickly realised that there are great benefits to be gained by maximising the under-floor flow.

This has led to an acceptance that there will need to be a much stiffer suspension set-up in 2022, but there are now fears teams could start using tricks to flex the edges of the floor down to help gain even more performance.

Such flexing could help seal the airflow better under the car, which would produce much more of the ground effect phenomenon to boost downforce.

The FIA is aware that this is a route some teams may go down in 2022, but it says it will be vigilant about what is being done and will respond immediately if it sees anything untoward.

Nikolas Tombazis, the FIA's head of single-seater matters, said: "Regarding flexing the diffuser or the floor edges to go downwards, we will be always keeping an eye on any flexibility that takes place and we will be imposing, when necessary, tests to reduce such effects and so on.

"With the new regulation, it is inevitable that there may be some areas which were not properly predicted in terms of flexibility, and that may have to be enhanced as we go along.

"We will not hesitate to do that. The rules permit us to intervene if we find that some abuse is taking place in certain areas."

F1 managing director of motorsports Ross Brawn reckoned that it was unlikely teams would get away with such tricks, as rivals would be closely observing any strange bodywork flexing – as happened with the rear wings in 2021.

"I think the issue of aero elasticity is something which we can't avoid in F1," he explained. "It has been there for a very long time, when engineers started to appreciate the performance gains that could come from building in flexibility to various parts of the car. It goes back donkey's years.

"It's something the FIA always had to stay on top of, but the regulations do allow a quick response from the FIA. And, with all the analysis that is possible, you can pretty quickly pick up on what teams are doing.

"The level of photography and video analysis and all sorts of things, the teams are really on top of each other with this aspect. We remember all the fuss about the rear wings, during the past season, so they're all almost self-policing each other.

"The moment there's an issue, they start to raise their flags. So the FIA will very quickly know about any areas of concern, and I'm sure can deal with it and have the capacity to deal with it very quickly overnight."

One of the other consequences of the set-up direction triggered by the ground effect cars is that teams will be forced to run their cars which much stiffer suspension in a bid to ensure the ride height remains as stable as possible.

This has prompted some concerns that the cars could be brutal for drivers out on track, as happened in F1's last ground effect era in the early 1980s.

Tombazis is not too concerned about the situation, though, and thinks it is a positive that F1 2022 machinery will be harder for drivers.

"We are aware that cars, in order to perform need, need to run lower and closer to the ground," he said. "As a result they need to be kept a bit stiffer than the previous cars. Some of the previous cars were running with enormous rakes and that is probably a thing of the past.

"We think that the ride quality, and the characteristics of the car that make it more easily driveable, are not necessarily things that need to be maintained in F1.

The 2022 Formula 1 car launch event on the Silverstone grid

The 2022 Formula 1 car launch event on the Silverstone grid

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

We want drivers to make the difference and we want cars to be also difficult to drive, not easy. It's never easy but you know what I mean. I think certain aspects to make cars a bit more aggressive to drive are quite important.

"It's a situation we'll be monitoring, but I don't think it is a cause for significant concern."

The set-up changes triggered by new ground effect cars

By Matt Somerfield

F1 teams will look at the set-up of their cars differently in 2022, and it is not only due to a return to 'classically sprung' suspension, with complex systems such as hydraulics and inerters that have been used to aid compliance now outlawed.

Teams now also have to consider how this change in suspension is impacted by the change to the 18-inch wheels and shallower sidewall tyres.

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As a consequence of this, and the new aerodynamic concept, teams are having to re-evaluate the overall ride height and rake they run.

The nose down 'raked' attitude is unlikely to offer the same benefit it did with the previous era of cars, and instead we might see teams looking to run the car much stiffer and closer to the ground in order that the flow through the floor's under tunnels is more stable.

The FIA also realises that this might lead to some interesting aero elasticity tricks being deployed by the teams at the floor's edge to flex the edges down.

There's clearly a performance benefit in doing so. Even doing it a small amount, with the resultant vortices created by such tricks, can be tantamount to creating a physically sealed edge between the car and the track.

With the cat out the bag in that respect, it will be about how swiftly the governing body reacts to any obvious attempts to overtly flex the floor.

But, as it did in 2021 when adding and strengthening pre-existing tests in regards to rear wing flexibility, it has shown it is willing to step in if it feels teams are pushing the limits too much.

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