Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

Tech analysis: The F1 development battle you may have missed

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While the most talked about avenue of new car development this year has revolved around Shark Fins and T-wings, there is another area that of aggressive change that has slipped a bit beneath the radar.

With downforce and car balance – especially at the rear of the car – so important in 2017, teams have been focusing a lot of effort on controlling airflow in this area of the car.

And one of the key ways that has flowed through from last year's cars is the use of slots and holes in the side of the floor.

The use of these is aimed at controlling tyre squirt – which is airflow being pushed under the car by the rotating rear wheel.

Different approaches

There are actually two schools of thought going on here, one that is an expansion of what we've seen done by teams under the previous regulations, and one that is totally new approach to this area of the car.

Haas VF-17 floor details, captioned
Haas VF-17 floor details, captioned

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

In the case of Haas (above), it has essentially worked harder on a design we've seen over the last few years, where almost imperceptible slots are made to the floor's edge to create a hole further inboard.

Haas has created a much larger floor scroll than the ones we ordinarily see, with the scroll detached from the floor's surface in order that airflow can circulate around it.

The scroll is held in place by the two triangular strakes that are askew to the edge of the floor. These provide an aerodynamic purpose themselves, changing the direction of the airflow as it moves across the upper surface of the floor, before circulating between both the upper and lower surfaces of the detached scroll.

The detachment mentioned is due to a perforation that runs right from the edge of the floor all the way around the scroll (arrowed), whilst another slot is present midway along the floor's surface.

Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12 floor detail
Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12 floor detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The other school of thought is an example of Toro Rosso's out of the box thinking, with the Faenza-based team well known for creating solutions that find their way onto other challengers up and down the grid.

The solution used by Toro Rosso is a fully enclosed hole, with no need for a slot to the edge of the floor like the ones seen at Haas. To create this, the designers have taken advantage of the rewording of the regulations surrounding the new width of the floor.

Ferrari SF70H and SF16-H top view comparison
Ferrari SF70H and SF16-H top view comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The new regulations allow teams to extend the floor a further 100mm either side of the car than was previously possible.

However, Article 3.7.9 of F1's Technical Regulations flies in the face of fully enclosed holes in this area, allowing them to be placed within that outer 100mm (highlighted in yellow) area as long as they are between 350mm forward of the rear wheel centreline and 450mm forward of the rear face of the cockpit, and as long as they meet with the floor radius rules.

These conditions are why there is a complex curvature that goes into their formation at either end.

Other solutions

Mercedes AMG F1 W08 sidepod detail
Mercedes AMG F1 W08 sidepod detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Toro Rosso's solution is one that Mercedes has come up with too, and it interesting that both the Italian and British outfits have done this alongside adopting the same concept for the displaced upper wishbone in its front suspension.

Following suit

McLaren MCL32 floor details, captioned
McLaren MCL32 floor details, captioned

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

McLaren set its stall out in China when it joined Mercedes and Toro Rosso in implementing its own floor hole. The hole that features on the MCL32 carries the same signature, mounted 100mm from the floor's edge, along with a similar upturn at either end taking advantage of the radius rules.

However, in McLaren's case, it seems to have taken things a little further, running a much longer version - so much so in fact that it has placed a metal insert midway along its length to increase rigidity (red arrow).

Red Bull does it own thing

Red Bull Racing RB13 cut
Red Bull Racing RB13 cut

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

While other teams have been busying themselves with slots and holes, Red Bull has taken a different approach - cutting away a section of the floor right up to the 100mm limit.

Red Bull RB8 rear end detail
Red Bull RB8 rear end detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Interestingly, Red Bull was the last team to use a fully enclosed hole in it floor, albeit just ahead of the rear tyre, on its 2012 car.

The FIA didn't look kindly on it interpretation back then though and clarified that holes in this area of the floor weren't permissible. This ruling came after mounting pressure from the other teams.

With the way the rules are written at the moment, it's hard to see a point in the future where development won't lead back to this sort of design.

Ferrari flap

Ferrari SF70H, floor
Ferrari SF70H, floor

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari, like Red Bull, has its own interpretation, dealing with the area a little differently again. Although its floor is slotted like Haas, it is done so without a full perforation. Instead, the carefully curved profile displaces the high pressure airflow in order to improve the performance of the floor and diffuser.

There has been much talk about this area of the car though, particularly because footage of the car has shown this profile to fluttering whilst under load.

Of course no part of the car can be infinitely rigid, otherwise it would simply break when loaded, but the nature of the fluttering did intrigue many. Whether that was by design or accident, for Bahrain the team strengthened this area with a metal insert.

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF70-H
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF70-H

Photo by: Sutton Images

However, even after adding these inserts into the floor, it was still seen flexing at the post Bahrain GP test (above), with not only the forward section adrift but also the most rearward tyre squirt slot too.

Ferrari SF70H bargeboard
Ferrari SF70H bargeboard

Photo by: Sutton Images

Another area that is prime for development is one that several teams have already taken advantage of due to the new-found relaxation of the bodywork regulations ahead of the sidepod and floor.

This change of regulation was focused on allowing teams more scope with which to create and shape their bargeboards, but of course other surfaces have started to populate the region too.

The surfaces in question act as an extension to the car's splitter, and are angled in the same way the rules dictate the leading edge of the floor/sidepods should be.

These splitter extensions are used as a way of priming the airflow before it reaches the next surface, but in the case of Ferrari it clearly wanted to bleed some of the airflow from the underside.

By doing so, it could inject it into the flow that's making its way around the sidepod's undercut, placing a fully enclosed hole in the surface in order to achieve this.

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Series Formula 1
Article type Analysis
Topic Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis