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

Tech: The Red Bull F1 'ice skate' that could be its porpoising cure

One of the key performance drivers for the current generation of ground effect Formula 1 cars is underfloor aerodynamics, an area that is often hidden from view.

Tech: The Red Bull F1 'ice skate' that could be its porpoising cure
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And just as we've seen a variety of different sidepod solutions from teams this year, it appears – from the glimpses we have been able to get – there are varied approaches to the floor too.

Each team has its own interpretation on how best to extract performance within the bounds of the new regulations, albeit with each of them studying their rivals' designs in order to try to work out the optimum solution.

And with porpoising remaining such a headache, and the role the floor aero plays in this being critical, there has been some intrigue since Imola about a concept Red Bull is using on the underside of its RB18.

Red Bull's floor features an 'ice skate' strake - a metal strip with holes in it - which sits in the rear outer corner of the floor and appears to offer numerous performance advantages.

Red Bull Racing RB18 floor detail

Red Bull Racing RB18 floor detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The most obvious suggestion is that the metal strake inhibits the floor's flexion under load, so stops porpoising being triggered too early.

This could be achieved in two ways: firstly by adding some stiffness directly to that region of the floor, but secondly by it acting as a skid of sorts, in stopping the floor flexing any more once it has touched the track itself. This will be why the component is metal rather than carbon so doesn't wear away as much.

It's worth nothing that whilst many of Red Bull's rivals have been forced to add metal stays on the upper surface of the floor to prevent the floor from flexing too much, Red Bull has not - suggesting it has the matter under control.

That's not to say it won't eventually, but it is clear the team's current arrangement doesn't require one in order to satisfy its performance needs.

As we've seen from Alpine, which introduced a new floor at Imola, the inclusion of a stay can be beneficial in terms of saving weight, as there will be less material needed in the floor to meet the same strength targets.

Going back to the Red Bull 'ice skate' strake – there are also some aerodynamic benefits to be had with its inclusion.

The surface is not only closely aligned with the floor edge drop off, it also takes an abrupt turn towards the rear edge, which will result in the propagation of a vortex.

However, it's also worth bearing in mind that the strake has some holes placed along its length which might be considered significant from an aerodynamic point of view.

Whilst studying this image, thanks to the Red Bull mechanics setting it aside in the garage, it's also worth taking note of a few other features of the RB18's floor, such as the metal insert used in the floor edge cut-out, which limits its flexing, whilst the shaping of the central hull is also of interest.

Not only is there a steep outward curvature in the forward section, there's also an interesting Z-shaped stepped geometry as the boat tail reduces in cross section at the rear and meets with the diffuser.

Interestingly, this brings to mind the kind of design you might associate with the hull design in the boat industry, rather than F1's usual association with aerospace.

Having opted for this design feature, Red Bull has yet to express an interest in pushing the diffuser kick line forward, as the regulations allow, with some of its rivals having used multiple advancements in this respect to increase the diffuser's volume from a vertical perspective.

Instead, Red Bull has opted for a more gradual vertical transition, which could be helping it when we consider the ramifications posed by porpoising.

Ferrari F1-75 bottom view
Ferrari F1-75 and McLaren MCL36 floor comparison

Ferrari has taken a different approach, having opted for a much gentler hull and strake shape. The 'edge wing' seen in this image was introduced at the start of the season, with the team trialling a new floor in Australia that featured a new layout.

But, as it only had one at its disposal, it opted not to race it there nor in the race that followed at Imola.

The floor features a revised edge, discarding the McLaren style edge wing it appropriated earlier in the season. But, perhaps more importantly, it also features a strake mounted beneath the floor in a similar fashion to the Red Bull.

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It also appears the team followed up on the limited running it did during free practice in Australia, as it performed back-to-back tests with the two floor configurations at the recent Pirelli tyre test, which is now within the bounds of the regulations as current cars can be used for such runs.

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari F1-75, floor detail
Carlos Sainz, Ferrari F1-75, floor detail
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