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

Why F1 teams had to unlock cost cap handcuffs for Belgian GP

Formula 1 teams have historically produced bespoke update packages for the Belgian Grand Prix in a bid to reduce drag to better suit the track characteristics of Spa-Francorchamps.

Why F1 teams had to unlock cost cap handcuffs for Belgian GP
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But, against the backdrop of the cost cap, teams have had to be especially cautious about spending on development – and have had to be convinced about performance gains to justify the spending.

That prompted a possibility of teams holding back on too much for this weekend race in Belgium to try to get through it as best as possible.

And while there may not have been the extent of changes we have seen in the past, F1 teams still focused on a raft of new front and rear wing tweaks to better chase laptime.

Ferrari was looking to achieve its lower downforce and drag targets with a new rear wing and beam wing assembly.

But it only gave it an outing in FP2 before switching to a familiar low-downforce specification for the rest of the weekend.

Nonetheless, the new wing features a flattened-out mainplane and top flap, which almost eliminates the spoon-shaped design that’s usually favoured by the Scuderia.

Meanwhile, its submission for the car presentation document suggested it also had a single element beam wing solution at its disposal, in order to skew the aerodynamic interaction between it, the diffuser and the rear wing above, but it’s not yet been seen on the car.

Furthermore, unlike some of its rivals, Ferrari hadn’t listed a new front wing amongst its upgrades for Spa, but that’s not to say that it hasn’t trimmed the uppermost flap to help balance downforce front-to-rear.

Mercedes W13 front wing
Mercedes W13 rear wing

Mercedes has a number of new parts available for the W13 in Belgium, as it hoped to be able to build on the momentum it had gained in recent races.

The front wing features revisions to the wing tip elements where they meet with the endplate, as the team looks to improve how the airflow behaves as it migrates around the outside of the front tyre.

The rear wing features revised flap distribution, in keeping with the demands of the circuit, whilst the Mercedes designers have clearly kept a keen eye on a design first introduced by Alpine in Saudi Arabia, whereby the conventional endplate cutout is cast aside and a full height section is utilised instead.

McLaren MCL36 rear wing Belgian GP
McLaren MCL36 technical detail

McLaren also opted for a lower downforce configuration for Spa, with a new specification rear wing and beam wing layout added to its available pool of parts.

One of the lower downforce rear wings that the team had at its disposal was a more traditional design, whilst a design that features a trimmed upper flap is also present.

In this instance the central portion of the wing has its usual chord length to facilitate the DRS mechanism but is trimmed significantly either side of this. 

The new rear wing options are just the focal point of an expansive effort being made by the team to improve the MCL36’s efficiency.

Other changes include a cache of different cooling options around the sidepods and engine cover, as it hopes to select a combination that fits with the ever-changing weather conditions at the circuit, a revised diffuser layout, additional rear brake duct winglets and a new front track rod fairing.

AlphaTauri AT03 rear end detail

AlphaTauri AT03 rear end detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

AlphaTauri’s new rear wing assembly follows in the footsteps of its predecessors from a concept perspective, with the overall spoon-shaped design retained whilst the elements have been reduced in size.

Inline with this alteration, the team has also opted for just a single beam wing element this weekend, which is supplemented by a Gurney flap on its trailing edge in order to help with balance. This can be trimmed according to driver preference.

The team has also altered the incidence of the lower wishbone shroud and added another larger winglet to the cascade already housed on the rear brake duct.

Aston Martin AMR22 rear wing detail

Aston Martin AMR22 rear wing detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Aston Martin has also made changes to both its front and rear wings, with a reduced chord upper flap deployed on the front wing to help balance a similar change on the rear wing. 

Sebastian Vettel also briefly tested another rear wing solution during FP1 (above), as the team looked to get a head start on understanding its car for Monza, with the wing featuring a very small footprint when compared to the wing used in Belgium.

Williams FW44 rear wing detail

Williams FW44 rear wing detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Williams appeared to be on the fence as to what will best suit their car in Belgium, with the team specifying that its new parts are optional trim levels – so are in effect just cut back.

This includes the front, rear and beam wing layouts, with the latter also including a single element arrangement being placed at its disposal.

Alfa Romeo Racing C42 rear detail
Haas VF-22 rear detail

Alfa Romeo and Haas have opted to trim their rear wings in an effort to reduce drag without the costs associated with producing bespoke solutions.

In the case of Haas, it has taken a similar approach to the one Mercedes took at the start of the season, with a large cutout made to the trailing edge of the upper flap across the entirety of its span.

Meanwhile, Alfa Romeo also cut out a considerable section of the upper flaps trailing edge, but has been forced to retain the central section in order to facilitate the DRS mechanism.

And, whilst Haas has taken up the option to also trim its beam wing to suit the new characteristics of the rear wing, Alfa Romeo has also made changes to the design of its front wing which are conducive to those made at the rear.

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