How F1 teams change cars without new parts

Formula 1’s cost cap rules are forcing teams to change their approach to vehicle improvement as they look for ways to improve performance without requiring brand new parts.

A case in point was spotted in Miami last weekend when both Mercedes and Williams went to free practice with different configurations on their cars.

Mercedes W14 comparison – Miami

Photo by: Uncredited

For Mercedes, this resulted in Lewis Hamilton racing with an infill for the upper tip section of the rear wing endplate. Meanwhile, George Russell used a more conventional neckline.

This design difference has a significant impact on the behavior of the outboard section of the wing, where drag and downforce levels are traded off.

This type of experimentation is aided by Mercedes’ decision to produce a rear wing with interchangeable parts, which not only saves money in terms of manufacturing, but also allows for quick aerodynamic setup changes (red arrow).

Meanwhile, at the front of the car, Mercedes trimmed the inner trailing edge of the top flap in a crescent shape to reduce downforce and balance the car with its choices at the rear of the car (blue arrow).

This is a solution we first saw from Alpine in Azerbaijan, as it was also about finding the right front-to-rear balance.

For qualifying and the race, Hamilton continued the arrangement shown above, while Russell switched to the front wing with the cutout but retained the rear wing tip cutout.

More or less?

Williams FW45 tail and beam wing comparison – Miami

Photo by: Uncredited

Williams also experimented with its aerodynamic setup during free practice as it looked for ways to swap performance between the upper rear wing elements and the beam wing.

Alex Albon was tasked with testing the higher downforce rear wing assembly with just a single lower beam wing element while Logan Sargeant did laps with the lower downforce rear wing coupled to a dual beam wing assembly.

In the end, Sargeant switched to the same layout as Albon, as the team relied on more power from the rear wing while improving its straight-line speed with the single-bar wing element.

Time to thinkā€¦

Aston Martin AMR23 cooling panel options

Photo by: Uncredited

Aston Martin added another cooling option in the engine cover to meet the demands of the Miami street circuit.

Several options are available to the team including body panels where the louvers are opened and closed wider, while longer and shorter cover panels are also possible to trade off cooling/heat dissipation for aerodynamic efficiency and vice versa.

Red Bull RB19 asymmetric engine cover cooling

Photo by: Uncredited

Meanwhile, Red Bull has started this season with an asymmetric cooling configuration for the RB19, with the team again opting to use the finned cooling panel only on the right side of the car in Miami (red arrow).

It also toyed with a few options for more or less cooling during free practice before settling on the more expansive option for race and qualifying (bottom, larger inset).

Ferrari SF-23 exterior floor and fence comparison (highlighted)

Photo by: Uncredited

Ferrari will unveil a range of new parts for the SF-23 in the upcoming races to close the gap with Red Bull ahead of it.

It started in Miami when a new floor arrived that featured numerous changes up and down the assembly to offer a performance boost across the spectrum rather than just offering a single focus.

The outer front section of the floor and the shape of the outer fence were modified, with a more pronounced bulge in the front section of the downward ramped section of the floor (see yellow highlights), while the shape and height of the rear became the edge of the floor fence in front of it subsequently also changed.

Changing the curvature will affect how the airflow behaves on the top side, but, perhaps more critically, it will change the space available in the subfloor below, with the shape of the floor fences also likely to be tweaked to further enhance the effect.

Ferrari SF-23 ground detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

There also appear to have been some subtle changes to the various surface contours used around the edge of the floor, with the upward-rolled scroll section and the section that tapers towards the rear tire both being subtly different in Miami.

There were also changes to the diffuser as the team modified the shape of the central boat stern section to take advantage of previous advances.

Ferrari SF-23 tail detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola


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