Stella: Ground effect can be exploited beyond what anybody anticipated

Stella: Ground effect exploited beyond what anybody anticipated

Stella: Ground effect can be exploited beyond what anybody anticipated
Andrea Stella, McLaren’s Team Principal, admitted the new ground effect Formula 1 aero rules proved to be less restrictive than expected, offering more chances of exploitation than anyone anticipated.

Formula 1 introduced a new set of aero regulations in 2022, with downforce being generated through ground effect, rather than air flow manipulation over the top surfaces of F1 cars, with the aim of improving the racing as the new cars were expected to be able to follow each other closely without being affected by the dirty air of the car ahead, which ultimately proved to be true.

Another aspect of the new regulations was the details in which they were written trying eradicate as much loopholes as possible, to prevent teams from exploiting them, which could mean that a certain team could find a trick and run away with the Championship.

As such, many feared the rules were too restrictive and prescriptive as well, which could mean that all the cars will end up looking the same, but in fact, we ended up with a few design philosophies on the grid, the best being for Red Bull, then Ferrari, while Mercedes’ slim sidepod design was a flop.

That is not to mention the trickery F1 engineers are hiding in the floors of the cars and the Venturi tunnels that run under them to generate as much downforce as possible.

McLaren’s Andrea Stella admitted the new rules are offering various development paths for the teams, with numerous solutions available to maximize the performance of the floors of the new generation of F1 cars.

“I have to admit, and I think most teams should admit the same, that before the new generation of cars touched the ground, we thought that the regulations were quite restrictive,” he said.

Teams are unveiling more solutions than previously expected

“But interestingly, as soon as you start the journey, you realise there’s a lot of performance, especially on the floor. This ground effect can be exploited from a technical point of view beyond what I think anybody in Formula 1 would have anticipated,” Stella explained.

“If you see the level of sophistication of the geometries, you may see on some cars, especially possibly in the parts facing the ground, so not necessarily very visible, and the complexity of the flow field, and the vertical structures that you want to generate under the car, then these went beyond what the regulations would have expected.

“That’s from a technical point of view, a fascinating journey,” the Italian maintained, adding that teams who are better in applying the new rules will benefit.

“From a spectacle point of view it means that whoever does a better job, like Red Bull is doing at the moment, can gain a consistent competitive advantage beyond what could have been anticipated,” he commented.

“So there’s technical reasons why that is, and ultimately means there’s a premium for those who do a better job than the others,” Stella concluded.

McLaren do not seem to have been creative enough in their application of the new aero rules, as their first F1 car built to them in 2022, the MCL36, was not good enough and they finished that season fifth in the Constructors’ Standings.

The 2023 season turned out to be worse for the Woking squad, as their MCL60 apparently is up to scratch, with the team firing their tech boss James Key and restructuring the technical department after three races of their current campaign.