Ricciardo impressed by F1 ingenuity
By Mat Coch
Thursday 25th March, 2021 - 10:48am
Daniel Ricciardo has been left impressed by the ability of Formula 1 designers to find ways around new aerodynamic regulations for 2021.
Rule changes have been designed to reduce the amount of downforce in an effort to slow the cars down and reduce the load on the tyres.
That’s focused on the floor of cars, with a wedge removed from in front of the rear wheels, and another from around the bargeboards.
Underneath the cars, the strakes within the diffuser are also now more tightly restricted.
With rules forcing teams to carry over last year’s car into the new season, it was hoped the changes would be sufficient to reduce grip levels and, therefore, speed.
However, feedback from drivers after pre-season testing have suggested that, while the changes have had an impact, it’s not been as large as expected.
“When you look at the lap times, I think it shows how impressive F1 is from a development point of view – how new regulations can be thrown at the teams to reduce car performance, but teams quickly find ways to get that performance back,” Ricciardo said.
“The car was sliding more on the first day of the test, which left me thinking that the cars would be trickier to drive this year because of the downforce lost at the rear due to the aero changes.
“But, as the test continued, it became apparent that this was down to the track conditions – the wind, the sand – and by day two, and definitely day three, the car felt very similar to last year.”
McLaren’s MCL35M sported a design which saw a unique interpretation of the diffuser restrictions during pre-season testing.
The diffuser is a critical component when it comes to downforce generation.
In recent seasons, teams have worked hard to shape the edges of their floors, particularly around the rear wheels, such that it moves the turbulent air from the tyres away from the underside of the car.
With less turbulence, the car is able to create more downforce.
It is that principle which the floor changes, and raising of the strakes within the diffuser, had sought to address.
However, McLaren’s approach has seen it maintain longer strakes, but move them slightly inboard – within 250mm of the car’s centreline as permitted by the regulations.
“It really highlights just how clever the engineers are; sometimes I wonder why we don’t open up the regulations and let them do what they want because, in the end, they’re always going to find a way around the rules,” Ricciardo suggested.
“I go back and forth in my head trying to decide whether being a driver is the hardest job in F1, but I always end up at the same conclusion: driving must be the easy job because look how many brains are needed in the team to design, build and operate an F1 car.”
The 2021 Formula 1 season is begins this weekend with the Bahrain Grand Prix, Free Practice 1 scheduled for 22:30 AEDT on Friday.