F1 regulations offer more freedom than expected

F1 regulations offer more technical freedom than expected

F1 regulations offer more technical freedom than expected

The current F1 technical regulations offer designers greater technical freedom than initially expected.

New rules were introduced last year as the sport returned to ground effects for the first time in four decades.

The changes were designed to improve the on-track spectacle by allowing cars to run closer together.

However, the new era of regulations also introduced more limitations for F1 designers than ever before.

That led to fears that the cars would look extremely similar with few individual characteristics or avenues for development.

“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,” began McLaren team principal Andrea Stella.

“But interestingly, as soon as you kind of start the journey, you realise there’s a lot of performance.

“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.

“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 I think went beyond what the regulations would have expected.

“That’s, from a technical point of view, a fascinating journey.”

Arguments the rules haven’t worked

Critics of the current F1 regulations argue that the changes aimed at improving the competition have failed.

Red Bull romped away with last year’s championship and looks on course to do the same this year.

Teams disagree and have long claimed cars are able to run more closely than they could previously.

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

“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.”

Formula 1 is a meritocracy with designers empowered to outsmart their rivals.

In the early phase of any new regulatory cycle, the difference front to rear is going to be exaggerated.

Engineers will identify different areas of exploration before eventually converging on the most efficient solution.

That is already beginning to happen, with two clear theories on sidepod design the most obvious indicator.

McLaren sits fifth in the constructors’ championship after three rounds, courtesy of a double-points finish in Australia.

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix is next, where the Woking squad plans to introduce a number of updates to the MCL60.

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