But have we seen enough evidence from the first race to judge who is on the right track and who will have to think again?
On the one hand, we have the mainstream thinkers who have taken the new rules at face value when it comes to dealing with the lost floor section.
Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Haas, McLaren and Williams all have floors that narrow at the rear as required by regulations. They largely avoided having too much aero furniture on the edge of the floor to redirect the airflow as well.
Floor comparison Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Haas, McLaren, Williams
Photo by: uncredited
Meanwhile, Mercedes, Aston Martin, Red Bull and AlphaTauri all have a very different fix on their cars since testing, while Alpine joined their ranks in the first race of the season.
The five teams using this floor design created a Z-shaped edge on their floor, with a section cutout about 200mm back from where the floor begins to taper. This led to the teams giving up some of the total floor space available, but giving them more flexibility in terms of floor shape.
The yellow highlighted area (below) shows where the ground would have previously spread in 2020, while the dotted line represents where the edge of the ground would be, had the teams followed the intent of the settlement.
Comparison of Red Bull and Mercedes floors
Photo by: uncredited
The teams that opted for this Z-shaped cutout essentially reverted to a floor edge parallel to the car’s centerline, as was the case in previous years. This suggests that they weren’t happy with how the tapered edge affected the flow to the rear of the car.
That’s not to say that they all followed the same path, with this image clearly showing just how individualized this design can be.
In particular, Red Bull chose to design the edge of its floor to have a much longer section so that it was parallel to the centerline of the car compared to what Mercedes opted for.
The Z-shaped rim also helps these teams create flow structures / eddies at a point on the ground where other flow structures might otherwise break or stray from their intended path.
They accentuate this more with the contour of the floor and the fins mounted next to it, with Aston Martin perhaps the most aggressive in this regard.
The fins (two rows in the case of Aston Martin – see main image) are placed at a point on the ground where they will have an impact on how the airflow moves around the sidepod. However, its role with respect to the soil will be to realign the flow structures with the right edge of the soil in mind.
This area of the car should be a hotbed of development this season, as each team finds additional gains from the interacting flow structures and adjusts them accordingly.
Alpine, for example, has already made a serious effort in this regard (see image below), because while he has not only joined the other four teams already using the Z-shaped ground cutout in Bahrain, but he also had a number of pieces to try in combination with that.
Alpine A521 Floor Comparison
Photo by: uncredited
Alpine’s testing schedule highlights the interests of the team at this early stage of the season, with two key areas seemingly most ripe for development: the area around which the ground begins to taper and the area in front of the rear tire.
In the case of Alpine, the soil tested in preseason did not have a cutout or Z-shaped fins (V1 Blue). But, after installing a floor with the cutout, the team tested two other solutions, one of them (V2 Blue) not only had the two silver colored fins mounted side by side and offset one from the ‘other, but also two shorter triangulars. shaped fins mounted further downstream (red arrows).
However, he decided to race with a slightly less aggressive solution, with a single fin mounted on the edge of the floor cutout (V3 Blue).
A batch of solutions was also tested just before the rear tire, with the one-piece strake used in the pre-season test (V1 White), first in favor of the trio of strakes used in later stages of the preseason. -season test (V2 White) then in combined test with two other solutions (V3 White and V4 White).
V3 and V4 both have four sections, albeit in a slightly different way, with V3 only having slits on part of the descent from the surface, while V4 is made up of four individual strakes.
Not a one-dimensional problem
As we saw during the restructuring of the pecking order in the opening races, this is not a universal equation, as each of the teams is at a different stage of the development cycle, having used up the resources. in different ways. .
There is also a tussle over resources, because while the floor is by far the most important change in regulation, there are other changes that could impact them and the overall performance of the car. too.
Reducing the height of the strakes, for example, could play a role in the difference between low and high rake shoes, as their proximity to the ground plane is even more extensive.
In the case of low rake runners, teams likely exploited the vortex created by the ground proximity to strakes in the past, which in turn generally contributed to flow through the diffuser.
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The overall design of the Mercedes diffuser is almost identical to that of 2020, at this point, except for the design of the strakes, which have been reduced in height by 50mm to comply with the new rules.
McLaren is the real outlier in this regard, so far having used a clever interpretation of regulation to maintain higher strakes in the diffuser midsection.
Connecting its strakes in the center 500mm of the car to the transition wall allowed the team to keep the higher strakes. But it comes at a cost, because it has to maintain a single section in that region.
This means that if you were to take a slice in this section, you would have no breaks in the slice. This compromises the overall shape of the boat’s tail and means there can be no slits in the strakes to optimize flow around them.
So it will be interesting to see if there are any changes in this area throughout the season, as designers look for ways to improve the aerodynamic transmission of flow structures from area of the car to the other.