During the Monaco Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton‘s Mercedes collided with the barrier at Mirabeau, resulting in the car being lifted into the Monaco skyline. This incident gave spectators a rare glimpse of the W14‘s underfloor. The underside of the car is an area that is rarely seen by the public due to logistical constraints caused by marshals having to lift stricken cars off the track. This makes it difficult for photographers to capture the finer details. However, the cranes used to clear the track in Monaco have allowed photographers to capture images of the underside of the Ferrari, Mercedes, and Red Bull cars this weekend.
Despite the hype surrounding these images, they offer valuable pieces of information about the direction the teams have taken with new regulations. Comparing the Mercedes floor to the Red Bull, which has one of the most detailed underfloor designs in the field, the former appears to have less going on in terms of the surface topology. Red Bull has been much more eager to contort the floor and floor strakes to micromanage the airflow’s behavior and pressure distribution. That said, Mercedes has taken design cues from its rivals. It has incorporated a jagged keel design to manage the expansion into the diffuser section. This design change aims to achieve better flow stability, improving the car’s ride height changes.
The team has debuted a raft of changes this weekend, with the new floor being one of them. Timing of the incident could not have come at a worse time for the team, having put in so much effort to turn their fortunes around. Mercedes‘ team boss, Toto Wolff, called Hamilton‘s crash an act straight out of Cirque du Soleil. While images of the underfloor give fans a sneak peek into the inner workings of F1 vehicles, it is important to note that the entire car is in a constant state of design flux. Therefore, the shots showcased on Saturday are just a snapshot in time. The next event could see a completely different design. As such, the development of last season’s underfloors from Red Bull, McLaren, and Ferrari serves as a prime example.