The concept of reducing disturbed air from cars to promote closer racing has driven changes in the design of Formula 1 cars. Initially, simplifying the upper surfaces of cars and relying more on the underfloor for downforce seemed to achieve this goal. However, teams have now gained a better understanding of the regulations and are exploring intricate solutions to find performance gains, even if it means increasing disturbed airflow behind the car. While these solutions may go against the original intent of the regulations, designers are focused on performance and not necessarily following the intent.
The FIA has made some changes to the regulations to prohibit certain solutions, but not everything has been stopped. For example, Mercedes and Aston Martin introduced front and rear wing endplate solutions respectively, and the regulations were reframed for 2023 to discourage designers from following this development pathway. Mercedes, however, managed to design a variant that maintained the general concept while adhering to the changes in the regulations. On the other hand, Aston Martin‘s solution seems to have been rendered inoperable as no one has reinterpreted its concept so far.
Nevertheless, there has been some development in this area of the car. Both the Alpine A523 and Aston Martin AMR23 introduced a new solution at the Monaco Grand Prix. This new design scheme involves separating the tip section from the mainplane portion of the endplate. Alpine took a more aggressive approach, flattening out the tip section on the A523‘s rear wing to create an air foil profile that increases the wing’s span. This design will impact how pressure gradients interact and adds another shedding surface. Alpine continued to use this solution at the Spanish and Canadian Grands Prix, suggesting its effectiveness in different conditions. However, the FIA will closely monitor the situation as the design deviates from the intended regulations.
Alpine has been known to deviate from the design norm in this region in the past. In fact, it was the first to use a tip section that merged into the endplate without a cutout on the A522 car last season. Mercedes took notice and introduced its own variant by the Belgian Grand Prix. Alpine also showcased design innovation in the lower end of the endplate with an upwashing swage line on the A523‘s bodywork surface this season. Aston Martin also incorporated this feature into its 2023 challenger, indicating similar design trajectories. Even Williams and AlphaTauri have added this solution to their designs. Aston Martin took it a step further by modifying the inboard face of the AMR23‘s rear wing endplate for the Monaco Grand Prix, featuring a similar swage line. This design should enhance the upwash effect in combination with the surrounding aerodynamic surfaces.
Overall, teams are continuously exploring new design solutions within the regulations to improve performance and generate closer racing. While some innovations may deviate from the original intent, teams are pushing boundaries to find gains. The FIA will continue to monitor these developments and may make further changes to control airflow and turbulence in the future.