A technical debate that has always remained at the center of attention during the current Formula 1 season, in view of the 2023 championship, concerns the sidepod designs of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. The three top teams have adopted aerodynamic shapes with very different concepts for their 2022 cars.
Teams from the second part of the standings, such as Williams and Aston Martin, have modified their concepts during the current season to adopt a design with a clear trend towards the Red Bull philosophy, with wide sides but sloping towards the rear.
The Ferrari sidepods have a clear deporting function with the wide flare at the top and a rather pronounced front part. The aerodynamic layout of the F1-75 in fact does not tend too much to reward the flow of air over the floor. On the contrary, Red Bull is the team that directs the passage of air between the lower part of the sidepods and the upper edge of the floor to the extreme, advancing the cooling vents and creating a large flare that many other teams have copied during the 2022 Formula 1 season, as pointed out by F1 techincal expert Rosario Giuliana for formu1a.uno.
The extreme straight-line speed of the RB18 is only partly given by the shape of the sidepods, which we could define as having high aerodynamic efficiency. In fact, we must add the obsessive care linked to the rear suspension to be able to stall the rear part of the RB18, as well as a Honda power unit at the top of the performance compared to other power units. For its part, Ferrari could count on a higher mechanical aero load peak, partly lost (especially the second one) due to the introduction of Technical Directive 39, only in part, namely that relating to the flexing of the skid.
It is interesting to note that if Ferrari wants to adopt a Red Bull philosophy in the initial part of the sidepods on its 2023 car, it will necessarily have to review the internal dimensions of the chassis and above all the positioning of the anti-intrusion cones. In fact, the Red Bull chassis allows the lower side impact structure to be housed inside the mouths of the Venturi ducts, having a wider channel in the undercut part.
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The SIS is in fact positioned at the lower part of the limit allowed by the regulation. What was thought, then designed by Ferrari, instead went in another direction, namely to have a Venturi duct free of “obstacles”, sacrificing the upper part, therefore keeping the anti-intrusion cone in a higher position. This has generated limits in the possibility of developing the F1-75, so much so that in Maranello they were able to carry out only a slight intervention in this area, with a slight change at Silverstone, the maximum that could be done due to the low position of the anti-intrusion cone.
The F1-75 can be considered a real ground effect car, even more so with the limitation imposed by the Technical Directive 39 regarding the skid. Since Spa, the Italian car, as directly admitted by Mattia Binotto, must run low and stiff, while previously it could take advantage of very soft mechanics also thanks to a ‘flexible’ skid that entered the bottom also in order not to wear out excessively.
Red Bull, on the other hand, is a car with a greater aerodynamic compromise, and which in some respects resembles more the old generation of cars and not exactly ground effect cars. On his side, the Ferrari philosophy has the particularity in its upper part where it will certainly be much more complex to copy for other cars that do not adopt the Ferrari Power Unit, due to the different dimensions it offers compared to the layout of other engines.
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