On a soil steeped in historical memory such as Silverstone, Formula 1 writes another important page in its history by presenting the first full-size prototype of the next generation of cars. The shapes and the aerodynamic philosophy had already been known for some time, initially leaked through the renderings and subsequently by means of the scale model unveiled in Austin in 2019. The presentation that took place in English however offers the same the opportunity to comment on the guidelines behind the upcoming regulatory revolution, also allowing you to better appreciate the details escaped the eye on previous occasions.
A necessary premise linked to the rapidly spreading terminology with which the new single-seaters are identified, renamed as ground effect cars. This nickname is in fact effective in conveying the new aerodynamic philosophy, which decisively aims to favor the generation of load from the bottom over the wing appendages, but at the same time risks distorting understanding.
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Ground effect has been prevalent in Formula 1 for decades, including the last regulatory cycle still in use, and among its possible more generic meanings it identifies the generation of load from the underbody, exploiting the greater speed and the consequent lower pressure of the flows in the section between the bottom and the ground. However, the benefits linked to the aerodynamic interaction between the bottom and the ground are also defined with the ground effect, researched at the turn of the 70s and 80s through the physical skirts used to seal the environment under the car body, subsequently moving on to the development of pneumatic skirts, structures consisting of vortices to search for the seal effect again.
All images of the 2022 prototype – [FOTO]
The return of the Venturi canal
The ground effect will be present with the 2022 single-seaters, understood both in the broader concept as a broad aerodynamic generation from the bottom and as a search for a partial seal effect by means of pneumatic skirts, but this does not embody the real difference compared to the current generation of cars. The big change, on the other hand, lies in the greater weight covered by the aerodynamic load given off by the bottom as a percentage of the overall downforce., possible thanks to the complete redesign of the underbody, passing from a flat bottom to a shaped one to introduce two Venturi channels on its sides.
The side view of the new single-seater perfectly outlines the shape of the Venturi canal, recognizable by the higher and wider section in the front part of the bottom that tapers progressively towards the rear, then expands again and flows into the rear diffuser. The structure is such as to facilitate the channeling of air under the car body thanks to the wider inlet “mouth”, while the narrowing in the central section leads to an acceleration of flows and a consequent pressure drop in the lower portion compared to the external environment, resulting in downforce. With the 2022 single-seaters there is thus the exasperation of the Venturi effect currently already exploited and at the basis of the load generation from the bottom.
In addition to the presence of the two Venturi channels, the new single-seaters will differ from the previous ones in many respects. Starting from the front wing, you can see how the terminal part of the nose hooks directly to the main profile of the aileron without the aid of any support pillar, an absence that obstructs any possible local passage of flows and prevents the affixing of any cape, at least in the most advanced part. The channeling of the air under the nose to then flow towards the bottom takes place exclusively under the primary profile of the wing, which by its own to favor such a process has a slightly arched and raised design in the center (1). Always at the front you can see how the upper profiles of the wing extend throughout their width, joining the nose in the lateral part (2). In this way, the free ends of the appendages and the aerodynamic vortices generated by them are canceled, the management of which towards the rear constitutes one of the main aspects of the development of current cars.
The same front impact structure has been strengthened to be able to absorb 15% more energy than in the past, for the benefit of safety. The novelty of greatest impact for the teams, however, is the particularly low design of the nose, with repercussions on the arrangement of the front suspension arms and of the internal components of the spring-shock absorber group. Precisely this aspect could represent one of the battlegrounds between the technicians in the next season, potentially offering the opportunity to explore design choices different from current trends.
Before looking at the center of the car, the attention is captured by the wheels. In fact, they present gods wheel covers to reduce drag and turbulence generated, while the tire is topped with an appendix that, in addition to mitigating the turbulence itself, impacts on the distribution of the pressure field in the area behind it. On the sides of the passenger compartment one cannot fail to notice the different shape of the air intakes of the side radiators and the absence of bargeboards and other appendages, to underline the complete aerodynamic review of the bottom.
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At the rear, the decidedly anomalous shape of the rear wing arouses curiosity due to the absence of the traditional external vertical strips of the endplates, useful to prevent or at least limit the generation of eddies at the ends, replaced by two large connections with the lower structure. The real novelty that can be appreciated from the rear shot, however, is the return of the beam wing, that is the double aerodynamic profile placed immediately above the diffuser, which outlines a real additional wing. More than for the direct generation of downforce, the importance of beam wing lies in the contribution made in defining the low pressure zone in the area behind the car. In fact, it facilitates the extraction of the flows from the diffuser, which thus acquire further speed under the bottom, intensifying the load generated by the underbody.
The new design philosophy was conceived to reduce the aerodynamic disturbance for the pursuing car, an aspect that should facilitate close pursuits and consequently overtaking maneuvers. As for the forecasts of lap times, Otmar Szafnauer recently expressed himself like this a FormulaPassion: “I think on some circuits they will be significantly slower and on others they will be on the same pace or marginally faster. It all depends on which track is being analyzed, but on some they will be between two and two and a half seconds slower, while on others not so much.“. The simplified forms and the openness of Aston Martin’s Team Principal to the possibility for new single-seaters to compete if not outright prevail over current cars at certain circuits suggests that the loss in load and cornering speed may have led to less drag. progress, with a consequent increase in straight distances.
In any case, the new regulations introduce an aerodynamic philosophy in contrast to the one proposed in recent years. The change of course will pose the teams to face important challenges both in the design phase and in the subsequent understanding of the ideal set-ups to make the most of the potential of the single-seaters. Added to this are the opportunities to renew the suspension kinematics and the arrangement of the internal components of the power unit to optimize the package according to the different aerodynamic philosophy, thus instilling not a little curiosity in view of the presentations of the individual teams during the coming winter.