Over the course of the F1 2021 preseason test in Bahrain, we got a chance to see the cars in action for the first time. However, given that the 2021 regulations necessitated a redesign of the floors of the cars as well as the rear diffuser, special attention was paid to each element.
A quick glance reveals that the floor of the W12 has a waffle-shaped pattern with raised edges dominating the front of the floor in particular. Aston Martin, who last year were accused of copying Mercedes have opted for a similar design philosophy though the AMR21's floor isn't as drastic as the Mercedes', so why exactly has each team opted for this design?
In basic terms, the design is meant to influence airflow better by creating vortices that rotate clockwise and close off the side of the floor over the entire length of the floor. This in turn facilitates the car to trap air and sending as much pressure as possible towards the rear, where the diffuser works to provide an extra bit of downforce.
The reason this design is seen only on the Mercedes and Aston Martin is that these are two cars on the grid that are running with the least amount of rake (the angle at which the car stands stationary on the tarmac).
With low rake cars, the air under the car slows down more than their high rake counterparts, especially at lower speeds. With the possibility of 'leaks' occurring on either side, it makes it all the more important for Mercedes and Aston Martin to seal the floor properly.
Given that the two cars have essentially followed a similar design scheme, it is unsurprising to see an overlap between the two cars. However, it is also important to note that both teams have over the course of the past year started to diverge from in their methodology meaning that the similarities arise due to each car being under the same aerodynamic philosophy.