The 2022 F1 cars have the tendency to hop up and down. Not at the front of the monocoque, at the level of the T-Tray as before, but more to the rear, at the level of the area immediately in front of the diffuser.
Ferrari have figured out that with a flexible rear of the floor, the area just in front of the rear wheels, the floor can be made to 'crawl' around the track, instead of the car jumping.
On the straights, this means that the car can be as low as possible on the track, which indeed eliminates a large part of the downforce, but that's what is needed, because downforce also means drag. In the corners, especially the fast ones, the car also sinks in, but not to the point where it drags on the ground. That's where the flexible rear floor comes in handy.
The 'drooping' floor seals off the airflow under the car, resulting in more aerodynamic load. This allows a team to tune the car with less overall downforce to reduce drag as much as possible, while in the fast corners the flexible floors still provide the desired downforce.
Will teams with an advantage now still have the edge in 2023?
Red Bull have noticed the cutaway in the floor of the Ferrari that divides the airflow into multiple portions, resulting in a flexible floor. It is believed that Adrian Newey unravelled the idea behind it, and Red Bull have since come up with their own version (see photos above for comparison).
At Silverstone, both teams used this floor, the difference being that Red Bull, unlike Ferrari, also used it in qualifying and the race.
Silverstone's flat nature makes it the perfect circuit to test the performance of this floor. There is a lot of potential in the design, something the FIA also knows.
They want to limit the flexibility of the floor as much as possible. It was suggested that the team could use an extra support stand on the car to improve the stiffness of the floor. Ferrari and Red Bull's solution would be good for one to at most two tenths per lap.
Moreover, there is a good chance that the teams that are already so far into the aerodynamic development of the cars will also be the teams to beat next year.
Mercedes may have made steps in the right direction, but it is clear that it will be easier for the teams that have already made progress to design a car without significant problems than for teams that first had to find the right balance in the car and then start developing it.
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