The 2023 F1 season is entering its final phase, with the Austin GP starting a sequence of events on the American continent before arriving at the final stage in Abu Dhabi. Most of the teams have concluded the development program, although some still have important updates scheduled.
Among the top teams, Mercedes is the one that will bring innovations to Austin, while among smaller teams, Haas has its sights set on COTA as it prepares a package of important innovations.
New ‘sloping’ sidepods for Haas in Austin, the latest team to follow the Red Bull philosophy.
As we had already reported before the summer break, Haas concentrated on its most important developments in the second part of the season. The American team was hopeful they had some potential at the start of the championship – via a good baseline with the VF-23.
However, this good base did not materialize into encouraging results. This is due to a series of factors, including reliability and tire management problems.
The team’s lack of significant updates meant that the VF-23 fell behind the team’s direct rivals: Alpha Tauri, Alfa Romeo and Williams.
For the technical team led by Simone Resta, the first steps forward were made in Hungary (featuring a new floor) and then in Zandvoort (new front wing).
As previously announced, however, the real revolution will take place in Austin. The team will bring a series of modifications that will change the philosophy of the car.
Currently, the VF-23 is the only car left on the grid with bellies not aligned in the Red Bull “fashion”, with the sides sloping towards the rear.
For the American team’s home race, new bodywork will be brought to follow in this direction. From what we have learned, it will be a first step towards a deeper change in philosophy that will take place with next year’s car.
Like Ferrari, the Haas chassis represents limitations
Radically changing a car’s aerodynamic appearance – without touching the chassis and internal mechanics – is an impossibility in 2023. Even more than Mercedes, Ferrari represents the litmus test in this area.
For the SF-23, the change in philosophy with the new bellies introduced in Barcelona was only a first and partial step in view of a more profound retouching that will take place with next year’s car.
The situation will be almost identical for Haas, with chassis and budget limitations preventing a complete aerodynamic overhaul.
The lower intrusion cone with a higher elevation above the bottom is the main obstacle in introducing a scooped undercut, as we saw on the SF-23.
The similarities between Haas and Ferrari are precisely intertwined on this front: the initial idea was not to incorporate the lower cone into the bottom but to have a “cleaner” venturi inlet.
However, this has proven to be an unfavourable compromise if you want to adopt a “Red Bull style” shape, adopting a large undercut.
Austin’s “overhauled” VF-23 won’t be a revolution in that area, and there won’t be an advancement of the cooling vents to recreate a larger “undercut”, as, for example, Alpine did last year.
Changing the undercut geometries implies a radical change in the flow field of the airflow, which should be managed via the outer edge of the bottom. It is clear that a “re-design” of the car body is automatically linked to a reinterpretation of the floor, especially in the area of the external edge. This area has also been touched and will debut on the Haas of Austin.
High sidepods are more limiting; is the best philosophy the McLaren/Aston Martin one?
The next Haas updates will show a convergence towards the Red Bull concept. In any case, this generation of cars is still “young” technically and with other margins for development. Generally speaking, without track testing, extracting potential from these cars is more complicated than with the older generation.
Everything revolves around the functioning of the bottom and its stability in the various aero-mechanical deliveries, which is why we talk about an aerodynamic platform. The winning weapon of the Red Bull philosophy was to be able to optimize what the regulation offered in terms of overall dimensions.
Initially, Ferrari tried to use almost all the volumes allowed by the regulation to manage the flow as much as possible and create “deporting” sidepods. However, this was limiting for extraction in the diffuser and rear axle area.
In the opposite situation, Mercedes’ zero sidepods concept sought to reduce CAD-3D volumes to a minimum. Ultimately, however, this created overly harsh vortices at the front.
Focusing on aerodynamics, the external edge of the floor must be changed relative to the sidepod. The front aerodynamics of the car must be studied alongside the management of airflow.
Aston Martin and McLaren (and to some extent others, such as Alpine) have further evolved the Red Bull concept. This has been combined with aspects of the Ferrari tubs.
A real canal dug downhill along the upper edge of the sidepods emerged, often referred to as a “water slide”. McLaren specifically has developed this concept even more than Aston Martin. The Woking team’s latest specification was introduced in Singapore. This could be the further frontier or philosophy that will be followed.
Author: Rosario Giuliana
Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang