The result of this slow-down in performance orientated parts arriving at the track inevitably leads to teams narrowing their focus further still, with teammates often running different setups and aerodynamic configurations during free practice sessions as they seek the balance required around the entirety of a lap.
As qualifying approaches this usually leads to convergence on both sides of the garage but, as we’ll discover, that’s not always the case either.
In Abu Dhabi last weekend, the Mercedes pairing started off on the same footing on Friday by running the medium-high downforce rear wing assembly, featuring an upper flap with a cutout in the trailing edge (upper left). However, as the drivers searched for a little more performance in the middle sector of the lap, both tried another lower downforce option (upper right).
The top speed advantage this offered didn’t provide the overall laptime boost they were looking for, owing to the losses accrued in the first and third sectors, and so changes were made on both cars ahead of qualifying.
George Russell actually went one stage further with his setup, opting for a Gurney on the trailing edge of the upper flap that didn’t feature on Lewis Hamilton’s W13. However, whereas Russell had used the upper rear quarter endplate cutout in his breakthrough Brazil weekend (inset), he opted for the full-height variant for Abu Dhabi.
Ferrari F1-75 rear wing comparison
Red Bull RB18 rear wing comparison
Red Bull and Ferrari also toyed with different rear wing configurations during practice, as they both tried a higher downforce option (bottom images) before both chose their lower downforce counterparts.
Ferrari also used some practice time to evaluate a revised floor design (below), likely as a precursor to changes that the team expect to implement for 2023, which needed real-world data to validate their findings in CFD and the wind tunnel.
The revised design centres on changes made to the section of the floor just ahead of the rear tyre. An upwardly scrolled edge will alter the course of the airflow, resulting in a behavioural change as it meets with the face of the tyre.
Ferrari F1-75 floor comparison
Photo by: Giorgio Piola
It’s a relatively small change but one that could be beneficial in the team combating the issues posed by tyre squirt, a phenomenon that robs the diffuser of consistency and potency as the airflow is pushed laterally off the tyre into the diffuser’s path.