With Formula 1’s revised technical regulations still relatively young and the budget cap now in its third year, developing effective and efficient car upgrades is even more critical for teams than ever before.
While those at the front of the field know developing their car through the season can make the difference between a world championship title or dropping down the rankings and losing millions of dollars of prize money in the process, a well-designed upgrade package can also turnaround a poor start to a season for teams further back.
In 2023, one of the teams desperately trying to claw their way further up the order is McLaren. Despite sitting a reasonable fifth place in the constructors’ standings after five rounds, equal with Alpine, it has been a difficult start to the season for the team, performance-wise.
Team principal Andrea Stella has an extensive history in Formula 1 in an engineering capacity, but this is the first season where he is working to improve a car’s performance as the leader of his team. McLaren brought their latest raft of updates to their MCL60 during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend in Baku and there he spoke to media including RaceFans about the philosophy his team is taking to improving their 2023 car.
“This generation of cars, a lot of what’s contributed to the performance is what you don’t see – it’s under the car,” Stella explained. “This is very different from the previous generation of cars, where the geometry was prescribed as being flat. Now there’s no prescription.”
While the differences are not easy to observe, improving a car’s performance is not as simple as noting what more successful rivals have done and copying them.
“If you look underneath, you’ll see the channels which play quite a significant role, you’ll see the fences,” says Stella. “The channels and the fences, they play together – so it’s not like ‘I saw some different channels on another car, I can copy them’. It’s a very three dimensional flow.”
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The emphasis on car floors producing downforce through ground effect with the current generation of cars is so great that there are so many nuances and details that teams have to consider when it comes to bringing modifications to this crucial area of the car, Stella explains.
“This is also why you don’t only have to get the basic concepts right – which…