Floor rule changes will force smaller teams to change chassis designs

Michelle Foster
Pierre Gasly during practice. Canada June 2022.

AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly is followed by Zhou Guanyu in practice. Montreal June 2022.

Formula 1’s smaller teams could take a huge hit in the FIA’s plans to raise the floor edges by 25mm, with AlphatTauri fearing it means designing an all-new chassis for next season.

In a bid to limit porpoising, the FIA plan to tweak Formula 1’s floor regulation ahead of next year’s championship, citing safety and the long-term health of drivers as the reason.

Under the proposed rules, the edges of the floors will have to be raised by 25mm, but that could have a major impact on the sport’s smaller teams – and their smaller budgets.

“I would say so,” AlphaTauri’s head of vehicle performance Guillaume Dezoteux told Autosport when asked if it would mean creating an all-new chassis.

“Obviously if you raise the floor edge, with the target to reduce the downforce of the car, especially in the high-speed corners, that changes a lot – like how much energy you put on the tyres and what the suspension is doing.

“It changes the suspension range because maybe you need to be able to raise the car. If you said today we would have to raise the car 20 millimetres because we have a thicker plank, we couldn’t do it because our suspension has not been designed to achieve that.

“The entire project is very linked. So when you change one parameter, generally it impacts everything else.”

Six of the Formula 1 teams, including AlphaTauri, are said to be opposed to the FIA changing the rules and are pushing back.

It has been reported the teams could protest and take legal action should the FIA continue with their proposed changes.

Dezoteux pointed out time is also running out for the rules to be decided.

AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly on track at the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2021.

“We are in the period of defining the key parameters of next year’s car,” he said. “What should be the fuel volume? What should be the optimal weight distribution of the car?

“So now changing the aero rules is a big challenge for the teams because you need to first understand the impact on the overall car performance. And it’s an estimation from this where you go – ‘we can afford to reduce the fuel volume, we can afford to change the weight distribution target, we can afford to do this or that’.

“If it keeps changing, you have made some calls that are too late to be modified. The chassis will be released in the next few weeks.”

Alfa Romeo are also not happy with the changes, the team’s technical director Jan Monchaux explaining smaller teams need to carry more over than their bigger counterparts in order to save money.

“Seeing as we are a rather small team, we will have to have potentially a slightly more aggressive carry-over strategy than some of the bigger outfits,” he said.

“In the winter, with the force we have, redoing everything, that would force us to outsource and that would probably end up being too expensive and jeopardise our development budget during the season. So we will carry over some elements.

“Check the cars in February and then you will find out which ones, but they will be pretty visible I suppose.”

The floor tweaks come at a time when Formula 1 is also operating under a budget cap, which means having to redesign a chassis would also hurt the big teams – although Red Bull team boss Christian Horner concedes it is the smaller ones that will bear the brunt.

Horner said: “I think it’s actually an even bigger issue for some of the smaller teams that quite simply would not have the resource to be able to react. I think whatever measure is taken, it just needs to be sensible.”