Mercedes technical director James Allison said the ground effect regulations, resulting in stiff and low-riding F1 cars, is a “bug-bear” of his and he does not think Max Verstappen will like them either.
In a bid to bunch up the pack and generate more overtaking opportunities, a regulatory overhaul swept through Formula 1 in time for 2022, introducing a new generation of cars which utilise ground effect aerodynamics to generate downforce.
And the key to best exploiting the ground effect is to run the car as low to the ground as possible, which Allison does not believe is a positive route for F1 to go down.
James Allison expects Max Verstappen not liking these F1 cars
Verstappen and Red Bull have dominated the ground effect era so far, taking all Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles on offer, with Verstappen winning 19 of the 22 grands prix in 2023 while Red Bull claimed 21 overall.
Nonetheless, Allison doubts Verstappen is enjoying the feeling of the Red Bull machinery out on track, as he expressed his dissatisfaction with these F1 cars.
Comparing the previous regulations to the ground effect era, Allison, as per Motorsport.com, said: “You guys [media] used to carry on endlessly about high-rake, low-rake cars as if that was the beginning, end, and middle of everything.
“A high-rake car was around 140mm [rear ride height]. A low-rake car would be like 120mm or whatever. Well, both of them are stratospheric ranges compared with these cars.
“These are all cars that are setting off in the 60mms. There might be a few millimetres of difference between them, but they’re all just on the ground.
“You could have a car [previously] that was a little bit more one-dimensional at tracks that are a bit more one-dimensional. So if there isn’t a big speed range, then you could maybe set your car up such that the corners coincide with where your good bit is, and you don’t suffer horribly for it dropping away either side.
“But when you go to a place that’s a bit more of a broad test of a car, like Austin for example, where you’ve got real fast stuff, some slow stuff, and some in-between stuff, and some decent straights, and some bumps, then that’s going to test the bit where it’s falling off the back end of the performance. It’s going to test the end of straight [downforce] failure, it’s going to need to stay strong in the fast [corners].
“And it’s hard to persuade the car to do all of those things with a set of rules that basically don’t want to do anything except be near the ground.
“I’m sure I bang on about this because it’s been a bug-bear of mine, but I personally don’t think it’s a great thing. I don’t think it’s good having the cars operating, when they leave the garage, with that much space to the ground [signalling a few millimetres with his fingers].
“You get the person who’s winning the Championship by one of the biggest margins ever, and has every reason to love his car to bits, and I doubt he’ll tell you it’s a lovely thing. It is not like it was a couple of years ago.”
Max Verstappen has been critical of ground effect F1 cars
As it turns out, Allison has a point when it comes to Verstappen, who has indeed expressed a lack of love for this generation of F1 cars.
Speaking to media at the 2023 Miami Grand Prix, Verstappen picked up on one of Allison’s areas for complaint, claiming the stiffness of the cars has taken “a little bit of magic away” from the driving experience.
“Because of the stiffness of the cars, and how you have to run them, it takes a little bit of that magic away, especially on a street circuit where you could ride a kerb here and there,” he said.
“That probably is a bit tough around Baku, but also around Singapore, that makes it very hard.”
Verstappen at least is getting the very best from these cars and in F1 2024 will go on the hunt for a fourth World Championship in as many years.