In the first part of the F1 2023 season, battles have been waged not only on the track, but off it as well.
Teams have tried to outwit each other technically and provide their drivers with the most competent machine in the battle for points. From that perspective, we’ve had a very interesting fight so far, although Red Bull has been simply unrivalled and one level above the other teams.
We’ve singled out five teams that have turned things around for the better through their hard work in the factory. We’ll remind you how their season has looked so far, but from a slightly different, technical angle.
McLaren is a team that definitely deserves to be first on our list. After disastrous results at the beginning of the season, we all wondered what was happening with McLaren’s car.
However, things started to change dramatically after the race in Austria. Namely, Lando Norris had the opportunity to drive a B-spec of that car and achieved a great fourth place.
The team decided to change the entire aerodynamics of the car, which they did at the Silverstone and Hungaroring races that followed.
The first step in their transformation was at the Red Bull Ring when they completely changed the look of the sidepods. They followed the path of Aston Martin and implemented the concept of so-called ‘waterslides,’ which had already proven successful. Of course, they adapted the design to their car, and besides the sidepods, the floor of the car was also drastically changed.
#2023AustrianGrandPrixarticles #2023F1seasonarticles McLaren explain “fully revised” floor and other upgrades on Norris’ car in Austria | 2023 Austrian Grand Prix https://t.co/q9rCEdwywc pic.twitter.com/lzR8IaiW6c
— Flyin18T Motorsports (@Flyin18T) June 30, 2023
We believe that the change in the car’s floor was more important for the McLaren team, but unfortunately, we haven’t had the chance to see and analyse it just yet. Where is a crane when you really need one?
Although it was already evident in Austria that McLaren was on the right path, the changes didn’t stop for them. They introduced a completely redesigned front wing as well as a new rear suspension to make the entire package even more successful. It’s true that McLaren “borrowed” the concept of the rear suspension from Red Bull, but copying another team is much more complicated than we might think.
Even though McLaren followed the direction taken by some more successful teams, hats off to all the McLaren engineers who literally saved their season.
After an unsuccessful 2022 season, Mercedes demonstrated its stubbornness at the beginning of 2023 when it was clear they had stuck with the zero sidepod concept.
The whole idea behind this concept is an attempt to minimise the car’s drag as much as possible and thus increase its top speed. Although it seemed difficult to cool the engine with such narrow bodywork and minimal inlets, Mercedes struggled with a different problem.
The downside of this design is that it’s difficult to keep the dirty air coming from the front tyres away from the car. You definitely don’t want this dirty air around your main aerodynamic components, which Mercedes couldn’t prevent in the right way.
Red Bull and Ferrari decided to solve this problem by designing sidepods that have the role of “pushing away” the dirty air from the car. Hence, they implemented the wide sidepods that initially looked odd.
As we already know, Mercedes decided to change the concept of their car only in Monaco this year. They recorded some very good races afterward, but Red Bull is still far ahead of them.
— Flyin18T Motorsports (@Flyin18T) May 26, 2023
A new front wing and a new underfloor design followed in the races after the Monaco GP. In the last race in Belgium, they changed the design of the sidepods again, but these changes were much smaller. It can be noticed that Mercedes is working hard and changing their car to compete at the top. However, only time will tell whether they have truly turned in the right direction this time.
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Aston Martin made its biggest improvement during the winter when they showed a completely different car at the beginning of the 2023 season compared to the previous campaign. The entire bodywork of the car changed, with the most noticeable design change being on the sides of the car.
Namely, Aston Martin pioneered the so-called ‘waterslides’ idea. They started with this seemingly strange design, which later proved to be successful. Its biggest advantage is that it successfully directs clean, high-energy airflow to the rear of the car, specifically the beam wing. When you manage to do that successfully, the beam wing, as well as the diffuser and rear wing, can function much more efficiently.
Moreover, the wide sidepods simultaneously pushed the dirty air away from the rear end of the car. Waterslides are an excellent solution even in corners when the direction of incoming air changes, as they successfully direct clean air where it’s needed the most.
Aston Martin has taken the sidepods gulley to a new level with it's latest update.
— Junaid #JB17 (@JunaidSamodien_) June 17, 2023
It’s worth noting that none of this would have been possible if Aston Martin hadn’t brought experienced and skilled people into their factory. Only then can you do a good job and create a car that can compete with the best on the grid. When you have a large number of people who know their job and have excellent cooperation under the same roof, success is almost guaranteed.
If we go back to the beginning of the 2022 season, we’ll remember that Ferrari was one of the teams with its characteristic car concept. It was very successful at that time, and expectations for the Maranello team were high. However, Ferrari simply couldn’t catch up with Red Bull and their incredible racing pace.
Like most teams this season, Ferrari abandoned their original idea and joined the other teams that followed Red Bull’s path. In Barcelona, they revealed a completely new look for the sidepods, which featured a downwash geometry. Of course, they adapted the design to their car and introduced the concept in their style.
Old vs New SF-23 Sidepods
— Formula Data Analysis (@FDataAnalysis) June 2, 2023
This update proved successful and represented a step forward for the entire team. The front wing and the underfloor were changed in the subsequent races as well.
However, Ferrari encountered another problem they haven’t been able to fully solve up to this point: they have a significant issue with the pace on the new hard tyre compounds introduced by Pirelli.
How these new tyres affected Ferrari and other teams can be checked in our article here, where we explained this in more detail.
It wouldn’t be fair to discuss technical comparisons of F1 teams without mentioning Red Bull, even though their name is frequently mentioned. Red Bull are a level above all and their engineers have done a magnificent job, which, combined with an excellent driver, created complete domination this year.
Like Ferrari and Mercedes, Red Bull came up with their car concept idea at the beginning of 2022. However, unlike the other teams, they stuck with that idea until today.
The whole point of the downwash sidepods is to direct clean, high-energy airflow to the beam wing, which will work most effectively under those conditions. The air flow around the beam wing will also affect the airflow around the diffuser and rear wing due to its steep angle, and these elements will also function best under those conditions.
— Oracle Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) July 30, 2023
When we add the unique front and rear suspension choices, as well as the incredibly complex but efficient underbody design, we get an incredible machine.
This is precisely the point we want to emphasise: an F1 car can function perfectly only when all its components work together seamlessly. Honestly, we can say that Red Bull’s car is very close to perfection.
During the 2023 season, Red Bull continued with innovations, which was most noticeable at the Canadian Grand Prix when they introduced a very unusual design for the sidepod inlets. The idea was to further improve the original concept and direct as much clean air as possible to the rear of the car.
Although Red Bull is responsible for a boring battle for the Championship title this year, it’s still a real pleasure to watch the impeccably-designed RB19 and its incredible speed and stability on the track.