Bahrain Grand Prix 2022
The teams trying to seal their lower body from the side were thrown into the bouncing trap. Now some are struggling to get rid of the problem. Because you can’t reproduce it in a wind tunnel.
Physics never changes. 40 years of Formula 1 development doesn’t help either. Ross Brawn, the sporting director of Formula 1, is one of the few in the circus who was familiar with the term vaulting before the first 2022 car took off to the racetrack. The 67-year-old Englishman was already in the first Ground Effect. At that time he worked as a second-rate in the design office in Williams.
The British racing team made the best cars between 1979 and 1982. In 1982, Williams wanted to surprise the competition with a six-wheeled car that wasn’t distinguished just because of the four wheels in the back. The aileron ducts under the car end with a massive diffuser. “It gave us more downforce in one stroke,” Brown recalls. “But when we took the car out to the track, it moved very up and down the straights. The downforce was so high that it pushed the side struts down onto the road, which only added to the effect.”
The problem area is under the chassis and the chassis
This sounds familiar to us. Even after four decades, the floor at high speeds curves toward the road on the sides, adding to the jumping problem. Brown believes the teams scored an own goal there. “They deliberately built up the soil softly in order to block it on the side and thus gain downforce. Then it caused them to shake on the strait.”
From Barcelona to Bahrain, practically every team has reinforced their floors, adding slots and cutouts of various sizes to eliminate vibration on the straights. The FIA helped a bit by allowing the teams to have a support strut between the floor and the gearbox. An engineer says that it is almost impossible to design the floor completely rigidly. The area is very large, and the vertical forces on this area are very high.
The ground clearance is a simple regulator, but it has a strong influence on lap time, especially with ground-impact cars. Last year, it was easy for engineers with their hydraulics to change the vehicle’s height as required and absorb mechanical vibrations using the recently banned block inertia dampers. Some teams have lowered their cars on the straights in the past to gain top speed. Now the opposite will be required. “It’s not that easy with conventional dampers anymore. First of all, we have to learn how to deal with them again,” the experts lament.
No anti-reflux drug
There is still no panacea that works on all kinds of ways. “Anyone who thinks he solved the problem for Bahrain may wake up angry in Saudi Arabia,” warns the Mercedes man. McLaren considers the team with the least rebound problem. But even team boss Andreas Seidl has to admit: “We don’t know what we did right. You can’t replicate the problem in a wind tunnel.”
Aston Martin believes that at least a mathematical model has now been developed to incorporate rebound into simulations. Alpha Toure thinks so, too. “They brought a new lower body to Bahrain, which should be better in theory. In fact, it shook more. Then they went back to the old ground,” revealed Red Bull Sports Director Helmut Marko.
The Aston Martin technician sees the key to the first race as finding the best compromise in the Bermuda Triangle between car height, spring comfort, floor stiffness and the vents on the rim to allow trapped air to escape. “Every hole in the ground makes you slower. Every extra millimeter of ground height too. It’s important to find exactly the point where you can just allow yourself to look at it in the direction of the race. In the end, the team that solves this better problem understands.”