The shape of teams’ sidepod designs has taken center stage in F1’s latest ground effect era, as there were initially a fascinating array of different concepts at play.
However, the advantage that Red Bull seems to have gained from its downwash concept seems to have been gained, as many of its rivals have followed suit by copying it.
But while there has been an obvious turnaround for the teams, many of them have downplayed the importance of what they’ve done, insisting that the shape of sidepods doesn’t make a critical difference to a car’s overall performance.
But that’s a point of view completely dismissed by Stella, whose own team has aggressively reshaped his sidepod this year and helped it take a big leap forward in performance.
Instead, Stella believes that the way the sidepod helps with airflow over and around the car and the floor area is key to lap time.
“If there is any team that says that the bodywork and sidepods have no effect in current regulations, it is this long-nosed, Pinocchio-style,” said Stella, referring to the fictional wooden puppet whose nose grew every time I told a lie.
“Every aerodynamicist, from the simulation to the wind tunnel to the data measured on the track, knows that the two things really work together.
Andrea Stella, Team Principal, McLaren, at the Team Principals press conference
Photo by: motoring images
“It’s another dimension that makes this business interesting, because we actually see how much variety we’ve gotten from a sidepod shape standpoint and the way it interacts with the ground.
“Now it seems that all the teams are converging in the same direction, and I believe that this process can continue more and more in the future.”
Stella has long made it clear that while the floor on today’s F1 cars is important for performance, the effectiveness of the underbody can be greatly increased with the right sidepod design.
He suggests that having a wide sidepod helps activate airflow to better seal the floor, similar to how skirts did in the earlier ground effect era to help increase downforce.
Speaking about the benefits of Red Bull-style sidepods, Stella said: “I wouldn’t say just down. I would say wide sidepods.
“I think it’s actually the main concept that seems to interact very well with the floor, because sidepods, in simple terms, act a bit like miniskirts.
“Aerodynamically, these wide sidepods help with ground suction. That’s the concept you can’t seem to do without if you want to maximize ground suction and cargo on the car. And it’s very clear that they’re all converging on that. address”.