“The FIA is taking a dangerous path by dictating the set-up” – in this way Christian Horner, direct as always, without using too many words, expressed all his disappointment for the prospect of an increasingly ‘intrusive’ FIA that is looking for a more balanced starting grid and without teams capable of being significantly faster than the competition.
Scuderia Ferrari and Red Bull – in what should have been the new era of F1 marked by ground effect with the goal of more exciting races, surprises and the possibility for all teams to dream of a place at the top – dominated the nine races in this first part of the season and only their technical problems or other particular situations have allowed the Mercedes and the McLaren of Lando Norris at Imola to get on the podium, while never going beyond the third step.
The F1-75 and the RB18, despite being clearly different in terms of design philosophy on the track, have always been close, if not even very close. Toto Wolff has repeatedly stressed that Mercedes at the start of the season was in ‘no man’s land’, i.e. in a limbo in which the W13 is faster than the rest of the starting grid, but unable to worry Ferrari and Red Bull in terms of performance. Porpoising is one of the weaknesses of the car built by the Brackley team and the action by the FIA that will take place over the weekend of the French Grand Prix to combat the aerodynamic bouncing has alarmed the teams led by Mattia Binotto and Christian Horner. Ironically, Paul Ricard one year ago was also the race which marked the introduction of the rigidity tests for the ‘flexible’ rear wings which – among others – Ferrari and Red Bull had to stiffen to overcome the new parameters imposed by the Federation.
The text of the note issued by the FIA to the teams ahead of the British Grand Prix ends as follows: “Additionally, the Technical Directive also sets out some updated parameters relating to plank wear and skid stiffness, which are inherently related to the same issue, and go hand-in-hand with the metric. These changes are necessary in order to provide a level playing field between the teams when the metric is implemented”
The German newspaper Auto Motor und Sport reported the perplexities expressed by Christian Horner and Mattia Binotto about the possible implications of the incoming technical directive that would hit the flat flexible resin floor (by regulation the construction material is free – provided it has a specific density – and has a manufacturing tolerance on dimensions of 0.5 mm) made by Ferrari and Red Bull, a flat floor capable of deforming to allow the F1-75 and RB18 to produce the greatest downforce possible. A flexibility noted by the FIA during the technical checks. “If they classify as dangerous a car that touches the ground too much, they will also have to forbid a driver from using slick tires on a wet track”, commented sarcastically Mattia Binotto; “But should they also tell us how the car’s set-up must be?” – Horner added.
According to Formulapassion.it technical specialist Carlo Platella, the FIA technical directive which will be applied starting with the French Grand Prix in two weeks, could in fact force all the teams to raise the cars’ trim from the ground, an action that would affect more the single-seaters capable of generating aerodynamic load through the floor by being able to remain as close as possible to the ground, despite the deformation of the flexible flat floor in the case of Ferrari and Red Bull.
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In the first instance, therefore, with the technical directive, the FIA forcing the teams to lift the cars off the ground for safety reasons would mainly affect the performance of Ferrari and Red Bull. Secondly, in addition, in view of 2023, the goal is to stiffen the flexible flat floor component as already reported in the note above and delivered to the teams.
A decision that, according to Auto Motor und Sport, would allow Mercedes and McLaren to continue using the 2022 car concepts also for 2023 as they could be far more competitive than Ferrari and Red Bull than they currently are. According to Maranello and Milton Keynes teams, which were forced to take a defensive attitude in the last technical meeting – the inspiration of the Technical Directive would come from Mercedes, that nurtures the hope of effectively hitting its rivals through the new parameters.