Five F1 tech talking points of 2017: Teams chance their arm on the ‘slots’
Posted By:   |  21 Dec 2017   |  6:16 pm GMT  |  37 comments

We have had a great response to the launch of this seasonal special series on tech talking points from 2017, so here is the second of the five topics.

We’re going to get close to the ground to inspect the growing influence of floor slots.

In previous iterations of F1 floor designs, a small number of slots had been used to reduce the effect of “tyre squirt” at the rear of the car but, thanks to a loophole in the 2017 regulations, teams have been able to trial more outlandish solutions.

When the FIA widened the maximum allowable bounding box for bodywork by 200mm, the regulation for “continuous” bodywork on the car’s floor remained the same as the previous season.

This gave teams the chance to exploit a 100mm area on the outboard edge of the floor to experiment with slots and cuts parallel to the sidepod geometry.

Floor slots

Two key variations in the early season existed: McLaren (above), Haas and Toro Rosso trialled a slot with a raised trailing edge, shaped to carry further vortices outboard, as indicated with the yellow arrow.

This is to reduce interface with the rear wheel, minimising the effect of the vortical wake produced by the rotation of the wheel creating a range of unpredictable flow patterns.

Meanwhile, Mercedes and Ferrari had both considered different solutions to the floor slots, and both trialled their initial solutions with a trailing edge cut away from the floor.

Below is the Ferrari solution, which is provided with some concave curvature in order to manage the flow emanating from the bargeboard region, using the slot to bleed off low-pressure airflow and working it with the curved lip to help seal the floor in the diffuser area.

Ferrari soon had to bolster the cutaway section with a small metal insert, having experienced some dramatic fluttering at high speed which will have disturbed the predicted airflow patterns.

The ultimate principle behind each floor slot design is the same. Teams have identified the need to introduce a vortex along the floor’s edge to help seal the diffuser, which reduces the chance of turbulent flow bleeding into it.

With a more consistent flow pattern in the working part of the floor, the overall pressure distribution of the diffuser itself is more even, providing a more consistent downforce output. Combined with the existing bargeboard pieces, the airflow can be directed through these slots with minimal additions to the current aerodynamic packages.

At this sharp trailing edge, the teams are able to create a small vortex to carry along the edge of the floor and stop “dirty” air from drifting underneath the floor.

Teams soon began to work with this area further, and appeared to find greater gains through augmenting the scalloped section of the floor with an extra vortex generator to carry the circulating airflow along the edge of the floor.

Designs varied in their extremities, McLaren electing to stick with the slot alone while the likes of Renault, Red Bull and Force India eschewed the slot’s inclusion and incorporated just the vortex generators (red arrow) to work airflow aft of the bargeboard geometry.

Whether teams will choose to pursue further gains in this area remains to be seen, as the teams appear to have not reached a consensus over their usefulness.

Ultimately, incorporating any new design idea into a car must work in tandem with the existing package, and so perhaps teams will have been able to consider the slots at an earlier stage in their car’s development.

What did you think of the F1 tech developments of 2017? Do the cars appeal to you? leave your comment in the section below

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There’s nothing like the mention of a vortex to get the blood pumping……
As an engineer myself I love all this stuff.
As a lover of fast cars and great racing I couldn’t give a s#!t
The aerodynamic working party that Ross Brawn has put together is the best news in years, it’s just what you’d expect from a good engineer,methodical well thought out data based analysis of a problem. And then implement it in a structured and controlled way.
Ferrari team principle Maurizio Arrivabeni made a telling statement recently about allowing the use of drs whenever the driver wishes.


I love the idea of a permanent driver operated moving aero device. As I recall, it was Jim Hall’s Chapparal with adjustable rear wing that got the whole concept banned, not because it was inherently dangerous (which it is) but because he started beating the pants off the establishment. It’s a tricky one but I think the reintroduction of this concept could be a positive (and winning) game changer…


Thanks yet again James for the substance of your efforts. This type of discussion is most helpful where the significance of detail is concerned. At the same time we have information providing more frustration when it comes to what has happened to the actual “racing” by the gladiator pilots. Who, by JB’s account are down to about 25% (or less) of the whole “spectacle” as it were.

And the beat (debate ?) goes on — as pointed out above, sure would be worthwhile being able to recognize driver skill with car control instead of seeing them herd a potential Frisbee around a track hoping the “down force” doesn’t slip away (as the result of a little over steer, perhaps ?) and set them truly adrift and into barriers, or perhaps even through the fence and into spectators.

Oh, and the search for cost containment might even be enhanced if we could find a way to return to a situation which exhibits the skill of the driver. That would, one thinks, ad some value to the WDC title, eh? Someone in a posting on one of the earlier articles in this series observed that what we were seeing is 4 wheels bolted onto a set of aerodynamic assumptions — or words to that effect.

Seems the “solution” to displaying driver as opposed to engineering talent (with all due respect) might be hiding in plain sight. . .


James, why not make a tech deep dive on the amazing and still continued improvements of the power plants produced by the PU/engine manufacturers?

Mercedes will probably be close if not pass the magic line of 1,000 HP for the 2018 season, despite “all efforts” made to artificially limit money spent on the PUs and the total power output the teams should have at their disposal.

Mercedes have now won the WCC in very dominant fashion the last 4 years in a row and nothing indicates anything will be different for next year. In latest interview with their powertrain director Andy Cowell he said as much.

Mercedes had 900+ HP in their M08 EQ Power unit and is de facto the most effective engine developed within motorsport ever! Andy has previously said they are around 44% on the thermodynamic effectiveness and they hunt to reach the 50% any time soon.

And Mercedes should of course be seriously concerned, as they ‘only’ won the WCC in 2017 with 144 lackluster points down to Ferrari. While in all prior years they won it with massive 297 points, 275 points and 296 points to 2nd best. The biggest winning margins ever in F1 history!


Mclaren will be competitive next year and back in business. The development on the car was great but the Honda engine was the hindrance. They will wake up from the Honda nightmare and come out fighting …finally.
Hopefully get rid of that old man toffee livery and go with a complete orange colour or something cool.


“Mclaren will be competitive next year and back in business. The development on the car was great but the Honda engine was the hindrance.” Mc’Laren could be a very good car however the truth is that the car have to face lower top speed than Ferrari or Mercedes engine, so the cornering speed can not be compared. Wait for next year when they have direct comparison with RBR and I am pretty sure life will not be bed of roses to them.


Honda improved their PU greatly over the season.


“…get rid of that old man toffee livery…” +1 ;o)


I see so much of the floor being under utilized in these cars, atleast in the sense of housing parts required in the running of the cars, and can’t help but feel if they don’t need it then dont have it there in the first place.
That space hardly adds to the overall appeal of the cars and merely adds cost in designing parts like the floor slots that no fan notices or cares about.


Well, there are various types of fans, some of them engineers themselves, and the *do* care, notice and enjoy the technical part of the sport. F1 is multi-faceted sport, and is rightly considered the pinnacle of motorsport. Did you notice the motor part of the previous word? as much as it is about the driver greats, It has always been also about the designer/engineering teams greats. And those slots are part and parcel of the whole package ….


If i we’re an engineer maybe I’d love them myself but don’t try and tell me those little holes on the floor add anything to the racing spectacle or are noticed by anyone waching them on TV or even at the track.
How many hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on those parts in the search for “marginal gains” and was the cost ultimately worth it in performance? That’s what I want to know, not whether a few geeks get off on a few slots in a floor.


It probably wasn’t worth it at all. Teams like to piss money away for the sake of it.


Do any of the teams deliberately ‘dirty’ the air off the back of the car.

Dirty the air to disrupt a following car with it’s sensitive front wing and aero setup, or to reduce the slipstreaming effect for the following car?

Should they be looking at this as well as excessive aero sensitivity to allow cars to follow closer? Still thing they need to address the simplification of the PUs, engine mode limitations and customer PU control first though…


I think that If there is any clean air left then the aero team need a kick up the preverbial for not using every last bit.


Teams are anyways looking for ways to create more down-force, which is what primarily leads to dirty air (Dirty Air is a welcome side-effect). It is difficult from an aerodynamic viewpoint to think of a situation where a car is designed to dirty the air behind, but costs “some” performance. (That doesn’t mean it will not be done, for example if two packages have similar downforce but one muddies the air more, that is what will be chosen)

“Should they be looking at this as well” – A very strong Yes, because unless regulated, the faster the car, the worse it is to follow (James had done an interesting article a few years back ). So while the tumbling lap records/faster cars this year have been good for headlines, wheel to wheel racing has suffered badly.

“Sensitive front wing and aero setup” – The “Running in Dirty Air” is a genuine design consideration and I got the feeling that this year (probably knowing they wouldn’t match Merc’s Quali mode), the Ferrari “Design Model” would have factored running in dirty air, allowing it to follow the car ahead much more easily. A simplistic assumption, given the same design constraints, like Mercedes input 75% clean air, 25% dirty air running and Ferrari input 25% clean air, and 75% dirty air running creates cars with different strengths.


good answer thanks, Ashish


Very good question Clarks and very possibly they do, but whatever the case they sure as hell don’t worry too much about it if it does 🙂


It seems very logical that if airflow can be cleaned up in great detail then it can easily be generated into ‘dirty air’ when required. Resulting in a hard time for those trying to follow very close.


FWLIW: I genuinely believe that *all* aero-specific bodywork above the line of the floor should be banned, and while a single front and rear wing would be allowed they should each be specified to a maximum horizontal area with only one single plane. (ie no complex wings, multi-wings, or lumps / bumps / winglets sticking out of the bodywork)
I’m inclined to suggest that manufacturers are free to do what they like under the car as long as they ensure there are no circumstances where any part of the car can come in to contact with the ground other than the tyres. (Post race FIA checks looking for evidence of consistent scraping on anything other than skid blocks would result in disqualification)


The floor has the most downforce. It shouldn’t affect overtaking but just the size of the car alone means it’s hard to get away from the wake.


Not in absolute terms, at least until a few years ago, but I believe the following rule of thumb is still fairly indicative: Front wing, under-body + diffuser and rear wing contribute to overall downforce fairly evenly.

The under-body however works much more efficiently, so there is far lower drag penalty for each unit of down-force produced relative to front and rear wings.


I have looked at a number of articles and photo shoots of these nuanced aerodynamic solutions; whilst I like looking at the pictures, I have no clue what the net effect is. The only thing that tells me anything is if the solution is copied. Am I the only one?
I doubt that I am the only one who has little to no understanding. Teams spend millions on CFD and wind tunnels to truly understand the net effect of all these little details. I just judge them by my gut feeling of whether it looks cool or it might work…


No, I agree. Some diagrams showing the air flow would have been useful. As it is, it’s some pictures with arrows pointing at things.


I think it’s a bit like when you used to make paper planes as a kid.

Sure you could make a normal “straight” paper plane that may or may not glide as intended and that might spin around and poke your eye out, but if you give the wings a couple more folds, fold up the edges in certain strategic spots, maybe add a paper clip for balance and hold your tongue just right, you end up with a more complicated and high tech paper plane that may or may not glide as intended and might poke your eye out 🙂


Spent this afternoon watching the 2009 season dvd. Three teams turned up with the double diffuser ( so not just a Brawn invention) . Kers v non kers cars. All the usual antics but lots and lots of close racing and I mean close with no DRS but lots of overtaking. Where did it all go wrong?


Close? Maybe in terms of performance, but the turbulent air issue wasn’t helped much by the start of the toy car look era. Australia got off to a promising start, but then once at Bahrain, the difficulty of overtaking showed itself again (the only difficulty in overtaking should be determined by the skill of the drivers.) I think the DVDs probably show enough just to seem like the racing was closer and the overtaking plentiful.


Any new idea appeals to me. I wish, however, that designers were not in such a box that minute niggling is the name of the game. It makes me wonder if some of this is just bait, to entice the other teams to spend their time and energy going down an empty rabbit-hole!


Pity only flat floors are allowed in grand prix racing – there is so much potential for underbody downforce generation via a couple of venturi tunnels and skirts. And because it’s “sealed” low pressure it’s “clean” – i.e highly efficient and produces little drag.

“High tech” Formula 1? Still using hydraulic pump powered steering and springs and dampers for suspension as well……the digital age? The grand prix circus is stuck in the analogue one…….


I seem to think Ground Effect cars were banned from F1 (and ultimately Sports Cars) because of their tendency to turn into Ekronoplans at a moments notice. I also remember them being pretty horrendous for overtaking too, most of the classic races of the 1980s happened after the ground effect ban.


I thought GE cars were banned because of the high cornering g-forces they made possible we’re causing drivers to black out (and hence crash)

BTW, interesting article thanks James. I did wonder why the teams were allowed to play around with slots and cutouts on the edge of the floor this year. Was this change an oversight from the FIA or did they deliberately introduce the new rule?


There was that too. But one of the big weaknesses of ground effect vehicles is that they are incredibly pitch sensitive, even braking forces can lead to the car bouncing up and down violently as the level of downforce fluctuates rapidly. Besides the obvious changes in grip this also creates massive and unpredicatable changes in suspension loads. It was a contributing factor to Patrick Depailler’s death when his Alfa Romeo snapped it’s own suspension mid corner. Rene Arnoux had a monster crash for similar reasons but somehow walked away, whilst in Indycar Gordon Smiley was killed in a particularly horrific manner when his ground effect car lost grip, then re-aquired grip suddenly with the car pointing directly at the outer wall. That crash by itself is probably enough to keep promoters and governing bodies away from true ground effect cars through fear of association.


I remember when they had ‘sealed’ areas below the car – brushes along the sides in fact to touch the ground for an even better seal – problem was, when seal was disrupted, cars went sailing like projectiles into the air. Remember the great Gordon Murray design for Ecclestone, BMW Brabham, that killed poor Elio deAngles?


Wait, what? A Gordon Murray design killed Elio de Angelis? Who knew that? That is quite a ridiculous statement to be honest. Elio tragically died from smoke inhalation and a broken collarbone. In today’s F1 he would have been driving again in 4 weeks but seriously, way to go, demonising one of the most talented sports and racecar designers ever. Do you have any evidence, I mean even a shred which blames the chassis design?


Jump to conclusions much? I don’t blame Gordon Murray for the accident; I loved Gordon Murray designs and think he is brilliant. The Brabham lost the air pressure under the car holding it to the track when the rear wing became detached. My comment was in response to a flat floor discussion and aerodynamics. Elio deAngles sic, (I see you spelled his name correctly – did you have to look it up? I do this from memory, and I don’t have to Google everything to become an expert.) was also an accomplished pianist. Phil Hill by the way, was a connoisseur of classical music as well as an expert mechanic. Ever hear of him? Some of these former drivers were well rounded and very educated men. I contrast this with a generation of drivers who seem to be good at fingers on buttons and selecting the right computer mode. Seriously, did you know about Elio deAngles or the model number of his Brabham before you looked it up?


If I recall correctly, DeAngelis was killed when the rear wing on his BT55 failed a few years after ground effects were banned.


And people have the nerve to complain about overly complex PU’s ……!!


You took the words right out of my mouth😄

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