F1’s move to the current ground-effect rules set in 2022 was prompted by a desire to allow cars to follow much closer to each other.
One of the core features of the regulations was to minimise teams pushing airflow away from the car and tyres – known as outwash – because this wake disturbance contributed to a loss of downforce for pursuing cars.
But as teams have got to grips with the new regulations, there has been an increased push to maximise outwash characteristics, especially through clever design of the front wings.
It is this approach which is understood to have contributed to the 2023 cars being harder to follow than their 2022 counterparts.
Earlier this year, it was estimated that there was a 35% loss of downforce when competitors are two car lengths behind a rivals – up from 20% in 2022.
While originally there had been some thought given to making some rule changes for 2025, the FIA’s single seater director Nikolas Tombazis has now explained that moves to sort out the problem will now likely to wait until the next rules era from 2026.
George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Logan Sargeant, Williams FW45
“The wake has definitely got a bit worse this year,” said Tombazis.
“We knew that it would deteriorate a bit when people developed a bit more, but there were a few particular areas of the car where there were some loopholes we didn’t manage to close soon enough. This worsened it.
“The front wing endplate area was one [area], plus some of the wheel furniture area, and brake ducts inside of the front wheel.
“I think we’ve learned a bit how to do it next time around. But while the wake did get a bit worse compared to 2022, it is still a reasonable amount better than 2021.”
Pushed on the timings of getting rid of these loophole areas, Tombazis said: “I would say probably ’26. We don’t have any intentions to change for’ 25 unless anything unpredictable happens.”
While there has been a step change in downforce loss when following this year, Tombazis believes that things have now stabilised.
“I don’t think it’s going to get much worse for next year because I don’t think there’s any other loopholes to scrape from, like the front wing area and so on,” he said.
“Therefore, I expect it’s going to stay very similar. I also don’t think it’s got worse during the year. I think it was just this year versus last year.”