F1 aero expert hints Mercedes could fall behind rivals after summer

Shubham Sangodkar

Wednesday, August 16, 2023 12:57 p.m

The first half of the 2023 season will go down in history as the most dominant period for Red Bull.

Christian Horner’s team won all 12 races this season, surpassing McLaren’s long-standing record with the iconic driver pairing of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.

However, the competition behind them has been fierce and there is a growth war brewing.

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Aston Martin clearly started out as the second fastest car, but has not been outsold by Mercedes, Ferrari and amazingly McLaren.

In this article, we follow the steps to understand the development path of the pioneering teams and why they are where they are now.

Finger-Centered Approach

We analyzed each manufacturer’s development trajectories over the last 12 races for the 2023 campaign using eligibility data.

We’ve taken the difference in the fastest car by manufacturer in order to analyze each team’s qualifying lap performance. As expected, Red Bull was the report every time except in Azerbaijan, where Charles Leclerc had a great lap.

A breakdown of the Formula 1 teams and their qualifying efforts so far this season

Ferrari, Aston and Mercedes all started around 0.5–0.8s slower than Red Bull at the start of the season and in the first two races, only Ferrari could come within a race of qualifying pace.

However, Ferrari would soon give up this advantage to improve race pace performance. Alpine also made a decent start as the fifth fastest team, while McLaren found themselves by the end of the comeback as the worst car on the grid for the first three races.

Developments in the airplane are converging

An analysis of which Formula 1 teams are making progress during the 2023 season

As the season progressed, teams began flocking to their Aero Developments. Some have had a greater impact than others in closing the gap, while others have slipped away. Let’s look at the performance winners and losers.

Consistent Manufacturers

Ferrari impressively had some of the fewest grid updates to date and consistently had the second fastest car in a single lap. However, their lap pace hasn’t changed as consistently in the race, which has seen them lose ground eventually in the races, thus reflecting their manufacturer’s position. They particularly struggled with tire wear and hot race weekends.

Performance winners

Mercedes’ upgrades and subsequent mid-season aero philosophy switch have clearly brought performance to the car. We can see them drastically closing the gap on Red Bull from Monaco when they brought a major aero update.

The Silver Arrows are particularly adept at improving front-end responsiveness by changing the suspension layout, as well as rear-end stability, improving flow to the rear of the car, which has given drivers the confidence to push single hot laps .

McLaren also made a significant improvement following upgrades to their car from race four, an impressive achievement given where they started the season. They went from being the slowest car at the start of the season to being the second fastest car before the summer break.

This shows the potential teams can unlock if they choose the right development strategy.

Rumors from the McLaren garage suggest they’ve figured out some new aero mechanism that’s allowed them to run the car much lower to the ground, resulting in an overall increase in performance in every type of corner.

However, the McLaren’s particular weakness was its straight line speed. They have arguably the worst straight line speed compared to their competitors, something they will need to address with their updates if they want to continue to be the second fastest team on the grid.

Performance losers

Aston Martin has had the most impressive start to the season but has consistently fallen behind its nearest rivals Mercedes and Ferrari.

We can see that as their competitors started to bring the upgrades, from the Miami Grand Prix they started to fall behind them. It is Fernando Alonso’s consistency and race awareness that still allowed them to achieve top five finishes even with the fourth fastest car from race five.

Basic foods

Behind Red Bull, the season has been tight, especially the last five races.

We go into every race weekend not knowing who the second fastest car will be. Ferrari are rumored to bring 0.4s worth of upgrades for the rest of the season, while Mercedes have said they will focus on next year’s car after the summer break.

McLaren are riding high and expected to have a 0.2s boost on the road, while all eyes are on Aston Martin as they have promised a major upgrade following the end of the F1 hiatus as they look to get back into contention with their rivals .

Shubham Sangodkar is a former F1 Aerodynamicist with a Masters in Racing Car Design specializing in F1 Aerodynamics and F1 Data Analysis. He also posts aerodynamics content on his YouTube channel, which can be found here.

CodeF1 is an independent data scientist who uses machine learning/AI, game theory and data analysis to make sense of Formula 1 data. You can follow them on Instagram, Twitter and Youtube, which can be found here.

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