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The design changes teams face as F1 launch season begins

Formula 1 fans are eagerly waiting to see how much of the Red Bull RB19 being unveiled in New York city later on Friday is actually new.

Red Bull Racing RB18

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Although the event is being hailed as the 2023 car launch, Red Bull has history from last year of bringing out a rebranded old car and pretending it is a shiny new model.

The likelihood is that, with the first F1 test still several weeks away, what appears in New York will at best be a hybrid of the 2022 and 2023 models, featuring some old and new elements. It will then, almost certainly, be vastly upgraded when it hits the track in Bahrain.

Irrespective of what is revealed later, this season will be an interesting one for spotting just how much development teams have done with their cars.

Last year was a total revamp which meant everyone started with a clean sheet of paper. For 2023, there has been no major tweak to the rules. Instead teams will have to combine lessons learned from the 2022 campaign with some subtle changes that will influence floor designs – and that could have wider consequence for aerodynamics.

The trigger for this area of change was the mid-season intervention that the FIA had to make to address porpoising problems. The pre-Canadian GP technical directive, TD-039, sought to reign in some of the tricks that teams had engaged in to deal with the issue.

It also looked to help soften the blow for drivers. A new 'Aerodynamic Oscillation Metric' was introduced, with the intention of preventing teams from running their car so low that it would trigger the aerodynamic anomaly.

Teams are now required to mount a dedicated accelerometer, manufactured by the FIA's designated supplier, in order that this can be monitored.

Beyond what the FIA did last year, a handful of changes to the regulations have sought to eradicate the problem further, with teams forced to raise the outermost portion of the floor by a further 15mm, whilst load tests will now be conducted at six different points along the floor's length.

2023 Proposal rules front view

2023 Proposal rules front view

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

While there's an expected lap time loss associated with these surface changes of around two-to-three tenths, it's unlikely that the teams won't already have that in their pocket and maybe more come the start of the season.

Teams always see these changes as an opportunity to one-up their rivals after all, rather than dwelling on the losses they've accrued as a result.

The car's mass also looks set to be reduced for 2023, having ballooned well beyond the original target of 790 kg that was originally envisaged and settling instead on 798 kg.

Most of the grid still failed to meet the minimum weight at the start of 2022, running upwards of 10kg over the minimum before going on a regimented weight loss program to help reduce the deficit.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL36

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL36

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

Teams even went to the extreme measure of stripping back their paint in a bid to shave off grams, which can be seen above with the McLaren, as it made significant conceptual changes to the FW44's aerodynamic architecture midway through the season. The final amount that the weight will be reduced this year has still not been formally sorted.

The original 2023 regulations set it at 796kg, but it is understood that there has been recent to-ing and fro-ing with the FIA about the exact level thanks to the impact of the 2023 tyres and standard electronic components.

It looks set to settle on something higher, but the exact number has not yet been confirmed. This may only get finalised after the next meeting of the F1 Commission that takes place on the eve of the Bahrain F1 test.

2023 roll structure load tests

2023 roll structure load tests

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The spectacular crash involving Zhou Guanyu at Silverstone last season, which resulted in the main roll structure becoming detached from the chassis, has also triggered a change made to the regulations.

New dimensional criteria must be fulfilled by the designers, whilst revisions have been made to the load tests too, with an 80kN load supplanting the 70kN and 80kN lateral and longitudinal loads that the structure previously had to sustain. A 140kN load also replaces what was previously 105kN.

On the topic of safety, the FIA has tweaked the regulations in regards to rear-view mirrors, increasing their size in order that drivers have access to more visibility which, given the increase in wheel-to-wheel action in recent seasons, is a welcome change.

2023 rear view mirrors

2023 rear view mirrors

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Teams had the opportunity to be part of a test for these during 2022, with Red Bull and Mercedes doing so in Hungary and Belgium respectively, whilst a group test for all teams was scheduled for the Dutch Grand Prix.

The FIA eventually fell on increasing the mirror's reflective surface to 200mm in width, having previously been 150mm.

Meanwhile, two of the more interesting innovations to appear in 2022 have already seen the curtain fall on their use, as the FIA has outlawed the solutions in order that other teams don't pick up a similar baton and run too far with it.

Those two solutions are from either end of the car too, with the Mercedes front wing endplate and Aston Martin's 'scroll' rear wing endplate designs both ruled out going forward.

Mercedes W13 Front Wing Endplate

Mercedes W13 Front Wing Endplate

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Aston Martin AMR22 rear wing detail

Aston Martin AMR22 rear wing detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

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