“There’s a lot of very excited aerodynamicists” following RB19’s floor reveal in Monaco

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Photo credit: Oracle Red Bull Racing

Oracle Red Bull Racing are dominating the 2023 F1 season with 6 wins from 6 Grands Prix. Rival teams are frantically working hard to narrow the gap to the Milton Keynes based frontrunners. However, they may have been inadvertently given a helping hand after the underside of Sergio Perez’ RB19 was revealed this past Saturday due to the Mexican’s car being suspended in the air by a crane in the Principality of Monaco – after Perez crashed in qualifying.


Formula One cars are photographed hundreds of thousands of times across the course of a weekend by fans in the grandstands as well as professional photographers in the paddock. However, when the cars reach scrutineering, the professional cameras in the pitlane must stop clicking (and the fans in the grandstand are too far away).


This pause in photography is because the scrutineering procedure raises the car and reveals what is underneath. Since F1 changed to ground-effect cars, the floor has never been more important to the success of the car and has been designed in a specific way to facilitate performance. It has been reported previously that 60% of car performance is now generated by the aerodynamics from the underbody of the car. As such, the floor is the most aerodynamically sensitive area of the car and a closely guarded secret.


However, when Sergio Perez hit with barriers in the Principality of Monaco in the opening minutes of qualifying on Saturday, the only way to recover his car from the track was to use a crane. What followed shortly after, was an elevated RB19 revealing the entire construct of its floor – no doubt much to the delight of photographers and aerodynamicists in attendance.


The remarks from Performance Director of Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team, Tom McCullough, to media highlighted this very point and reiterated the importance of keeping the underside of an F1 car a well-guarded secret.


“Obviously, there are some great photos! A lot of people were there so I’m sure the aerodynamicists will be having a good look at all the cars that were lifted up. Thankfully, ours hasn’t been lifted up yet. Let’s try and keep it that way! You learn a lot from just even how the plank is wearing. You learn from what’s touching,” McCullough claimed. “There’s a lot of very excited aerodynamicists up and down the pitlane looking at all of that.”


This mindset was echoed by another of Red Bull Racing’s rivals as Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team’s trackside engineering director, Andrew Shovlin said on the matter: “With these regulations, the most important bit is the bit you don’t normally get to see, so the teams will be all over those kinds of photographs. Monaco is a good opportunity to get that kind of shot.”


Red Bull Racing was not the only team to find their secrets revealed somewhat in Monaco as earlier in the day, Shovlin’s own team had found themselves up in the air as well.

As a result of seven-time F1 Drivers’ World Champion Lewis Hamilton colliding into the barrier at the exit of Mirabeau in Saturday’s FP3, it was not long before the British racer’s W14 was soon suspended above the track. A scene very much to the delight of the waiting camera lenses. Even more so due to the fact this was the first race after the recent drastic upgrades from the Silver Arrows.


Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff initially joked about it in his post-qualifying media session:“Whoever performed the crane has probably worked for Cirque du Soleil before.”

However, the Austrian then took a more serious tone stating:“I mean honestly… bad. I don’t even comprehend – the car was on the road, you could have put it on the truck rather than showcasing a car to everyone in the world. That was sub-optimum for us to say the least.”


Out of the two teams – Red Bull and Mercedes – Andrew Shovlin told media in Monaco that he felt it would bring greater annoyance to the reigning F1 Constructors’ Championship than his own team – such is their dominance at present: “I suspect they’re probably more annoyed at their car being left in the sky than we would be about ours.”


However, not all teams felt that these photos would be the silver bullet that maybe a neutral fan is hoping for. As Williams head of vehicle performance Dave Robson chose to emphasise the difference between what can be seen in a photograph and what can be seen in reality – particularly when the lighting is not at an optimum level.


“It seems so complex on a 2D photo, because of the way the light is so curved you can’t figure any of it out. I guess it’s just coincidental. They all do it like that because that’s how they get the downforce, but it doesn’t half make it difficult to copy!” said Robson.

Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur gave an amusing response about it: “We don’t have to look, we have photographs (laughs). We have the pictures.”


Meanwhile, as all in the paddock were having their say, the team principal directly impacted by this, Christian Horner, seemed to take a light-hearted response. The man leading Red Bull Racing’s current title charges quipped “It’s very rude to look up people’s skirts” before commenting further.

“It’s been a bit of a show and tell for all the teams this weekend. Everybody’s been up in the air at some point. So, it’s the same for everyone,”

“Pictures of floors get taken in and around the paddock, they arrive in vans, they work with the cars, the shutters are up. Each team will be employing spy photographers to get pictures of the cars when they’re in parts and pieces. So that’s common practice. I wouldn’t have thought it’s the first picture of the floor. It’s probably the first time it’s been suspended from a crane. But all teams are always striving for that intelligence.” Horner concluded on the issue.


Strive as they might, one can imagine it will take a lot more than photographs – and poorly lit ones at that – for Red Bull Racing’s rivals to be able to close the gap. The current champions are favourites to retain the F1 Constructors’ Championship for a second consecutive year as they already have a 129-point lead over their nearest rival – Aston Martin.

Meanwhile, with the Spanish Grand Prix arriving this weekend, there is already little time to implement any changes. For this reason, Max Verstappen is again the favourite for victory even before his RB19 hits the asphalt of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The way the season is heading, it seems that the main thing being photographed in Spain come the end of Sunday’s race day will once again be a smiling Dutchman.