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Mercedes gets 10% aero boost as F1 wind tunnel allocations reset

George Russell reckons Formula 1’s sliding scale for aerodynamic testing should be based on points, rather than by position, as the allocations for aero simulations were reset after the Austrian GP.

Formula 1’s aerodynamic testing regulations dictate the amount of wind tunnel time and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) capacity that can be used for an “aerodynamic testing period” (ATP) of two months, based on championship position.

This is a sliding scale, where the team that finishes first in the championship starts a new season with 70% of the baseline allowance, in 5% increments up to the 115% multiplier for finishing 10th, in an effort to create closer grids.

This is reset in the middle of the year per the championship order on 30 June, which followed the results of the Austrian Grand Prix.

George Russell, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team, 1st position, celebrates on arrival in Parc Ferme

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Mercedes has benefitted from this rule; after finishing second in last year’s championship, it began the year with 75% of the baseline allowance of aerodynamic testing for the first three ATPs, but its slip to fourth in the constructors’ standings lifts the team to 85%.

This means that the Brackley team receives 32 more wind tunnel runs, eight more hours of “wind-on” time (when airspeed exceeds 15m/s), 200 more allowable geometries, and 40 hours more of wind tunnel occupancy. The team also receives an increase of 0.6MAuh in the metric used for CFD computer resource used.

Red Bull remains at the 70% multiplier as it continues to head the constructors’ championship, while Ferrari and McLaren move up to the 75% and 80% brackets.

RB has moved from the 105% multiplier to the 95% bracket as it goes below the baseline thanks to its improvements this season, while Haas has lost the most. After finishing last in 2023’s championship, the American team was working to the 115% allowance, but it has now moved to the baseline after taking seventh in the championship from Alpine at Austria.

Alpine and Williams have both gained 10% of their previous allocations, as Sauber has gained 5% as it sits bottom of the constructors’ standings so far.

The FIA’s technical regulations defines the geometries – or restricted aero test geometry – as any representation of a car or a subsection of a car to be tested. Applying a change to their dimensions or to the boundary properties within is considered a new geometry, so teams must be sparing with how many they use.

Wind tunnel occupancy counts the time that the speed in a wind tunnel is 5m/s or over, and thus includes the wind on time. The MAuh relates to a formula defined in the regulations, and includes processor power, processor cores, and time for a CFD solver to compute.

Per the table above, the sliding scale is a rigid multiplier given to a team based on championship position, but Russell contends that the multiplier should be related to points.

Currently, Red Bull sits at the top of the championship with 355 points, over a quarter of the points scored by all teams. The Briton says that if the multiplier was based on the percentage of points, those with a much smaller haul could catch up much more quickly.

“The wind tunnel thing is really good, but it’s based on positions at the moment, rather than points,” Russell outlined.

George Russell, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team, 1st position, at the post-race press conference

George Russell, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team, 1st position, at the post-race press conference

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“Red Bull have been double the amount of points than the second place team of constructors [in 2023], and they get the same difference in wind tunnel reduction as second or third.

“Mercedes to Ferrari last year, there was only three points different so maybe if it’s based on number of points scored rather than actual position of a championship, that would help the team to catch up quicker.”

The current ATP – the fourth of this season – lasts for 10 weeks rather than the standard eight to include the summer shutdown. The final two ATPs will cover the final 16 weeks of the year between them up to 31 December, before the allocation is again reset to 2024’s final championship order.

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