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What is an F1 Car Concept?

What is an F1 ‘Car Concept’?

It’s a phrase that you may have heard quite a lot recently…

‘Car Concept’ is regularly mentioned when bodywork is changed on a Formula One car. Visual differences that are clear to see. But does that accurately reflect what a team means by a ‘car concept’?

For the answer, it’s worth rewinding a little. Let’s look at the basics of F1 car design. Understanding how cars generate performance and the factors involved in making that happen.

In F1, there are three key technical elements that generate car performance: tyres, power unit, and aerodynamics. We have an influence over all of them, but the biggest differentiator of the three is the aerodynamics. And when we talk about aero, we’re not just talking about the shape of the car and the bodywork.

It’s also about how we use the car, how we control the car, how we evolve the balance and set-up to work with the aero package. Because those factors also impact the aerodynamic performance on track.

The most influential element of an aerodynamic package is the front wing because it’s the first piece of the car that hits the air. It’s also one of the most visually striking differences to the car, along with the sidepods and rear wing, when we bring a new specification.

However, the area of the car that generates the most downforce is hidden from view: the floor. The rest of the bodywork still makes a difference and influences how the downforce is generated across the car and from the floor, but the majority of the performance comes from the floor and wings.

When bodywork or aerodynamic upgrades are brought to a car, is the team therefore bringing a new ‘car concept’?

Well, the answer is… no. And that’s because a car is constantly changing and evolving. It’s much more than what you see. We may start with theories over the best possible direction. Each department has an idea of what is required, and we bring those different aspects together. The aim: to get a car that the team can extract the maximum amount of performance from.

From that starting point though, it’s a constantly developing picture. With every step of the design, test, and manufacture process, we’re learning. Every lap completed on the track enables us to build our understanding and our development. The result of that process is a car that combines hundreds, if not thousands, of ideas as it moves from initial launch to crossing the finish line in Abu Dhabi.

‘Car concept’ therefore is less about what you see physically on track. It’s the theory and understanding of what all the elements are to produce the fastest possible car. And this is always a moving target. We don’t simply start off with a concept and that’s it! The game is to learn as much as possible, faster, and in more depth than our rivals.

We’ve been hard at work turning our learnings into development at the start of the season. We’ve seen some encouraging first steps, leading to our first podium of the year in Australia. Whilst we haven’t had a race since then, the team at Brackley have been pushing flat out. The fruits of that will see us continue to bring new parts to the track at the coming races, as we have at each Grand Prix so far.

We’re excited to get back racing in Baku and continue that cycle of learning and development.