Why McLaren abandoned its first sidepod design

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McLaren is the most recent Formula 1 team to ditch its launch sidepod arrangement as the field appears to converge on similar designs.

Why McLaren abandoned its first sidepod design
As a result of a redesigned package of components presented for the French Grand Prix, McLaren has come substantially closer to the direction taken by Red Bull and Ferrari, the top two teams in the championship.

Prior to the French Grand Prix, McLaren was in the middle of the pack in this category.

Aston Martin was at one end of the spectrum, opting for sidepods with a high waist, whereas Williams and Mercedes opted for a very short, rapidly tapering configuration.

Aston Martin and Williams have already abandoned their respective designs, and McLaren is the next to follow suit.

Mercedes is now the only manufacturer to maintain its more compact sidepod design.

The design concept that McLaren had first pursued (top, main image) was one that teams had enthusiastically embraced under the previous era of rules.

The goal of the designers was to narrow the bodywork around the car's centerline and expose as much of the floor's upper surface as feasible.

This was made possible by the aerodynamic techniques available to designers for regulating the front tyre wake. The front wing furniture, the flow via brake duct and wheel rim designs, as well as the bargeboards and their furniture, all contributed to the creation of outwash.

The majority of these tools have been removed from the designer's arsenal, and while teams are continuously looking for methods to better their weapons, they are unable to recoup all of that performance.

In addition, the way the floor operates in 2022 is much different, with a greater emphasis on the construction of the tunnels beneath the floor that feed the diffuser. The stiffness of the floor, the ride height, and the rake angle of the vehicle have also been drastically adjusted.

This has resulted in the majority of teams opting for a more benign approach in lieu of tighter bodywork and an immediate performance advantage. Rather than trying to displace it at the front of the floor and sidepods, they desire a variety of surfaces that can operate as a buffer to realign the wake around the flank of the vehicle.

By extending the sidepod's length and so creating a greater barrier to the airflow going over the top of the sidepod, the majority of the grid's sidepod designs attempt to ameliorate some of the problems caused by the tyre wake shed from the front tyre.

This largely results in the usage of a downwashing ramp, with the airflow encouraged to follow the contours of the car's coke bottle region.

As part of this design, the upper surface of the sidepod can be fitted with cooling gills, which were reinstated as part of this season's regulatory revision and allow heat generated within the sidepod to escape.

This may also result in the rear cooling outlet being narrower than it would be with other options, resulting in additional aerodynamic gains.

Similar to Red Bull, Aston Martin, Haas, and Ferrari, McLaren has chosen to conceal its cooling gills on the shoulder of its high-waisted engine cover.

The team has also adjusted the floor fences and underfloor strake system, as well as the floor's edge, in an effort to influence the wake formed by the front tire by pushing it away from the vehicle.

Further downstream, you may observe that the diffuser kickline and subsequent upwards ramp have also changed dramatically. The floor stay is also substantially shorter, as it is now attached to the sidepod ramp instead of extending to the engine cover.

As part of this package, a number of reliability improvements have been implemented, including the trimming of the rear wing endplate in response to a reliability problem expressed in recent races.

As a result of the heat, McLaren has also made adjustments to the internal ducting of the rear brake cooling system to improve circulation around the component.