Formula One might cultivate a reputation as the pinnacle of motorsports, the most technically advanced series out there. But it still makes remarkably dumb errors, which gave us this wonderful little not-a-cheat about tiny vents in the floor.
The details of the loophole are extremely simple. F1 is perpetually trying to keep costs down, keep the complexity of its cars down. As such, it has all sorts of restrictions of what teams can’t do, so that they don’t go totally nuts and put wings and turning vanes and diffusers on every square inch of the vehicle. Included in these rules are that you can’t have, like, cuts in the edge of the car’s undertray, or floor, cuts that would carefully guide air out and around the rear tires. This is expensive aero work to model, and F1 doesn’t want things getting too complicated.
The problem is, as Motorsport pointed out today, F1 has made so many rules trying to cut down on complexity, it appears to have lost track of all of them and ended up with some rules that are to some degree contradictory, or self-canceling.
What happened starting in the 2017 season is that F1 allowed its cars to be wider. In the case of the car’s floor, it went from 1400mm wide to 1600mm wide.
The problem is that while F1 did update the rule about how wide the floor can be, it appears to have forgotten to update the rule about cuts in the floor at the same time, per Motorsport:
That’s because when the floor width was increased from 1400mm to 1600mm last year, a separate clause banning teams from having holes 700mm from the car’s centreline was suddenly made irrelevant.
Teams quickly realised that without it being updated to reference an 800mm lockdown, there was a 100mm area on the edge of the floor where they were free to utilise holes again.
So that’s why cars like the current Ferrari have little cuts at the edge of the floor, exactly what F1 was trying to prevent and exactly what F1 inadvertently allowed.
You can see the little cuts that aren’t supposed to be there pretty easily on the Ferraris at the most recent Azerbaijan GP.
I really like this whole thing because it reminds me so much of my old favorite F1 cheat, the Gordon Murray pinhole trick in the hydraulic suspension of the 1981 Brabham.
It let the car bleed down to an extra (and illegally) low ride height while on track, then return up to legal height when the car was stopped in the pits. The details of the suspension work itself were devilishly simple, but the best part of it was that Murray installed in the car an aluminum reservoir with a bunch of wires sticking out of it as a dummy, distracting other teams from the real trick he was up to.
Again, F1 is really dumb sometimes, and that’s when I love it the most.