F1’s Influence on Future Cars: Lessons for Efficiency and Capability
Mercedes-Benz is currently exploring the possibility of incorporating ground effect aerodynamics into their future line of road vehicles. This technique would greatly enhance the performance of their cars, and they plan to fully utilize its advantages by implementing adaptable and retractable side panels.
Ground effect is the technique of generating downward force by manipulating air flow beneath a car through the use of an inclined surface, such as a wing. Essentially, it involves creating a void of air under the car. This happens when the air passing over the car moves at a faster rate than the air passing beneath it, resulting in a region of low pressure that pulls the car down towards the ground. This amplifies the amount of downforce and can also decrease drag, making it a crucial element for both high-performance electric vehicles, where Mercedes holds multiple records, and lightning-fast supercars.
Based on a patent uncovered by CarBuzz at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, it seems that Mercedes may be implementing these principles into their line of road vehicles in the near future.
Starting in the year 2022, the aerodynamic layout of Formula 1 vehicles has been heavily influenced by ground effect. This concept’s potential benefits and downsides within F1 were first recognized in the late 1970s when Lotus, led by Colin Chapman, began implementing flexible side skirts on their cars to fully leverage this aeronautical phenomenon. Additionally, Gordon Murray’s Brabham BT44 fan car was also specifically designed to exploit ground effect. However, the Wright Brothers were the pioneers in understanding this principle, which has enabled powered human flight without dependence on gravity. Therefore, its use in the world of racing is not a novel idea.
Recently, an increasing number of manufacturers have been evaluating the incorporation of this technology into their production vehicles. In June of 2023, it came to our attention that Hyundai was in the process of developing a comparable concept. The previous year had also revealed that Honda had acquired a patent for the use of deployable side skirts, with the same intention in mind.
The patents submitted by Hyundai, Honda, and most recently Mercedes all share a common goal of enhancing downforce through the use of deployable side skirts. Additionally, they strive to achieve this feat without compromising the overall aesthetic appeal.
The distinction among these three lies solely in the precise approach of deploying the side skirts, the type of material utilized for the flexible element (to uphold a seal between the side skirt and the ground), and how the skirts are operated. In reference to this recent Mercedes patent, a stretchable material would be pressurized downwards with the help of a shape-maintaining component. Additionally, this component can regulate the outward extension of the skirt to avoid disrupting the airflow from the rear wheels.
If you believe that this air circulation is fairly insignificant, simply observe the substantial alterations Porsche made to the fenders and doors of the 911 in order to produce the GT3 RS with extraordinary downforce.
Is this patented Mercedes design heading towards actual production? Perhaps it may be featured on an upcoming Black Series edition of the latest AMG GT, or it could simply remain buried in the annals of the automaker’s history. The decision will ultimately come down to weighing the expenses against its effectiveness. However, with numerous car companies delving into this concept, it is likely to materialize into more than just a mere thought in the near future.