Why Sidepods Are Such An Important Feature In Formula 1

If someone is an avid follower of Formula 1 and is keenly focused on technical aspects, they should be familiar with sidepods.

These parts can be found on the edges of an F1 car. They start from the air intake located behind the front wheels and extend until the back, usually ending just before the rear wheels. It is a signature feature of formula models.

This article deciphers the science behind this feature and how optimal it is to boost performance on the track.

Purpose And Benefits

The sidepods appeared in the late 1960s but their importance was felt during the 1970s when the development of aerodynamics necessitated changes to the position of certain components, especially the cooling system.

Every team and designer has a unique approach to setting up the internal components. But generally, the current sidepods contain the radiator for cooling the combustion engine, energy recovery system batteries and their cooling systems, engine oil cooling, gearbox and hydraulic system.

For this endeavour to be a success, the machinery’s inner fit and design are crucial so that designers can devise the outer part of the sidepods to be more streamlined. That is why it is so imperative to collaborate closely with the aerodynamics, mechanical and engine design departments. In the end, all of these elements are interrelated.

Gaining Further Importance With 2022 Season Regulations

Last year, the presentation of new technical regulations allowed sidepods to become even more essential for aerodynamic purposes compared to previous years. This is due to the outlawing of aerodynamic appendages in this area, particularly the bargeboards. 

Essentially, bargeboards control the airflow coming from the front of the car and channel it towards the sidepods and floor. With them out of the equation, engineers had to come up with new strategies to generate more downforce on the upper part of the car.

In 2022, the ground effect was trending due to the introduction of Venturi tunnels, which enables faster airflow underneath the car. 

To adhere to the latest regulations many aerodynamic components had to be simplified, such as the front and rear wings, while appendages and bargeboards were prohibited. Therefore, the underside of the car generates most of the aerodynamics. 

Sidepods have a role in this as well. Despite the ground effect, engineers still attempt to generate more downforce, and the restrictions have driven their creativity to the sidepods.

Airflow is directed towards the car’s back while the edges of the floor are used to maximise further the ground effect. As a result, a variety of interesting designs have surfaced.

Searching Design Improvements

Ferrari has opted for a raised air intake that provides an area underneath for airflow to pass over it and reach the diffuser in the back. 

Red Bull has taken the concept even further, with a less high but carved air intake entrance and a deeper slot below it that pushes air over the floor to the diffuser and fins beneath the rear wing. 

Moreover, Adrian Newey and his team of designers at Red Bull have designed the upper side of the sidepod in a way that the middle part of it is directed towards the rear, while the sides slightly fall to the side.

Mercedes attracted a lot of attention with their zero sidepod concept. Through clever engineering, the team managed to arrange the internal components in a way that enabled them to reduce the size of the sidepods. This gives them more room for directing air above the floor leading to increased aerodynamic efficiency.  

The key point to remember is that the sidepods are part of a broader vision for the car’s design. This means that each design cannot be replicated in isolation and must work in tandem with other elements, such as the front wing and the edge of the floor adjacent to the sidepods.

Since skirts, which were in the early ground effect era of F1 and which sealed the bottom of the car to stop the air from escaping, are not permitted, the side part of the floor, along with the sidepods, are responsible for producing the direction that will aerodynamically obstruct the exits. Vortexes are created when air passes through a precise region, thus ensuring that the wind that moves faster is retained in that area beneath the floor.

Since the regulations are a complete transformation from the prior F1, we ought to still observe huge developments over the upcoming months. As a result, modern sidepod designs should be constantly tested. Thus, don’t be shocked if this continues to astound us throughout the seasons.

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