The organisers of the Formula One race in Monaco have proudly innovated over the decades a number of race management procedures and safety protocols that have been copied by others around the world. The extreme topography, lack of run off areas and narrow streets provide the Marshalls in the principality with some fairly substantial challenges.
Having seen a number of races delayed the Automobile Club of Monaco decided they would introduce cranes to remove the cars more swiftly for the 1966 Grand Prix.
F1 Monaco Crane operators mischief
The lack of space to store the broken down cars often meant them having to be removed a substantial distance from the location the cars came to a standstill. Thus the cranes would hoist the cars high in the Sky to clear buildings and other obstacles before placing them where they would be collected after the on track session.
Today the Monaco crane operators at times still mischievously winch the cars up tens of metres even when its not necessary as Toto Wolff observed when Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes rose around twenty stories above the hairpin at the circuit this year.
“Whoever performed the crane has probably worked for Cirque du Soleil,” quipped an irate Wolff.
“Honestly, that I don’t even comprehend. The car was on the road. You could have put it on a truck. You’re showcasing a car to everyone in the world.
That was suboptimum for us, to say the least.”
100 McLaren aerodynamicists study Red Bull photo
Then came the turn of Red Bull as Sergio Perez rammed his RB19 car into the barrier at turn one. A similarly flamboyant crane operator shifted it a few feet behind the crash structures but not before hoisting it over 50 feet into the air.
The inevitable snapshots were taken and beamed around the world of the ultra top secret Red Bull underfloor, which holds much of the secret to their dominant performance this year.
According to McLaren boss Andrea Stella, 100 aerodynamicists at McLaren have been studying detailed photographs of Red Bull’s 2023 floor. He said at the subsequent Spanish GP, “It’s very interesting indeed and shows the complexity and the quality of their development.”
According to Motorsport.com, Mercedes too has admitted that its Formula 1 aerodynamicists are closely analysing a “nice clutch” of images of Red Bull’s floor that were snapped at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Simple copies won’t improve performance
Yet Red Bull chief engineer Paul Monaghan believes the amount of time it will take to interpret and copy the RB19 underfloor airflow management could be a trap their competitor may fall into unwittingly.
Simply copying there Red Bull floor will not necessarily deliver any improved performance.
“It’s not great. We don’t put our car up [like that], but it has happened and we’ll move on,” Monaghan tells Motorsport.com
“But there’s a phase lag between people seeing it, getting it onto their car and actually going faster with it. A better description is that an ignorant copy isn’t necessarily going to go faster. It has to integrate. And it’s not just a bit of floor geometry.”
Japan before copies reach competitor cars
Monaghan believes the analysis, interpretation and the production of any components from the ideas Red Bull have revealed will take until at least October before copycat concepts appear on their competitors’ cars.
“Our development path is reasonably well laid out in terms of the timings we wish to try to deploy things if they’re going to make us go faster,” he reveals.
“If we change someone else’s development plan, then we probably increase the phase lag by which they can get it to the car. So around Japan time we’ll see where everybody is.
“But we’ve got to maintain our discipline and our development path. And it’s only our car that we can change. We can’t influence what those guys do. So, we’ll keep plugging away in our own manner and we’ll try to be quickest.”
F1 car designs morph together over time
Since the dawn of the new regulations in 2022 following one of the biggest car design rule changes in living memory, the F1 cars have already begun to morph towards similar ideas even from a visual perspective.
The Red Bull downwash sidepod concept is becoming ever more popular with Mercedes recently ditching its revolutionary zero pod design in favour of a more Red Bull kind of look.
And this has happened over the years in Formula One as Monaghan evidences, and is nothing to be concerned about.
McLaren exhaust copy made them quick
“We go back to 2009, 2010, 2011, even ’14, we were winning races with an overall similar package to that which Mercedes had,” recounted the Red Bull chief engineer.
“So, we’re not immune to doing it. Other people will look at our car and try to, if they think they’re going to go faster, take influence from it. It’s fine.
“Ask McLaren about 2011 and what their car looked like when it was not quick. Then it appeared with some exhaust which looked just like ours, and it was quite quick.
“So, it’s happened for many years, and it will carry on. It’s a method of levelling the sport. There are no copyrights, are there?”
RB19 could smash all records
Red Bull have won all seven races this year so far and as Martin Brundle suggests it will require “a safety car, red flag, rain, or reliability issues” for anyone else to win again this year.
The RB19 may challenge the 2016 Mercedes W7 which carried Nico Rosberg to his world title for the title to be rated as the best ever Formula One car – based on the % of wins to races over the course of the 2023 season.
Mercedes have three cars in the top four in this record category with the RB18 in second placed ahead of the Mercedes 2014/15 challengers.
Russell and Zhou were absolutely ON IT for the race start! 🚀
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 7, 2023