For Monaco, that has led to the introduction of an interesting serrated diffuser concept that was tried for the first time in Thursday practice.
The design, which only appeared on Max Verstappen’s car during FP1, features a revised outer section, whereby a serrated edge has been applied to the two innermost Gurney-like extensions that run around the periphery of the diffuser.
Meanwhile, Sergio Perez, running the standard configuration, would give Red Bull plenty of data in order to quantify any uplift in performance.
The change had been made obvious by the flow-vis paint that had been sprayed on the diffuser and rear wing in order that the team might get confirmation that the airflow was behaving as anticipated.
And, with Monaco being somewhat of an outlier in terms of downforce levels, it means that the airflow might need to be worked a little bit harder to achieve the same results.
Serrated surfaces are not a new playground for F1 though, with Mercedes making use of them on numerous occasions in recent years, whilst the mid 2000’s proved fruitful for them from a design perspective too.
Red Bull Racing RB16B diffuser comparison
Photo by: Giorgio Piola
Why add serrations?
There are numerous scientific studies that investigate the effect of a serrated trailing edge to a wing, and there have been various examples of toothy Gurney flaps and trailing edges employed within F1.
The general consensus from those studies is that the addition of serrations improves the performance of a wing structure, and in this case would increase the downforce produced by the diffuser.
With the array of elements that surround the diffuser, the low-pressure zone generated behind the diffuser is increased, introducing greater suction and therefore improving the performance of the underbody.
However, these serrations add further drag into the mix thanks to the small vortices coming off the tips.
Aerodynamicists want to try and stall the diffuser on straights and then allow airflow to reattach ahead of corners to generate downforce when required – but that would be altogether more difficult with these serrations, which would allow for greater attachment over the surrounding diffuser elements.
Thus, the development is perfect for a circuit like Monaco, where there are no parts of the course where turning down the amount of drag produced by the diffuser is desirable.
The low-speed nature of the course means that finding downforce through any means possible is essential, and therefore allows teams to take more liberties with aero parts that would otherwise generate a lot of drag.