McLaren’s Z-Shaped Floor: What is it & How is it Helping Them Challenge Mercedes F1?

Published 07/08/2021, 7:40 AM EDT
Formula One F1 – Austrian Grand Prix – Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Styria, Austria – July 4, 2021 McLaren’s Lando Norris during the race REUTERS/Lisi Niesner


McLaren are currently fighting with Ferrari for third in the constructors’ championship. The Woking-based team also finished third last season. Although results might not reflect it every weekend, the British team has made steps forwards as they have started to challenge the front runners Red Bull and Mercedes in recent races.

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McLaren driver Lando Norris qualified second in the Austrian Grand Prix and was 0.048 seconds behind Red Bull‘s Max Verstappen. In the race, he was on pace with the Mercedes and finished ahead of 7-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.

Formula One F1 – Austrian Grand Prix – Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Styria, Austria – July 4, 2021, McLaren’s Lando Norris during the race REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

This recent form is a confirmation of McLaren’s upwards progress for the past couple of seasons. But they seem to have taken a step closer to the top in 2021. One of the major reasons behind their progress this season is their Z-shaped Floor.

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What is the Z-shaped floor?

Formula One had introduced many significant changes in the 2021 season. They had announced that teams would have cut down on downforce by 10% and they also introduced the budget cap of 175 million dollars.

The cut down on downforce meant that the teams would have to make changes to the floors of the cars. Most of the teams went for their versions of the Z-shaped floor but 9 races into the season almost every team has adopted a similar Z-shaped floor.

As the airflow coming from the front end of the car and with changes to the barge-boards on the floor, the Z-floor works as a diffusor. The floor helps in taking the airflow from the front of the car to the diffusor at the back.

It will therefore provide the car with more aerodynamic downforce. It also increases the power of the diffusor which is at the back of the car and also helps in generating more downforce.

How is the Z-shaped floor helping McLaren?

At the pre-testing, McLaren had also introduced a new diffusor which was unique from other cars. The recent changes also affected the diffusor as the teams had to trim the fences by 50mm. But the Woking-based team found an innovative solution, as they embedded the fences in the central part of the diffusor.

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McLaren had introduced their version of Z-shaped floor at the Spanish Grand Prix. The floor had two angles fins ahead of the cutout in order to further enhance the aerodynamic effect and regain some lost downforce.

Formula One F1 – Austrian Grand Prix – Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Styria, Austria – July 2, 2021, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo during practice REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

The changes have made the front of the cars too downforce heavy and which in turn makes the rear twitchy. The Z-shaped floor also increases the rear stability of the MCL-35M. These innovations have enabled McLaren to challenge the Mercedes in recent races.

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Can McLaren challenge the Mercedes for the rest of the season? Comment below to let us know.

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Devang Chauhan

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