How does F1 wind tunnel testing work under 2023 restrictions?

Formula 1's aerodynamic testing restrictions are intended to even out the field over the coming years

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Formula 1‘s new-age aerodynamic testing restrictions are already under the microscope after Red Bull‘s 2021 cost cap breach saw their wind tunnel time restricted even further than they had as 2022 constructors’ champions.

However, that penalty has seemingly had little affect on the Milton Keynes outfit as they’ve started the season in dominant fashion, taking three wins and three pole positions from the opening three rounds.

That prompted Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur to brand their penalty, which also included a $7 million fine (that didn’t come out of their 2023 cost cap), “very light” while Christian Horner responded that it would bite later in the season.

Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur at the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur at the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix | Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

How much wind tunnel time does each team have?

Each team gets a percentage of testing fewer than the team below them in the 2022 constructors’ championship, with the baseline set at seventh place (Aston Martin).

Teams can’t front or backload their testing too much though, the year’s been split into six aerodynamic test periods (ATPs), each lasting around eight weeks. So ATP 1 began on New Year’s Day, and ATP 6 ends on New Year’s Eve.

There’s a 5% difference for every position, so the seventh-placed team gets 320 wind tunnel tests per ATP.

However, to complicate things even further, the rankings get reset on the 25th June, at the end of ATP 3, to the current constructors’ championship order on that date. That then sets the restrictions for the rest of the year, so Aston Martin could see their testing cut by as much as 25% between each half of the season.

Who has the most windtunnel time?

Logan Sargeant leads Nyck de Vries in the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix | Williams F1 Team

Williams are set to benefit the most from these restrictions, under new team principal James Vowles.

However, they’ll likely move ahead of AlphaTauri with what looks like the faster car based on the opening three races, so both teams may get equal time over the season.

Red Bull would’ve already got few than everyone anyway, but with their 7% penalty thanks to that cost cap breach, Williams now have nearly double the amount of windtunnel time as the championship leaders.

The other big element affected by this is computational fluid dynamics (CFD) testing – this effectively reduces by 100 items (per ATP) for every position higher in the championship, except Red Bull who have been docked an additional 140.

Wind tunneltime per ATP:

2022 finishTeam2023 position*% aero testingWind tunnel runs
1Red Bull163202
2Ferrari475240
3Mercedes380256
4Alpine585272
5McLaren490288
6Alfa Romeo895304
7Aston Martin2100320
8Haas7105336
9AlphaTauri9110352
10Williams10115368
*Correct as of 2023 Australian Grand Prix

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