We saw plenty of them during the pre-season track session at Barcelona
and it is a certainty they’ll be on show again at testing in Bahrain – but what exactly are the grills you’ve spotted attached to the cars?
Well, these are called aero rakes and, in the first-ever episode of The Williams Warm-Up, we caught up with our Head of Aero Performance Yannick Ducret to help us get right up to speed with how they work and what they tell us.
“Aero rakes are very important for us, we were very busy in Barcelona using various different aero rakes.
“They’re called aero rakes because that’s how they started many, many years ago. They were only ever used in wind tunnels and they were just a rake with a line of probes that would swipe up and down or left to right to monitor the quality of airflow over a car.
“Then they started running them on the cars, and now there is a real array, it’s not just a rake anymore.
“There are now many probes to help us measure the quality of airflow in various places around the car.”
It can be pretty clear to even the newest Formula One fan when a team is running aero rakes but, as Yannick explains, sometimes it’s not always so obvious.
“They come in all shapes and sizes, we have the very small aero rakes to go in places that you won’t even see, like under the floor of the car.
“These will be just a few probes for a very targeted area, but we also have much bigger rakes that you’ll see a lot of in testing, as this is the time we’re allowed to run larger rakes, which is something we can’t do at race events.
“Those big rakes are usually for measuring airflow around the front tyres but as they move when you steer, they need to cover a large area to capture all the possible data – they can have more than 500 probes, so are pretty massive.”
F1 is an ultra-competitive sport, both on and off track, and the aerodynamic team are always looking to stay ahead of the game.
But pre-season also provides a good chance to see what other teams are doing, and Yannick admits he likes to keep an eye on what else is being done throughout the paddock.
“It is a bit competitive, obviously we want to have the best tools when we’re competing against all the other teams.
“We try to take inspiration from their ideas, see the designs they have, inspire ourselves from their designs to come up with the best tools for our job.
“We do see what other people are doing to get the best and least intrusive aero rakes.”
To watch the full interview and see Yannick talk us through a real aero rake, watch the first episode of The Williams Warm-Up below.