McLaren team principal Andrea Stella thinks Red Bull's dominant form shows that the 2022 Formula 1 regulations package is less restrictive than teams had expected.

For 2022, F1 switched to a car concept based around exploiting the ground effect from the floor, with the aim of making it easier for drivers to race each other by reducing the turbulent wake.

The regulations were also tightened up to make it less likely that one team would steal a march on the opposition. Alongside the effects of the budget cap, it was hoped that F1's new era would produce a grid that is much closer.

While the rules appear to have hit the mark with a midfield that is becoming closer than ever, early suggestions that F1 would become more like a spec series have proved unfounded.

According to McLaren team boss Stella, teams were wary of the scope for innovation the new rules were going to provide, but after developing the cars for over a year they have found there is plenty of potential to make a difference thanks to the various new floor development avenues that they can choose to pursue.

Red Bull and Ferrari came up with two competing floor and sidepods concepts that each proved competitive in 2022, while Mercedes went for a radical design that it is now set to abandon.

"I have to admit, and I think most teams should admit the same, that before the new generation of cars touched the ground, we thought that the regulations were quite restrictive," Stella said.

"But interestingly, as soon as you start the journey, you realise there's a lot of performance, especially on the floor. This ground effect can be exploited from a technical point of view beyond what I think anybody in Formula 1 would have anticipated.

Andrea Stella at Bahrain GP 2023

"If you see the level of sophistication of the geometries, you may see on some cars, especially possibly in the parts facing the ground, so not necessarily very visible, and the complexity of the flow field, and the vertical structures that you want to generate under the car, then these went beyond what the regulations would have expected.

"That's from a technical point of view, a fascinating journey."

Stella thinks this unexpected potential to develop the complex floors has rewarded teams who got it right, as evidenced by Red Bull's huge advantage on the rest of the field in 2023.

"From a spectacle point of view it means that whoever does a better job, like Red Bull is doing at the moment, can gain a consistent competitive advantage beyond what could have been anticipated," he added.

"So there's technical reasons why that is, and ultimately means there's a premium for those who do a better job than the others."

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