Since the start of F1’s regulation overhaul of 2022, teams have been keen to keep the designs of their ground-effect floors a closely guarded secret, with engineers estimating as much as 60 percent of car performance is now generated by the largely hidden aerodynamic features. 

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But over the course of the weekend in Monaco, everyone was treated to an infrequent opportunity to get a good look at an area of the cars not normally seen thanks to the circuit’s unique nature.

The first instance occurred after Lewis Hamilton crashed his Mercedes at Mirabeau in the closing stages of final practice. 

When his car was lifted high into the Monaco sky by a crane - rather than being put onto the back of a flatbed truck - the heavily-upgraded W14’s floor was completely exposed and left to the mercy of photographers. 

That led Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff to joke that the crane operator must have come from the famed Cirque du Soleil as he admitted the unintended reveal was “suboptimal”. 

Just hours later, the underbody of Red Bull’s dominant RB19 was shown to the world following Sergio Perez’s qualifying shunt. 

Mercedes’ Andrew Shovlin said F1 teams will be “all over” photographs of the 2023 Red Bull to try and spot any features they might have missed.

“I suspect they’re probably more annoyed at their car being left in the sky than we would be about ours,” Shovlin added. 

Aston Martin performance director Tom McCullough said the exposure of the RB19 would provide teams with useful information. 

“Obviously, there are some great photos,” he said. “A lot of people were there so I’m sure the aerodynamicists will be having a good look at all the cars that were lifted up.

“Thankfully, ours hasn’t been lifted up yet. Let’s try and keep it that way!

“The aerodynamicists never want you to show that. You learn a lot from just even how the plank is wearing. You learn from what’s touching.

“There’s a lot of very excited aerodynamicists up and down the pitlane looking at all of that.”

So are Red Bull the biggest losers from their floor being displayed to prying eyes?

Not according to team principal Christian Horner, who insisted he isn’t bothered that rivals got the chance to check out a seldom-seen area of their car. 

“It’s very rude to look up people’s skirts,” Horner joked as he brushed off concerns about Red Bull’s secrets being revealed. 

“It’s been a bit of a show and tell for all the teams this weekend,” he added. “Everybody’s been up in the air at some point. So it’s the same for everyone.

“Pictures of floors get taken in and around the paddock. They arrive in vans, they work with the cars, the shutters are up. Each team will be employing spy photographers to get pictures of the cars when they’re in parts and pieces. So that’s common practice.

“I wouldn’t have thought it’s the first picture of the floor. It’s probably the first time it’s been suspended from a crane. But all teams are always striving for that intelligence.”

Williams’ head of vehicle performance Dave Robson also downplayed the usefulness of the images. 

Robson pointed out that due to the sophistication of Red Bull’s floor layout, it will be hard to replicate by other teams. 

And then there is the added factor of the F1 cost cap - set at $135m for 2023 - to take into consideration. 

“It’s so complex that on a 2D photo, because of the way the light is, it’s so curved, you can’t figure any of it out,” Robson explained. 

“I guess it’s just coincidental they do it all like that because that’s how they get the downforce. But it doesn’t half make it difficult to copy!”

Sky’s pitlane reporter Ted Kravitz said Red Bull’s floor makes the designs of Mercedes and Ferrari look “prehistoric” in comparison.

“It’s a thing of wonder and beauty,” Kravitz said. “Especially when you compare it to the floor of the Mercedes and the Ferrari, which we also saw up on cranes so we got a full view of it this weekend. 

“They look prehistoric. Even the little guide fences have got guide fences of their own on the Red Bull!

“It’s so complex in three dimensions – not only in elements coming down but then curling round and it’s got circles where the vortex start and then the vortices are generated midway through the floor. 

“Then what they’re doing with the area under the crash structure and the gearbox as well.

“I tell you, when you look at these pictures and compare them to the Mercedes and Ferrari you think ‘okay, no wonder this Red Bull RB19 is so good’.” 

Even if doubts have been raised over whether teams can gain much from the photos, they certainly provided a fascinating insight into modern-day F1 tech and grabbed everyone’s attention.