2014 Singapore GP Tech Highlights

At this time of year Singapore is extremely hot and humid, even during the night. Temperatures were still hovering around the 30C mark come the race on Sunday and rain was even a significant threat. Whilst the rain held off, teams were forced to open up the bodywork a bit more to cool the cars on a track where they get little chance to breathe – 23 corners are separated by only three proper straights.

Singapore also marked the return of the high downforce packages as the Spa/Monza aero will probably be stored away getting dusty for the rest of the year. There were no large developments but an array of smaller, detailed components made their way onto the cars as the F1 circus heads into a packed final five races.

Mercedes

First of all I’d like to discuss Nico Rosberg’s electrical problem that eventually caused his retirement. According to Mercedes, the wiring loom in the steering column – that links the steering wheel functions to the rest of the car – was faulty and therefore was sending incorrect information.

You could see that the clutch operation was inconsistent and although he had information on his central display on the steering wheel, it was often false. He was also double upshifting on occasion despite only pulling the paddle once, which made drive out of corners incredibly slow. Couple this to the fact that he didn’t have DRS in operation and he was always likely to call it a day early.

Here’s a quote from my recent post on Richland F1 as to what I think on the matter:

“Depending on the makeup of the wiring loom, a small fracture in the wire’s insulating cover could have let moisture in and caused erosion. Introducing water into the wiring could cause the internals to oxidise and therefore break down. We are yet to hear anything conclusive about Rosberg’s failure, although we could be informed once the car is back at the factory and the materials analysis department have a look at it. It is a strange failure but one that can happen, so I wouldn’t buy into the conspiracy theories.”

This corrosion could have occurred overnight whilst the cars were in parc ferme.

However there has been recent word that – because of the unusual failure of this loom given its relative lack of stress compared to other looms along the car – the problem might not be related to corrosion of wiring at all. The likelihood of such a failure is so unlikely that it prompted comments from an electrical engineer in F1, suggesting suspicious behaviour.

Although there is no direct quote, he/she was under the belief that the problems were caused by a different engine mapping setting. If the map was run incorrectly (i.e. not finalised) this could relay conflicting information to the steering wheel’s computer and the car’s ECU, thus creating problems. This comes a day after Mercedes were under serious threat for pole position and Lewis Hamilton then winning the race at a canter.

It doesn’t really add up, suggesting to me that Mercedes could have potentially turned up their PU settings to seek an advantage. It is common knowledge that the team have not been running at maximum settings all year, so it’s certainly plausible.

Aside from technical problems, an actual technical development came in the form of new gear ratios in the W05. Mercedes chose to play their ‘joker’ card for the year, despite the fact that their longer gear ratios have been identified as one of their keys to success in 2014. However after the Belgian GP, the team noticed that they were losing out to others out of higher geared acceleration zones, such as the top of Eau Rouge, prompting the recent change.

The ratios they introduced in Singapore are very different – much shorter. It puts them line with Red Bull but they are not quite as short as Williams.

To break it down further, 1st gear remains the same (as far as I am aware), whereas 2nd and 3rd have been shortened slightly. 4th is actually slightly longer than the previous ratio and 5th remains identical. 6th, 7th and 8th have been massively shortened, to the point where the new 8th gear is shorter than the old 7th. It’s clear that they have concentrated on the higher ratios after their discovery in Spa, so they should see some benefits at Suzuka next week.

The monkey seat winglet above the exhaust was also tweaked. The upper vane element has now been split into two to redirect the exhaust plume beneath – the plume will now rise to the rear wing at a slightly later stage, which should aid airflow attachment at high speed. The main section of the winglet also featured more Zircotec coating and Titanium to resist the heat from the exhaust.

McLaren

More work was done to the rear of the MP4-29 to extract more rear downforce, this time their efforts were focused on the interaction between the mushroom suspension fairings and the diffuser.

The mushrooms were reprofiled at the joining point on the rear crash structure, improving airflow along the centre of the car. The small flap above (and just behind) the diffuser was also raised a little higher to move it closer to the lower fairing. These changes should generate a more efficient upwash effect at the rear of the car.

Force India

A substantial upgrade was evident on the Force India this weekend as the team aim to turn around their qualifying pace deficit to McLaren as the battle for fifth continues to hot up.

Force India FW Singapore

Major changes were made to the front wing endplates, ditching their unique triple-element turning vanes for a single fence (red circle). Combined with the lipped pressure gradient vane (dotted yellow circle), the changes should help extract air from the inside of the wing more readily to produce more front downforce. This also has a positive effect on airflow management around the front tyre, as the faster flow of air should hold back tyre wake a bit better.

There were also some Red Bull-inspired changes to the rear diffuser, with the vertical hanging vanes split into two and the outer walls extended to their maximum permitted area. The two changes will help push airflow outwards as well as upwards.

Combined with the tweaks up front, the VJM07 should have better global downforce.

Red Bull

Small tweaks to the RB10 were aimed at drawing Red Bull ahead of Mercedes in Singapore, although this never materialised.

The front wing’s upper flap was enlarged to induce slightly more downforce, as well as help condition the Y250 vortex. This was accompanied with a much larger bulge beneath the nose, encouraging airflow towards the splitter region and thus onto the diffuser to generate more rear downforce.

Sauber

Another team to bring significant updates were Sauber. Like Force India, the pressure gradient vane on the front wing endplate received some attention as it is now much longer than the previous design.

Sauber extended the length of the pressure gradient vane on the front wing endplated (highlighted, right)

Sauber extended the length of the pressure gradient vane on the front wing endplated (highlighted, right)

The sidepods on the C33 were enlarged at the rear to cope with the higher temperatures, although they still exit ahead of the rear suspension elements despite the general trend of passing them through the wishbones/pullrod/driveshaft this year.

Finally, the monkey seat winglet at the rear of the car had its Gurney tab removed completely. This is contrary to what we would normally perceive to be a higher downforce update, but by removing the tab the exhaust plume is allowed to rise further back and keep airflow attached to the rear wing for longer.

Apologies for the lack of drawings but I’ve been pretty busy lately – just moved into my house in Swansea and university life is a little different, especially this week… You know what I mean!

Analysis: 2015 nose changes

As we all know, the noses caused quite a stir at the beginning of this year although, like the stepped noses of 2012, we have steadily become used to the ‘interesting’ solutions across the grid. Many fans – including myself – didn’t like this year’s noses (barring Mercedes, which I personally think looks great) although it was good to see varying approaches to the regulations rather than a generic design.

To prevent some of the aesthetically displeasing designs returning for 2015 the FIA have re-written article 15.4.3 in the technical regulations, supplying a new set of guidelines for the teams to create their front crash structure.

In this blog post we shall dissect the new regulations and consider design options for 2015.

Here are the aforementioned regulations in full:

2015 nose regs

At first glance the rules seem quite restrictive, as they specifically pinpoint key areas (a and b) that have to be of a specific area. Of course, area does not determine exact dimensions but it is certainly limited in that the FIA have outlined the fact that the nose must be evenly tapered from 150mm behind the nose tip to the front bulkhead. This removes any concerns over the return of the appendage noses, or at least large appendages.

Let’s start with this passage:

2015 nose regs i

The first sentence and half basically imply that a nose has to be fitted and that it has to absorb and impact, which is regulated by tests – simple.

In the final part of the first section – underlined and coloured – tells the teams that the nose must be symmetrical – i.e. no crazy Lotus tusk designs. Amazingly this regulation has never been stated before; although when was the last time you saw an unsymmetrical nose?

2015 nose regs ii

525mm is the maximum height of the front bulkhead at the point A-A, so no changes here.

The very tip of the structure must lie on, or further over, a point 850mm from the Front Wheel Centreline (FWCL). Putting this into context, in 2014 Mercedes set their nose back as far as it can go within the rules – 800mm ahead of the FWCL.

2015 nose

The above illustration represents the changes, with the green line highlighting the new minimum and the blue indicating the distance between the FWCL at the edge of the neutral section of the front wing – the Mercedes nose is 50mm forward of this. It’s a small change – only 50mm further forward over 2014 – but it stops teams from isolating the neutral section of the front wing and creating a larger venturi effect beneath the nose.

On top of that, the change is mainly for safety reasons as teams have been pushing the boundaries this year in terms of materials and thicknesses to shave weight. The extra length added to the crash structure should help teams pass more easily and, more importantly, keep the driver a bit safer.

2015 nose regs iii

I have taken a andas defined points on the nose as they are at different stages of the crash structure.

2015 nose 2

Starting with point a: it is 50mm back from the very front of the crash structure, which therefore leaves 50mm to create a desired nose tip shape – just like 2014. The area of the cross section at must be more than 9000mm² but its width must be 140mm or thinner. This is quite limiting, although as we shall see later there are still various options for the teams to consider.

also defines that the cross section of this crash structure must be at least 135mm above the reference plane. You may notice that it does not include an upper limit in this article, however this has been addressed in Article 3.7.9, which states that no bodywork must breach above a diagonal line taken from the front bulkhead down to a, with a maximum height of 220mm. In other words, the upper limit for a is 220mm. This also prevents extravagant camera pod designs that Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull have been utilising this year.

Point b, 150mm behind the very front of the crash structure and therefore 100mm behind a, must be more than 20000mm² and no wider than 330mm.

2015 nose regs iiiii

From point b backwards there must be a linear taper to the front bulkhead – 150mm forward of the FWCL – which ends with a 60000mm² area. The front bulkhead area is actually the same for all teams at 82500mm², meaning that the nose regulations clear up some potential space at the bottom of the bulkhead for aero devices such as the duct that Red Bull have been using this year.

Again, there is an emphasis on the structure being a “single cross section”.

2015 nose regs iiii

The quote “these sections” is addressing a and- the phrase tells us that the cross section must achieve the aforementioned required areas/widths at both points within 100mm, measuring from the top of each point downwards. This is another attempt to prevent unique shapes, such as triangles of some description. It forces the teams into producing at least some sort of box shape with the required area, although beneath the 100mm the teams are free to produce whatever they want.

This is where the design freedom comes in and I have a few ideas as to what they could do in this area. Say the section is thicker than 100mm but they meet the requirements within that distance, the bottom could have a concave profile, creating a twin-keel style which would allow a small venturi to form and funnel along the centreline of the car. By contrast, the bottom could be convex and we could start seeing the ‘pelican’ or ‘pregnant’ style noses again.

Yes, it is still pretty limited but it gives the teams a chance to optimise airflow passing beneath the nose and into the splitter region.

2015 nose regs iiiiii

This final point further clarifies the rule of symmetry for next year, by disallowing any design that would cross from one side of the car, over the car’s centreline, to the other. Each side of the crash structure must be identical.

Beginning with point a, let’s have a look at some of the design choices available.

Considering that the area prescribed is 9000mm² and that it must not exceed 140mm in width, the first option you look at is a box shape of some sort at ~64mm x 140mm. To put this into some context, Mercedes and Ferrari have noses which are roughly the same width as the front bulkhead at their tip – 300mm wide. The 2015 noses will therefore be pretty narrow up front.

At point b, a generic set of dimensions would be something like ~61mm x 330mm to reach the minimum 20000mm² area. You may notice that the 330mm width is wider than the front bulkhead width, so think something along the lines of Red Bull’s current nose as to what that may look like.

2015 nose 3

Here’s something I’ve come up with. It is worth noting that the dimensions are not exact but it gives us a rough idea of what we could see next year. The above design does not take advantage of the over-100mm loophole described above as the two points a and(both in dotted red) are at their widest, and therefore thinnest, possible – i.e. the dimensions I mentioned above.

From point (the second set of dotted lines going up the nose) back to the front bulkhead (the thin outline by the front suspension) there is a linear taper, narrowing from 330mm to 300mm.

I think the general consensus is that we will just see a lot of 2003/4-style noses with a box-ish profile, but I’m not sure this will pan out. Hopefully you’ll agree that whilst the nose design is far more limited than this year, the 2015 regulations still provide a decent amount of room to play with different philosophies.

This post is a work in progress and will updated up until the beginning of 2015. Please alert me either on social media or in the comments section of this post if there is something I have missed – which I probably have!

Analysis: Follower Questions – monkey seats, cascades and brake ducts

Over the summer I asked if there was anything that you wanted explaining on the technical side of F1, via my social media outlets. I received a few questions and – now that I have got my new laptop – they shall be duly answered in this blog post. So let’s crack on…

“Ferrari’s front brake ducts seem larger than necessary, even without any blown wheel nuts. What’s your opinion on them?” – Andrea Solimini, via Facebook

At the beginning of the season Ferrari revisited the blown wheelnut concept, a technical innovation that teams have flirted with since mid-2012. In fact, a number of teams have also re-installed their own versions on their cars at some stage this year, although generally we have seen them disappear again. The idea behind using them again is to try to regain the larger outwash effect of airflow around the front tyre, since it has been lost slightly due to the narrower front wings.

Ferrari briefly used another iteration of their blown wheelnut in China

Ferrari briefly used another iteration of their blown wheelnut in China

Pushing airflow from the brake duct and out perpendicularly to the car is aimed at encouraging this effect although clearly it hasn’t worked as desired. Generally the teams have to open up the brake ducts a bit more, plus create a new set of pipework to funnel air separately from that going to cool the brakes themselves.

However Ferrari have retained their large brake duct openings despite removing the blown wheelnut for some time now. This leaves us the question – that Andrea has rightfully asked – of why bother with the larger inlets? Afterall, they create a large blockage to oncoming airflow and they seem huge compared to their rivals’ solutions.

My guess is that the larger inlet fairing is actually beneficial to the car’s aero around the front tyre, perhaps managing the front tyre wake more efficiently than a skinnier inlet would. It’s yet another unique characteristic that every car has and it all revolves around how the nose and front wing interact with eachother as air initially comes into contact with the car. The inlet will, however, create a bit of extra drag over something smaller.

“What is the aero effect of the monkey seat? Is it to help exhaust exit?” – Russell Devine, via Facebook

As of this year, the ‘monkey seat’ winglet at the back of the car – formally known as the Y100 winglet – has been increased in width, from 150mm overall to 200mm. The exhaust exit lies directly beneath and slightly behind the confinements of the winglet and we have seen a lot of development in this area so far this year.

The reason for this development is because the exhaust gases have a profound effect on the efficiency of the rear wing above. I find it amusing how the FIA wanted to clamp down on exhaust gases controlling the aerodynamics at the rear of the car by moving the pipe exit to a “neutral” position, only for the teams to come up with yet another way of exploiting them.

The natural course of airflow at the rear of the car is upwards, as this is where the upper and lower aero structures of the car combine – the floor and the wing surfaces. As a result the exhaust plume is also pulled upwards although it quickly wavers, particularly when going through corners.

Like any wing, the rear wing has a maximum angle before it stalls. It stalls because airflow can no longer remain attached to the underside of the wing at a steep incline, so instead the air travels straight on and the low pressure area is removed.

In 2014, there is a clear lack of rear downforce relative to 2013 levels so the teams have often run much bigger wings than you’d normally expect at most circuits this year. They will often run almost maximum wing angle and add a Gurney tab to induce a little extra upwash effect in order to regain the performance loss.

This year’s power units provide more torque and a higher top speed over the departed naturally aspirated V8s, so to some extent there is little harm in running a larger wing angle. It is for this reason the teams have utilised the capabilities of the monkey seat winglet to produce even more downforce at the rear of the car.

Monkey seat demo

As the exhaust gases exit the pipe, they are naturally pulled upwards by the rear aerodynamics. Before the gases start to drift, the low pressure area on the underside of the winglet forces them to remain on an upward path towards the bottom of the rear wing’s central section. When the gases meet the underside of the wing they encourage the airflow passing beneath the wing to remain attached, thus reducing the likelihood of stalling and therefore enabling the ability to run an even higher wing angle.

Mercedes, notably, have gone through various iterations of winglet throughout the season and there are other teams also making strides in this area. Lately we have seen Force India using an arched winglet to induce an outwash and upwash effect, all in the name of creating a little bit more rear downforce.

“Do you think we will see new aero packages on the lower teams this season like Sauber, in hope of points? Do teams have something in place of FRIC after it was banned, some idea to make the car more stable? And lastly what is a cascade [winglet]?” – Stefan Ruitenberg, via Facebook

A multitude of questions here from you, Stefan, so I’ll do my best to answer them all!

Starting with the aero packages, I doubt we will see many new things from the lower teams simply because of their budget. They have absolutely blown through most of it rolling out a new car for this year thanks to the price of the power units and the development required to exploit them within the rest of the package.

I would expect a team such as Sauber to bring the occasional new item, particularly as they have attracted recent investment from a Canadian billionaire. Their problems mainly revolve around braking and their brake-by-wire system has been a huge issue with the car. I do think that they can possibly nick a point or two this year, but the competition ahead of them is so tough that it is unlikely that they will break into the top 10. Say Mercedes grab a 1-2 each race, followed by a Red Bull or a Williams, then a McLaren and a Ferrari. You’d put your money on Force India to also get in there, then possibly a Toro Rosso and your points positions are full. On top of this I don’t believe either driver is of top calibre to pull the car up either, which is a shame.

Since the FRIC ban not much has changed in terms of performance and that’s because the hardware has also remained virtually unchanged. To my knowledge all the mechanical components of the suspension have always remained, but the heave element on the front and rear suspensions was linked to their respective accumulators. These accumulators were disconnected and the main control valve in the middle of the car was removed, reducing weight but getting rid of some stability.

In answer to your question, the teams have a lot of experience in setting up the heave spring and dampers to keep the car level in a corner and under braking, so nothing new has been put in place. Where FRIC was really effective was when there was a combination of both braking and turning (warp), such as China’s turn 1 or Malaysia’s penultimate corner.

The cars do have to be run slightly stiffer now to prevent upsetting the aero too much but that only means a little bit of extra work for the driver when he gets on a kerb or a bump. McLaren have benefited from the ban because their aero platform is based on a really stiff car, so I would imagine that FRIC barely made a difference for them.

What’s a cascade winglet? ‘Cascade’ refers to the hanging definition of the word, as the winglet hangs off the inside of the front wing endplate.

The cascade winglets and turning vanes (highlighted) help manage front tyre wake

The cascade winglets and turning vanes (highlighted) help manage front tyre wake

Thank you for all your questions! Please feel free to tweet me or comment on my Facebook page any queries or questions. I’ll be doing these regularly as I think they are quite useful – you tell me!

2014 Italian GP Tech Highlights

Although the current generation of cars are the fastest in F1 history in a straight line, the unique characterstics of Monza are the result of a bespoke aerodynamic package brought by most teams for the Italian GP. Most teams will spend a solid two weeks designing these packages in order to generate a good car balance for the various chicanes which litter the circuit whilst cutting drag and improving top speed.

In case you were wondering, we saw top speeds of 225mph with DRS in use on the main straight, the fastest speeds ever recorder in Monza. Of course Juan Pablo Montoya’s highest average speed of 162.9mph during pre-qualifying in 2004 remains unbeatable for now, but it just proves that despite all the fuss made about this year’s cars not being fast enough was, well, just a fuss.

Overall top speed was, however, limited by the energy usage capabilities inside this year’s hybrids. You will be aware of the fact that sometimes we see cars at the end of the straight with the rain-light blinking. This is to indicate that the MGU-H has gone into harvest mode and the turbo’s rpm is reduced significantly as a result and slowing the car down. When riding on board with cars reaching the end of the main straight, the engine rpm dropped significantly and this was a particular feature on Valtteri Bottas’s Williams.

Ferrari

Let’s start with the home crowd favourite, and what a disappointing weekend it was for the Tifosi faithful. Fernando Alonso retired midway through due to an ERS shut down, which is possibly linked to a water pump failure. This caused the whole power unit to pack up to prevent further damage.

Retained for Italy was the low downforce front wing from Belgium and three iterations of a low drag rear wing which the drivers tried out on Friday. A new rear diffuser was also present, featuring a lower angle of attack (AoA) in the central section to reduce the upwash effect at the rear of the car. Reducing the upwash will prevent the upper and lower aero structures from combining, reducing drag as a result rather than pulling the car downward.

Details were also revealed over the weekend that Kimi Raikkonen’s car is allegedly as much as 15kg heavier than teammate Alonso, purely to help him with his car balance problems. The extra weight will be incorporated into the ballast rather than adding weight to components, but it’s a clear sign of the Finn’s struggles in the F14 T. Continue reading

Announcements 3…

OK, so I managed to break my laptop – don’t mix water and electronics together. If you do not follow me on social media then here’s what has happened: I am currently using my parent’s computer for this weekend but I should have a replacement laptop soon. All my documents and drawings are backed up so if I need to retrieve something from a previous post that isn’t a problem.

Sorry for the lack of activity, but to those who asked questions via Facebook and Twitter: I haven’t forgotten you and they will be answered!

Update 9/9/2014: I have a new laptop! I miss Windows 7, but what can you do? Regarding the questions that will be answered, stay tuned this week…

I also managed to fall off my mountain bike a couple of days ago and had to go to a Welsh A&E. If you read MBUK magazine then please read the following (if not skip to the next paragraph): I have sent an image of my injuries as a contestant for the That’s Gotta Hurt competition. If it wins then you’ll know! It hurt…

As is the case for every Friday of a Grand Prix weekend I have taken a look at the FP2 laptimes and compiled a pecking order for the remainder of the weekend on Richland F1. You can find out why Williams are looking very good for the race on Sunday, here.

Finally, for my 18th birthday last year I received a single seater driving experience at Silverstone. My family told me to go in August when it would be sunny. And guess what? It rained. It rained so badly that I have had to rebook it for a date in November – almost a year after I got it! Below is a picture of me in the car before we headed out behind a pace car for a few tentative laps. They called us in because the rain got worse and the track just looked like ice. Can’t wait to go back!

image

2014 Belgian GP Technical Highlights

Spa and Monza are two circuits that come at a convenient time on the F1 calendar as their place in the season – just two weeks apart from eachother – allows the teams to finalise their low downforce packages over the summer break.

Spa in particular has always represented a dilemma for the teams: do you go high downforce for the middle sector and compromise top speed, or opt for a low drag setup for S1 and S3 at a risk of losing out if it rains? It is for this reason that we see a mix-and-match of both low drag rear wings and high downforce front wings, although this year the teams had more unique combinations than usual thanks to the high top speeds these cars reach even with a high downforce package. Continue reading

Analysis: Pitstops – How are they so quick?

This post was requested by email. Unfortunately I managed to delete the email so I can’t mention who asked for it! Apologies, but here it is for you…

At the US grand prix last year Red Bull performed a pitstop in 1.923 seconds, the fastest in F1 history. OK, that isn’t strictly true because as much as they like to brag about it, the car was stationary for 1.923 seconds. The actual pitstop time is recorded from the moment the car enters the pitbox to when it leaves the pitbox. FOM place timing gates at these points and this is the time we see on our screens. So really, considering a driver’s reaction time to the green light is about 0.2 seconds and it takes a couple more tenths to get in and out of the pitbox, you’re probably looking at an overall time of 2.2-2.3 seconds. Impressive.

Red Bull – and all of the top teams at least – can measure the stationary time of their car using cameras placed on the boom(s) of the pitbox, hence why they were able to proudly announce their ‘world record’. Continue reading