2014 German GP Tech Highlights

Hockenheim represents a demanding blend of both high top speed and good cornering grip. Unless you’re in a Mercedes it is very difficult to balance the car for this type of circuit. Red Bull had phenomenal pace in the final, tight sector but where half a second down in the middle relative the main competition. Williams by contrast – who have a slippery car in a straight line – had a solid first and middle sector, as proved during the latter stages of the race when Valtteri Bottas held off Lewis Hamilton.

As far as upgrades go there were a few finer details across all teams, but it was McLaren who stood out the most this weekend.


To date, McLaren introduced one of the biggest technical revolutions of the season in Germany as they fast-tracked a rear wing that was actually due to run in Hungary.

McLaren tubercles wing

Along with changes to the endplates (which I will come onto later), you will notice the serrated profile along the leading edge of the top flap and the trailing edge of the main plane, forming a ‘zip’ effect. My interpretation is that the two edges do not interact with eachother directly as their jobs are quite different. Let me explain…

Let’s start with what these sinuous edges are. They are called tubercles and their background is quite interesting.

Whilst this is not a new aerodynamic development in an overall context, tubercles are – as far as I’m aware – new to F1. There have been previous iterations of the concept used in LMP racing and some gurney tab designs with the unique serrated effect in the past, but nothing to this new level that McLaren have produced.

Research has been conducted over the past few decades on the effects of humpback whale tubercles on their large fins. Conclusions were made about their extraordinary maneuverability in water considering their size, with the tubercles on the leading edge of their fins allowing them to turn in a tighter circle. This was because the tubercles created less drag through the water.

When DRS is activated, the top flap is opened by about -10 degrees to the horizontal – pretty flat. This means that the oncoming airflow is hitting the leading edge of the flap almost square in the face. Whilst the reduction in drag from the system mainly comes from the stalling of the main plane and air rushing through the large gap left by the open flap, the flap itself can still cause some drag. McLaren have addressed this issue.

Image: appliedfluids.com

Image: appliedfluids.com

You can see that on the leading edge of the above aerofoil that the high pressure on the leading edge (represented as red in this CFD image) is disbanded across the tubercles, whereas on a normal straight edge the line would be quite a solid colour. This alone is proof that there is a reduction in drag. According to appliedfluids.com, an aerofoil with tubercles at +10 degrees has 10.9% less drag than one without tubercles.

However the tubercles also function well when the top flap is closed, when DRS is inactive. Studies have shown that an aerofoil shape with tubercles on the leading edge can decrease the sensitivity of the wing, allowing an increase in Angle of Attack (AoA) by as much as 40% without risk of stall. McLaren will be running with pretty high AoA anyway, but they have a little more freedom in terms of setup now.

The sensitivity of the wing is decrease because the air is funneled along the wing’s profile, generating lower pressures at (what I’d like to call) ‘hotspots’. The hotspots have such low pressure that it remains attached for a longer period of time, thus increasing downforce. Whilst there are still some stagnant points on the tops of each tubercle, the pressure difference sets up vortices which further improve airflow attachment.

So that’s a decrease in drag with DRS open, a greater setup choice for the driver and more enhanced downforce: win-win-win!

The trailing edge tubercles on the main plane, however, behave slightly differently. They still set up vortices, but they are projected along the backside of the top flap. I think they amplify the ones shedded off the top flap to keep airflow firmly attached across a range of speeds, hence why the tubercles on the flap and main plane appear to line up with eachother.

Other than the tubercles, the endplates also received some treatment. Two sets of arced, staggered fins aligned the both the upwashing area of the wing and the slatted section along the base of the endplate. These arced fins create small vortices and a low pressure area behind. In the case of the fins arcing the slatted region, the low pressure will help pull more airflow through the slats to increase the outwash effect at the rear of the car. Likewise with the upper set, although they enhance the upwash effect of the rear wing. The more air being pulled through at a faster rate, the higher level of downforce you can induce.

The front wing endplate also received a small tweak, with an extra lip on the endplate fence’s trailing edge to push airflow further around the front tyre.

Interestingly, McLaren also opted to nominate new gear ratios for the remainder of the season. Teams only get one opportunity to do this during the season and the changes could compliment the new low-drag rear wing.


Williams had another impressive weekend, as they continue to capitalise on arguably the second quickest car this year.

Earlier this year we saw a slotted shark fin engine cover, and this returned for Germany. The fin features about 15 louvres along each side and they bleed off high temperature air built up beneath the bodywork. This is more efficient than opening up the rear bodywork, as it provides extra cooling whilst maintaining a slim rear end.


The Renault power unit is quite sensitive to charge air temperature – the temperature of the air drawn in by the turbo’s compressor and back into the engine. For this reason, Renault have put an emphasis on getting maximum radiator area for the intercoolers to lower the charge air temperature as much as possible, gaining as much power as possible as a result.

Lotus have attempted to tackle the problem by repackaging some of the internal cooling elements – such as the ERS radiators – to make space for larger radiators that cool the water in the intercoolers. As a result, the team have had to look at other cooling options for other components on the car.

A pair of inlets were added just beneath the roll hoop behind the driver’s head. It is unclear as to what they are specifically cooling but I would imagine that it is a small radiator for the battery, that sits directly beneath this area of the car along the floor.

Pastor Maldonado also ran a modified front wing endplate, which featured a singular and rather sculpted vane rather than the previously split layout.

Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo diverged on setup options for qualifying (and therefore the race), as each driver chose a different rear aero configuration.

Vettel went for a higher downforce setup which included a deeper rear wing with a higher AoA and additional Monkey Seat above the exhaust. This setup also included the swan-neck central pylon introduced at Silverstone.

Ricciardo on the other hand went for a shallower rear wing and no Monkey Seat, plus the older style central pylon that attaches at the base of the wing’s main plane. This probably shows that Ricciardo is happier with a more unstable rear end on his RB10, with the added benefit of a bit extra top speed over his teammate.

Red Bull FW hockenheim

As seen in testing two weeks ago, Red Bull brought this tweaked front wing. The inner cascade winglet’s miniature endplate has been removed in favour of extending each of the two element’s tips upwards. The vane further back has had its own endplate added to it, curving aggressively outwards of the front tyre. These small changes are designed to manage airflow around the front tyre rather than produce more downforce.

Thanks for reading this piece. Unfortunately I won’t be covering the Hungarain GP because I am on holiday over this weekend, although I should be able to get something up once I’m back. Apologies for the inevitable delay. If you would like to find out about the causes of Lewis Hamilton’s brake failure during qualifying, visit this piece I did for Richland F1 here.

2014 British GP Tech Highlights

Britain doesn’t tend to be a venue where vast upgrades are bolted onto the cars despite most of the teams being based a matter of minutes from Silverstone. It’s a little peculiar but the British grand prix just so happens to be at a place on the calendar where primary updates are still in the development stage. This is why we tend to see lots of parts brought to Spain/Canada, then Belgium after the summer break, and then again towards Japan for the final stint of the season.

However there were a variety of tweaks on display at the weekend, with McLaren and Red Bull being the busiest teams. Continue reading

Analysis: F1 Starter Motors

As hard as it is to believe, Formula 1 cars cannot be started from the cockpit so if you stall it on track you’re out. In a conventional starting system the battery powers a solenoid which shifts a pinion in line with the flywheel. The starter motor itself is then activated and the car starts. However in F1 this system is a weight penalty – and just so happens to be forbidden in the regulations – so an external starter is used.

The starter motor itself is a pretty robust piece of kit and I managed to get a few photos of McLaren’s at Goodwood. Continue reading

2014 Austrian GP Tech Highlights

Whilst we have not been to the Red Bull Ring for some 11 years, the track is very similar to the likes of the Hungaroring and Silverstone: a mixture of medium/high speed corners with a few heavy braking zones thrown in for good measure. It is therefore a circuit that requires slightly higher downforce levels and good driveability from the power unit due to the multitude of undulations. The track’s gradient, particularly in the traction areas, puts the a lot of lateral acceleration into the tyres which can easily cause them to overheat, hence the importance of a strong power unit. Continue reading

Bloodhound SSC – Cockpit launch day

I was invited to see the unveiling of the world’s fastest car’s cockpit – Bloodhound SSC. On 13 June, I drove up to their facility in Bristol on a brilliantly warm, sunny day – a healthy revision break to say the least. I also took the opportunity to bring a very good friend, who also wants to take a career path similar to mine. We both love engineering, motoring in particular (obviously), so it would have been unfair to not let him come given that the opportunity was there.

And he had a DSLR camera, so win-win! Continue reading

2014 Canadian GP Tech Highlights

The Canadian Grand Prix never fails to produce and 2014 was no exception. As always is the challenge at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, brakes were a critical area where a number of teams were caught out. The MGU-K does most of the reverse torque on the rear axle this year so teams have been running far smaller rear brakes – discs and calipers. This means that, when we get a situation such as the MGU-K failing on the Mercedes, the rear brakes are put under a lot more stress and fatigue quickly. Coupled with the low downforce packages making it difficult to stop the cars from high speed and high track temperatures, you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster… Continue reading


Hello readers,

I have a few announcements I would like to make heading into the summer! Firstly I have a new Facebook page so could you please give it a ‘like’ if you can as I would thoroughly appreciate it – facebook.com/thewptformula.

Secondly, I will be attending the Bloodhound SSC cockpit unveil on June 13, so I’ll be getting lots of photos and analysing them for you. This will include the whole car and the factory as a whole. And who knows, I may even be allowed to sit in it… Maybe not.

Thirdly, I am very pleased to announce that I will be covering the Formula E test on July 3 at Donington Park courtesy of Richland F1/Rumble Strip News, so I’ll hopefully grab a driver or two to talk about how the new cars feel to drive, downforce levels, tyres etc. Plus I’m even bringing a camera to take lovely shots of tech bits and pieces. You can catch all the coverage on Rumble Strip News and on this very blog.

I may have more news to come but for now it’s only a possibility…

Thank you for continuing to read my blog, because without you I wouldn’t have a hope in going to these events. I can only say that I really appreciate you coming to this website and I hope that it’s useful to you!