2014 Chinese GP Tech Highlights

Barcelona is often the place to bring plenty of new bits as not only is Spain closer to home for most teams, but it’s important to start the European leg of the season with additional performance. So it is quite a surprise to see so many new parts turn up in China, just before the Spanish GP in two weeks’ time, although we could perhaps see some more comprehensive updates for Europe.

The Shanghai International Circuit is one of the ultimate compromise tracks: straight-line speed versus down force. It is therefore important to bring parts that will still gain time in the corners but work efficiently to conquer drag down one of the longest straights in F1. It was interesting to note just how much time the Red Bulls were able to claw back in the middle sector relative to the Mercedes cars, only to lose this slight advantage in the third sector containing the aforementioned straight.

Red Bull

With Renault bringing further software improvements to their ERS, Red Bull looked a little closer to the Mercedes in terms of outright pace. Fundamentally the Renault power unit isn’t bad although it is probably a touch behind in the hardware department which, unfortunately, they cannot change. However their ERS has always been plagued with issues so it is only a matter of time until they fully maximise this area.

To complement the additional power and driveability that Renault’s updates bring, Red Bull installed new low-drag front brake ducts. Unlike their predecessor, the two vortex inducing scrolls have been removed and a much cleaner, simplistic design has been utilised instead. Although this compromises the management of front tyre wake, there is less surface area for oncoming airflow to act upon which therefore reduces drag slightly. Vortices also produce drag so by removing the two scrolls further straightline speed has been added.

A conventional way of keeping constant brake temperature is to place tape over the brake duct openings. This is a technique often used by McLaren as they can rip off the tape during a pitstop should the brakes need a bit more cooling. However Red Bull have implemented a more efficient solution by taping on carbon fibre pieces. This encourages air to pass around the duct openings, thus reducing drag a little further, whilst also maintaining constant brake temperature.

Mercedes

After plenty of rumours, Mercedes finally brought their revised nose to China. First mooted when observers spotted that the nose in Mercedes’s advertising posters and short technical animation videos differed compared to the one on the W05 from the first test, AMuS delved deeper and discovered that the new design stumbled across a few problems along its development path – it was scheduled to arrive for Australia but ended up failing 4 crash tests.

W05 China nose

Based on its fundamental design from the first iteration, the nose tip forms an inverted ‘u’ shape centred around the required 185mm above the reference plane. However the team have made the ‘u’ larger which allows the height of the nose to be raised further, encouraging more airflow beneath the car. By regulation, there are still mounting pylons of the specified thickness that lie just beneath each side of the ‘u’ which are visibly narrower, as it was on the previous nose.

The entire assembly has been shifted backwards to roughly the minimum distance allowed from the front wheel centreline as possible. The “stub” shape that this forms encourages the main plane/central section of the front wing to work a little harder, as previously the venturi effect that the old nose created was right above the neutral wing segment, causing low pressure both above and below the plane. Now that the venturi forms further backwards the main plane can function function in a more conventional manner which also positively impacts the rest of the wing’s performance.

Ferrari

As tested in Bahrain two weeks ago, Ferrari continued to use (and race) their version of the blown wheelnut concept. This was first seen last year when Williams introduced it during testing only to drop it before Europe. The saga then continued with Red Bull who kept trialling it across the season. Now, in 2014, it’s back once more with Ferrari.

Ferrari blown wheelnut

The idea behind it is to manage front tyre wake by passing airflow through the brake duct openings on the inside of the wheel to the outer face of the wheel and out into the airflow passing around the front tyre. The blue line represents this effect. This air does not circulate through the drum and cool the brake, although there is a separate network of piping for air to do this conventional job.

By projecting cleaner airflow into the firing line of airflow passing around the tyre, it discourages the formation of large vortices and general turbulence behind the tyre which can impinge on the leading edge of the floor and sidepods. It also has the added benefit of aiding the front wing push airflow around the front tyre, a more persistent problem due to the narrower front wings in 2014. We can see that Ferrari are using very large brake duct inlets which suggests that they are really force feeding the system to try to create cleaner airflow behind the front tyre.

Lotus

I have always said that the E22 has potential, and Lotus could finally be starting to dig beneath just the surface of their black and gold machine. Coupled with further improvements from Renault, Lotus have been ramping up aerodynamic development significantly of late and there were further updates for China.

Copying Red Bull, the team introduced almost identical rear diffuser Vortex Generators (VGs) to encourage airflow to remain attached to the central section and induce a little more rear downforce. Previously the starter motor hole opening did a good job at doing this but now that the regulations have been tightened up in this area teams have to find other ways of extracting the best from the diffuser.

This was allied with some minor revisions to the front wing, including modified cascade winglets.

McLaren

An additional vane was added to the front wing endplate (including a slot), both of which form pressure gradients (low pressure created beneath each profile) which aid in managing airflow around the front tyres. Both vanes feature slots along their length, suggesting that at certain speeds airflow can be bled through the vane to create an optimal pressure gradient across a larger air speed threshold, thus increasing the consistency of the devices.

McLaren also developed number of software updates for their Mercedes power unit to improve driveability, i.e. the way the powertrain delivers torque. This update comes at a particularly important stage of the season as not only does China present a high chance of rain but also various rounds across the European leg of the season. Sampling this update early will give the team a chance to make further improvements before Spain.

 Force India

A new set of rear wing endplates was introduced for the post-Bahrain GP test and have subsequently made their way onto the car for China. They feature no more than 7 small vanes at the trailing edge that all curve upwards which, together with the rear brake ducts, induce an upwash effect at the rear of the car to extract more performance from the diffuser. Accompanying the vanes were new vortex reducing gills, now lying horizontal compared to a previously angled arrangement. Their aim is to reduce the size of the vortices formed at the wing tips and thus decrease drag (read more about this here).

Force india China pod vanes

 

A slight revision to the sidepod airflow conditioners was also made, with the base of the device attached at an arc to the leading edge of the floor rather than vertically to a point slightly further back. This encourages airflow coming around the sidepod undercut to retain itself along the bodywork downstream which boosts efficiency.

Toro Rosso

Another team to make minor revisions to their current package was Toro Rosso. This included and elongated appendage section to the nose with an aim to encourage more airflow to pass beneath the higher ‘m’ arc further back. A pair of slanted sidepod VGs were also added, keeping airflow attached over the bodywork and downstream towards the rear of the car. This reduces the boundary layer across the top of the sidepod (reducing drag) and also increases the potential of the diffuser by feeding the top side of the floor with more air.

2014 Bahrain GP Tech Highlights

Just one week separated the Malaysia and Bahrain Grand Prix which meant that few updates were seen this weekend. However, the relentless nature of F1 ensures that even small modifications are always being brought to the cars every race weekend and Bahrain was no exception.

Lotus

Not so much a Bahrain-specific development as it was first seen in Australia, althouge22 5 vanesh this weekend represented the first time that this aerodynamic modification was run during the race.

In addition to the wing (or ‘tray’) sandwiched between each ‘tusk’ on the E22, Lotus installed 5 vertical vanes between the bottom of the nose and the horizontal tray. The vanes form a ‘V’ formation, with a larger element spearheading 4 equally sized smaller aerofoils. Interestingly, these vanes were always on the E22 when it featured the tray but they have only just been highlighted this weekend. The vanes must be placed on the car in conjunction with the tray to comply with Article 3.7.8.

The regulations stipulate that in this area of the car (150mm forward of the front wheel centreline and within the Y250 axis), bodywork must be open in cross section.

Just the 'tray' (left) would be illegal; tray + vanes (right) is legal. Yellow line = Y250

Just the ‘tray’ (right) would be illegal; tray + vanes (left) is legal. Yellow line = Y250

The horizontal tray alone would create a closed section to the vertical, longitudinal centreline of the car so Lotus have put the vanes in to create an open section. The regulations require an open cross section across the width of the nose, so Lotus placed multiple vanes to meet this requirememt.

The purpose of these vanes is not fully recognised yet, but I’ve had a think and here’s what I’ve come up with. Please bare in mind I’m no aerodynamical wonderkid, this is just my interpretation of what’s going on!

e22 nose vortices

Under ideal circumstances (i.e. travelling in a straight line into laminar airflow), air passes into the gap between the two tusks and forms a small venturi. The venturi isn’t very strong because the tusks are rounded, which means that the air isn’t totally funneled through smoothly. This air then flows backwards towards the splitter under the influence of the under-chassis turning vanes, causing it to splay outwards round each side of the car.

An issue about the twin-tusk nose concept was discussed when the car was first launched and it involved how airflow behaves as it travelled over the tusks and into the area between them when the car is in yaw. A pressure gradient could form between one side of the tusk and the other, causing vortices to form as it passes between the two crash structures.

e22 nose vortices 2

This is where the function of the vanes come in. The above is quite a crude diagram of what I believe could be influencing the airflow as it travels downstream. Vortices roll up between the tusks, but are contained by the horizontal tray below. Airflow is then passed towards the vanes where it acts like a sieve, smoothing out the turbulent flow before its next destination further down the car.

If anyone has an opinion on this please leave it in the comments below!

Red Bull

Red Bull FW Bahrain

There are rumours that even if Renault sort out their driveability and system related issues (i.e. software development), the internal combustion V6 turbo itself will still be 40+bhp down on Mercedes. To navigate around this inherent problem, Red Bull decided to remove the cascade winglets on their front wing in a bid to reduce drag. This change was done in conjunction with some minor modifications to the wing itself, effectively an evolution of the one we saw introduced in Australia.

I read an interesting fact the other day that at 240km/h, F1 cars tend to produce around 1200kg of downforce. Each little vane and winglet introduced to the car aims to contribute about 2kg of net downforce. 12kg (with no drag penalty) is worth a tenth of a second per lap, so taking away the cascade winglets will have deducted some 15+kg at that speed. This won’t affect their total downforce production too much but it will go some way to increasing top speed.

The front wing flaps have been revised, in particular in the inboard section which manipulates the Y250 vortex and general airflow around the front suspension where it meets the chassis. The profile of each flap has been bent over, creating a close overlapping effect rather than spaced out as they were previously.

Ferrari

New suspension components arrived for the F14 T to try to improve front turn in. This has been more of a problem for Kimi Raikkonen who is renowned for being very particular about the general feel of the car. This trait stems mainly from his unique demands from the power steering and how the wheel weight changes throughout its motion. Lotus spent the majority of 2012 sorting out a system to Raikkonen’s liking with various iterations tested throughout the year.

Having already been a Ferrari driver in the past, the team must have been well aware of his demands so this shouldn’t be a problem. Raikkonen visually struggles with the car and although the mechanical changes have helped alleviate his issues slightly, he was still locking up a lot and generally man-handling his F14 T. This was particularly evident in Turn 9 where the drivers are on the brakes and turning in slightly before meeting the apex.

2014 Malaysian GP Tech Highlights

Performance updates were sparse in Malaysia as the teams continue to optimise the 2014 power units. Red Bull in particular have been making large strides in this area but, as seen though the new FOM fuel use graphic during the race, continue to lag behind the Ferrari and Mercedes units in terms of efficiency – Vettel in particular was using a lot of fuel in his pursuit of Rosberg for second place during the later stages.

However there were still some notable modifications to be looked at. I expect a monumental amount of changes in Barcelona but for now there will be a steady stream of bits and pieces.

McLaren

It’s hard to determine if McLaren did indeed find the half a second they intended on bringing to the car for Malaysia, but if they did then the other teams found another chunk of performance, too. Although their pace was perhaps hampered by high track temperatures, a condition that the MP4-29 doesn’t appear to suit well to, the car is still very much a base for a long development curve ahead.

Mclaren nose malaysia

One such development has been this new nose assembly.
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Analysis: A brief study of the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (MGU-K)

I wrote this brief study for my physics coursework and I thought it would be suitable for a blog post. As I found out during this write-up, information about KERS is extremely hard to come by as it is a very secretive area of engineering. I’ll have all my references at the bottom but before you read, it is worth mentioning that this is not a truly reliable study. I have done the best I can with the information I have found and I would like to thank Craig Scarborough (@ScarbsF1) for pointing me in the right direction on occasion. Enjoy!

Most hybrid vehicles today utilise a rechargeable electric motor running alongside an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), which in turn generates the electricity needed to power the aforementioned motor. In terms of satisfying changes needed to combat climate change, hybrid vehicles are arguably a step in the right direction. However all-electric power is an even more sustainable solution but they require an alternative energy source (hybrids use the mechanical movement of an ICE) to generate the electricity needed to power the electric motor.

In years gone by, the Motor-Generator Unit[2] (MGU) has primarily been used to convert currents. However over the past decade this technology has been harnessed to increase the efficiency of vehicles, more specifically road-going vehicles such as cars, buses and lorries. MGUs, in the motoring world, can now be referred to as energy recovery systems, their most common application being in how they recover energy that is normally lost under braking.

Work is done at the brakes (by friction) to slow the vehicle down and this dissipates heat energy as a result of the contact between the brake pad and the braking surface (e.g. a disc). This lost energy can be recovered by inputting a generator into the drive system. When the vehicle is under deceleration, the generator harvests this previously lost energy – it acts as a highly resistive force when generating electricity so less force is needed on the braking surface. Therefore less work is done at the brakes and thus less heat is dissipated. Energy has been recovered from the braking phase which can now be used for other purposes, such as powering an electric motor that provides a drive for the vehicle.

These are the basic principles of the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS)[9]. It recovers kinetic energy normally lost under braking, stores it (in a chemical or mechanical energy store) and is then used to power the vehicle during acceleration. KERS is, effectively, a glorified MGU: it is well-known for its use in Formula One over the past five years although the technology has expanded rapidly into road cars and other forms of motorsport.

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Analysis: 2014 F1 steering wheel

W05 steering wheel

2014 marks the beginning of a new era in Formula 1 through a number of ways, including the evolution of the modern steering wheel. F1 has been left behind in this area over the past decade, with many other forms of motorsport adopting new displays and making various performance factors easier to adjust from the cockpit. From this year onwards, however, the pinnacle of motorsport is set to become the trend setter in vehicle electronic systems via an upgrade to the steering wheel and, more obviously, the ERS. For this analysis I will be drawing particular reference from the Mercedes W05 steering wheel although many of the features will be identical to those found on the other cars.

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2014 Australian GP Tech Highlights

Formula 1 is officially back and, as for every single race weekend throughout the season, so is the Tech Highlights series, which aims to cover the most intriguing and important updates over the course of the year.

Although we have only seen a handful of major updates (which you are about to read about) so far this year, expect development to start ramping up very quickly. Most of the aerodynamic modifications have been fairly subtle as teams optimise the aero package around the cooling of the 2014 power units, with substantial performance boosters to come in the near future.

Red Bull

The Milton Keynes outfit have been incredibly busy since the final test in Bahrain, although it was no surprise to see a much tidier looking RB10 in Australia. The well documented issues surrounding the Renault power unit have ultimately cost them time in developing the aerodynamics of the car further, but we finally saw a much more sophisticated rear end during Friday practice.

rb10 rw endplates

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