2015 Hungarian GP Tech Highlights

The Hungaroring in Budapest is one of the most old-school tracks of the year, featuring a mixture of slow/mid-speed corners that really challenge a Formula 1 car’s chassis capabilities. Because of this, we see plenty of teams who do not necessarily have a good powertrain shine through if their aerodynamic package is strong, such as Red Bull.

There is only one long straight where a good engine can really stretch its legs, so downforce levels are almost as high as Monaco but a good chassis balance is better rewarded due to the sweeping corners in the middle sector, whilst traction is less of a key factor.

Whilst most of the teams will be preparing a substantial upgrade for when F1 returns after the summer break, there were some noteworthy changes to some of the cars in Hungary. In this week’s Tech Highlights we will look at upgrades from McLaren, Williams, Red Bull and Mercedes, plus a look into the reasons behind Sergio Perez’s rear suspension failure during FP1 and indeed Nico Hulkenberg’s front wing failure during the race.

Williams

Williams moved part of their intended upgrade for Spa forwards slightly, allowing Valtteri Bottas to run the only new front wing available for the weekend. The remaining parts will be brought after the summer break for both drivers, and judging by the new wing the changes could be quite widespread over the rest of the car.

FW37 FW

Whilst the cascade elements remain the same as its predecessor, the flaps, endplates and outboard elements have been heavily reworked to generate new aerostructures over the rest of the car.

Starting with the upper flaps: they make look similar in shape, but their positioning has been changed to finetune the Y250 vortex that runs in parallel with the front of the car before veering off around the sidepod undercut. The flaps are now slightly twisted further forwards, which is similar to what Mercedes and Red Bull are doing. This reshapes the airflow over the front suspension elements, too.

Outboard, the seven elements (highlighted) now form a more aggressively arched tunnel to form a strong vortex around the front tyre. Mercedes are leading development in this area, whilst Ferrari – like Williams – have gone for a less dramatic shape.

The arched elements now begin further inboard and further away from the endplate, as indicated by the red marker. As a result the air expands rapidly outwards as it approaches to the back of the wing, which can be hard to control properly. To help this, three of the leading elements continue to run along the footplate of the wing, forming three distinctive slots. This, along with the slot gaps that separate the other wing elements, controls the formation of the vortex to produce more consistent front downforce.

To suit the new wing profile, the endplate has arguably a more basic shape, but is still designed to push flow around the front tyre.

More small vortex generators have been dotted along the wing ahead of some of the slot gaps, plus the upper flap angle adjuster has been tweaked to benefit the new profile.

Red Bull

Once the team that everyone copied, even the mighty Red Bull have slowly resorted to taking leaf after leaf out of the Mercedes book, including their front wing and rear wing endplate design.

For Hungary the ‘Bulls replicated the Silver Arrows nose camera pods, much like Ferrari have done. The pods now stand on tall, thin stalks that act as miniature turning vanes, whilst the blockage that the pods caused have been shifted higher and in front of the upper front suspension wishbone. This should help improve the aerodynamic efficiency of the RB11 by a tiny bit, by shifting the wake the pods generate to a more ideal location.

The team have also resorted back to the blown front axle, which has been missing for the past few races. I think that this solution works well for mid-speed corners where the aero loads a lower, which reduces the outwash of the front wing. The blown axles generate more outwash around the front tyre, so whilst it might not be an efficient method of producing downforce it is effective at a slower speed tracks.

McLaren

A double points finish may have come as a surprise on Sunday, but McLaren Honda have made progress on both the power unit and chassis fronts lately but perhaps haven’t been able to show it due to circumstances mostly out of their control. Further aerodynamic tweaks were evident over the weekend which complete the overall upgrade to the MP4-30 that started back in May, including the short nose.

MP4-30 mirrors

The final pieces of the upgrade include further shrink-wrapped sidepods, additional aero devices above the diffuser and new mirrors/cockpit aero tweaks.

Starting with the mirrors highlighted above, these follow what Mercedes have been doing since the start of the season by using the mirror blade and an additional, upturned vane to control airflow over the sidepod. The vane acts as both a vortex generator – the vertical part – and a guide vane – the small horizontal section – by using the flow passing around the mirror blade. This minimises the disruption that the mirrors cause and actually turns it into a positive aero effect by encouraging air down the sidepod towards the top of the diffuser.

The sidepods now feature a small blister thanks to the extra effort put into hugging the McLaren’s internals – the blister is made to clear the back of the Honda power unit. This both reduces drag and improves downforce, as more air is allowed to make its way to the top of the diffuser.

Speaking of the diffuser, the MP4-30 now has two Gurney flaps above its top edge, one stacked above the other. Around the rear crash structure is a newly designed flickup element, too, which works with the Gurney flaps to link the diffuser and rear wing together via the upwash effect. These changes are minimal, but will improve rear stability and consistency rather than boost overall rear downforce.

Finally, the front wing received yet more detail changes to the upper flaps including scalloped trailing edges to improve flow over and around the under-wing fences. Big budget teams such as McLaren can afford to continuously make these tiny tweaks, but imagine the amount of spare iterations of wing that are amounting!

Mercedes

Although it wasn’t raced, a new monkey seat winglet was installed on the W06 during Friday practice. Mercedes have produced some extravagant Y100 winglets in the past but this new one is very simplistic and resembles that seen on the Williams in recent years.

Consisting of just one shallow element, it is set at an angle with the two mounting pylons angled forward and attaching to the top of the rear crash structure by the engine cover’s edge. There is still a lot of experimentation in this region of the car amongst all the teams, and this is Mercedes’s third iteration of the device since 2014.

Force India

Having introduced a large upgrade at the previous round in Silverstone, Force India will be more than a little disappointed to see two of those fail at the Hungaroring – the rear suspension and the front wing.

On Friday, Sergio Perez’s front lower arm on the rear wishbone fractured, pitching him into a spin and produced a dramatic crash. The fractures were caused by the excessive use of the kerbs, which are a factor in getting a good laptime around this circuit.

The vibrations were so severe that the structural part of the suspension failed – the wishbones consist of an outer layer that dictates how air passes around them and a structural inner core for load bearing.

After abandoning FP2 to find out how to fix the problem, a huge effort was made back at their factory in the UK to redesign, test and manufacture the new wishbones overnight before delivering them to Hungary ready for Saturday. That’s an incredible achievement and it just shows how F1 teams are ready to react to such issues, even for a team with a slightly low end budget.

Nico Hulkenberg’s front wing failure during the race was also caused due to the same kerb-related problem, resulting in the lower parts of the mounting pylons to give way under maximum aerodynamic load.

Force India were not the only team to be caught out by the kerb vibrations, as Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen had a nose camera pod fall off midway through the race due to the same thing.

Analysis: The future of F1 design?

If you are even remotely interested in Formula 1 you will be aware of the current debate being had over whether the current formula is just not up to scratch. Is it the speed of the cars? The tyre degradation? The power units? DRS? These are some of the many questions that have caused the FIA to reconsider the direction F1 is taking and how to alter it for the better.

This blog post is not going to go into the ins and outs of the debate (thank goodness), but I will now share with you and explain the ideas behind my 2017 – the year the FIA want to get things done by –  F1 car concept using a couple of illustrations I did a few months’ ago. Seeing as F1 does not return until next weekend, now seemed like a good time to post this piece.

The general idea behind this car is to follow what the FIA is wanting to do, which is make them faster. Personally, this is not what I would do if I was in charge but I’d better get used to designing around regulations I don’t like! This car therefore represents an emphasis on ground effect and underfloor aerodynamic performance to improve laptime. It should also make following another car in turbulent air a bit less of a challenge as a result.

Bare in mind that these are my personal views on the subject and I am always very interested to hear your comments on this! Please leave them down below (pretty please).

2017 prediction

This is my first interpretation of the very basic outline that the FIA have suggested F1 cars should look like come 2017. It is not overly aggressive as I’ve tried to be fairly realistic rather than display some crazy, wing-clustered machine!

Aerodynamics

Let’s start with the nose and front wing. The FIA have suggested that they would like two sections to the wing, an outer and inboard section. There are clear divisions between the two segments, with regulations having moderate control on how many elements – and their area – can be placed in them. This should stop the wings being too sensitive when following another car as there are less surface areas providing performance.

My design draws design cues from both the current formula and the wings from pre-2009, which curved upwards and formed a crinkled shape. It is also wider, back to the 2009-2013 width, to help airflow pass around the front tyres a bit better. Having larger outboard elements (compared to the inboard ones) generates the downforce needed to boost performance whilst making airflow management around the front tyre slightly easier thanks to the increased height at the wing tips.

The neutral central section remains lower – about the same height as today’s wings – to create some ground effect, whilst also keeping clear of larger volumes of turbulent flow that is induced by a car in front.

The teams would have a lot of freedom in how the wing rises from the neutral section to the tips, which should make for a variety of swoops and crinkles.

The endplates will have a minimum surface area similar to what the current regulations dictate, but aside from that both the aforementioned and the vanes that separate the sections of the wing can be freely developed.

Deciding on the height of the nose was tricky as they form a critical part of the safety of the car. I opted to go for a much skinnier nose at a low height, which tapers back towards the front bulkhead. If the bottom of the nose is undercut quite heavily, it allows a lot more airflow to pass underneath the car than the 2015 noses whilst still benefiting from the low nose height that prevents the car rising above the tyre of another car or even penetrating the cockpit.

As for the nose pillars/pylons, these will have about the same guidelines as the current regulations allow for. This means that they can still be used to feed flow towards the splitter to improve the underfloor performance.

Moving further back, the front brake ducts must be simplified to improve aero efficiency behind another car, leaving just the bell-mouth inlet and large guide vane/wheel cover.

The front suspension remains an open area to develop within the current regulations.

As far as I am concerned, little changes need to be made around the middle of the car because otherwise we will end up looking like 2008 all over again. Don’t get me wrong, I loved those cars! It just doesn’t necessarily promote good racing given the additional aero surfaces.

The bargeboards – despite the fact you can’t see them in the above image – are increased in size which helps navigate airflow around the leading edge of the sidepod undercut more effective.

If we move round to the back of the car, things start to get more interesting…

2017 prediction rear

As you can see, the diffuser is significantly taller and wider, especially around the central section beneath the rear crash structure. Whilst the remaining part of the floor remains fairly unchanged, the increased diffuser area will encourage greater ground effect whilst also presenting a much more aggressive look to the back end of the car.

The teams will have a certain degree of freedom when it comes to the shape of the ginormous central exit, so probably a maximum volume within a square box in which it can be defined.

Whilst the centre of the diffuser has the same upsweep start point as the 2015 regulations, the two flanking sections can be swept back ahead of the rear axle line by about 20mm. Again, this is to put more emphasis on ground effect than top aero surfaces.

You may also note that there is no starter motor hole/ gate in the central section either. More on this later.

Moving upwards and the rear wing receives a totally new look for 2017. It is now lower than the current height but not 2008 low, pretty much in between the two heights. This is more of an aesthetics change rather than anything performance related if I’m honest – lower and sleeker is, in my opinion, the way to go!

However the wing is now divided up in a similar fashion to the front wing. We have the main central section which occupies the same space as a current F1 rear wing, plus two outer winglets attached to the main endplates which are mounted on the floor. I have ditched DRS (for many reasons which I won’t go in to, but I guess you could say I’m not a huge fan) with this design but if it were continued the same setup would apply, with the top flap of the centre wing opening up.

This boosts the wing’s width back up to pre-2009 levels without the dramatic increase in rear downforce – that’s what the floor/diffuser is for. Again this is mainly a change to provide more striking looks more than anything.

Mechanical

Hopefully it’s obvious from the drawings but the overall width of the car has been increased from the current 1800mm to around 2000mm, which is the maximum the FIA would permit and the same as the late 80s cars such as the MP4/4. The width of the cars has not changed since the late 1990s so this will give the engineers something to think about when it comes to both aerodynamic and mechanical design, particularly regarding roll centres and choosing between push and pullrod suspension. Plus it looks a hell of a lot cooler.

The rear tyre width has also been substantially raised to induce more mechanical grip and place less reliance on the aerodynamics when following another car. This should be particularly useful in traction zones, too.

Power unit

This may seem unpopular to you readers, but I would like to see the current V6 turbo hybrid retained for 2017 onwards. My reasoning comes down to reducing the rise of costs, primarily, but I also don’t see what’s wrong with them apart from the (slight) noise issue. I’m all for loud racing cars, but if the racing isn’t good then I don’t want to watch. The V6s’ have provided great entertainment, with drivers battling the rear end of the car on exit and generally making the cars quicker overall. If a bit can be done to make the power units a bit louder then F1 should not change this aspect of the car.

Further expanding on this point, development should be freed up to allow for a fresh look to Formula 1. For example, you may note that I have not actually drawn any exhaust pipes on the car above. This is because I believe that the teams should get a choice of either one or two pipes, which can exit in a number of dedicated locations aside from the floor area.

This means that a closer relationship must be established between the engine manufacturer and the chassis team to determine what solution works best, whether that be in terms of packaging or horsepower or cooling etc.

Allowing the engine side of F1 to advance takes time, but it also allows the teams to come up with new ideas to help propel them up the grid rather than being stuck in the current (and restrictive) token system. I do sometimes get quite bored of talking about the aerodynamic upgrades to the cars race by race – it gets fairly repetitive to me. I want to see more things done internally and I think it will produce better racing as a result.

Finally, a quick note on the starter motor hole – it isn’t there. F1 can move into the 21st century for 2017 and finally have a starter button inside the cockpit. Sorted.

As I said at the start, please leave your opinions in the comments section because I’d love to know them! Any questions as well, fire away. 

Announcements 6: I need your help!

Hello readers,

Firstly, thanks for reading this blog. It means a lot to have your continued support and now I do feel as if it is much more than just a hobby.

Last month I co-wrote an article with Joe Diamond on tech in Formula E for The Times, and it was really cool to see my name in a national newspaper. You can read the online version here, but I’ll post a picture anyway because, why not?

image

If all goes well I will continue to contribute towards the newspaper in some form, either online or in the paper itself. It’s pretty exciting, and I honestly did not think this blog could lead to something like this, so thank you. Hopefully there will be other opportunities in the future to showcase my work, which improves constantly with every piece I do, whether that be on my blog or another outlet.

Secondly – and most importantly – I need your help. Continue reading

2015 British GP Tech Highlights

Despite Silverstone’s challenging aerodynamic demands, there were surprisingly few upgrades visible on most cars for the British grand prix weekend, with only Force India and Ferrari producing any goods worthy of real note. So – for that reason – we will look exclusively at these two teams in this week’s Tech Highlights, and especially into what is virtually a B-spec Force India car. How does that new nose work? How is it legal? Let’s find out… Continue reading

2015 Austrian GP Tech Highlights

Better late than never? Really sorry that it’s a week late – I’ve had a busy time working and getting together with friends and family. It’s now 11:15 PM as I begin this post and I’ve got to get up early again tomorrow! Apologies about the illustrations, too. I didn’t really like them when they were finished but it was the best I could do in such a short time frame. In summary: will try harder next time.

Austria’s Red Bull Ring is one of the most demanding tracks for both driver and car, and remains one of the greatest technical challenges on the calendar. Up and down hill braking zones, sharp hairpins and fast sweepers make for a driver’s treat, rewarding precision and bravery but also severely punishing those who push even a little too far – as seen during qualifying by both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

In terms of upgrades, it’s getting to crunch time of the season. The teams are bringing big changes to the cars and this will determine their development path for the rest of the year. If the car isn’t going anywhere then it’ll be a swift transition to next year’s car, whilst those fighting it out for the big points will be hoping to steal a march on a rival every time their car hits the track.

There were plenty (and I mean plenty) of upgrades up and down the field, but which stood out the most? Let’s find out… Continue reading

Analysis: Nissan GT-R LM NISMO

Nissan GTR LM Nismo

As Le Mans 2015 kicks off today, a new competitor in the LMP1 category is making its debut – Nissan have entered the fiery pit that has belonged to Audi for many years. With Porsche coming in last year and Toyota sparking a resurgence against the dominant four rings, endurance racing has never been more popular in its entire history towards the front end of the grid.

Nissan’s challenger – the GT-R LM NISMO – is nothing short of the word different. It completely turns the philosophy of the modern high end endurance racer on its head, but Nissan are confident that in the future this will be a competitive design.

How is it different to the others?

The GT-R LM NISMO’s engine is a longitudinal front mounted 3 litre twin turbo V6, its power delivered to the front wheels via a 5-speed Xtrac sequential gearbox. The car also incorporates an epicyclic gear cluster to finetune final drive, much like you would find in an automatic transmission. Considering that there is a new fuel flow limit for this year’s World Endurance Championship, its power output of 500hp is pretty good.

As per the regulations, the Nissan is also equipped with hybrid technology in the form of two Torotrak flywheel energy stores, linked to a pair of motor generator units (MGUs – see more on these here) on each front wheel. These have an additional 750hp available so the total potential power output is a staggering 1,250hp.

The flywheel energy stores are also capable of sending energy to the rear wheels via two MGUs located inside each rear hub, which at times can make the Nissan an all-wheel-drive weapon. However it is unlikely they will run energy rearwards for this weekend as they have encountered some reliability issues in recent testing.

All of the car’s radiators are packaged tightly around the powertrain.

The front tyres are also larger than the rears at 360mm and 230mm respectively. This allows greater traction at the front driven wheels whilst reducing friction and creating more space at the rear for the diffuser. More on this in a moment…

Why use a front mounted engine?

It doesn’t matter where in motorsport you look, in one way or another aerodynamics rule performance. There are a number of factors alongside aero that contribute to a fast car (including weight, tyres and engine performance) but the aforementioned is the greatest of all performance differentiators.

It is for this reason that Nissan has opted to buck the trend of the mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive car and boldly step where nobody else has.

An inherent problem with a current LMP1 mid-engined car is that they produce quite a bit more downforce at the rear than at the front. This is because the diffuser and rear wing dominate the aero work load on the car, whilst only the splitter and dive planes function as good downforce generators at the front end.

By placing the engine at the front longitudinally, you create more space at both the rear and down the sides of the car which can give you some development freedom to create more downforce.

© Marshall Pruett

© Marshall Pruett

The engine at the front is mounted nice and high to clear the way for these two huge tunnels. They’re so big you can literally send a small child down them – one of the Nissan mechanics did!

Air is passed from two openings in the front eitherside of the engine’s main air intake all the way down the car along the sidepods, exiting above the diffuser. At speed the diffuser is also working hard so it also pulls air out from underneath the car, it is also pulling air through the tunnels from the front.

As a result air is accelerated at the front end, which also drives airflow through the splitter just beneath the entrance to the tunnels. This subsequently produces more front downforce than their competitors, whilst still retaining good rear downforce from both the rear wing and diffuser, too.

This is a highly efficient way of producing downforce, rather than adding draggy aero devices such as diveplanes and turning vanes, do top speed is virtually unharmed.

Also aiding aerodynamic performance is the placement of the exhausts, which exit immediately after the turbochargers over the ‘bonnet’ of the car. This has been done to prevent the exhaust gases disturbing the air at the rear of the car where the tunnels exit, by passing the gases over the top surface around the cockpit and away from more sensitive areas.

OK, so why front-wheel-drive?

Having the engine at the front means that any shafts and gearing heading in towards the rear would result in a weight penalty, so the team chose to stick to front wheel drive. This is very much contrary to popular racecar design, which are pretty much all rear-wheel or four-wheel-drive depending on regulations.

The general problem with front wheel drive is understeer – the front wheels are rotating at roughly the same rate which, although this can be controlled by a differential, often pushes the front away from the apex of the corner. Under acceleration, however, front driven wheels are actually quite advantageous as – with the weight of the car over the front – traction is better.

With more weight over the front end and more front downforce, the idea is that both traction and front end grip are sufficient enough to counter any of that understeer that plagues front-wheel-drive cars. However torque steer could also cause some problems, creating an unpredictable car when one side is under more load than the other.

Another reason why Nissan rejected rear-wheel-drive is because of the tunnels that run along the car. Half shafts would have had to be placed right across the tunnel, interrupting airflow and causing turbulence.

Cleverly, Nissan have also considered how the car can recover energy under braking for its hybrid system. Generally more work is done on the front brakes of the car as its mass tips forward under braking. As the car is front-wheel-driven by both the combustion engine and two MGUs, more energy can be harvested during the braking phase than it could if the MGUs were just at the rear wheels.

So, is it quick?

So far? No.

All three LM NISMO’s qualified outside the 107% time of the pole position Porsche 919 Hybrid, but the car isn’t miles off the pace – they were still quicker than the leading LMP2 car.

Whilst their hybrid system is capable of 750hp on its own (which would put them in the 8MJ class), the team have had trouble making the it run reliably for long periods of time so they have instead dropped to the 2MJ class for Le Mans. This costs them dearly on the straights, whilst the aerodynamics of the car are also sub-par despite the bold claims Nissan are making.

Overall then,its debut hasn’t been glittering, but there is some potential in the concept. Once the hybrid system is fully operational Nissan can do some solid work on making their ambitious aero platform work well and maybe, just maybe, take the fight to the establishment.