2014 Brazilian GP Tech Highlights

Back-to-back events never really give teams a chance to bring anything new to the table at the second GP event and Brazil was a classic case of this as the F1 circus headed straight from Texas to Interlagos.

Much of the weekend’s practice sessions was spent analysing components ahead of 2015, using large pitot tube arrays to gather information about critical areas where airflow is passing. Whilst CFD and wind-tunnel testing are pretty reliable it is important to transfer the knowledge gained in the factory to the track, hence why the often-used C-word, correlation, is vital to the performance of an F1 car.

McLaren

Kevin Magnussen spent most of FP1 with two pretty big pitot tube arrays attached either side of the cockpit, pointing towards the back of the front suspension assemblies. Taking measurements from both sides simultaneously is advantageous as the engineers get a more complete picture as to how the airflow is behaving along both sides of the car is it travels, rather than traditionally only measuring from one side of the car.

The purpose of the arrays is to constantly monitor the pressure of airflow at specific points as the car’s speed varies. They will then run the same (or similar) test in a factory environment and hope that everything matches up. If so then the team has the confidence to develop new parts without the fear that they won’t work as intended.

The drivers will never do a flat-out lap with the arrays attached as they risk ripping them off their carefully designed, bespoke mounts – they are pretty expensive! Instead they are told to do constant speed runs or a certain speed through a certain corner to gather accurate and consistent data across a certain speed threshold. Whilst there tends to be no speedometer on an F1 steering wheel, the driver may be asked to hold 6th gear at 8,000rpm, for example, which will be the necessary speed that the engineers are after.

McLaren could even have been assessing their slightly tweaked front wing endplates, which feature an undercut edge and small lip at the back of the fence and main body. This encourages airflow to pass around the front tyre by making the most of the low pressure zone at the beneath the wing.

Lotus

Lotus also ran some generic pitot tube arrays, although it was another sensor which caught my eye on Friday.

The E22 had a unique camera mounted off the inside face of the left front wheel hub, facing in towards the sidewall. The camera monitors how the sidewall deflects under loading, as the way the tyre behaves varies at not only speed but also pitch, yaw, and roll. Tyre behaviour has a huge influence on the airflow passing around the leading edge of the floor and the sidepod, so it is important to understand how the natural loading effects on the car have an influence on the path of airflow downstream.

Aero sensitivity has been one of Lotus’s key weaknesses this year and the above could well be a contributing factor. The structure of the tyres has changed drastically since 2013 and therefore the way air behaves as the tyre loads up has also changed. With all the devices beneath the chassis and how the teams produce the Y250 vortex to seal the floor via the front wing, it is very easy to get a bit lost with the tyres’ interaction with air as it’s a constantly fine-tuning process. It is virtually impossible to map these effects sufficiently, with only Red Bull really having a firm hand on this technology at the moment.

The tyres remain virtually unchanged going into 2015 so Lotus may well be able to sort some of their issues ahead of the start of next season by using the above device.

Red Bull

Speaking of Red Bull, something I forgot to mention in my US GP Tech Highlights was their introduction of a new Y100 (monkey seat) winglet. The winglet is a revised version of their high downforce specification model which previously held two elements between a set of small endplates.

The new winglet now adopts an additional third element that is tucked behind the trailing second element, creating a two-stage design. Mercedes have led the way in terms of development around this region although it appears Red Bull have decided to adopt a similar, multi-level approach to their winglet from now onwards.

Its purpose is to entrain the exhaust plume and force it upwards towards the base of the rear wing, allowing a higher angle of attack to produce more downforce without stalling the rear wing. Mercedes appear to have a good grasp on this effect so it will be interesting to see who can play catch-up going into 2015.

 

Announcements 4 (a bit more important than usual)…

Before I say anything, Tech Highlights from Brazil will be up tomorrow! Small changes here and there but are nonetheless important as usual.

The main purpose of this post is to announce an eBook that myself and Matt Somerfield (you will probably know him as @SomersF1 via Twitter) are producing, explaining the ins and outs of the Mercedes W05 which will in time – if not already – be marvelled as one of the finest creations in Formula 1. In Brazil last weekend it took the record for the most one-twos in a season, defeating the classic 1988 McLaren MP4/4 with a race to spare in 2014.

We have covered the Mercedes pretty well this year because, naturally, we want to know why it’s so damn fast. To bring all the details into one title, however, we need your help. That is why we are using Indiegogo as a crowd-funder in order to get it started. A link to our page is at the bottom of the post.

The first issue (four in total) is due around Christmas time and it’s an ideal present for the F1 fan or motor enthusiast: the eBook combines writing and illustrations from both myself and Matt plus the use of multimedia features from Mercedes themselves, all for just £5. We have even managed to grab interviews with Paddy Lowe and Andy Cowell, two of the numerous masterminds behind the car.

We really need your support on this and I’d really love it if you could donate even a small sum, even pennies. A lot of work is going into this project and if it is as successful as we hope it to be it could even become a hard back book in the future! Without you it won’t happen.

Please visit the Indiegogo page and read some more details about the eBooks series - https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-w05-understanding-the-championship-winning-car

Cheers!

2014 United States GP Tech Highlights

In terms of tech droughts it would be fair to say that the past month has certainly been through one. Thanks to customs regulations in Russia there were little new parts three weeks ago and the teams had to compensate in Japan. Thankfully after a healthy break and more relaxed laws over goods, the US GP was a perfect opportunity to bring developments. Some teams even brought 2015 prototype components for evaluation. The Circuit of The Americas is an ideal proving ground for such parts as the track tests aerodynamic performance to quite an extreme: high speed corners and long straights force teams to cut drag whilst retaining a high level of downforce.

Lotus

Lotus were the talk of the paddock last weekend as the team trialed a 2015-style nose, albeit not quite 2015 specification due to the limitations of this year’s regulations. Whilst many expected a nose shape similar to the Mercedes – as this would still be legal next year – the prototype drew many comparisons to the Ferrari nose, featuring a very low nose tip hanging right above the front wing main plane.

 

Lotus nose '15

As you can see, the nose tip is suspended above the back of the neutral section of the wing by the two attaching pillars, which arch back to meet the nose. For 2015, the regulations state that the nose must be 50mm further forward over the wing from this year, so Lotus have decided to keep their cards close to the chest. If you haven’t already seen, please read my 2015 nose regulation analysis piece!

The 2014 regulations dictate a larger cross sectional area at the front of the nose and Lotus have conformed to this by producing a large, stubbed tip. For 2015 the cross section becomes small and a uniform taper must occur, both upwards and in width, up to the front bulkhead. It is because of this nose tip design that we know that the prototype is, quite literally, a prototype. The nose does however conform to the three-stage taper up to the front bulkhead, which is defined in next year’s regulations.

Like most teams this year the chassis is stepped where it forms the front bulkhead and a vanity panel is used to conceal the gradient change, hence producing a very steep profile.

The bottom of the nose is convex in shape, which follows on from the recent philosophy of producing a ‘pelican chin’ to aid airflow beneath the chassis and onto the splitter region. There is some relative freedom regarding the shape of the bottom of the nose for next year so it is interesting to see that Lotus have opted to stick with what they know is a proven concept for now.

Overall though, it was a test item aimed at looking at the aerostructures at the front of the car going into next year. There are plenty of opinions about how critical nose design is but, in my opinion, it is very important. Lotus have gone from a radical, asymmetric twin tusk design to a more conventional shape so they are bound to have seen some huge changes to the airflow as it passed downstream. They will gather this data and optimise the rest of next year’s car around a similar shape. Whether they will test it again before the end of the season is unknown but I would imagine we could see it return at the post-season test in Abu Dhabi.

Ferrari

Ferrari had a busy weekend in America as they continued to evaluate aero structures around the front of the car for 2015. Kimi Raikkonen’s car had a huge aero sensor pod installed to the side of the cockpit that took measurements of the airflow spilling off the front tyre/front suspension assembly. Both drivers also did back-to-back tests of various components including a new rear wing.

Ferrari RW endplate US

The endplates have been extensively modified and take design cues from Red Bull’s early season endplates due to power unit problems. Two new slots (circled) allow air to pass beneath the wing into the low pressure zone created. This seems counter-intuitive considering that the whole idea of a wing is to produce as much downforce as possible. However the slots will disperse the low pressure at a high speed threshold moreso than they do during a high speed corner. We could be talking 190mph+, as this wouldn’t affect cornering performance.

These slots have been coupled to a new set of endplate louvres directly above, which work in conjunction with the aforementioned items to further reduce the size of the wingtip vortices formed as the upper and lower pressure areas meet. This further reduces drag whilst enabling the team to run a slightly higher angle of attack.

At the back of the endplate, Ferrari have installed three pressure gradient vanes that are quite far spread. Their angle of attack is quite minimal, suggesting that they only want to induce a little more outwash at the rear of the car than they already have. This will help with the air expanding from the diffuser to pull the car downwards.

Finally, the top flap is now straight cut excluding a small dip in the middle. This replaces the previously double V-cut upper flap. A minor change but this will again help with the airflow passing upwards and outwards.

Also new on the F14 T last weekend was a much revised rear suspension geometry which, to my understanding, will be carried over into 2015. Raikkonen actually ended up running it for qualifying and the race and it is designed to improve traction. The rear wishbones are visibly more aggressively angled towards the ground and the car now sits slightly squatter.

Force India

Currently scrapping for fifth place in the Constructors’ championship, Force India are keeping up a high rate of development despite having a significantly lower budget than their direct competition, McLaren.

FI RW endplate US

New for Texas was a set of rear wing endplates, which follow a similar philosophy to those seen earlier in this post on the Ferrari. The back of the endplate is, unlike the Ferrari, much more heavily undercut than before whilst retaining the six pressure gradient vanes beneath. The endplate louvres (circled) have been totally redesigned with a much cleaner cut into the ‘plate followed by a guide vane for each louvre on the inside face. Sauber also have a very similar design.

Having run an arched Y100 winglet above/around the exhaust for some time now, the old specification winglet was in place for the weekend which forms a traditional curved aerofoil flanked by two endplates that attach to the rear crash structure. The new endplates could reduce drag to such an extent that the team can run a higher wing angle, thus reintroducing the old winglet as a way of further improving rear downforce by allowing the exhaust plume to travel more readily to the base of the wing.

Tested in free practice on Friday was a rapid prototype steering wheel which included the PCU-8D McLaren Electronics dashboard LCD display. Force India are one of the few remaining teams who use the old-style LED dashboard but with less information passing into the drivers’ earpieces thanks to the FIA, the team clearly feel the need to trial the larger display for next year.

The wheel itself looked 3D printed to a certain extent rather than fully carbon fibre. This saves costs whilst giving the drivers a general idea of the direction they are taking into 2015. The trackside engineers will have gathered feedback about the ergonomics of the wheel, including the layout of the buttons and switches, before contemplating any design changes.

The team later reverted back to the old wheel for the rest of the weekend. Like Lotus’s nose, we could well see it again before the year is out.

McLaren

After pulling further clear of Force India over the weekend, McLaren have all the more reason to start further ramping up their 2015 developments and backing off on 2014 components.

For the US, however, a bulge/pelican chin was added beneath the nose and slightly behind the finger extension to improve the airflow passing downstream and under the floor.

2014 Russian GP Tech Highlights

Due to customs regulations and the 3 days that separated the end of the Japanese GP and preparations for Russia, there were few technical developments brought to the new Sochi circuit.

It is for this reason that whilst we will still look at the minor changes seen on a few cars last weekend, this post will mainly analyse why McLaren appear to be getting on top of things and beginning to move forward in recent races. Continue reading

2014 Japanese GP Tech Highlights

As the season begins to draw to a dramatic close, the development race never ceases. The Japanese GP represented a great opportunity for teams to bring new parts, particularly aero related as Suzuka is a demanding in this aspect.

This was also the first weekend of some serious data collection regarding 2015, as F1 begins to focus even more on next year in anticipation of the new nose regulations amongst other things.
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Link: Initial overview of 2015 Honda PU launch image

honda_2015_power_unit

 

Yesterday Honda released a render of their 2015 power unit (PU), their first crack at the hybrid technology that has revolutionised F1. Whilst the image is not entirely – if at all – representative of their actual unit next year, I have nonetheless had an initial overview of it and also taken a look a the current rumour mill surrounding 2015 drivetrains.

It’s still very early days and things are developing very quickly, but here is the story so far regarding Honda and their position amongst Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault in the power battle for next year - http://richlandf1.com/?p=28880.

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.
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