Tech Highlights: Top aero features of 2017

As Formula 1 introduced a raft of changes ahead of the new season, 2017 was always likely to produce some new features on the aerodynamic front. Here are some of the key highlights from this year.

T-wings

The appearance of T-wings on this year’s cars is a consequence of the changing of the rear wing dimensions for 2017. During the rewriting of the rules a small region that was previously occupied by the outgoing higher rear wings was accidently left unattended. The extruded 50 x 750 mm area was instantly taken advantage of by the teams, with the majority of them converging on some form of twin element design by mid-season.

w08_twing

Mercedes were one of the first teams to debut a T-wing in 2017

On its own the T-wing produces some downforce with minimal drag due to its wide span and extremely short 50 mm chord length. This in itself is a good enough reason to install one on the car, however it also has other positive implications.

An aerofoil with even a small amount of camber will generate an air pressure difference between its upper and lower surfaces. The air will try to equalise itself as quickly as possible, and the best way for it to do that is for the high pressure flow on top of the wing to flip underneath at the wing tips. This causes the air to rotate, generating a vortex due to the flow’s momentum.

The rear wing produces huge tip vortices due to its high angle of attack, which the teams try to control using endplates. Although the presence of a vortex indicates induced drag, they can beneficial to the car’s aerodynamics as they help pull airflow from elsewhere. You can either use them to pull air over bodywork to produce more downforce, or move turbulence away from more sensitive regions of the car (i.e. Y250 vortex).

The small tip vortex rolling up on one side of the T-wing travels backwards and entwines with its corresponding rear wing tip vortex behind, creating a slightly more powerful vortex overall. This amplifies its suction effect and therefore draws out more air from under the rear wing, thus enhancing rear downforce. It may only be worth a fraction of a second, less than a tenth. But considering its simplicity and minimal manufacturing cost, it is an item that’s definitely worth having.

Serrated bodywork

A lot of previously blocked areas of the car have been opened up for development for 2017, including the bargeboards and the floor surrounding them. While we expected to see the sprouting of flamboyant geometries and the arrangement of multiple turning vanes, it is still fascinating to see the intricate detailing that separates even the top teams.

In 2016 Mercedes started to play with serrated bodywork to manipulate the air more aggressively. Dividing an angled geometry into several sections allows flow to migrate between the two sides, reducing the chances of flow separation. In turn, mini vortices form across each section, which then all roll up into one powerful vortex projected aft of the bodywork. This trend has been carried into 2017: Mercedes have even chosen to stagger a series of mini turning vanes – each producing their own vortex – along the bargeboard’s footplate to provide the same effect.

RS17 BB

This technique can be found on other sections of the car too. Like a vertically mounted turning vane, the floor of the car has a pressure gradient between its upper and lower surfaces – this is due to ground effect. Serrating the floor/bargeboard footplate has become a popular choice for plenty of teams, including Force India, Ferrari and Renault (pictured), as it helps energise the air flowing along the flanks of the car. Air naturally wants to migrate underneath the car, and by introducing it in this fashion the direction and intensity of the flow can be further dictated. This will help seal the floor along the side of the car, allowing teams to run a higher rake angle.

Mercedes cape nose

The caped nose Mercedes introduced in Spain represents one of the most dramatic changes in frontal aero philosophy in recent years. Dubbed the cape due to its trailing, flared silhouette, its job is to direct clean air into the bargeboard area and enhance the Y250 vortex produced at the inboard section of the front wing. It replaces the common solution of a series of turning vanes that hang under the front bulkhead, which offers slightly less efficiency compared to the ‘mini diffuser’ geometry that the W08 now has.

IMG_0048

Image courtesy of Alessandro Berrageiz (@Berrageiz)

The cape’s lipped leading edge is designed to produce a vortex along its periphery, while the smooth underside – which hosts the inlet for the S-duct – aids the transition of laminar flow underneath the bodywork and out of the diffuser-like channels at the back.

The chances of seeing another rival introduce this solution before the end of the season are pretty slim, but it is perhaps something that we might see creep onto other cars from 2018 onwards.

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Analysis: 2018 Halo and its performance implications

Right, hello everyone. You may have noticed a few other posts pop up on here lately but this one is by me again. I, like many of you, was not happy at all when the FIA announced that F1 would be adopting the Halo cockpit protection device from 2018 onwards but no doubt I’ll continue watching next year…

However I’ve come to accept that the sport must do everything it can to improve safety (especially in the wake of Jules Bianchi’s accident) and decided to do an assessment of how the Halo will impact the cars both visually and from a performance standpoint.

Now, there are a few things you might have missed about the implementation of the device due to the red mist descending. Firstly, the teams can paint the ‘flip flop’ in whatever colour they like and secondly, and most importantly, they are allowed to wrap it in a 30 mm fairing to tidy up the air around it. Considering that the Halo is in the firing line of freestream flow around the airbox, the structure mostly hinders the intake of clean air to the ICE, cooling and flow to the rear wing. Other side effects include at least 20 kg extra weight and possibly some disturbances to the air over the sidepod.

The Halo’s basic design will be refined by the FIA between now and the start of 2018. In testing teams have pinned it to the tub in different ways, some slightly better looking than others. Whether every team will have to fix it in the same position remains unknown. The small fairing does however present some opportunities to shape airflow in a more desirable way, although they won’t want too bulk up the tubing much more to reduce blockage and thus decrease drag.

2018 side & plan (halo)

It is for this reason that we could see a minimal approach to the fairing. The tubing’s downward slopes induce some lift, but this could be mitigated slightly by the additional bodywork. Note the higher and wider position of the airbox, similar to that of this year’s Renault, to clear it from disrupted air. I must admit that from the side and plan views of the car it doesn’t look too bad, particularly on the current cars.

Halo review

Another possible design for the fairing is to use the sides of the structure as a downwash device over the top of the sidepod, with the two rearward fixings splayed outwards and the bodywork twisted in a similar fashion. Vortexes could roll up along the sides and direct flow towards the top of the diffuser. Again, this depends on where the FIA permit the mounting of the device on the chassis.

While the Halo is in a fairly neutral place from a mechanical perspective (its mass is at the centre of the car, albeit quite high up), it’s in a frustrating position from an aero point of view. The teams and helmet companies have worked extensively on tidying up the air around the headrest in recent years and now they’ll have a new, more complex challenge. I’m not sure how aggressive the teams will get with the fairing’s design – or whether there are any additional regulations surrounding it that further limit their scope – but I can’t see any crazy solutions emerging because it’s in a place where they don’t really want to manipulate the air. Perhaps I’m wrong and someone has already come up with something much better. I hope I am.

Why Technical Reliability Holds Key to 2017 Formula One Championship

By Ben Woods

The 2017 Formula One season promises to deliver one of the closest races in the battle for the Constructors’ Championship in the last five years.

The dominance of Mercedes in recent history has seen the title become a one-sided affair, with the team winning the crown for the past three seasons on the bounce. However, the rise of Ferrari this term has provided competition at the top, with Sebastian Vettel challenging Lewis Hamilton in the Drivers’ Championship.

Due to the performances of the German and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, the Italian outfit have pressed Mercedes at the top of the Constructors’ Championship, and are now down to 10/3 in the F1 betting to secure the crown this season, which may represent good value when used in conjunction with bookmakers’ £50 free bet offers. The quality of the teams and drivers involved will ensure that the battle will go down to the wire.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the race for both awards will be the reliability of the vehicles, which has already played a significant role thus far. Continue reading

Could Technology Put Amputees Behind The Wheel Of Formula 1 Cars?

By Jason Cullen

What does it take for an amputee to drive a racing car? Three things: technology, innovation and bravery.

You may have seen the story of Billy Monger – a teenage racing driver who had to have both legs amputated after a horrific high-speed crash – getting back into the cockpit of a racing car.

Billy Monger

This heroic feat is nothing short of inspirational. A true testament to internal fortitude and the human spirit, to get back out there after such an extreme accident in Formula 4 and race again.

His and Team BRIT’s (short for British Racing Injured Troops) aspirations to become the first all-disabled team to race in the iconic Le Mans 24 hours event will be nothing short of spectacular when it happens.

However, it takes more than just the human spirit. It also requires a lot of technological and engineering innovation to get to the point of getting an amputee up to this racing pace. And with that, two questions come to mind:

  • What is this technology?
  • Could the technology put amputees behind the wheel of Formula 1 cars?

Continue reading

Tech Highlights: 2017 in illustrations (so far)

Procrastinating a little bit from revision by sharing some of the illustrations that I’ve done over the season so far. You can find the associated articles on Motorsport Week that explain the effects of these developments in detail.

RS17 RW

The teams had barely hit the track when Renault were called out over their rear wing support design (inset). The design was edited in a cheekily manner, dodging the regulations that stipulate that the DRS actuator must be isolated by slimming the support.

MCL32 FW_Aus_highlight

McLaren’s pace in the final sector in Barcelona shows that their chassis is reasonable, certainly above the other midfield runners but not quite there with the top dogs. The team’s aero department are constantly churning out alterations to the car – the front wing is tweaked almost every race weekend.

FW40_FW_China

The FW40 isn’t a striking car in design terms but the chassis clearly works cohesively on both aerodynamic and mechanical fronts. The above front wing was altered twice within the same amount of weeks between Australia and China.  

SF70H_FW comparison_annotations

Ferrari’s development rate has been refreshing in 2017. In Bahrain the Scuderia introduced their front wing proper for the season (left), featuring six elements cutting the entire span and a more pronounced vortex tunnel.

vjm10_bargeboards

Pretty in pink: It doesn’t matter what colour the Force India is in, the team continue to punch well above their weight despite the regulation changes. The design office is creative and not afraid to produce complex geometries such as their bargeboards and splitter above.

w08RW_spain

Mercedes unleashed an extensive aerodynamic overhaul to the W08 in Barcelona. The nose, bargeboards and engine cover were heavily revised while the spoon-shaped rear wing was ousted for a conventional design. A monkey seat winglet straddles the rear crash structure to draw the exhaust plume upwards.

RB13_bargeboard

Red Bull’s ‘struggles’ has pushed Adrian Newey back into action, although it would be unfair to say that they got the car wrong. The RB13’s clean design leans more towards drag reduction than outright downforce and the car is often up top of the speed trap charts. More complex bargeboards arrived in Spain – is this the start of their come back?

Tech Highlights: McLaren-Honda front wing and powertrain problems

IMG_1821

If you haven’t already caught some of my tech analysis in the past couple of Motorsport Monday magazines then here’s your first glimpse of some: I dissect McLaren’s new front wing (only on Alonso’s car) and also explain what is going wrong (again) with the MCL32 powertrain – it’s not all Honda’s fault! You can also find some mini-articles on developments from Australia on the Motorsport Week website.

Also, a quick question I would really appreciate some responses to: Would anyone be interested in buying a print of one of my many illustrations? Obviously we don’t all want a framed McLaren front wing but something more like the Mercedes W05 below might take your fancy.

Mercedes W05 review

Leave a comment on your thoughts, please! 🙂

2017 Car Launch Analysis

Haven’t managed to do all of the cars this year but I’ve covered five of the ten for Motorsport Week. Here are the links:

  • Mercedes W08 – Huge wheelbase and complex bodywork, but is it a winner?
  • Red Bull RB13 – Don’t let the outward simplicity of this car fool you…
  • Ferrari SF70H – Find out about those crazy sidepods!
  • McLaren MCL32 – Can McLaren emerge from the midfield in 2017?
  • Renault R.S.17 – Detailed from the get-go, watch out for Renault this season