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With new regulations allowing teams to make the cars more easy on the eye, the main talk of the town so far this season has been what solutions the teams have come up with regarding their nose treatment. This post looks to highlight some key themes and ideas about the design of some of the new noses and their advantages and disadvantages.
What is the “modesty” panel?
The public complained when last year’s cars were unveiled due to the stepped noses that were created as part of the new regulations for 2012. These rules were created to stop the nose height from getting too high (as this could exceed the height of the cockpit and cause the cars to flip or hit the driver’s head during a crash) but allowed the chassis to remain the same height. Originally the idea was to lower the entire structure of the front bulkhead but teams had already done their chassis designs for the next season, so they opted for the stepped nose layout. Some cars had nicer solutions than others (particularly the McLaren); this tended to be because of the individual car’s front bulkhead height as well as the team’s own interpretation of the rules. They didn’t look too great at first, but after a while we all got used to them!
The regulations for the 2013 season have allowed the introduction of the “modesty” panel. The panel is not structurally part of the nosecone, it is simply an add-on to the nosecone to make it look better to the public, hence its given title. The main idea of the panel is to still prevent the nose from exceeding the height of another car’s cockpit area whilst making the cars nicer to look at. Simple.
This image is a great example of how the new modesty panels are positioned. Above is the new McLaren MP4-28 nose cone, without the modesty panel, in its bare carbon fibre form. The stepped layout is visible here as well as the change in surface gradient where the panel meets near the tip of the nose itself. Below is an image of the same car in Jerez a few weeks ago with the modesty panel.
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There is no join line between the panel and the nosecone as it is all formed in to one part. However, during a collision the panel is designed to come away very easily whereas the nosecone itself absorbs the impact. This reduces the likelihood of the car launching above the cockpit side and potentially causing serious injury to the driver whilst also retaining a high nose height for aerodynamic purposes. If the nose is higher, more air can go underneath it and into the T-tray area, generating more downforce as it passes under the floor and out of the diffuser.
The panel on the McLaren would weigh roughly between 100-150 grams which is roughly half of a cup of sugar. However, the weight of the panel varies depending on the shape and size of the panel, which we will come onto next.
Designs and Features
Teams have gone down all sorts of alleyways to try to make the best compromise between the better aerodynamic efficiency it induces along the top of the chassis and the weight penalty that the it brings to the front end of the car. Some teams have done without it completely as they believe the weight penalty outweighs the small aerodynamic gain but I expect the compromise will vary with the different cars depending on how they’re setup i.e. rake, ballast.
Whereas McLaren have simply added the panel atop of the stepped nose, other teams have exploited this concept further. Red Bull have taken inspiration from last year’s Sauber by adding a rearward facing slot to the back of the nose. This slot is fed by airflow underneath the nose that is piped back upwards before exiting along the chassis top. The concept of this solution is that it withdraws high pressure that the small step induces, reducing lift along the top of the car. The nose on last year’s RB8 did not allow them to do this as they had a front-facing slot to cool the driver and electronics. Red Bull have also gone for a “half” panel for weight purposes.
Ferrari have also taken advantage of the new regulations by adding a duct to the underside of the car. The rules allow the nose height to be a little bit higher with the introduction of a modesty panel so the Italian squad have decided to use this additional space on the underside of the chassis to good use by placing what we can only assume is a cooling agent just below the front suspension mounts.
Sauber have not used a panel at all, but instead have utilised two “rails” running either side of the step in the nose. The rails will have the same properties, as the panel would as it is not structurally part of the nosecone. These must work in conjunction with their rearward facing slot that they have retained for this season, as the airflow appears to be guided over this section of the chassis.
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I don’t expect to see too much development to this area across the season unless a team has a fundamental aerodynamic change, as this area of the car is key to how airflow is delivered to more pivotal devices further down the line. However I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few more ideas being tried out in testing to really see if it is worth having.
The main problem is weight. Aerodynamically, designers will want to make use of the additional space that the panel allows at the front of the car. Having and extra 150 grams on board is a decent bit of weight in the F1 world. The weight will mainly penalise the setup of the car as engineers will have to rethink the way they place their ballast along the designated points of the car. If it’s worth having, then it is then a case of how the teams position this weight at the front of the car in order to try to take advantage of the updated regulations without compromising the driveability of the car. However, if a team has a good setup platform then I doubt it will be worth investing in this area, just like Lotus are doing.