The Evolution of the Modern Front Wing – Part 2

In part two of this series, we investigate the development of the modern front wing across the 2010 season, one year after the new set of regulations were introduced.

We left the last part (see here – https://thewptformula.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/the-evolution-of-the-modern-front-wing-part-1/) looking at the end part of the 2009 season. Following on from the first year of the current regulations, many teams chose to revolve the car rather than carry over from last year in a bid to find the ultimate formula. This resulted in a change in front wing philosophy to interact with the rest of the changes along the entire car.

It is important to remind us of how influential the front wing is: it produces almost all of the front end grip and contributes to a large portion (a bit under half) of the car’s overall downforce. It also has to manage all of the flow over the rest of the car for all of the other components to work to their desired effect. Designing the front wing is an extremely difficult task and that is why I have decided to follow the progression of its design over the past 4 years in this four part series.

Common Themes

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Already noticeable on the McLaren MP4-25 launch car compared to its predecessor (MP4-24) is the nose height. Increasing the height of the nose tends to reap rewards as more air is allowed beneath the nose/chassis area and flows down towards the floor and works the splitter harder. Also present underneath the 2010 McLaren was the splitter that guided flow either side of the chassis between the lower wishbones. This effectively made the nose height lower, as the leading edge of the splitter was much lower than the actual height of the nose itself.

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This is in contrast to the Renault and Ferrari solutions who stuck with a much lower nose height across the entirety of the season. However it was not until 2011 that most teams benefited from running a higher nose as the teams’ 2010 cars were optimised around running a lower nose height from the birth of their design.

Endplates were another area that teams developed heavily upon during the season as management of airflow around the front tyre and introducing this flow to other components downstream became a top priority once they had maximised the main plane and flap philosophies on their respective cars.

Renault’s Development Path

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Renault were the team that were pushing the development mark on the front wing throughout 2010. Above are two images showing a comparison between the launch version of the R30 and the Spain version of the R29’s wing. Pretty similar? As far as I can tell they are identical. But launch cars are often a fruitless exploration when it comes to identifying key features for the coming season as lots of things are changed over testing and before the first race of the season.

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This is evident by the fact that the image above is totally different concept to that shown on the launch car – this was only a few days later at the first test! Their first iteration of design for the coming season was based on of what McLaren were utilising towards the tail end of 2009: a three-element design with a single cascade winglet branching across the top, the trailing edge of this winglet producing a vortice to control flow beyond the front tyre.

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The Enstone outfit then trialled this design. There were no cascade structures, but the concept concentrated more on the shape of the main plane and flap shapes as well as developing further upon managing flow around the front tyre. This is shown by the array of turning vanes that lie on the endplate.

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They continued to build upon this platform by re-introducing the cascade winglet, but it now spanned over the endplate, too. Again, this is to try to aid flow around the front tyre efficiently. Also evident in this image are the first signs of a common trend that are evident on today’s front wings – the main plane bending downwards to meet the footplate in one smooth, intricate profile.

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By the end of the season, the R30 featured this complex arrangement. The fundamentals of the design had remained unchanged, but the cascades and endplates had been developed thoroughly. No more than three turning vanes made up the endplate design, all controlling flow around the front tyre and guiding it towards parts downstream to boost downforce and efficiency. The inboard part of the cascade has been deepened here, creating more downforce rather than just flow management. You can just about see the turning vane beneath the nose that also manages flow around the critical area on the underside of the chassis (left of the image).

Endplates

Endplates were constantly changing as tweaks were made across the car. Don’t forget that they were only in the second season of the current regulations so changes were being made across the board at a rapid rate in a bid for performance.

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McLaren were certainly a prime example of tweaking this area. Their first design featured a small vane atop of a two-holed endplate that was similar to last season’s car. The vanes allowed the cascade winglet to be expanded over the top of the endplate to manage flow around the tyre.

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They then moved onto this platform, withdrawing the vane, placing a guide vane horizontally on top of the endplate and rounding off the trailing edge. The rounding will allow the flow to be splayed out around the tyre at different angles rather than all of the volume of air reaching roughly the same destination aft of the tyre.

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This was followed by further iterations in both China and Spain, with the Woking outfit even opting back to a more squared off trailing edge with a gurney feature at the trailing edge to energize flow. The Spain version returns to the rounded solution is almost the same as the example above.

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Following on from this, McLaren then enlarged the second opening and also split it at the top. The openings allow flow from outside of the wing to enter inboard, stabilising pressure and energizing flow over the wing itself. Fine tuning these openings can create a more efficient front wing in both producing downforce and airflow management.

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This image drawn by Giorgio Piola shows the final installment of McLaren’s endplate development. It is made up the same profile that they used in Spain yet has additional detail at the trailing edge – a small gurney at the base of the edge turns the flow more easily. Finally, an additional slot is evident to attempt to balance pressure difference.

If you have got this far, thankyou for reading! This took a long time to write so if you have any feedback at all, it would literally make my day if you left a comment below. I am open to any constructive criticism as it will only make this blog more enjoyable for others in the future.

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9 thoughts on “The Evolution of the Modern Front Wing – Part 2

  1. Morris Dancer

    As ever, must admit I didn’t get all of that, but I did enjoy reading it. A bit surprised that the front wing produces more than half the overall downforce. Does this create an inherent balance issue between front and rear end grip?

    Reply
    1. thewptformula Post author

      Thankyou very much. If I said half at any point that is false and I apologise. I think it’s roughly 30% but did not want to quote an exact figure but it is a large proportion. The floor and diffuser are the key players here, producing over 50% of the downforce. Rear wing roughly 20% but these things fluctuate from car-to-car as they all work differently.

      Reply
      1. Morris Dancer

        Having checked quickly it looks like I sleepily misread what you wrote. Sorry.

        Ah, that does make overall grip look approximately throughout the car (makes sense, otherwise everyone would always have under- or oversteer).

      1. Adrian Harris

        One thing that you might be able to elaborate on a little more in a different post from your site is that of the RED BULL Nose vent that draws air up onto the top of the monocoque surface in front of the driver to “maintain air attachment”. Why is that so important at that point?

      2. thewptformula Post author

        I shall go ahead and edit that section right now. If there is anything else, even small things, I will gladly take any advice on board and thankyou again for reading this blog.

  2. Pingback: The Evolution of the Modern Front Wing – Part 3 | theWPTformula

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