2013 Spanish GP Tech Highlights

Decided to do this tonight as I will have no time on Monday (exams are kicking off, so apologies for lack of content). Here’s all you need to know about the latest updates from F1 as the European leg of the season begins…


After three weeks away, McLaren promised fans that they would bring a raft of new parts to Barcelona to try to drag themselves back up the grid after a dismal start to the season.

According to McLaren Motorsport Director Jonathan Neale, correlation issues between the data seen in the wind tunnel and the results shown on track has been their burden to the start of the season, an almost identical situation to what Ferrari were faced with this time last year. This surprised me as the MTC (McLaren Technology Centre) facilities are state-of-the-art, unlike Ferrari’s which are a fair bit older.

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We start with their new sidepods. Atop of the bodywork McLaren have reintroduced two vertical fences that generate vortices down the length of the sidepod. The fences are very curved, stroking outwards towards the shoulder of the pod – the leading edge is much further inward.

This suggests to me that they are picking up much cleaner air near the cockpit and are directing it towards the new bulge that runs along the outer edge (similar to the Mercedes), rather than placing the fences on the outer edge and guiding already turbulent flow from the tyre wake.

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Also evident in this image is the new curvature to the sidepod airflow conditioner, the vertical vane that runs in parallel to the length of the pod. The top of this vane is curved over and attached to the shoulder of the pod, alongside the outer vortex generator. This aids flow around the bodywork and allows it to stay attached to the surface.

All these processes, including the vertical fences, enhance the downwash upon the exhaust plume that all the teams are exploiting this season.

The actual profile of the sidepods has been changed signficantly. Not only do they feature the new outer bulge, but the whole bodywork has effectively been “shrink wrapped” to the car, outlining the very skeleton of the car. Slimming down, if you like…

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Also new is the updated rear wing. The MP4-28 has followed Lotus and Ferrari by adding strakes (three) that lie along the endplate (see above and below the number ‘5’). These are aimed at reducing the disturbance of tyre wake/squirt upon the wing and also help the downforce producing devices on the brake ducts to work harder.

The endplates themselves have also been modified. The profile has changed, in that the trailing edges now flick outwards, much like the shape of a gurney flap (see here for information about gurney flaps http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gurney_flap) and the top edge has been rounded, much like on the Lotus.

The strakes that hang beneath the wing have been accounted for, seven vertical pieces have been added to expand flow out of the diffuser area and also reduce the effects that tyre squirt has upon the outer area of the diffuser. These devices help other main components produce more downforce rather than actually produce downforce themselves.

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This is another image of the new sidepods, but it also highlights another development area of the rear wing. A new slot gap has been introduced at the leading edge, akin to that featured on the Williams, Marussia and Force India cars.

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The front wing has also received a healthy amount of development, although the old spec was run for the majority of practise. The new wing features an extremely different profile to its counterpart although it still features only three planes (or sections). The upper and lower flaps have been twisted slightly, with the inside region being brought much further forward to around the middle of the main plane.

There are brand new cascade winglets. Although the main silver winglet remains unchanged, the smaller inner one is a totally new idea that has not been seen on any other car. The small winglet is there to guide flow around the suspension assembly, whilst the tall fence inboard is there to produce a small vortice that does a similar job.

The lower flap also includes a gurney on the inboard section that should boost downforce as well as navigate flow back towards the T-Tray section.


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Felipe Massa received all of the major changes to the F138 on Friday. Whether Alonso gets it tomorrow is another matter, although I would be surprised if he did not. Perhaps Massa was used as the guinea pig today so Alonso could get on with doing what he does best.

Above are some images of the new sidepod airflow conditioners. The split profile remains, but now the leading section bends over the top of the shoulder of the sidepod, bridging over the pod’s leading edge, before attaching at the cockpit side. The second section of the conditioner now attaches to the pod and forms a small vane to guide flow along the side. The second section also sweeps inwards at a much more aggressive angle, inviting more flow to come around the sidepod and take it downstream to the exhaust area.

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Massa’s car also featured slightly longer sidepods than Alonso’s. Evidently, the exhaust has been moved towards the back of the car, with the exit of the trough now lying alongside the sidepod cooling exit (just below the top wishbone). There is also only one single ‘bump’ on the top of the pod, rather than the two smaller ones on the previous version.

As it is further back, Ferrari do not need to angle the exhaust as much away from the centre of the car, so this has been reduced. This is because it is much closer to the spot (the gap between the floor and the rear tyre) where they want to be blowing the exhaust plume to.

Before they had to counter the flow coming around the sidepod by angling the exhaust exits further outwards, as the plume was fighting against this. Try to imagine the sidepod and exhausts as a hairdryer… bare with me:

The exhaust exits are the exit of the dryer, and the sidepods are the body of the dryer. Hot air comes out of the dryer in a straight line towards a set point. Happy days. This is what the exhaust pipes are doing when the car is stationary.

However if, say, another source of flow started blowing around the body of the dryer, it will eventually end up interacting with the air coming out of the exit. As the body of the dryer is tapered towards its exit, the flow coming around the dryer will also follow this tapered path. This other source of flow is the natural airflow coming over and around the car when it starts moving.

If the hot air is blowing in a straight line, then the flow coming around the body of the dryer will push it away from that line as it interacts. This therefore pushes the path that the hot air takes away from the straight line that it once took.

Angling the hot air exit outwards will counter this effect and send it back to its original point as if it were blowing without the effect of the other source of flow.

Bringing this example back to the Ferrari sidepods, having the exhaust exit further forward will mean that they have to increase the angle as it is further away from the point they want to blow it to. Bringing the exit further back will mean that this angle can be reduced and the flow from the exhaust will also be hotter, and more powerful, than it was on the previous iteration of their sidepods.

It’s hard to explain but I hope you get the gist of it!


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Williams are also another team in a bit of trouble, so they have also brought a wide spectrum of parts to Spain to try to revive their 2013 campaign. Above are the two front wings they will be testing this weekend, both of the them featuring stand-alone elements.

The top wing was introduced in China, featuring a small cascade attached to a vertical carbon fibre stalk. Below is the new wing with a much smaller main cascade (the white, three element piece with the ‘Oris’ logo) but a bigger secondary winglet also attached to a vertical stalk. The secondary winglet will produce more downforce but may have less of a guiding effect on the new wing than on the old wing, as it has a deeper profile.

Note also that the new wing does not feature the small black vane that was on the main cascade endplate of the old wing.

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Although these vanes are now common place, this is the latest iteration from Williams. These under-chassis pieces of bodywork take flow from the underside of the nose and guide it to various parts of the underside of the car downstream. This design has been split into two, with the leading element taking flow downwards and the rear, larger surface flicking the air towards and around the sidepod area.

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Williams continued to trial their coanda exhaust system, although it has been slightly re-profiled since Bahrain, as it has less of an undercut at the base of the sidepod and the gradient of the top of the pod has been increased to encourage a larger downwash effect.

I am very sorry but that is all I will be writing as I have to sleep, do some revision etc. Unfortunately the biggest update time of the year has coincided with the start of my AS modules. However there are a lot of other updates that you can see on my Twitter page (@theWPTformula) that I posted on Thursday (9th May). Thanks for reading and I promise that the next one will have more content!

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