2013 Canadian GP Tech Highlights

From the maximum downforce twisty streets of Monaco to the high top speed straights of Canada, Formula 1 teams will have had a pre-prepared package ready to be sent across the Atlantic with only two weeks to fine tune minor details.

Not only does the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve require low drag bodywork elements, but also demands good traction out of the chicanes and a great engine. This is why we often see the likes of Force India and Toro Rosso doing better here than anywhere else on the calendar.

There’s plenty to talk about as almost every team brought something with them. Let’s see what they’ve been up to…

Red Bull

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A team that has traditionally struggled to convert pole into a race win here in Canada, Red Bull sought after further curing their low top speed issues and also tweak a number of parts on the car.

Above we can see a shot of the front of the RB9, featuring a new nosecone/vanity panel combination. The camera pods have been moved from the nose tip to much further back (in line with the top wishbones), which will guide airflow more efficiently around this region. This reveals the slight curvature present underneath the nose tip that has been seen when the team tested various nose designs last season.

We can also see from this image that a new vanity panel has been installed. This is not entirely new, however, as this was run during pre-season testing but has since not been used. Comparing this to the previous version (image below), the new edition is much more curved and it starts to ramp up towards the top of the chassis much sooner, creating a smoother transition. This should decrease drag slightly.

Note that the chassis “ears” (two bulges lining the top of the bulkhead) are still evident, a common theme on the Red Bull cars since 2009.

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Two additional slots in the floor ahead of the rear tyre appeared this weekend, almost identical to those that Ferrari have been utilising since last year. Unfortunately I do not have an image available to use but they are not “holes” in the floor, as this is illegal. They are slots as the “hole” is joined to the edge of the floor by a very tiny slit which barely affects the intentions of the design.

These slots energize flow around the rear tyre by letting air come from above the floor to be sucked beneath and around the inside of the tyre. This attempts to control tyre squirt (turbulent airflow that is produced as the face and shoulders of the tyre makes contact with the oncoming air) that can disturb the performance of the diffuser immediately to its side.

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Red Bull have also been playing around with these intricate front wing strakes. Each one of these small devices produces a vortice that spirals in the direction of the trailing edge of the strake. These vortices are highly energised torrents of flow that will aid the downforce producing components of the wing.

In the above image, the strakes are all paired to its corresponding under-wing fence, that are attached just beneath the flap and are therefore exposed. These fences will generally guide flow beneath the wing but are now being utilised further for flow above the wing due to the introduction of the small strakes.

These strakes are also visible on other parts of the upper flap to try to further turn air around the front tyre.

Ferrari

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The above device appeared during the Spanish GP but was never raced by either driver and did not appear in Monaco. However, higher speed turns demand greater airflow management over the sidepods, therefore these sidepod airflow conditioners have returned.

Compare this to the standard layout (below image), the new conditioners feature a crossover feature that lies above the radiator intake to induce a downwash effect over the exhaust plume, bending it downwards, creating a stronger blown-diffuser effect. This should create better and more consistent downforce at the rear of the car.

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Ferrari also introduced a brand new under-nose chin. This is an expansion on the “pelican” or “pregnant” under-nose bulges that we have seen on the Lotus and Force India cars and is very similar to a concept seen on Renault’s R29 from 2009.

The idea of having this component is to drive oncoming airflow down towards the front of the floor (T-tray, bib, splitter, whatever you want to call it) and work the rest of the floor harder and therefore work the diffuser harder to suck the car closer to the track.

Although it is quite a large bulge, I am told it does not produce much drag or lift, so this is a win-win in terms of the development trade-off between drag and downforce.

The chin is not actually part of the structure of the nose. This is evident as we can see the join line to where this additional panel attaches. This is why Ferrari have not needed to undergo more crash tests to the front wing, as this section will easily remove itself under stress.

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Introduced in Monaco, the Italian squad have retained the new front wing pillars, which have a more rounded profile. These were not raced in Monaco but found their way to the car for qualifying and race this weekend.

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An intriguing modification to the main cascade element was also present on the F138 front wing, which now swoops down at its outboard edge instead of attaching to the endplate horizontally. This frees up more space to the downforce producing extremities of the main plane and flaps of the wing itself. This design also helps turn airflow around the front tyre more efficiently as well as producing a small amount of downforce itself.

McLaren

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McLaren introduced a few small tweaks to their MP4-28 ahead of this race, a circuit that normally treats them well. However, their traction issues have yet to be rectified and therefore struggled in the wet and dry conditions.

The Woking outfit tested and raced a low downforce rear wing (in above image) that features just four endplate slots and a much shallower profile to reduce drag.

There was a subtle change to the slot in the front wing endplate, so that it is now a bit larger and allows more flow to come inside the outer elements of the wing and create more consistent downforce.

Lotus

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In contrast to Ferrari and Sauber, Lotus chose to abandon their under-nose bulge and instead revert to a traditional flat underside. This could be a permanent change but it is more likely to be a drag reducing solution to generate a greater top speed.

The Renault engine is a bit down on power compared to its Mercedes and Ferrari rivals so this would be a logical development for this event.

Mercedes

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Canada is not as strenuous on engine and gearbox temperatures as other events on the calendar due to the long straights so Mercedes saw a benefit in bringing a low drag engine cover.

Gone is the large hole at the back that extracts large volumes of hot air that has passed through the radiators and airbox, and in place is a sculpted and tidy solution that features a very narrow slot. It is very similar to the Ferrari solution, even featuring an almost identical shark-fin that must be there for regulation purposes (minimum surface area requirements).

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The team also continued to run with the front wing infrared cameras on both cars during practice, that face back towards the face of the tyre and monitor temperature change. This is all part of their continued development into sorting their rear tyre issues. Taking measurements of the front tyre temperatures and making developments upon this data can help balance the issues out with the rear of the car.

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Mercedes continued using the new gearbox casing that was introduced in Monaco. This is part of a huge push to sorting the geometry of the rear of the car to help reduce slip and thus reduce high rear tyre temperatures. The casing is based upon the Ferrari F2004 casing, another car that was under the wing of Ross Brawn.

The casing is made of titanium and the suspension mounts are normally attached to it. It is then surrounded in carbon fibre, reaching out of the back of the car to form the rear crash structure where the rain light is mounted.

In the regulations, a gearbox change is classed as a change to any of the forward gears (not reverse), selector shaft/pin parts, collars etc. or the entire component, including the casing. This would mean that, if a team wanted to change the geometry of the rear suspension during a race weekend, the gearbox would have to be changed and a penalty would be incurred.

The clever thing about the Mercedes casing is that the suspension mounts are now placed upon the outer carbon fibre skin. This means that the team can bring multiple skins and test them during practice, each skin featuring slightly different geometry.

The skin is a bit thicker (more carbon layers) and heavier than those of other teams as it has to accommodate the mounts and additional stress that comes with having suspension components placed upon the material.

Sauber

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The C32 featured a new nose for this weekend, featuring an under-nose bulge to produce the same effect that the Ferrari version creates, albeit the Sauber version is much more pronounced. The nose itself was also higher and invites more oncoming air beneath the chassis, working the floor harder as a result.

The team continued to test different camera pod positions between where they currently are in the image above and at the tip of the nose. In the end they settled for the former this weekend.

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A total of three rear wings were brought to Canada. Their original design featuring the low swoop at the centre of the profile and the two wings above.

The top image shows the ‘w’ profiled low drag wing that was tested in Barcelona free practice, whilst the image immediately below shows a new Canada-specific wing, that interestingly features a large top flap chord (the span between the leading and trailing edge of the element).

This is traditionally seen at high downforce venues as a shorter chord offers a better drag reduction when DRS is in use, but perhaps the wing produces such little drag anyway that a longer top chord will actually benefit them. This wing also features a slightly different DRS actuator pod, with a slight bulge along the top.

Force India

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Force India were another team, along with Lotus, to ditch the under-nose bulge and convert to the more traditional design. As I said earlier, this is probably because it creates less drag.

The camera pods were also in different places this weekend as teams continue to optimise their package for individual circuits.

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A Canada-specific wing featured on the car this weekend, consisting of a very shallow profile to reduce drag and minimalist endplate design containing six small gills-shaped slots. Note also the slot at the leading edge of the endplate that manages tyre squirt, a feature that has been on their car for over a year now.

Williams

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Williams continued to test an array of both front and rear wing designs. The front wing variations consisted of various iterations of 2012 and 2013 wing profiles, two types of wing pillars (in above image), two noses and varying camera pod positions… I presume Friday must have been a busy day for the data guys!

Interestingly they opted with the lower slung nose design that has not been raced this season. This probably has to do with aero balance between front to rear, as the rear of the car has a lot less downforce here than previous races it would make sense to balance this with a lower downforce front wing setup.

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They also tested two types of rear wing but eventually stuck with the above solution that was first introduced last year here in Canada but has also made an appearance earlier in the season in Bahrain.

Thankyou very much for reading. All the teams except two brought updates to Canada so my keyboard is officially broken! If you enjoyed reading this or have any advise as to how I can improve my blog, please write a brief comment below as this will only benefit all the viewers in the future!

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