2013 British GP Tech Highlights

Great Britain arguably holds one of the finest circuits in the world: Silverstone. This track offers a unique blend of high downforce, for the long sweeps of Maggots and Becketts, and prolonged throttle usage; 67% of the 5.891 km track is spent on the loud pedal, with speeds approaching 190 mph.

To negotiate the demanding high speed corners and also cut drag, teams tend to bring a fair few bits and pieces here, before further modifications for the German Grand Prix as part of their mid-season upgrade strategy. Let’s run the rule over this years’ technical developments…


Lotus have brought an extensive upgrade package with them for the British Grand Prix as the Enstone outfit look to launch themselves back into true contention of the championship.

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We will start with their general updates. Lotus have revised their sidepods, but not totally changed their philosophy. This year we are seeing teams tinkering and chipping away with the cars in order to find perfection. As the end of the current regulations draws nearer designers have had to think on a smaller scale.

The above image shows these revised aspects. They are now less bulky with the rounded shoulder of the sidepod replaced by a more box-like layout that hugs closer to the radiator beneath it. The under-tunnel beneath the exhaust ramp remains unchanged however, as they are already exploiting the maximum area allowed in that region of the car.

Also noticeable around the ‘Renault’ and the swirly logo just above the top rear wishbone is how much more the bodywork is “shrink-wrapped” around the internals of the car. In combination with the shape of side head protectors, Lotus have created a deep channel for air to pass over the top of the sidepod and down over the exhaust ramp towards the floor. This aims to enhance the Exhaust Blown Diffuser (EBD) effect from previous years.

The radiator intakes at the front of the sidepod were also angled slightly more aggressively downwards to achieve a higher volume of airflow passing over the top of the ‘pod.

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In addition to the revised sidepods was a new engine cover. Creating a shark-fin appearance (to meet the minimum bodywork surface area requirements) there is a large gap visible beneath it where the new sidepods wrap around the top of the gearbox casing.

It is also worth noting the return of the “pregnant” nosecone, that was absent in Canada three weeks ago. This suggests that my idea of taking it away reduces drag may be correct. Its return shows a sign that the floor needs to be worked harder to produce more downforce the high speed corners demand of the car.

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Look what’s made its return! The Drag Reduction Device (DRD) has finally made an outing at a proper Grand Prix event, with Kimi Raikkonen being the sole Lotus driver to trial the system on Friday. For those who do not understand how DRD works, here’s an article I wrote to explain how it functions: https://thewptformula.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/analysis-the-drag-reduction-device/.

In a brief summary, the DRD aims to reduce drag at a given speed. It is a totally passive system and the driver has no control as to when and where it is deployed, therefore it is legal.

The system is very hard to tune from track to track, therefore to even see it being tested was a feat. In my opinion, I don’t expect it to race but presume that it will be on the car tomorrow for final practice. The team are still unsure as to whether it is worth continuing to trial it over the remainder of the weekend with much less track than anticipated (thank you British weather…).

Red Bull

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Interestingly, the RB9 featured a low downforce/drag rear wing, despite the track being very wet. The wing is very similar to that used in Montreal, but the profile appears to be even slimmer. Featuring on three horizontal slots in the endplate and retaining the slot at the leading edge beside the rear tyre (to control tyre wake), it appears that Red Bull may be focusing more on race pace than ultimate qualifying pace with this aero setup.

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In the image above we can see the exhaust pipes on the RB9, featuring a white coating. This is a ceramic coating made by Zircotec with a primary aim of achieving better heat management. However there are also some other useful effects of this application to the exhaust pipes.

In terms of heat management, the coating can reduce the engine bay temperature by around 50 degrees celsius. In the short term, this should help reliability and perhaps get rid of the KERS overheating glitches that sometimes plague the RB9. Long term prospects could potentially allow the packaging of the internals to be even closer in future cars, allowing for tighter bodywork and more freedom with the aerodynamics around the sidepods and exhaust outlets.

The reduction in temperatures produces more power from the engine for each cylinder without changing the size of the pipe, a key advantage with the Renault engine as it is the weakest of the three available in Formula One. The coating also allows exhaust gases to flow more freely. This could increase the EBD effect further as a greater volume and higher velocity of exhaust gases are expelled.

During FP2, Webber was seen having a change to the diameter of the exhaust pipes. The team appeared to be back-to-back testing different exhaust parameters with the new coating to see what worked best. A narrow pipe increases the EBD effect upon the rear of the car, while a larger pipe increases engine power. Balancing which parameters work best with the new ceramic coating could prove very beneficial to the team over the course of the season as well as designing next year’s RB10.

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A few adjustments to the diffuser were also made, although these modifications appeared in Canada in practice. The main inner strake as received a perforation, the secondary strake features a deeper cut and there is now an additional outer strake to compliment the new sidewall of the diffuser.

The new sidewalls are what interest me the most as there appears to be no footplate and just a simple undercut edge. There also appears to be a different type of carbon weave to the top and sidewalls of the new diffuser, suggesting that it is either more difficult to produce or it has different properties e.g. flexibility, heat proofing.

Red Bull have also retained the new nose/vanity panel layout used in Canada which should decrease drag.


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The F138 has yet another iteration of front wing design, this time featuring an ‘r’ inner cascade winglet that diverts flow around the inside of the front tyre. I wouldn’t say it was a downforce producing component but definitely improves the quality of flow delivered to components downstream of the front wing.

Gone are the swooping main cascades that made their debut in Canada, as Ferrari have reverted back to the more traditional layout that attaches horizontally to the endplate.

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The Italian squad have introduced revised rear wing endplates in a bid to maximize downforce and reduce drag. Following the trend of many other teams, there is a new slot at the leading edge of the endplate that allows flow inside of the ‘plate to control rear tyre wake. What’s different about the Ferrari solution is that it is quite a lot longer (vertically) than any of their rivals. Watching free practice in the wet, the tyre wake on the F138 was actually a lot more visible than on any other car.

There is also a much deeper undercut at the top of the endplate above the ‘V-Power’ logo, which works in conjunction with the horizontal endplate slots to reduce the size of the vortices produced at the wingtips. These vortices are turbulent spirals of airflow that create drag, therefore reducing the size of these can potentially increase top speed and stability. This is similar to that found on the 2009 McLaren MP4-24.

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Continuing to trial the longer exhaust outlets was one of the top things on the to-do list for Silverstone. In the above image Felipe Massa is running this layout. The exhaust trough is much further back towards the rear tyre and there is a more slow progression of downward angle to the sidepod rather than the aggressive shape on the current layout.


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Mercedes brought a slightly modified front wing. In the above diagram I have drawn some arrows to show you the changes they have made (the new wing is at the bottom).

The yellow arrow outlines how the top flap has been extended right across to the centre of the wing, which now has a protruding sharp leading edge instead of the blunt one on the older wing above. This edge produces a vortex that guides airflow to components further downstream but does not produce much additional downforce. The gurney flap (the black strip on the trailing edge of the element) has been retained in this area to further aid this effect.

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As the top flap is slightly longer, its adjustable section has to be moved slightly differently so a revised Front Flap Adjust (FFA) system has been put in place that extends the amount of movement of the top flap when adjusted either in the garage or during a pitstop.

The white arrow shows how they have still fitted infrared cameras to the main cascades to analyse how the thermal dynamics of the front car change as the car is running. On the new wing there appear to be some sort of sensor in the same place but they are not as big (edit: these are smaller IR sensors that are permanently attached to the main cascade winglet to monitor tyre surface temperature throughout the race. The previous sensors were used in practice only before being removed for qualifying/race).

There were also some revisions to the front and rear brake ducts in order to manage brake and tyre temperatures. Brake temperature plays a huge factor in how the tyres thermally degrade, as heat from the carbon discs is transmitted into the core of the tyre and also out of the rims. Teams have to work with their respective rim manufacturers to come up with a design to best expel this heat from the brakes before the season begins, as wheel design is homologated throughout the year.

Early Friday running suggests Mercedes are slowly progressing with tyre management but the cooler conditioners may have over-played their prospects for this weekend. FP3 tomorrow should prove more insightful.

Along with these two modifications there were also changes to the floor and diffuser of the W04 to provide more downforce in the higher speed sections of the circuit.


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Williams must have a large proportion of their staff working on front wing design and production as yet another front wing/nose combination was present at Silverstone. Above is the new nose which is much bulkier than its predecessor. This almost emulates the “pregnant” nose effect seen on the Lotus and some other cars but does not feature a full-on “belly”.

Interestingly, both wings feature under-nose turning vanes attached to the wing itself, rather than being mounted on the chassis like the majority of cars on the grid have this season.

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In terms of compromise between drag and downforce, Williams seem to be favouring the boomerang rear wing option even in wet conditions. Although it might not produce higher downforce than a traditional rear wing, the car is most likely one that understeers as decreasing the amount of grip at the rear of the car should help balance this issue. This is perhaps why we are seeing Pastor Maldonado not doing as well this year as he prefers a car that has a bit more oversteer and has better front end grip. This is in comparison to Valterri Bottas who has a preference for slightly more understeer.


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Marussia were testing their version of the blown front axle during free practice. Dropped by Red Bull but retained by its pioneer, Williams, the front axle has airflow coming through the brake ducts driving out of its hollow body around wheelnut area. This method is used to try and control tyre wake just behind the front tyres and work the sidepods harder.

Force India

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Force India added almost identical strakes that appeared on the Red Bull RB9 in Canada to their front wing for this weekend. Although it isn’t very clear, the bottom wing in the above image features small strakes at certain intervals along the main plane, each co-ordinated to a respective under-wing fence. These strakes produce very small vortices and aid the direction that the airflow takes beneath the wing and around the front tyre.

Thanks for reading. Look out for my video blog from Silverstone as I will be going tomorrow! Looking forward to seeing the action and maybe some of you there. Enjoy the weekend.

4 thoughts on “2013 British GP Tech Highlights

  1. Morris Dancer

    Did Raikkonen end up running the DRD in the race? And do you think it’ll be used in a race in the near future?

    An interesting read. Have you heard that McLaren are now focusing on the 2014 car, so that changes to the 2013 one will only be developments that can be reused next year?

    1. thewptformula Post author

      Yes he did, came totally out of the blue! Lotus have spent so much money on it then even if it works slightly they ought to put it on the car…

      I did hear about that. What amazes me is that they scored more points in the first round (40) last year than they have all season this year (37). Quite shocking. 2014 development is a better idea though, this year’s car is not a race winner.

      1. Morris Dancer

        That’s a terrible stat. We’ve had… 9 races, is it? Even if we assume Perez isn’t as good a driver as Hamilton that’s appalling.

        On the other hand, the best time to have a terrible racecar is probably the year before a massive set of rule changes. It’s still baffling how McLaren went from the best pace (over the course of the season) to sixth fastest (only 13 points ahead of Toro Rosso).

        Perversely, I wonder if this might help Perez. He’ll get to know the team and integrate with far less pressure because the car’s just not good enough. Instead of being thrown in at the deep end he’s got a year with armbands.

        D’you think the DRD [which still makes me think of Farscape] will prove more advantageous at the Nurburgring?

      2. thewptformula Post author

        Yes and no. If they finish where they are in the championship right now, they won’t get the ideal budget the next two or three years. Luckily for them they are only paying for one more season with Mercedes engines, as they take a chunk out of their other performance spending.

        Honda come arrive in 2015. If the partnership works then McLaren will definitely be back on track (pardon the pun), but this is certainly no guarantee. If the Honda deal fails over a number of years then McLaren could find themselves in much bigger trouble.

        Thankfully, due to their history and prestige, there will always be major backers of the McLaren Group, so they won’t ever reach lower than they are now… I hope.

        As for Perez I think this is an ideal season for him and personally I think he’s doing a decent job. He could be very good. Maybe not Alonso/Vettel(/Hamilton?) good, but still very good. We will see.

        DRD should probably have the same effects around the Nurburgring as it did in Silverstone because there are shorter straights dotted around the circuit. Similar downforce levels, too. I think only Grosjean has it for this weekend, will follow that up!

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