2015 Austrian GP Tech Highlights

Better late than never? Really sorry that it’s a week late – I’ve had a busy time working and getting together with friends and family. It’s now 11:15 PM as I begin this post and I’ve got to get up early again tomorrow! Apologies about the illustrations, too. I didn’t really like them when they were finished but it was the best I could do in such a short time frame. In summary: will try harder next time.

Austria’s Red Bull Ring is one of the most demanding tracks for both driver and car, and remains one of the greatest technical challenges on the calendar. Up and down hill braking zones, sharp hairpins and fast sweepers make for a driver’s treat, rewarding precision and bravery but also severely punishing those who push even a little too far – as seen during qualifying by both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

In terms of upgrades, it’s getting to crunch time of the season. The teams are bringing big changes to the cars and this will determine their development path for the rest of the year. If the car isn’t going anywhere then it’ll be a swift transition to next year’s car, whilst those fighting it out for the big points will be hoping to steal a march on a rival every time their car hits the track.

There were plenty (and I mean plenty) of upgrades up and down the field, but which stood out the most? Let’s find out…

McLaren

McLaren’s highly anticipated short nose finally made its debut on the MP4-30, although it was only available on Fernando Alonso’s car for the weekend which he then subsequently wrecked in his first lap incident with Kimi Raikkonen. A new nose was, however, brought to the test session following the grand prix weekend.

MP4-30 nose

The nose follows a similar style to that on the Williams, forming two distinct sections to meet the cross sectional area requirements – the thumb tip (9000mm² area) and the main crash structure behind (20000mm² area).

The transition between these two is a straight leading edge, rather than the deep cuts that Red Bull have going up the nose. This makes airflow passing underneath the nose cleaner at the expense of overall volume of flow.

Underneath the nose, the tip blends smoothly into the main structure in the form of a belly shape. This is more often known as a pelican chin or a ‘pregnant’ nose and it just tidies up flow a bit on its way towards the splitter, particularly when the car is in yaw.

The thumb tip is also offset as far back over the main plane of the front wing as possible within the regulations, which will manipulate airflow in a totally different way to its longer predecessor.

To adjust for the new aero structures, a new front wing was introduced with some small modifications. The inboard flap section – responsible for controlling the Y250 vortex – received a few tweaks whilst the flap adjuster mechanism was brought further inwards and away from the critical outboard area. Minimising interruptions to the air in the latter region improves outwash around the front tyre and generally producing downforce.

Further rearward, the Woking-based outfit have had their innovation caps on (although Toro Rosso have seemingly been wearing the very same caps, as you’ll find out later) and further developed the slots in the floor ahead of the rear tyre. McLaren adopted the L-shape slot last year, a design Red Bull first used to control turbulent air being ejected at right angles from the tyre, a process known more commonly as tyre squirt.

However the MP4-30 now features two of these slots, one ahead of the other. Reducing tyre squirt is key to extracting the best performance from the diffuser, as turbulence can harm the high energy air passing both outwards and upwards at the floor exit.

The two slots appear to work simultaneously with eachother, injecting air into the the sidewall of the tyre at two levels or areas rather than just one. It’s something that I am sure many others will follow suit in.

Finally, I thought I’d mention that McLaren are (supposedly) running reduced power levels once again after encountering reliability problems. This seems counter intuitive to me because – in my opinion – they need to run it at everything its got and find out what’s failing, even if it means everything is failing. I would do a huge rant but I don’t have time, maybe another post for another day…

Mercedes

Just a few small changes were visible on the W05 in Austria. The rear bodywork has been further shrunk down and the sidepod outlet aperture reduced, which further highlights the prominent vane that sprouts from the trailing edge of the sidepod and curls down to meet the floor.

These modifications will help reduce drag more than anything, but also free up space for air to fill the void above the central section of the diffuser to extract a tiny bit more downforce, too. Free downforce is good downforce!

Williams

A substantial upgrade was brought to the FW37 for the weekend, with large alterations made all over the car. Williams have a bit of a hill to climb to catch Ferrari, but the design team are pretty young and full of ideas, and are under the leadership of experienced heads such as Pat Symonds and Rob Smedley.

There is a confidence which just hasn’t been there for a number of years and it is starting to show – pretty much all of the new developments they bring to the track remain on the car for the rest of the weekend. The upgrades work and are good for all types of circuits and environments.

For Austria, a new rear wing was the centrepiece of the upgrade. In terms of changes to the wing profile itself, the main plane is slightly deeper than before whilst the top flap has a notch cut into the centre behind the DRS actuator pod. The deeper profile increases downforce, whilst the cutout is there to reduce the disturbance made by the DRS pod in freestream flow.

The endplates are also new: gone are the sweeping leading edges and instead a much straighter edge runs towards the floor. The leading edge is completed by a larger slot, designed to divert turbulence generated by the rear tyre inside of the endplate and prevent it impinging on the outwash of airflow immediately behind.

There are now five louvres made into the endplate above the wing planes to reduce wingtip vortices, too.

Below the rear wing, the diffuser received some subtle tweaks similar to those Ferrari made in Barcelona. A pair of small flick-ups have been installed on the outer edges, which aim to push airflow coming around from underneath the rear brake ducts upwards and help the overall outwash effect.

Further forward, revisions were made to the front brake ducts and the area just in front of the sidepod.

The bargeboards received a minor tweak, with the leading edge now moved further forward to extend their overall length. The board still retains its three slots cut into the top edge, but the extension allows it to catch air earlier and shift it around the sidepod undercut.

Toro Rosso

James Key and his design group have arguably made one of the best cars on the grid this year, it’s just such a shame that the Renault power unit has been such a monumental disaster! The new parts continue to flow through and as a result the team are doing a good job at consistently upstaging big sister team, Red Bull.

STR10 rear wishbone

Substantial upgrades were brought to the rear suspension and rear tyre region. In fact, the entire rear suspension assembly is new, as are the brake ducts.

Highlighted above is the stand-out new part of the revised suspension – the lower wishbone. A lot of teams have gone for a unibody front lower wishbone this year, following on from what Mercedes did with the W05 in 2014. However the rear suspension has not been exploited in the same way until now.

The thicker trailing arm on the Toro Rosso conceals one of the half-shafts that drives the rear wheels, so it is important to produce efficient bodywork here.

The STR10’s two lower wishbone arms are conjoined well before they meet the hub, creating a nice aerofoil profile for air to pass over cleanly and minimising disruption over the top of the diffuser behind/below. This will also aid the function of the various new winglets and vanes that have sprouted on the duct itself, which bares little resemblance to the outgoing version.

In front of the rear tyre are two twisted vanes and a pair of L-shaped floor slots (highlighted, and as explained in the McLaren section above). Like on the McLaren, the slots will work in conjunction with eachother and the vanes on the top surface of the floor to stop tyre squirt breaching the gap between the tyre itself and the outer regions of the floor.

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