2015 Italian GP Tech Highlights

This piece mainly goes through Mercedes’ significant power unit update. It isn’t exclusive blog content – as I was really busy last week and not feeling great this week (brilliant, I know) – but I’m posting my piece from Richland F1 because I don’t think it reached many people anyway. No illustrations unfortunately but with Singapore this weekend I can guarantee that I’ll be back on top form!

Following on from Spa, Monza is the ultimate speed king on the Formula 1 calendar. After catapulting out of the Parabolica, the drivers will reach some 220mph by the end of the main straight. This is achieved by running incredibly skinny wings (both front and rear) and removing as many intricacies as possible in the pursuit for speed.

However, whilst these technical changes are common for the Italian GP, William Tyson also covers the bigger tech news from the weekend – Mercedes and Ferrari’s power unit upgrades.

Mercedes

Aside from some minor aerodynamic tweaks to the front and rear wings – including the very slim low-drag wing that was tested in Spa (pictured above) – the Italian grand prix weekend was an extremely important event for the Mercedes as they spent all their remaining seven tokens on upgrading an already-dominant power unit.

The latest, and final, revamp focuses on the combustion side of the powertrain, with an emphasis on improving the efficiency of how the fuel is burnt to produce more power using less fuel, and reducing heat transmission to the rest of the car. This will have taken about three tokens to update so we have to presume that the other four were invested in making the new combustion components compatible with the existing parts. None of the tokens were spent on the turbo or ERS.

The upgraded units were not meant to be used until Singapore, but the team opted to bring it forward primarily as a precaution – the existing units a lot of miles on them, as proved by Nico Rosberg’s dramatic blowout near the end of the race.

Overall this represented a huge performance boost, which allows the team to, according to Toto Wolff, take a different development path into 2016. Improving the cooling capacity of the unit will have aerodynamic benefits, too, allowing for tighter bodywork without compromising power output.

A lot of work has been done between Mercedes HPP and Petronas to allow this to happen, and it appears as if the Silver Arrows have actually extended their advantage of Ferrari.

Now, whilst the latter were very close to Mercedes in qualifying (roughly 0.3s between the lead Mercedes and the lead Ferrari), there is good reason to believe that Mercedes actually wound back the engine a touch over the course of the weekend. They had a massive 1.2s advantage after FP1 and 0.7s after FP2. This does not simply disappear overnight and, whilst Ferrari had an update of their own as well, it shows that the competition are still some way away from overhauling the Brackley-based squad.

Ferrari

Ferrari also spent tokens of their own, using up three more after their Spain upgrade in April. Like Mercedes, the changes were all made to the combustion process although the Scuderia have been less open about the changes they have made so it is unclear as to what they have revised specifically.

Ferrari have clearly done enough recently to jump ahead of Williams (who are running the older spec Mercedes PU), despite the FW37’s low drag characteristics, so you could say that the latest upgrade has been a job well done. However the new Mercedes unit appears to have done that little bit more, so Ferrari could well find themselves further behind in the coming races.

Aerodynamically, the SF15-T carried over the low downforce wing from Spa whilst also using a conventional skinny rear wing, unlike the Mercedes and Sauber designs which incorporate a twisted shape.

Williams

Generally the FW37 is very good in a straight line, so very few changes were made to the car for Monza.

However unlike their rivals, Williams did not feel the need to produce an entirely new rear wing to meet the low downforce levels needed to achieve such high top speeds.

Instead the top flap has been cut down off the top and the Gurney tab removed, rather than reducing the overall depth of the wing profile. This is actually quite a good way of reducing drag without re-adjusting all of the upwashing airflow at the back of the car, in particular the manipulation of the exhaust plume against the underside of the rear wing. The DRS effect is also nearly as powerful, too, because the geometry of the wing is virtually unchanged.

As the top of the upper flap has been cut down, the endplate’s top edge no longer meets with the flap so managing wing tip vortices is made a bit easier as well.

Red Bull

The Renault power unit may be more reliable and driveable than at any other point this year, but with an upgrade still in waiting the grunt just isn’t there for Red Bull (or Toro Rosso) to make an impact at a place like Monza.

The team did have a cut down front wing to reduce blockage to oncoming airflow and thus reduce drag, but aside from that the car was very similar to that run in Belgium two weeks ago.

On Friday a lot of experimentation was done around the S-duct – the opening on top of the car just behind the nose – with both drivers’ helmets covered in flow-visualisation paint from where the airflow had passed through the duct and over the top of the car.

Clearly there is still some development going on in this region to ensure that air remains attached to the top of the chassis as desired, and that it is not disturbing air passing over the sidepod leading edge and around the other numerous aerodynamic devices in that region.

McLaren

McLaren find themselves in an even more dire situation than Renault, in that they simply do not have the power output from the ERS to punch them down the many straights the litter the circuit.

In attempt to alleviate the issues they are facing, the Woking outfit brought the skinniest wing I’ve ever seen from them and at times ran without the Gurney tab on the trailing edge of the upper flap as well. Both the endplates and central connecting pylon were adjusted to suit the shallower profile.

The long nose was also reintroduced to the MP4-30, as the shorter version that has been used since Spain produces more drag. The thumb tip extension in itself is probably a bit draggy, but it’s probably what the airflow is affecting aft of the nose that reduces top speed rather than the crash structure itself.

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