2015 Russian GP Tech Highlights

Been crazy busy at university at the moment so unfortunately – whilst I tried to find time to write this exclusively for my blog – I’ve had to copy most of it over from my analysis piece I did for Richland F1. Quick update on YouTube things: very close to getting more videos out… 🙂

The Sochi circuit in Russia is a track of compromise – one of the longest straights on the year kicks the lap off, whilst the high speed S2 and technical final sector make for an aerodynamic headache. This sort of layout shows who has really done their homework and provides us the best chance of seeing the most efficient cars.

With not many more ideal opportunities to introduce new developments to the cars in 2015, Russia saw a number of various upgrades ranging from McLaren’s further revised power unit to an interesting tweak to the Mercedes front wing.

McLaren-Honda

Despite popular belief that Honda’s ICE is on par with Ferrari’s in terms of power, the Japanese manufacturer decided to further boost this area by spending their remaining four tokens on a combustion chamber and exhaust upgrade. This will most likely be an update that follows on from what Mercedes and Ferrari have been doing with their power units, working in close conjunction with its fuel partner (in McLaren’s case ExxonMobil) to provide both more power and better efficiency.

The Honda PU burns more fuel than its opposition, particularly during the early stages of the race. This is primarily because they are down on power towards the end of the straights when their energy recovery system encounters deployment problems, so extracting the same amount of power from less fuel will undoubtedly help their cause.

Only Fernando Alonso had this upgraded unit although it was only run briefly during FP1 before it was swapped out for an older unit, albeit with a brand new MGU-H and turbo components – hence the grid penalties he picked up. It is understood that the new unit will return for the US grand prix, again only in Alonso’s car with Jenson Button receiving his own from Mexico onwards.

The advantage of this most recent token expenditure is that they can focus even more of their new allowance over the winter on the ERS, which has been the Achilles heel of the McLaren-Honda package. It is well documented that their incredibly small packaging of the ICE has resulted in a smaller turbocharger, meaning that the MGU-H cannot receive enough electrical energy at top end speeds to directly transfer to the MGU-K and improve straightline speed.

Whilst Honda have somewhat admitted that the layout of the power unit will not change substantially for next season, we should expect a significant overhaul of the turbocharger and MGU-H components from their winter token budget.

Toro Rosso

Detail changes continue to pop up on the STR10 despite the season slowly drawing to a close. In Russia, Toro Rosso experimented with further rear bodywork changes – an area which was focused on in Japan also – and, interestingly, ran with additional inlet ducts eitherside of the roll hoop on Friday.

The STR10’s airbox is vast and is split in two – the lower feeds the turbo compressor and the upper (and slightly smaller) cools the gearbox oil via a small radiator mounted above the rear crash structure.

Having such a large airbox is not exactly ideal as it generates a lot of drag and interrupts flow to the centre part of the rear wing behind. However it does mean that they can pinch in the sidepods to improve airflow around the sides of the car.

Perhaps Toro Rosso were experimenting with the ear-shaped inlets for 2016 by simply plumbing the ears to the gearbox oil cooler and cutting off the top inlet in the airbox. They can compute enough data from this to decide whether to pursue a smaller airbox combined with a pair of small ear inlets for the STR11, or perhaps they have already done so and just wanted to back up their findings in the factory to a real-life test scenario. By now, into the late stages of the current season, I would imagine that the latter would probably be the case.

Mercedes

Having sealed the Constructors’ title and all but wrapped up the Drivers’ championship as well, there is very little need for Mercedes to add anything new to the W06. In the pursuit of ultimate performance, though, not even the class of the field is standing still with four races remaining.

© theWPTformula

This detail change is a classic example of fine-tuning an existing component to improve its overall performance. A set of serrations were placed on the underside of the second stage of the upper flap, made out of a metal strip to form eight teeth exposed to the air passing through the slot gap above.

I’ve done my best with this illustration, but in black and white it is hard to get a good perspective on where we are looking at the front wing from. The view is from behind the wing, which has been tilted upwards so that the leading edge of the wing is now facing towards the ground slightly.

The teeth are designed to create vortices and entice the air passing beneath the wing to remain attached as the wing angle increases. Whilst opening up the slot gaps has a similar effect, this would actually decrease the wing’s downforce-producing capabilities and would compromise cornering speed. The vortices induced by the teeth are tiny, such that their draggy influence is negligible to the rest of the car.

McLaren have used something similar most recently in the form of their ‘tubercles’ rear wing used last year.

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