Analysis: 2016 predictions

It’s that time of the year (well, the end of the year…) when we look ahead to what lies in store ahead. For the past two years I have made an illustration as to what I think the next season’s cars will generally look like, and I’d like to say I’ve done a decent job at highlighting what will be different (2014 prediction here, 2015 prediction here). So here’s what I think 2016 will hold…

2016 side & plan

As you can probably tell already, there are no major technical changes being made for next season so my prediction is simply an evolution of what we have seen in 2015. Before we move further, it is worth noting that the camera pods mounted by the stalks on the nose will be allowed for 2016, but banned from 2017 onwards.

Starting with the nose, it was clear that the grid was divided between long and wide, short and stumpy, and short with a thumb tip extension. The latter design was the most popular choice as it allowed the neutral section of the wing (in the centre) to remain completely exposed to oncoming airflow whilst increasing the volume beneath the nose for which flow could pass into.

In 2016 I believe this will again be the most common solution, although I do not expect every team to rush to it. As we saw with Ferrari, the car is built around one particular design so it may not be beneficiary to change it. The process of designing the car for the next season starts very early on, so we could see some cars optimised around the longer or stumpy shapes.

The front wing is an expensive region of development for everyone at the moment, and Mercedes changed the game once again in 2015 by creating two clear segments of the wing with an aggressive arched profile at the outboard section. I expect most of the teams to migrate towards this – the likes of Ferrari and Williams have already made some strides to keep up but I predict some very intricate craftsmanship here.

Further back, I think the biggest area of progression will be the sidepods and engine cover bodywork. The teams have become increasingly more confident in running smaller bodywork as the power units are less and less reliant on large cooling apertures, so with further gains in the thermal efficiency of the engines over the winter we could be seeing some lovely shapes next year. I anticipate a lot more shrink-wrapping around the internals, which we started to see this year as blisters were made into the engine covers to clear the back of the engine/gearbox oil cooler. This could result in a reduced sized airbox inlet, too, yet possibly accompanied by the return of smaller ‘ear’ inlets eitherside of the roll hoop as these are less aero critical than the profile of the sidepods.

There should be further improvements made around the floor ahead of the rear tyre, with a variety of arranged slots diverting the turbulence that normally impinges on the diffuser away from such an aerodynamically sensitive region. This, alongside the development of vortex alignment along the sides of the splitter (Y250 vortex projected from the front wing) and the floor, should also equate to higher rake angles and thus more rear downforce.

The biggest visual change for next year will be the addition of at least one (maximum of two) secondary exhaust pipe. These redirect the wastegate gases away from those passing through the turbine of the turbocharger in an attempt to increase sound levels. It is unclear whether their orientation at the back of the car – which can either be to the side or above the main exhaust exit – will have any performance benefits, particularly when considering the design of the Y100 (or Monkey Seat) winglet immediately behind/above.

These alterations will have an impact on the design of the rear wing and its endplates, too. In my design I have opted for an advanced version of what Mercedes (and occasionally Red Bull) were using for 2015, with three tall vertical slots made into the base of the ‘plate and heavy sculpting to manipulate the airflow, forcing it upwards. It will also be interesting to see if the succession of horizontal slots made into Ferrari’s endplates just above the floor will carry over into 2016 as they were not seen on any other car.

Finally, the diffuser may not see too much attention as the 2017 regulations will be hugely different in this area, but we shall assume that further flick-ups and Gurney flap arrangements will pop up here throughout next year to fine tune the up/outwash of the air as it expands out from beneath the car.

Edit: Just remembered about S-ducts! I left this out of my design prediction because it is not a silver bullet in terms of performance, i.e. copying it will not necessary give you laptime. Like the design of the nose, it has to be integrated with the rest of the car and how airflow is managed around the front of the chassis. A well designed S-duct has great benefits in managing boundary layer flow both above and below the front bulkhead, however the nose, front wing and internal suspension components must be considered as they affect how it performs.

Red Bull have been a consistent user for the past few years, but others have jumped onto it over the last 12 months in particular. McLaren and Force India had race-worthy versions by mid-season, whilst Mercedes appeared to be testing some bodywork for it (albeit a potential disguise for their 2016 front suspension concept) in Brazil. If the only way to catch Mercedes is to go to extreme measures and hope it pays off, maybe we could see the full emergence of the S-duct after all.

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