Tech Highlights: Top tech features of 2018

While the finer details of the 2019 technical regulations are yet to emerge, I thought it would be appropriate to have a look at some of the best tech from this year (so far) before our eyes turn towards next season. This post will primarily focus on the aerodynamics, as has been my focus throughout the year to this point.

Truth be told, I would quite like to steer my coverage away from the aerodynamic side of the sport in the future and delve more into the mechanical aspect – I think we’ve all had enough of “tyre wake management”, “outwash” and “vortex structures”. The reason why we don’t see more coverage of the mechanical side is because a) it’s less influential on performance as the aero and b) because it’s often hidden from sight. They aren’t as well documented but mechanical changes probably occur more frequently than any other technical element on the car.

I’d also like to look more into the sensors used across the car, how the teams capture and analyse data before making any changes. Hopefully I’ll be able to deliver an insight on that in the future…

For now though, some top picks from the year:

Mirror pod design

SF71H_sidepods

Mirror pod design has really kicked on over the past couple of seasons, which is surprising considering the attention to detail spent everywhere else on the car.

Ferrari took things a step further at the beginning of 2018 by developing a clever shell design that allows air to flow through the housing and around the mirror inside. By channeling the air in this manner a thin jet is created that disperses the low pressure zone directly behind the mirror assembly and thus reducing chaotic turbulence.

While this seems like an original idea, it was found that this concept had already been explored before away from the race track. A research paper written by a University of Miami student in 2014 (which you can find here) provides a good insight into how the design works.

The benefits are two-fold: direct drag reduction in the area and more controlled flow over the top of the sidepod. With the flow more predictable, more opportunities with sidepod design are opened, which the Scuderia duly exploited with their unique cooling strategy.

RB14_mirrors

Red Bull have since gone on to copy Ferrari’s idea, integrating it with their elaborate mirror assembly introduced for the season opener in Australia. One dog-legged and another straight support fix the pod in position, although there is no doubt that the primary reason for the existence of each ‘support’ is to aid the aerodynamics of the car through and around the sidepod opening.

McLaren’s bold nose

MCL33 nose_Spain

The hype around the appearance of the long-anticipated McLaren nose ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix was most definitely real, mostly because the team were boisterous over its ability to seemingly turn the MCL33 into a podium-winning machine. Turns out it didn’t quite manage that, but it was certainly a very clever interpretation of the regulations in this area.

McLaren’s design combines several schools of thought – including their own – into one tidy package. The design blossoms from a conventional thumb-tip layout, with three channels made through it to improve its efficiency. The walls that separate the channels are overlapped by turning vanes inside each cavity so that when a slice is taken in the Y-axis there is only a single cross section, out-foxing Article 3.4.1.

The most obvious feature is the cape, which presents a surface for the airflow at the back of the nose to spill over into the low pressure zone underneath and roll into a vortex. Several vortex systems are present in this area of the car – not least the Y250 emanating from the front wing – and in combination they heavily influence the amount of downforce the car can generate across the various modes of car dynamics (pitch, roll, yaw etc.).

What’s unique to the overall design are the two barred pieces of bodywork that flank each side of the nose cone. Imagine you are looking at the nose from the side: as the air hits the surface, its path doesn’t continue horizontally – it dives as it rolls over the shoulders of the nose. The bars add an element of control to the airflow over the shoulder, before the structure tapers outwards as it meets the front bulkhead.

The most complicated front wings – ever

RS18 FW_Germany

Take it all in, folks: these front wings are quite possibly the most complex they will ever be in Formula 1 history. From 2019 things will become a lot simpler, with only five eligible elements, a single-piece endplate and no cascade elements.

Above is Renault’s latest evolution of the current regulations. Eight elements span the majority of the wing, the unpainted section designed purely to convey the air around the front tyre and manage the wake from the rotating mass, while the small yellow inboard flaps are responsible for varying the level of downforce the wing generates (the top two of these are adjustable). This is a great visual demonstration of just how much of an F1 car’s front wing is actually responsible for producing downforce while the rest is largely there to shift the air in a more desirable manner.

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