Category Archives: 2013 Highlights

Technical Highlights from each round of the 2013 F1 season

2013 Brazilian GP Tech Highlights

After a long, hard year of maximising the current regulations, this final edition of the 2013 Tech Highlights still has plenty of things to look at, including some items that will carry over into next season. Despite the fact that the teams will have put over 80% of their resources into the 2014 car some months ago, the technical side of the sport never ceases and it is for this reason why I love writing on this blog so much. There are always things to talk about and I hope you enjoy this final post in this section until March next year.

Lotus

Introduced at the USA GP last weekend, the E21 featured metal machined tyre squirt slots ahead of the rear tyres which have been carried over for this weekend. The slots reduce the effect of the turbulence, generated by the sidewalls of the tyre, impinging on the diffuser to further increase the efficiency of the underfloor aerodynamics. This is done by bleeding airflow from above the floor through the slots, projecting into the turbulent area and offsetting this “squirting” effect.

Lotus slots

These slots are machined from metal rather than carbon fibre. Mercedes also have slots produced from the same process. This is unlike Red Bull and Ferrari, with their slots made out of carbon fibre. I understand that the only feasible reason for the difference in material is to reduce warping, created by the heat of the exhaust gases that head directly next to this region of the floor. Although there is a fence guiding the gases to their eventual location, it does not fully prevent the slots getting heated. Metal is more heat resistant than carbon fibre and therefore seems a more reliable choice.

Red Bull

With Pirelli bringing their 2014 prototype tyre this weekend, the teams chose to bring various pitot tube arrays to gather data on how the new tyre characteristics change the airflow structures of the car under loading. Unfortunately, the wet weather denied the teams of an opportunity to test next year’s medium compound slick tyre, so the tubes had to be packed away again. Except for Red Bull…

During the early parts of FP1, Mark Webber’s RB9 was armed with an array behind the left front tyre, measuring the airflow being projected off of the tyre and suspension members. This was possibly a calibration run as there did not appear to be anything new on the front wing that would prompt a measurement test.

Later in FP1 and during FP2, Sebastian Vettel’s car was equipped with another array, this time located behind the rear left tyre and also behind the diffuser. After initial installation tests on intermediate tyres, the team elected to go out on the 2014 prototype slick, despite the damp conditions. The purpose of this experiment was to gather as much information about the aerodynamic flow structures on the new tyre to help develop for next year. However, with the wet conditions, Vettel was unable to push and put much loading through the tyre, making their findings almost irrelevant.

They may get some idea of airflow structures under simple circumstances, such as the loading of the tyre at speed along the straight. The car is designed to go round corners, so perhaps this was a failed exercise for the Milton Keynes squad. Ross Brawn, responding to comments made about the tests carried out by Red Bull, said: “Sometimes taking no measurements is better than gathering false or distorted information”.

Aside from the tyre testing I found it interesting to hear that the team deliberately asked the FIA to do a front wing load test on three front wings for this weekend. The wings were identical and the same as the ones brought the last round in the USA. In terms of structure, however, they may well have been made up differently. Perhaps they were trialing a new carbon layup for next season. More flexi-wing antics in 2014?

Rear brake sensors, wired through the top wishbone, were also mounted on Vettel’s RB9 to gather more data on the braking characteristics of the car. This will be essential next season as the more powerful 2014 ERS (Energy Recovery System) will have a greater influence on the braking of the car in comparison to the current KERS unit. Such is the power that teams will be allowed a control device, monitored by the ECU, to smooth the braking phase, as the system harvests energy much more aggressively. More on this in a future 2014 post.

McLaren

Also hoping for some 2014 tyre running was McLaren. On Thursday a picture was taken of this sensor attached to the front wing endplate. These are not thermal imaging, infrared sensors however. I am unsure of what they are designed to measure although it could be sidewall deflection. Having said that, the sensor appears to be facing directly towards the face of the tyre, if not more to the inside shoulder.

Mercedes

A new piece of information that has to come to light since last weekend is the introduction of new Brembo calipers on Lewis Hamilton’s W04. Hamilton has made it clear that one of his main struggles with the Mercedes car is its different braking characteristics compared to the previous McLarens he has driven. Unlike Mercedes, McLaren use Akebono (or Carbon Industries) calipers and discs. According to Hamilton, the Brembo combination does not give the initial bite that he desires. Paddy Lowe’s switch from McLaren to Mercedes mid-season may well have influenced this change.

2013 United States GP Tech Highlights

Once again, few and far between updates on the cars this weekend as the season is very quickly drawing to a close. However with Ferrari and Lotus still firmly in the hunt for second place in the Constructors’ championship, both teams have been forced into making some changes to the cars for this weekend to keep in touch with Mercedes.

Ferrari

Ferrari have slightly updated the front wing cascade on its F138, creating a total of three elements at the endplate of the device instead of two elements previously.

Ferrari FW cascade

An additional element here will produce a slightly different vortex, aimed at guiding airflow around the front tyre to more critical components downstream such as the leading edge of the floor and the bargeboards.

The team were also re-evaluating their new sidepod airflow conditioner introduced in Abu Dhabi although it was never raced. This was coupled with a strake at the base of the vane that replaced the r-vane introduced in Japan.

The fact that Ferrari keep changing this area of the car on a regular basis is quite concerning as this is a relatively sensitive region of the car. It works in conjunction with the edge of the floor and the Y250 vortex produced off the main plane of the front wing, guiding vortices that help seal the airflow beneath the car that travels on into the diffuser. In this video posted on SomersF1, we can see the large vortices that are directed by this component – http://www.somersf1.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/austin-gp-video-compilation-of-vortices.html

The team have been changing this area quite a lot lately so perhaps their aerodynamic issues lie at the rear of the car. They have certainly been struggling with traction lately although I am unsure if this area of the car can be related to such problems.

Also new on the car this weekend was an interesting modification to the outer walls of the diffuser (see the image of it here – http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-vx-nSelktu0/UoYDbfrPzVI/AAAAAAAAIlU/Dmk8XOqnW4M/s640/diffusore+ferrari+2.jpg). Confusingly, the modification appeared to be exactly the same shape and specification as the last version only that it was a rapid prototype of it rather than finished carbon fibre. It was as if the carbon fibre outer wall had been cut off and replaced with the rapid prototype with some sort of filler to blend the two together.

Perhaps there were some minute differences, such as the angle of the projection of the wall, but nothing major had been changed. They would certainly have the facilities to quickly produce something like that at their factory and send it over within a day, or even at the circuit itself.

Finally, the team chose to replace an updated beam wing seen in Abu Dhabi to a more conventional, straight layout for this weekend.

Lotus

Introduced on Kimi Raikkonen’s car in Abu Dhabi, Lotus were pursuing their latest iteration of their rear wing endplates in free practice, taking it forward to qualifying and the race for this first time this weekend. They are composed of 7 strakes hanging beneath the endplate, compared to three, thicker elements from the previous design.

Lotus RW endplates

These strakes are designed to work in conjunction with the airflow coming off of the brake ducts upstream and with the outer wall of the diffuser below. Each strake points outwards slightly, aiding the outwash and upwash of the diffuser below.

Both cars ran the long wheelbase this weekend, confirming that the team clearly see a gain with this configuration rather than just a preference between the two drivers as Heikki Kovalainen was brought in to replace Kimi Raikkonen, who is undergoing back surgery.

A second, smaller bulge – behind the large “pelican beak” – beneath the nose also appeared on the E21.

Red Bull

If you have Google Chrome (or just copy and paste into a translator) I would thoroughly recommend reading this article – http://www.omnicorse.it/magazine/32639/f1-gp-austin-tecnica-la-red-bull-con-i-cerchi-trattati-con-il-polysil-e

It would appear as if Red Bull have added a heat sink – in the form of a silicone coating from Polysil – to the rims of the RB9, aiming to transmit more heat from the brake/hub assembly inside of the front tyres. Perhaps this radiates the heat directly onto the sidewalls of the tyre which would help during the tyre warming phase.

With fluctuating track conditions at the Circuit of Americas during qualifying, Red Bull were one of the only teams to produce consistent laptimes. This could have been aided by generating heat more quickly into the tyre using this method.

It could also be used as a way of managing the turbulence created by the tyre immediately behind as the heat could change the characteristics of the passing airflow.

2013 Abu Dhabi GP Tech Highlights

In all honesty I did not expect to be writing this today! Yet, despite only a week’s turnaround, teams still managed to bring some bits and pieces to Abu Dhabi this weekend. With 2014 certainly at the forefront of everyone’s mind now, most (if not all) of the updates in this article will have been created with the intention to possibly be placed on next year’s car.

Williams

Williams have always been plagued by their Coanda exhaust system, despite the fact that other Renault powered teams (mainly Lotus and Red Bull) have had a lot of success with the engine-exhaust combination. At the last pre-season test in Barcelona, Williams introduced a full-Coanda ramp system that aimed to emulate the designs from Red Bull/Lotus. The cost to produce this system must have been extortionate and it failed to produce consistent downforce at the rear of the car. Pastor Maldonado described the FW35 as “undriveable” on many occasions even before the season had begun.

The team then reverted back to its older specification semi-Coanda layout that is composed of an exhaust exit hanging over the floor and a gap between the exhaust exit and the rear tyre that the gases eventually reach. This produced consistent downforce and made the rear of the car much more predictable although the performance from this component has never been as strong as other teams.

In Abu Dhabi, the team were testing a basic exhaust package to try to replicate the effect of having an aero neutral exhaust exit for 2014 (the exhaust pipe must exit at the centre of the car below the rear wing between 0 and 5 degrees). The exhausts on this package exited along the sidepod line and had no influence on the floor. However, the drivers preferred this package to the current semi-Coanda system and chose to stick with it for qualifying and the race. This is quite a staggering discovery: the fact that after two years of development work on the current exhaust system the team chose to run a very simplistic solution is not a good sign for Williams.

Aerodynamics seem to be the Achilles’ heel for the team of late and I should think that they will be trying to lure the services of Ross Brawn from Mercedes to rebuild. Bringing in Felipe Massa (along with engineer Rob Smedley) wouldn’t do them any harm, either.

Ferrari

Some quite large scale updates appeared on the F138 for this weekend although they may have been aimed at 2014 development.

Ferrari pod vane

Ferrari have combined two vertical fences with a horizontal, downwash aiding blade that attaches to the sidepod airflow conditioner. We have previously seen just a horizontal blade stemming from the conditioner across the top of the sidepod before attaching to the cockpit side. The F138 has, surprisingly, never featured Vortex Generators (VGs) on its sidepods so seeing something similar to them this late in the season is quite strange. At first I thought the two fences were VGs but then, thanks to a helpful reminder in the comments section, I was proved totally wrong (I find this ironic as I produced a piece on vortex generators).

From this piece we concluded that VGs work by drawing high energy airflow down into the boundary layer, re-energising the layer and preventing boundary layer buildup over a gradient. The two fences above, however, are covered by the horizontal blade and therefore do not act as VGs. I am assuming that these fences act only to redirect airflow over the shoulder of the sidepod towards the exhaust plume. This could also aid the downwash of the exhaust gases in the same way that a VG would, only on a much smaller scale.

On the subject of VGs, I did discuss the possibility of maintaining them for next year’s cars with a few members of the F1 “technical community” on Twitter. The aim of placing VGs and blades on top of the sidepod area is to push the exhaust plume down into floor area around the rear tyre. With the exhaust exiting far away from their current location next year, is there still a need for VGs here?

If Ferrari, or any team, were to produce an extremely contoured sidepod there would be a need to place VGs in this area to attempt keep airflow attached along the entire length of the ‘pod. There may well be some radically shaped bodywork in this region next year as the engines are bigger and provide more cooling. This will result in various ways of stacking the intercoolers and radiators that are needed to cool the V6 turbo power units for next year.

Ferrari floor

There were also some subtle changes to the floor for this weekend. These openings at the side of the floor running alongside the sidepod allow turbulent flow from the front tyres to escape without affecting the surrounding flow heading towards the diffuser. The leading opening has been rounded and reduced in size and the trailling one has remained very similar to the previous version.

At the base of the sidepod airflow conditioner was a new floor-mounted blade that replaced the ‘r’ vane introduced in Korea. I am unsure if this was just run in practice only or if they carried over to qualifying/race.

Lotus

Kimi Raikkonen ran the short wheelbase edition of the E21 in Abu Dhabi and he will probably continue to do so for the remainder of the season. Raikkonen has not responded well to the long wheelbase (100mm longer) introduced in Italy as it does not suit his driving style. Romain Grosjean has certainly upped his game which has probably amplified Raikkonen’s struggles of late. However the short wheelbase should suit the Yas Marina circuit a lot better, particularly in the tight and twisty final sector.

2013 Indian GP Tech Highlights

If the Buddh International Circuit were a person, he/she would be quite a fickle character. Demanding strong downforce and good straightline speed, this is one of the ultimate tests for a Formula 1 car. Watching the cars on track is always interesting in India as it shows a lot about the level of performance of each piece of machinery. The Red Bull RB9 in particular looks incredible, changing direction almost effortlessly compared to the lethargic nature of some of the lower teams’ cars.

Once again we were faced with a lack of any major modifications to the cars for this weekend although there were yet more detail adjustments still being introduced at this late stage of the season and of the current regulations.

Sauber

Since the 2012 tyre constructions were reintroduced before the summer break, Sauber have been on the up. Continuing to put developments on the car to further enhance the potential of its C32 deserves full credit and they may yet be rewarded by overtaking Force India in the Constructors’ fight.

sauber brake duct

These lower brake duct flick-ups are very similar to that on the Ferrari F138 and replace the slightly straighter version seen previously. These produce local downforce directly to the rear wheel and also help extract performance from the diffuser, interacting with the outer wall and footplate of the latter component. The previous lower duct flick-ups were composed of four smaller elements compared to this new component that features three. The endplate piece that links each of the elements has been elongated and curved outwards towards the wheel, whereas the previous endplate was shorter and straighter.

Note that above this new addition you can see a drum-like opening. This is the hub assembly exhaust vent and it is a feature becoming more common in F1. Instead of extracting the hot air inside the assembly out of the wheel face, this drum vents it outwards inside of the rear tyre. This reduces drag as it prevents the hot air interacting with the denser airflow passing around the rear tyres creating unwanted vortices.

Ferrari

The Scuderia brought three front wings to India for this weekend. Interestingly, one of these wings was brought to Spa, featuring the rounded flaps and smaller length slot gaps. Another wing was the high downforce one introduced in Singapore and the final wing was a slightly modified version of this. You can see the small comparison between these two wings here. The slight increase and pointed flap size will redirect the airflow slightly, possibly to a more sensitive area of the front section of the floor to produce more downforce at the rear of the car.

McLaren

Jenson Button ran a very specific program on Friday morning with the Woking outfit describing the setup as “radical”. Visibly there was not much different on the MP4-28 but I would imagine that they were varying ride heights, dampers, spring rates, roll bars and wing levels. They decided to do this mainly to check that they hadn’t missed a trick with their troublesome chrome machine this year but there were also some 2014 development parts hidden within the setup.

Mclaren FW India

Along with the slightly lower downforce rear wing, the front wing was changed slightly for this event. The camera pods have been relocated from between the wing pillar mounts to right at the top of the nose just before the suspension arms. The new position is in a less aero sensitive region of the car so the front end will probably be producing a bit less downforce as a result. Perhaps this was to balance the front with the lower downforce rear or something they want to do for 2014. The new camera pod layout was coupled with the new wing they introduced in Korea.

For qualifying and race, however, both drivers opted for the wing with the camera pods in their normal position.

Williams

Williams IR camera

The FW35 featured this thermal imaging camera to analyse temperature across the surface of the front tyre. Unfortunately this is not an FOM camera so the footage can only be accessed the team engineers. A conventional camera pod replaced it for qualifying and therefore the race.

2013 Japanese GP Tech Highlights

The Suzuka circuit in Japan represents one of the more demanding aerodynamic tracks on the F1 calendar. However, with 2013 developments slowly withdrawing completely there were only a few detail updates to be seen for this weekend. In this article we will be looking back over some of the developments from the Korean GP last week to fully understand how they work and why they are beneficial to Suzuka. With only a week’s turn-around for the teams updates were never likely to appear so let’s dive in…

Red Bull

The ‘Bulls continued their supremacy by taking a one-two in Japan on Sunday. New to the car for this weekend were slightly updated upper fins on the rear brake ducts, directing airflow inside of the rear tyre more efficiently to decrease drag as well as work the components (fins, duct “flick-ups”, edge of the diffuser) beneath to work better accordingly, producing more downforce, too.

What I would like to recap on is the introduction of the two large vertical vanes on the RB9’s front wing (here’s an image of it – http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-dXUMng3xwpU/Uk_D7Pj_0AI/AAAAAAAAIc4/zBWvcs4CSTk/s1600/d13kor618.jpg) , brought to the Korean GP last week. After briefly touching upon them in last week’s Tech Highlights I mentioned that I was not entirely sure how they worked and I would seek clarification. Which I have…

Vortices are induced when high pressure airflow wants to migrate to low pressure airflow and the two pressure zones collide. This is a normal characteristic of pressures in a fluid system and one that teams exploit when reducing vortices emitted from the rear wing. The bigger the pressure difference, the greater the vortex produced. In the case we are examining here, high pressure is on the oncoming airflow face of the two vanes, as demonstrated by this diagram.

'+' represents high pressure, '-' represents low pressure

‘+’ represents high pressure, ‘-‘ represents low pressure

We have learnt that the oncoming airflow will have the tendency to navigate its way to the negative region behind the vanes. The vanes are obviously completely solid so it can’t pass straight through them. Nor can the airflow wrap right around the vanes as the oncoming airflow is too fast for this to happen, as shown below.

Airflow from the base of the vane to roughly three quarters of the way up will pass around in the direction of the trailling edge of the vane

Airflow from the base of the vane to roughly three quarters of the way up will pass around in the direction of the trailling edge of the vane

However, at the top of the vane the oncoming, high pressure flow can creep over and in to the low pressure region the other side. As the pressure gradient suddenly changes, this can happen very quickly causing turbulent spirals of air to project along the top of the vane. In the diagram below we can see this effect taking place. For clarity purposes I have also included laminar flow travelling along the middle of the vane as explained above.

The oncoming airflow near the top of the vane will travel rapidly over into the low pressure area, causing this spiralling effect

The oncoming airflow near the top of the vane will travel rapidly over into the low pressure area, causing this spiralling effect

There are two vanes on the Red Bull wing: the forward vane has very little Angle of Attack (AoA), whereas the back vane has quite an aggressive AoA. The back vane therefore has a greater pressure delta between the forward and rearward faces of the vane (think of it almost as a wind shelter on a beach) therefore more powerful vortices are produced as a result.

Both vanes create vortices along the top of the vane, passing them along their individual profiles before exiting at the trailing edge. Both vanes appear to have a trailing edge pointing in a similar direction. The two series’ of vortices produced must converge. They converge on the front face of the front tyre to try to breakdown the turbulence created by the rotating motion – tyre wake. Tyre wake causes drag and can impact on the aerodynamics immediately downstream of the front tyre (sidepods, bargeboards, floor). The two vanes are quite tall so their aim must be to break down tyre wake at the upper areas of the front tyre. This is a development they can carry into next year as the front wings will be narrower, therefore managing this tyre wake will be a bit more difficult.

I would like to thank @F1_Aero (on Twitter) and Matt Somerfield (@SomersF1) for their help explaining this to me.

Mercedes

Retained for this weekend, the Silver Arrows continued using a three-slot arrangement in front of the rear tyres. This replaces the single slot that has been used for the entire season and copies teams such as Ferrari and Red Bull. Their solution has always been an add-on section of the floor made out of titanium for reasons that I am not fully sure about. It may have something to do with how the friction of the air interacts with the slots made out of the metal element, as it has nothing to do with the heat from the exhaust gases that travel inboard of it on the other side of a carbon fibre fence.

McLaren

Jenson Button ran a slightly updated front wing on his MP4-28 in Korea last week and for Japan, Sergio Perez got his hands on one, too.

The wing pillars are now attached to the very back of the wing, something that teams have been exploiting for a while whereas McLaren have not. This is beneficial as the elongated pillars are now even further back, aiding airflow to the T-Tray and bargeboard area and therefore having a positive impact on the diffuser at the back of the car. As a result, the wing is attached to much less of the pillar which can lead to a lot more flexibility. The team therefore decided to use these “target” stickers (see here – http://img3.auto-motor-und-sport.de/McLaren-Formel-1-GP-Japan-2013-fotoshowImage-fbfb7d0-727506.jpg) on the inside of the endplates to measure its movement by using a camera facing out from the pillar itself.

The left front wing is the wing used from Korea onwards, with slight alterations to the inboard flap section as well

The left front wing is the wing used from Korea onwards, with slight alterations to the inboard flap section as well

This is something that Red Bull have also done when testing a new front wing. The FIA have a deflection test to ensure that the front wings do not run too close to the ground so assessing the new wing was for legal purposes. They would have tested it on their own deflection rig back at their factory in Woking but on-track tests are, obviously, more realistic. McLaren then analysed the impact of the new pillars by placing a Pitot tube array in front of the sidepod area beside the bargeboard.

Interestingly, McLaren have removed the second fence in front of each rear tyre that was introduced in Korea and have instead stuck to a sole fence aimed at directing the exhaust gases into the gap between the rear tyre and the wall of the diffuser.

Ferrari

Possibly a James Allison influenced idea, an ‘r’ vane appeared on the F138 at the Korean GP last weekend, featuring again on the car in Japan. Allison’s previous employers, Lotus, adopted this type of vane as early as late 2011 and it has also appeared on the Sauber.

Ferrari r vane

The ‘r’ vane is just in front and beneath the sidepod airflow conditioner, that also received a small change at its base. Where previously there was a perforation, there is now a solid piece at the bottom creating just a single element design. This has been tapered more to hug closer to the sidepod. These changes, coupled with further refinements to the floor beneath, should help extract more downforce from the diffuser.

2013 Korean GP Tech Highlights

Moving on from the slow, twisty layout of the Marina Bay circuit in Singapore, the Korea International Circuit is of completely different nature although is done combine features of many circuits into one track. Set upon a desolate marshland over 400 km from the capital city, Seoul, it is not every team’s cup of tea. However, drivers do like the track to some extent. And with good reason.

Sector 1 includes both DRS zones (pit straight and from Turn 2 to Turn 3) and another straight into Turn 4 that provides great overtaking possibilities if given good low drag performance. But this circuit requires the perfect tradeoff of high downforce and high top speed, as S2 and S3 are of complete contrast to the beginning of the lap.

The middle section of the lap is a sweeping array of corners and slight undulation that needs good aerodynamic balance and medium-to-high speed grip. For S3, the end to this track needs a strong front end with typically strong mechanical grip, ie good traction and change of direction. The end to the lap is designed to replicate a street circuit so Red Bull could be top dogs in this area.

With the development cycle of this generation of cars pretty much over, there were still some interesting additions on the cars this weekend. With 2014 looming some of the parts seen over the duration of these final races will have next year on mind, including a few pieces brought to Korea this weekend.

Williams

Much to my surprise, Williams had a brand new front wing with them for this weekend. Although it is not a gulf apart from the previous version, it has a lot of new small components.

Williams FW Korea

The total number of elements has been raised to 7 in total, equalling with Ferrari’s F138 front wing. The main plane is split into three sections at the outboard edge of the wing, whilst the upper and lower flaps have been divided in two with the former’s split running across the entire span of the wing. I have numbered different sections of the wing to see all of the updates as a whole. Number 1 highlights the three sections that make up the outboard region of the mainplane and also the lower section of the lower flap. Previously just one single seciont, Number 2 shows the split flap designed to navigate flow successfully around the lower wishbone assembly and brake duct area. Number 3 labels the new inboard cascade feature that has a strong outwash. The stalk that it is mounted on also acts as a turning vane to direct airflow around the front tyre more effectively.

The wing was run in conjunction with their highest specification nose that dates right back to the start of the season, including a thick chin to its underside. Both drivers were knocked out in Q1 in qualifying and both complained of a balance issue with the car. This could perhaps indicate that the front wing is indeed working as intended and that they instead picked up too much oversteer and ended up fighting the car around the track.

Toro Rosso

Only a small change on the STR8 for this weekend to optimise airflow over their Coanda exhaust system. As analysed in my previous article, the shape and height of the Vortex Generators (VGs) on top of the sidepod dictate the energy of the airflow that pushes the exhaust plume back into the bodwork, travelling to the floor further downstream.

Red Bull

This two-part vertical vane made its debut on Friday and it was first judged as being a potential development piece for 2014, analysing how the main cascade flow structure would interact with the more inboard endplate fences from next year. However it was retained for Saturday morning and subsequently run for qualifying and race.

One of the vertical elements lies roughly in parallel with the endplate, the other (trailling element) is offset by quite an angle, around 45 degrees. I am not entirely sure what they are trying to achieve but I think the vane works in conjunction with the endplates and outboard elements of the wing to project flow around the front tyre more efficiently. Perhaps it does that by separating to the oncoming airflow out into two paths before converging creating a large vortex that helps the outwash of the wing. I am not entirely sure so do not quote me on it! I have not found another explanation, but if I do then I will edit this section.

Here's what I think is happening... So it may be wrong!

Here’s what I think is happening… So it may be wrong!

It not only decreases drag, but accelerates the flow above the wing, forcing the low pressure to expand faster and therefore produce a bit more downforce. The RB9’s front wing revisited the triple element main cascade winglet used earlier in the year that is very similar to that of Force India’s, extracting extra downforce from the winglet as well as maintaining good airflow management around the front tyres. Furthermore, the RB9 also featured updated rear brake ducts aimed at providing the rear of the car with local downforce directly onto the wheel.

To compensate for Mark Webber’s 10 place grid penalty, Red Bull also opted for a slightly lower downforce rear wing and longer gear ratios, particularly seventh gear so he can gain a higher top speed in the bid to pass a lot of cars in the race. This ultimately cost him time in the middle and final sector. What was strange was that on his final qualifying lap in Q3 he appeared to have nearly matched Sebastian Vettel’s middle sector time but decided to abort the lap. Whether he made a mistake in the final sector is unclear but he would have certainly been on for second place and therefore 12th for the race.

McLaren

The Woking squad brought a slightly modified inboard flap section, reducing the slot gap of the lower flap by a few centimetres and adding a perforated edge much like Williams do (see the above image). They also copied Red Bull by placing two fences ahead of the rear tyres (see here – https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BVrCSmjIQAA0Grm.jpg) to produce a vortex that guides the exhaust gases more directly to the edge of the diffuser area. This seals the gap between the floor and the tyre more effectively and thus produces more downforce from the rear of the car.

Mercedes

A small but interesting detail change to the W04 for this weekend. Introduced orginially by Red Bull earlier this year, the addition of VGs to the front wing have had multiple benefits.

Note how each VG corresponds with an under-wing fence designed at channeling airflow to the specific areas

Note how each VG corresponds with an under-wing fence designed at channeling airflow to the specific areas

Their main purpose is to create small vortices that correspond with a fence beneath the wing to extract more downforce. However they also prevent the build up of marbles (chunks of rubber flicked off from the tyres under load) in the slot gaps of the wing, a common occurrence with this year’s less durable rubber. By blocking up the slot gaps the airflow beneath the wing becomes detached, reducing front downforce significantly. Tiny details like this are quite effective and low in cost.

On Friday, Nico Rosberg once again trialled their drag Reduction Device (DRD) but did not appear again after FP1. DRD seems to be quite unreliable and difficult to set up from circuit to circuit. Only Lotus have ever raced a DRD, featuring on just Kimi Raikkonen’s car at Silverstone. The latter team have recently confirmed that they will not be using the device for the rest of the year, suggesting that they will continue to explore its capabilities next season.

The problem teams have is that they’ve spent a lot of money developing this system thinking it would be the next big thing, much like the F-duct was in 2010. It has transpired that this hasn’t been the case (yet), so the teams feel the need to continue attempting to get the device to work consistently to consolidate their spending. I wonder – with the shallower profile rear wings coming in for 2014 – if it will be value for money, providing they all get it working of course.

Lotus

The E21 finally carries its longer wheelbase (100-120mm longer than their standard wheelbase) into qualifying and the race although Romain Grosjean apparently doesn’t notice anything drastically different. On paper it is a better solution and is supposed to provide better mechanical grip and stability under braking and through high speed corners, as well as a small aerodynamic advantage by spreading out the front tyre wake.

Their race pace on Friday was certainly an eye-catcher and Grosjean did well to qualify in P4 (P3 after Mark Webber’s penalty). But whether this is down to the long wheelbase is another matter. Clearly the Lotus engineers see the benefits so we can only trust them.

2013 Singapore GP Tech Highlights

The Marina Bay circuit is probably the most unique venue of the 2013 Formula 1 calendar. Hosting 23 challenging slow-speed corners punishes the rear tyres for traction. In fact, it isn’t just the tyres that are under extreme conditions beneath the Singapore lights. Let’s look at some quick figures: 21% of the lap is spent on the brake pedal with a total of 16 braking zones; only 45.5% of the lap is on full throttle; the straights are relatively short, with the cars reaching a lowly 190 mph with DRS activated (or if you’re in a Red Bull, 184 mph); humidity lingers at around 85% and air temperatures are around 30 degrees Celsius.

So with all this to contend with, it is the brakes that are in for the biggest thrashing. Teams will bring larger brake duct inlets to cope with this, although the disc temperatures will never get a chance to get back to their best operating window. This is due to the short straights that do not allow enough air to pass through the brake assembly before reaching the next corner. We have seen a fair share of brake failures over the past five years and it would not surprise me if we saw another this weekend.

The fuel effect is also high – for every 10 kg of fuel there is a laptime penalty of around 0.4 seconds. This is partly due to the long laptime. Sebastian Vettel’s pole time may have been 3.521 seconds quicker than last year’s pole time from Lewis Hamilton, it still takes well over 100 seconds to get round the 3.152 mile track. On the subject of fuel, consumption is also higher than average due to the circuit being at sea level. The resulting higher pressure and dense air burns fuel slightly more than most tracks at 2.26 kg per lap.

Baring all this in mind, and the fact that development has well and truly shifted to 2014, teams had to be innovative with various cooling solutions and finding small ways to improve the performance of the car going into a circuit with one of the highest downforce level settings this year. Let’s see what they’ve done…

Ferrari

There were many items to test in this camp. Unlike a lot of teams, they spend most of FP1 and some of FP2 back-to-back testing components such as front wings and diffusers. It was surprising to see that they had brought the same wing from Spa, featuring the trimmed flaps. It had some slight alterations: of the 7 elements that make up the wing’s profile, 2 of the members have been stretched across the entire span of the wing rather than being aligned along the outboard section. This now means that 5 of the elements span across the entire permitted area of the front wing. They have also followed the tyre monitoring IR cameras that Mercedes use on their front wing, although they place their sensors on the trailing edge of the last element on the wing rather than on one of the winglets.

Ferrari were also testing a new rear diffuser on Friday although I cannot confirm that it is being raced this weekend. It features the rapid out-sweeping design that Mercedes have adopted along with Red Bull recently. This design expands the flow outwards more aggressively as well as upwards, which means that the low pressure flow beneath the car is leaving faster and therefore pushing the car downwards. This version was tested in Belgium but was not raced. They used a variety of rakes on the car to see how the airflow was behaving both before the air entered beneath the floor and as it was passing out of the diffuser.

The Maranello squad continued to switch between a two versions of nosecone – one with the chin, one without. Front and rear brake ducts were also updates, featuring more vanes to guide airflow more efficiently and to generate local downforce upon the wheel. There also appeared to be a small bump along the sidepods before the exhaust trough exit. I am not entirely sure why it is there but I will seek clarification.

In addition to the differing chin layouts, both drivers opted for a change beneath the front of the chassis. Fernando Alonso chose a three tier turning vane whereas Felipe Massa went for a two tier arrangement. This will control the airflow downstream from beneath the nosecone a bit differently, diverting it to slightly different areas around the leading edge of the sidepod.

Overall then the small updates Ferrari have brought with them appear to be the final parts that will feature consistently on the car for the last segment of the season.

McLaren

On paper, this circuit should not really suit the MP4-28. So in qualifying it was so surprise to see Sergio Perez out in Q2 and Jenson Button qualifying 1.4 seconds back from the ultimate lap time. Despite the large gap, the Woking outfit have at least kept up their development rate and have also managed to stick with the pack, overtaking Force India. If only they started the season with a better car…

McLaren VGs

Following Williams, McLaren have an additional Vortex Generator (VG) fence on top of each sidepod, equating to 8 in total – 4 each side. The extra VG was abandoned for qualifying and race, however. The addition of a VG fence is to literally generate a small vortex: this is achieved by allowing airflow to pass either side of the fence, converging at the end at two different speeds to create an oscillation. This small torrent of flow aids the guidance of airflow over the top of the sidepods and over the exhaust plume to further improve downforce at the rear of the car. The larger the length of the fence, the greater the size of the vortex produced. These fences also have a specific height to achieve vortex generation at varying speeds. McLaren’s examples above are relatively low and work at their best at high speed.

There was also a revised Y75 (Monkey Seat) winglet, featuring an additional element to boost downforce on top of the beam wing. This works in conjunction with their latest beam wing introduced initially in Spa. This combination should help work the diffuser’s central section and rear wing a bit harder in the process as each of their airflow structures interact with eachother as they exit the rear of the car.

Red Bull

Adrian Newey continues to make his presence known by strolling the garage once again in Singapore, which can only mean that he is still inspecting and improving development parts on the RB9. It is only when Newey fails to appear at a Grand Prix that we know that the RB9 will not be receiving more extensive modifications.

noses

Red Bull tend to change their nosecone layout between different types of circuits and here in Singapore was no exception. They have reverted back to the nose we are most accustomed to seeing (top) for this higher downforce track. It features the camera pods mounted at the tip of the nose, generating a small amount of downforce right at the front of the car, with the nose itself being slightly lower than its counterpart (bottom). The latter wing is traditionally used at lower downforce circuits and has featured in both Spa and Monza. The camera pods are placed further back to aid airflow around the suspension arms more efficiently, reducing drag.

Sebastian Vettel was using a slightly higher downforce rear wing on Friday, featuring a higher Angle of Attack (AoA) than his teammate, Mark Webber. The German driver then reverted back to the slightly lower AoA wing, probably to aid the balance of the car rather than pure performance. Both RB9’s were at least 10 kph slower through the speed trap than its main competition although this never seems to concern them, probably because they can’t do anything about it.

Every team is running as much downforce as possible here – there is no compromise (if we take out the cooling inlets and outlets, which cause drag). It is a pure testament to how much downforce the RB9 is producing in comparison to its nearest challenger in the Mercedes W04. The Mercedes engine may be slightly stronger than the Red Bull’s Renault power, but it is not 10 kph.

On Friday, one RB9 was equipped with a modified diffuser although it was not drastically different to the one seen at the previous few races. Its outer walls had been lowered slightly and the gurney flap lining the top of the diffuser followed its curvature right to the very edge (see here – http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-asDO2rciKo4/UjxvbFJ3gyI/AAAAAAAAITc/iphWQSqTrkk/s640/dpl1320se070+(Custom).jpg). This altered design should be aiding the expansion of the airflow beneath the car although I am unsure if it was used in qualifying and therefore the race on Sunday.

On a side note, when Webber grazed the wall during FP2, the Red Bull mechanics got the car back to the garage and examined the suspension arms, driveshaft and track rod components. It was a fair clout so they decided to not only check it visually but also with the help of an ultrasound machine. The ultrasound can detect hairline cracks in any part of the suspension assembly so the team know whether to replace it or not. Neat bit of kit.

Mercedes

Introduced in Hungary, the Mercedes front wing featured its small canard fins tucked in just behind the main cascades. For Singapore they received a slightly new touch by passing the trailing edge of each fin downwards at 90 degrees, attaching to the wing profile itself. This acts as an extension to the main cascade as a method of managing the airflow around the front tyres. The undernose pelican bulge – taken off for the low downforce circuits in Belgium and Italy – reappeared to provide the front end with a bit of extra grip.

Lotus

Interestingly, the E21 was not installed with its long wheelbase for this weekend. The change in length is aimed at controlling weight shift, according to trackside operations director of Lotus, Alan Permane.

“It should give us a more stable car.” he said,

“The main weak point of our car is combined turn-in and braking.

“The problem is when we cure it we then have too much mid-corner understeer”.

Lotus want to use it at the next race in Korea, which features more mid-to-high speed corners allowing the longer layout to be more suitably applied.

Toro Rosso

toro rosso RW

Finally, the STR8 featured a new high downforce rear wing. The central section has been lipped at the leading edge to encourage more airflow to pass beneath. The DRS actuator pod is also new, forming a ‘golf club’ shape. The endplates have remained the same and still include the very long, vertical tyre wake slot aimed at reducing the effects of tyre squirt upon the rear wing.

Some very complex rear brake ducts were also on the car for the entire duration of the weekend and the sidepods/exhaust area was given a a few tweaks to extract hot air from within the car more efficiently.

Thankyou for reading this article and please continue to visit my website for all the latest technical news in Formula 1. I have also been writing for another website lately but taking a slightly different approach. My articles still have a technical base but it is much more detailed and considers all things F1. Please visit wheels.morethanafan.net and follow them on Twitter for all things motorsport!

Cheers,

Will