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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.