Category Archives: 2013 Highlights

Technical Highlights from each round of the 2013 F1 season

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.


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.


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.


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 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 – , 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.


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.


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 – 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.


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.


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.


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 – 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.


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.


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.