Category Archives: 2013

Selective coverage of F1 testing during 2013

Barcelona Final Test – Final Updates (The Top Teams)

With Melbourne less than two weeks away, teams bolted on the race-specification components that we will most likely see when the cars first turn a wheel at the first round in Australia. There were, however, no big changes or surprises in store for the praying eye, but there were a lot of small changes that certainly caught the attention of those in the know…

Red Bull

I expected Red Bull to bring some significant changes to the car but I have been proved wrong so far. Instead the Milton-Keynes based team brought a few small things that should help manage the airflow around the car.

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We will start with their revised DRD (about DRD – https://thewptformula.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/analysis-the-drag-reduction-device/). Red Bull brought their first incarnation of the system to the YDT (Young Driver’s Test) in Abu Dhabi and it appeared briefly on Day 2. They have made the stalling shaft span right up to the underside of the rear wing but not quite touching and it is much narrower than the Mercedes, Lotus or Sauber systems.

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What we cannot see is where the exit hole is for the airflow that passes through the inlets of the system when it is not stalling the rear wing, nor the inlets (or ears) that provide the airflow for the device. My guess is that the inlets are housed within the airbox and that the exit duct is beneath the rear crash structure but I have not seen any evidence for this so far.

It is also worth mentioning the updated rear wing endplate Red Bull have been running recently. Previously, the slots that cut into the endplate within the wing’s working area have been semi-circle shaped, with the arcs of the slots facing the direction of the oncoming airflow. Now they are very reminiscent of the Ferrari slots, in that they run in parallel to the endplate and slope off towards the trailing edge.

The slots are designed to minimise the pressure difference between the inside and outside of the endplate, creating more efficient downforce. They also help decrease drag, as their function is to decrease the size of the vortices that induce when the two opposing pressure meet at the wingtips. Reducing the size of these can decrease drag a substantial amount.

Red Bull also introduced tweaks to their front wing. Unfortunately I do not have an image I can legally use due to copyright restrictions and Google Images has let me down. However, if you follow this link – http://www.somersf1.blogspot.co.uk/ – and scroll down to the Day 3 pictures, it shows a comparison of the front wing from the old the new version, including some modifications to the nose area.

McLaren

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Although the above image is quite small, it shows some small modifications to the front wing of the MP4-28. The step in the mainplane to separate flow travelling to the endplate and flow being guided underneath the suspension is gone, and replaced with a smooth surface. This has been a general trend over the past year for front wings (check my blog regularly as I continue a series of posts about the evolution of the front wing since 2009 – https://thewptformula.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/the-evolution-of-the-modern-front-wing-part-1/). I suspect McLaren have found a way of separating this flow underneath the mainplane using fences.

The flaps have also been simplified and now have a very straight edge to them. The gap between the upper and lower flaps remains constant across the whole of the wing profile, which is very different to that of the other cars across the grid. McLaren have very much their own philosophy of front wing design; whereas most teams have 5-7 element wings in all exotic shapes and sweeps, McLaren have adopted a simpler 3 tier design which utilises a large flap design to generate more downforce rather than guide the airflow more efficiently over the rest of the car.

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A return of the downwash aids atop of the sidepods was not a surprise and they have probably been slightly altered in shape and angle after a short absence from the car. In conjunction with the small lip at the leading edge of the sidepod, these vanes guide airflow down across the outline of the sidepod, inducing downwash upon the exhaust plume and amplifying the coanda effect to get hot air to seal off the gap between the floor and the rear tyre.

Ferrari

Ferrari brought a substantial upgrade to Barcelona but nothing too dramatic; another evolution in their current concept.

Again, I have no rights to any images and the internet is not providing me with any legal sources, so check out http://www.somersf1.blogspot.co.uk/ and look at the third picture down. Ferrari have added and additional element, making that a total of 7 tiers to their front wing with most of the slots only stretching a few centimetres from the endplates. Producing consistent airflow at the wingtips is more essential as this induces more downforce. The inboard part of the wing is mainly used for guiding flow to the rest of the car efficiently.

They have also attached a new cascade winglet – a two element design split by a small curved fence as well as a small Red Bull-esque vane at the top of the endplate to help turn airflow around the front tyre.

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Ferrari brought new sidepods to the final test that feature a much greater downward gradient to the previous version. This is the only image I have of the sidepods but I will try to explain as much as I can.

The steeper downwash should speed up the flow coming down the sidepod and generate and stronger effect on the exhaust plume, pushing it into the floor at an earlier distance from the rear tyre. We saw this when Ferrari ran flo-viz right along the rear corner of the car (again, sorry for the lack of images). The paint showed that the exhaust gases travelled inside of a small fence running in parallel with the floor that isolated the rear tyre area. The steeper sidepod gradient will enhance this effect further.

Not only were they steeper, but they had small details such as additional bulges to precisely guide the downwash into the desired area of the floor and also a small dent in the exhaust channel was evident for the same reason.

Lotus

I have seen that Lotus ran a new front wing and a 3-piece bargeboard. Unfortunately there are no images available at all of this! Below are images of the launch versions of the two components. But here is my insight.

The previous Lotus front wing had a two piece turning vane on top of the footplate of the endplate, guiding flow smoothly around the front tyre and into the wake behind. The new version has changed this in that it is now one complete piece that guides the air. Where it channels it I do not know, but perhaps the team want a larger quantity of flow to pass across another component further downstream.

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The 3-piece bargeboard is angled much more aggressively, turning airflow from the chassis sides much more tightly around the undercut of the sidepod. Splitting the bargeboard up into three segments will help keep the airflow attached, particularly at such an aggressive angle.

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Lotus were also toying between which material to use inside their exhaust channel. Below we can see an aluminium piece has been used to line the trough that the exhaust sits in. This is much quicker to manufacture than carbon fibre but does not give any other benefit other than that.

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Here is the carbon fibre channel.

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Renault have been having some unreliability issues with their E21 which may possibly be caused by overheating. The aluminium may be treated to withstand much higher temperatures than the carbon fibre channel but I am not really sure. It could be that Lotus are getting through a lot of the carbon fibre versions which is costing them an inexcusable amount of money, so trialling the aluminium versions will help them understand if it extracts the same performance for a smaller cost.

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As well as continuing to analyse their DRD, Lotus also ran the vertical fences that hang beneath the rear wing as seen on their CGI model that was available to see when the car was launched. These help expand airflow from the underside of wing quicker, rather than getting caught up in the turbulence that the tyres create.

Mercedes

Mercedes did not introduce as many updates as they claimed they would but there were a few small details that will no doubt improve their performance.

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The German squad brought an ever-so-slightly modified front wing. It is hardly visible but there are very small additional winglets attached to the main 2-element cascade that helps the airflow over the suspension and inboard of the front tyre.

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Above is an image of the W04 at the first Barcelona test. A lot of temporary heat protection has been applied to the floor and wishbones, as overheating of the bodywork was an issue in Jerez. Below is an image from last week’s test. The heat protection around the wishbones has disappeared and although there is still some shielding along the floor, this was subsequently removed later in the week.

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Also visible from this angle is the way the sidepods are much closer into the centre of the car than the launch version. They have tidied up this area to allow flow to move underneath the semi-coanda exhaust setup at a higher speed and also exploit the extra space that is now available at the centre of the diffuser. Mercedes have actually placed a small winglet on top of the centre of the diffuser to utilise this effect (and yes, no image…)

That was a very brief summary of the top teams’ updates from Barcelona. Parts 2 and 3 will cover the midfield and chasing pack (i.e. Marussia and Caterham) teams respectively. I am very sorry about the lack of images but there isn’t much I can do! This does set back my explanations which is a shame. I will try to sort something out for my next post.

Please give me some feedback in the comments section and thanks for reading!

Jerez Testing: Summary

So week 1 of testing has passed, and all I can say is that there are no implications as to how this year’s grid will line up in Melbourne in a little over a month’s time! Here is a brief summary of what went down on each day of an interesting, but not very insightful, first week of testing.

Day 1

Day 1 saw all the teams doing basic tests to check if everything was in running order. System checks and basic tweaks can be quite time consuming for all teams, and ideally they want to get these things out of the way as quickly as possible so they can start putting mileage on their new machines. However, things did not get off to a flying start for Marussia and particularly Mercedes, their cars suffering from a rear suspension failure and a wiring loom fault respectively. Marussia’s issue was probably more serious, in a sense that something had structurally been at fault to cause that kind of failure, and I did not expect to see them run again this week (like Lotus last year with their front suspension mounts on the chassis). But I was proven wrong, and they were back out again the next day.

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As for the electrical issues that Mercedes had encountered, to me that wasn’t a huge problem, but it did cost them vital mileage and data, as they only completed 14 laps when ideally they were looking at 60+ for day 1.

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Of course, everyone stepping out of the car at the end of the day was all smiles and very positive, which is the standard at testing. Afterall, if the car is bad, the last thing they want to do is get the media on their backs and pile the pressure on themselves. But I genuinely got the feeling that everyone was satisfied with where they were at, or where they expected to be in terms of reliability and baseline performance.

Although times are completely irrelevant, it is worth noting that Jenson Button set a 1:18.861 on hard tyres which, on a track with not much rubber down at that point, is quite impressive. Although, considering he missed most of the morning due to yet another fuel pump issue for the McLaren team, he might have wanted to get a feel for the car’s balance by running a bit lighter on fuel as he hadn’t done much mileage (only 37 laps completed) for his first day in the car.

Day 2

This day saw the continuity of baseline testing and starting to gather important data for the team to develop the car. To give you an idea of what these are, the baseline tests are car fundamentals such as what the driver thinks of the balance of the car and if all the systems are operating to his requirements. Data gathering is happening all of the time on modern Formula 1 cars, with millions of bits of data being collected every second from sensors across the car. However, teams will likely attach rakes and other contraptions to try and gather more data as to how the airflow is behaving over the car at different points. Here we can see a sensor attached to the right of the rear diffuser on the McLaren.

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It is also worth noting just how badly the Jerez track surface grains the tyres, we can see this in just this image alone. This is why teams are considering not testing here at all, as it does not give anyone any idea how the current tyres are working nor how long they last for. This is particularly important for this season, as Pirelli have introduced a softer tyre in compound and a totally different type of construction for 2013, the idea being that they will have a wider operating window and that they will produce more exciting racing by having increased degradation over last year’s tyre.

Teams will also run flo-viz paint/dye to see how the airflow over the car is behaving visually. During 2009 testing, the media were up in arms when McLaren started using flo-viz on their car as it was traditionally the sign of fundamental aerodynamic issues, as indeed was the case with that particular car. However since then teams have openly continued to use it regardless of their performance, as it allows engineers to really understand what the airflow is doing over the car and if it corresponds with their findings back at the factory. Here we can see the Red Bull RB9 plastered with flo-viz across the rear of the car.

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Day 2 saw yet more problems for Mercedes, as a hydraulic line leak caused the rear-left brake to falter and the rear-right to fail completely, sending Lewis Hamilton straight on into the barrier at the Dry Sack hairpin. At this point the team really would have been concerned, as Hamilton had only achieved 15 laps before the failure occurred, when everyone else was looking at going 80+ that day.

Grosjean topped the times on soft tyres, producing a 1:18.218.

Day 3

It was Ferrari’s turn to lead the standings at the end of day 3, as Felipe Massa lapped the circuit in the fastest time of the week, 1:17.879. To me I think this was done on fairly light fuel, as although I was not at the trackside to watch the car’s reports suggest that the Ferrari (under Felipe’s hands) was a fast but a bit of a handful at times. Don’t read too much into this, as one reporter made the point that Massa looked as if he was driving “back in his Sauber days”, referring to his slightly erratic style when he first entered Formula 1. Assuming this is the case, the Ferrari may well be on “a different planet” of performance relative to last year’s car, that Felipe describes it as but we won’t know until Melbourne. Some serious mileage was being done on this day, as Vettel, Gutierrez and Rosberg all clocked over 100 laps (Rosberg totalling a remarkable 148 laps, salvaging something from the teams’ previous woes).

It was on this day that Caterham were at the centre of the first technical row of the year, regarding a flow conditioner to the exhaust. In the images below, an aerofoil shaped piece spans across the exhaust channel that teams use to direct airflow into the floor area using the coanda theorum, which capitalizes on airflow following a nearby surface. Lotus technical director, James Allison, pointed out that Caterham have added this aerofoil to further amplify this effect, as it directs airflow downwards more effectively.

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Allison argued that it was within the conical region around the exhausts that prohibit the use of bodywork to direct the gases to any benefit, as this is against the regulations. Since this had been pointed out, Caterham have removed it during running on the last day. Coincidence? Perhaps, but it would be interesting to know if that one flow conditioner on each exhaust gave them a significant performance benefit. Although the field will probably be so tight this season that any gain is worth having on the car no matter how much it brings in terms of performance.

Finally, James Rossiter, testing for Force India that day, managed to cause minor injury to one of his mechanics in the pitlane in what I presume was a practice stop. This also managed to damage the nose of the car, ouch!

Day 4

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The final day of testing ensured the Lotus finished on top, albeit not the fastest time overall. To me, the Lotus car has taken another step forward. This opinion has not been stemmed from its times, but from the knowledge that trackside reporters have pointed out and the general vibe that the team give out – from the drivers and the senior engineers/staff. I think they are very satisfied with how the car is and that more developments will really put them in the mix for the championship hunt.

I felt very sorry for Pedro de la Rosa’s first run at Ferrari as test driver, as he had only done a handful of laps before a gearbox failure triggered a fire at the rear of the car, curtailing his running until fairly late in the day. I believe his expertise and experience will prove very beneficial to the team, as their primary aim is to get their simulator up to scratch. Pedro described the McLaren simulator as being quite a few years ahead of the Ferrari model, so his input should be vital to Ferrari’s future Formula 1 cars.

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Jules Bianchi was given a run in the Force India VJM06 as the Silverstone based squad continue to decide over their second driver. To me it is very late in the year to be still contemplating this matter but I believe Jules should get the drive. Every time he steps into the car he impresses with raw speed and he is also known to provide excellent feedback about the car, as he has tested for Force India (and Ferrari) many times. As he is a Ferrari Academy driver, he would provide a handy partnership to the Italian team if Force India choose to switch to Ferrari engines from next year. To me it’s a no-brainer, but there will be other things (i.e. financial backing…) to take into account.

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I haven’t mentioned Red Bull for the simple reason that they have been quietly plugging away with their test program throughout the entire week. They have put a lot of mileage on the RB9, the team are confident in its reliability and the driver’s believe it is another step. I highly doubt we will see most of the parts on the RB9 from this week in Melbourne, as there are too many similarities to the RB8 of last year. Expect a few things at the next test in Barcelona.

Finally, Lotus and Mercedes were both testing their DRD devices. Hamilton was running what looked like a Lotus-style system, and Kimi Raikkonen was using a look-a-like Mercedes system! It was interesting to see how they had adopted eachother’s designs to try and find a way of accelerating the huge potential this device has. I will do a proper analysis of this at a later date.

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