Tag Archives: abu dhabi

2015 Abu Dhabi GP Tech Highlights

Note: This is predominantly my tech article I posted on Richland F1 last week, as I’ve had university assignments due in left, right and centre! I am back home this weekend so you should see some ‘What can we expect in F1 2016?’ posts very soon and, YES, there will be more YouTube videos. 🙂

F1 as we know it in 2015 may well be done and dusted, but being the relentless sport that it is it was hardly surprising to see small changes and tweaks during free practice on Friday, most with a firm suggestion of 2016 about them. In this final Tech Highlights post of the year, we will explore what McLaren, Lotus and Mercedes could be developing over the winter period.

McLaren

The final grand prix of the season was arguably the most competitive McLaren have been all year, despite the two huge back straights. The car came alive in sector three and the on-track data lined the MP4-30 as the third quickest chassis on circuit. For Jenson Button to be disappointed not to make Q3 – a feat they failed to achieve this year – underlines the progress they have made in recent races.

Whilst Fernando Alonso may have been quoted saying half the car in Abu Dhabi was 2016 specification, this is most likely an exaggeration. However there were some significant changes made to the chassis which point towards their ideas they are developing over the winter.

Although it is not a complete overhaul, the rear suspension geometry has been modified to a more conventional setup in comparison to the rest of the grid, shifting them away from the offset lower wishbone placement that was used for aerodynamic purposes. The lower wishbone’s trailing arm remained attached to the rear crash structure, but the leading arm now reaches much further forward rather than the previous horizontal position.

It was clear that the development was in prototype stage, as the metal wishbone was exposed to the airflow passing over it when traditionally a carbon fibre aerofoil embodies it. However it must have required some substantial work to implement it with the current sidepod design and gearbox.

Traditionally the external suspension components mount to the gearbox, so any geometry changes must require a gearbox change as well. Both McLarens were not penalised for such a change, so I presume that the team have copied Mercedes in using a ‘cartridge’ style gearbox: a modifiable (and lighter weight) case surrounding the actual gearbox that is inserted separately.

Mercedes

With both championships sewn up long ago, it is clear that their attentions have diverted towards next year with a number of recent modifications around the front suspension being the most eye-catching. These changes have coincided with an apparent switch in development philosophy that began after their off-colour Singapore weekend at the end of September.

With tyre pressures now slightly higher than normal to counter any safety concerns, the W06 appears to be a bit more sensitive to setup changes and tyre temperature. Since Singapore they have adopted a new strategy to keep the tyre temperatures and pressures where they want them to be before heading on track, surrounding the hubs with an electrically heated jacket before putting the wheels on. This helps the tyre maintain core temperature and prevent a drop in pressure as they are measured when stationary, allowing the team to run the absolute minimum pressure.

Heaveelement

Mercedes have been playing around with the heave element (highlighted) of the front suspension throughout the latter stages of the season

However, the detailed work that has gone on around the front suspension has also got us asking further questions as to how they are approaching 2016. Above you can see just tucked inside the chassis is a spring that connects each pushrod together – this is the heave element.

Throughout this year Mercedes have run a hydraulically damped coil spring as their third element but in Brazil and Abu Dhabi the team trialed what appears to be a fully hydraulic device to control dive, i.e. when the car pitches forward under braking, which can be easily identified as a gold coloured cylinder.

This setup allows the engineers to finetune the heave element’s compression and rebound characteristics alongside the individual dampers, which could help the driver trail brake into corners later. This is something Nico Rosberg tends to do more than Lewis Hamilton, which is perhaps why the Briton has not been happy with some of the apparent developments that have come through recently.

However there is also the suggestion that Mercedes are attempting to recreate the effects of FRIC (front-rear-interconnected) suspension, a passive way of stabilising the car through high loading corners whilst maintaining a supple kerb-riding nature which was banned in mid-2014. This was done by connecting dual chambered dampers to eachother to keep the car’s roll to a minimum.

Along with the new heave element, there were also rumoured changes to the dampers and rockers to create an entirely new mechanical philosophy at the front end of the car – I am very much looking forward to the first pictures of the exposed front bulkhead of the W07 in Melbourne next year!

Mechanical adjustments aside, the Silver Arrows carried out some intriguing aerodynamic tests, too. On Friday the underside of the rear wing’s top flap featured a horizontal zig-zag strip of tape, with the tip of each ‘tooth’ facing the leading edge. In the aerospace industry this is known as a turbulator tape, generating tiny vortices to reduce the size of the boundary layer at such a high angle of attack.

It is actually illegal to use the tape under race circumstances, so it’s interesting to see the team use it so late in the season. Perhaps they are assessing the effects of narrowing the boundary layer with a future development in mind, maybe something along the lines of McLaren’s ‘tubercles’ flap from last year.

Lotus

E23noseAD

Given that so much fuss was made at the start of the season about noses, it was of complete surprise to see that Lotus had brought a brand new one to Abu Dhabi. The new version features the thumb tip extension we have got used to seeing from the likes of Williams and Red Bull, although not to quite the same aggression.

It is slightly higher than the original, however, freeing up room eitherside of the extension for more airflow to pass underneath and onto the splitter region. The team – in probably their last outing in the guise of Lotus before rebranding as Renault – only assessed the new nose on Friday before reverting back to the lower specification for the rest of the weekend. The regulations around the design of the nose remain static for next year, so this was undoubtedly a data gathering exercise to provide a better understanding of the development of their 2016 car.

A small guide vane was also evident at the top of the nose, perhaps providing a hint of a Brawn-style vane lining the sides of the front bulkhead/nose box.

There were also some subtle tweaks to the front wing, such as the reprofiled cascade winglet flaps and extending the last element of the wing down to the footplate rather than undercutting itself.

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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.