One of the key design features of this year’s Mercedes W07 is the introduction of an S-duct. The S-duct was first seen in 2012, with Sauber using it as a way to manage airflow over the stepped nose. The idea was that airflow would be less likely to detach from the chassis if air was introduced behind the step. This was done by channeling airflow from underneath the car to a vent exiting backwards above the front bulkhead via an s-shaped duct in the nosebox, hence the term S-duct.
If you came up to me a couple of years ago and asked where I wanted to be working in the future there was only one answer: a design engineer in Formula 1. I wanted to graduate from university, dive straight into the design office of an F1 team and get stuck in – the idea of climbing the ladder and reaching the top ranks of a top team such as Ferrari or McLaren was exciting, even if I knew the dream would take years to achieve.
I admire those who are already at the top of the engineering pyramid in the sport. Adrian Newey, Paddy Lowe, James Allison and Ross Brawn to name a few who have cut it at the top of the pinnacle of motorsport. I wanted to replicate their success and have a profound impact on F1 and motor racing in general. You could argue that I, or anyone else who has the same ambition and drive, can still do exactly that. However I have been slowly taking backwards steps to see the bigger picture and I am realising that perhaps this is not possible in the way the engineers above have achieved.
Hundreds of people make up F1 teams in this era. Take Mercedes as an example: Over 500 people work on the power units alone, plus a further 500 on the chassis. Rewind 30 years ago and this number was perhaps 50, budget depending. This naturally means that anyone walking into the sport now will have a tougher time making a name for themselves than they would have done previously. Yes, F1 is a team sport, but who doesn’t want to be at the heart of it, driving development forward and leading a team into the history books? Continue reading
As you may (or may not) know, all of my technical analysis pieces for the 2016 F1 cars are up on F1 Fanatic this year. However I’ve made it really easy for you to find your favourite car/team by linking them all in this post! So here you are – enjoy!
- Mercedes W07 – Can the World Champions continue their winning streak?
- Ferrari SF16-H – Ferrari’s bold winter strategy could bring them a step closer to the Mercs
- Williams FW38 – The FW38 is arguably the most important car for Williams in a long time
- Red Bull RB12 – 2016 may be a stop-gap for the Bulls, but don’t discount them for a podium
- Force India VJM09 – Will Force India be able to keep pace with the bigger budget teams?
- Renault R.S.16 – It’s Renault’s first year back as a Constructor, so how will the R.S.16 fare?
- Toro Rosso STR11 – Arguably the boldest car on the grid, Toro Rosso mean business in 2016
- Sauber C35 – Sauber have their eyes on 2017, but the C35 is nonetheless a solid evolution
- McLaren MP4-31 – Time to step up, McLaren, and the new car shows it
- Manor Racing MRT05 – Now with Mercedes propulsion, can Manor fight for points?
- Haas VF-16 – Debutants Haas have gone down the listed parts strategy. And it could work!
Note: This post will be updated as the articles are released.
I’ve talked a lot about the aerodynamic and power unit components of a Formula 1 car on this blog, but rarely touched on the raw mechanical systems that are also critical to performance. There’s a reason for this, though – it’s all a bit voodoo. There are plenty of theories behind proper suspension geometry for a race car, however it becomes much more complex to analyse these mechanics at F1 level as downforce – the biggest performance differentiator in the sport – plays an important role in the design calculations.
For this blog post I am going to run over some of the important aspects of suspension geometry and the factors involved (e.g. centre of gravity, aerodynamic downforce). Continue reading
It’s been a while (exams have got in the way), but I’ve finally managed to put some new content together! In the following video I discuss why the 2017 regulation changes may not be as good as we first thought.
This is only my second proper video so I’m really keen for your thoughts on whether I should do more (or not), or any topics you might what to know about in the future. Please let me know in the comments on this post, or on YouTube or tweet me!
It’s that time of the year (well, the end of the year…) when we look ahead to what lies in store ahead. For the past two years I have made an illustration as to what I think the next season’s cars will generally look like, and I’d like to say I’ve done a decent job at highlighting what will be different (2014 prediction here, 2015 prediction here). So here’s what I think 2016 will hold…
As you can probably tell already, there are no major technical changes being made for next season so my prediction is simply an evolution of what we have seen in 2015. Before we move further, it is worth noting that the camera pods mounted by the stalks on the nose will be allowed for 2016, but banned from 2017 onwards.
Starting with the nose, it was clear that the grid was divided between long and wide, short and stumpy, and short with a thumb tip extension. The latter design was the most popular choice as it allowed the neutral section of the wing (in the centre) to remain completely exposed to oncoming airflow whilst increasing the volume beneath the nose for which flow could pass into.
In 2016 I believe this will again be the most common solution, although I do not expect every team to rush to it. As we saw with Ferrari, the car is built around one particular design so it may not be beneficiary to change it. The process of designing the car for the next season starts very early on, so we could see some cars optimised around the longer or stumpy shapes.
The front wing is an expensive region of development for everyone at the moment, and Mercedes changed the game once again in 2015 by creating two clear segments of the wing with an aggressive arched profile at the outboard section. I expect most of the teams to migrate towards this – the likes of Ferrari and Williams have already made some strides to keep up but I predict some very intricate craftsmanship here.
Further back, I think the biggest area of progression will be the sidepods and engine cover bodywork. The teams have become increasingly more confident in running smaller bodywork as the power units are less and less reliant on large cooling apertures, so with further gains in the thermal efficiency of the engines over the winter we could be seeing some lovely shapes next year. I anticipate a lot more shrink-wrapping around the internals, which we started to see this year as blisters were made into the engine covers to clear the back of the engine/gearbox oil cooler. This could result in a reduced sized airbox inlet, too, yet possibly accompanied by the return of smaller ‘ear’ inlets eitherside of the roll hoop as these are less aero critical than the profile of the sidepods.
There should be further improvements made around the floor ahead of the rear tyre, with a variety of arranged slots diverting the turbulence that normally impinges on the diffuser away from such an aerodynamically sensitive region. This, alongside the development of vortex alignment along the sides of the splitter (Y250 vortex projected from the front wing) and the floor, should also equate to higher rake angles and thus more rear downforce.
The biggest visual change for next year will be the addition of at least one (maximum of two) secondary exhaust pipe. These redirect the wastegate gases away from those passing through the turbine of the turbocharger in an attempt to increase sound levels. It is unclear whether their orientation at the back of the car – which can either be to the side or above the main exhaust exit – will have any performance benefits, particularly when considering the design of the Y100 (or Monkey Seat) winglet immediately behind/above.
These alterations will have an impact on the design of the rear wing and its endplates, too. In my design I have opted for an advanced version of what Mercedes (and occasionally Red Bull) were using for 2015, with three tall vertical slots made into the base of the ‘plate and heavy sculpting to manipulate the airflow, forcing it upwards. It will also be interesting to see if the succession of horizontal slots made into Ferrari’s endplates just above the floor will carry over into 2016 as they were not seen on any other car.
Finally, the diffuser may not see too much attention as the 2017 regulations will be hugely different in this area, but we shall assume that further flick-ups and Gurney flap arrangements will pop up here throughout next year to fine tune the up/outwash of the air as it expands out from beneath the car.
Edit: Just remembered about S-ducts! I left this out of my design prediction because it is not a silver bullet in terms of performance, i.e. copying it will not necessary give you laptime. Like the design of the nose, it has to be integrated with the rest of the car and how airflow is managed around the front of the chassis. A well designed S-duct has great benefits in managing boundary layer flow both above and below the front bulkhead, however the nose, front wing and internal suspension components must be considered as they affect how it performs.
Red Bull have been a consistent user for the past few years, but others have jumped onto it over the last 12 months in particular. McLaren and Force India had race-worthy versions by mid-season, whilst Mercedes appeared to be testing some bodywork for it (albeit a potential disguise for their 2016 front suspension concept) in Brazil. If the only way to catch Mercedes is to go to extreme measures and hope it pays off, maybe we could see the full emergence of the S-duct after all.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.