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Tech Highlights: Top tech features of 2018

While the finer details of the 2019 technical regulations are yet to emerge, I thought it would be appropriate to have a look at some of the best tech from this year (so far) before our eyes turn towards next season. This post will primarily focus on the aerodynamics, as has been my focus throughout the year to this point.

Truth be told, I would quite like to steer my coverage away from the aerodynamic side of the sport in the future and delve more into the mechanical aspect – I think we’ve all had enough of “tyre wake management”, “outwash” and “vortex structures”. The reason why we don’t see more coverage of the mechanical side is because a) it’s less influential on performance as the aero and b) because it’s often hidden from sight. They aren’t as well documented but mechanical changes probably occur more frequently than any other technical element on the car.

I’d also like to look more into the sensors used across the car, how the teams capture and analyse data before making any changes. Hopefully I’ll be able to deliver an insight on that in the future…

For now though, some top picks from the year:

Mirror pod design

SF71H_sidepods

Mirror pod design has really kicked on over the past couple of seasons, which is surprising considering the attention to detail spent everywhere else on the car.

Ferrari took things a step further at the beginning of 2018 by developing a clever shell design that allows air to flow through the housing and around the mirror inside. By channeling the air in this manner a thin jet is created that disperses the low pressure zone directly behind the mirror assembly and thus reducing chaotic turbulence.

While this seems like an original idea, it was found that this concept had already been explored before away from the race track. A research paper written by a University of Miami student in 2014 (which you can find here) provides a good insight into how the design works.

The benefits are two-fold: direct drag reduction in the area and more controlled flow over the top of the sidepod. With the flow more predictable, more opportunities with sidepod design are opened, which the Scuderia duly exploited with their unique cooling strategy.

RB14_mirrors

Red Bull have since gone on to copy Ferrari’s idea, integrating it with their elaborate mirror assembly introduced for the season opener in Australia. One dog-legged and another straight support fix the pod in position, although there is no doubt that the primary reason for the existence of each ‘support’ is to aid the aerodynamics of the car through and around the sidepod opening.

McLaren’s bold nose

MCL33 nose_Spain

The hype around the appearance of the long-anticipated McLaren nose ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix was most definitely real, mostly because the team were boisterous over its ability to seemingly turn the MCL33 into a podium-winning machine. Turns out it didn’t quite manage that, but it was certainly a very clever interpretation of the regulations in this area.

McLaren’s design combines several schools of thought – including their own – into one tidy package. The design blossoms from a conventional thumb-tip layout, with three channels made through it to improve its efficiency. The walls that separate the channels are overlapped by turning vanes inside each cavity so that when a slice is taken in the Y-axis there is only a single cross section, out-foxing Article 3.4.1.

The most obvious feature is the cape, which presents a surface for the airflow at the back of the nose to spill over into the low pressure zone underneath and roll into a vortex. Several vortex systems are present in this area of the car – not least the Y250 emanating from the front wing – and in combination they heavily influence the amount of downforce the car can generate across the various modes of car dynamics (pitch, roll, yaw etc.).

What’s unique to the overall design are the two barred pieces of bodywork that flank each side of the nose cone. Imagine you are looking at the nose from the side: as the air hits the surface, its path doesn’t continue horizontally – it dives as it rolls over the shoulders of the nose. The bars add an element of control to the airflow over the shoulder, before the structure tapers outwards as it meets the front bulkhead.

The most complicated front wings – ever

RS18 FW_Germany

Take it all in, folks: these front wings are quite possibly the most complex they will ever be in Formula 1 history. From 2019 things will become a lot simpler, with only five eligible elements, a single-piece endplate and no cascade elements.

Above is Renault’s latest evolution of the current regulations. Eight elements span the majority of the wing, the unpainted section designed purely to convey the air around the front tyre and manage the wake from the rotating mass, while the small yellow inboard flaps are responsible for varying the level of downforce the wing generates (the top two of these are adjustable). This is a great visual demonstration of just how much of an F1 car’s front wing is actually responsible for producing downforce while the rest is largely there to shift the air in a more desirable manner.

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Tech Highlights: 2017 in illustrations (so far)

Procrastinating a little bit from revision by sharing some of the illustrations that I’ve done over the season so far. You can find the associated articles on Motorsport Week that explain the effects of these developments in detail.

RS17 RW

The teams had barely hit the track when Renault were called out over their rear wing support design (inset). The design was edited in a cheekily manner, dodging the regulations that stipulate that the DRS actuator must be isolated by slimming the support.

MCL32 FW_Aus_highlight

McLaren’s pace in the final sector in Barcelona shows that their chassis is reasonable, certainly above the other midfield runners but not quite there with the top dogs. The team’s aero department are constantly churning out alterations to the car – the front wing is tweaked almost every race weekend.

FW40_FW_China

The FW40 isn’t a striking car in design terms but the chassis clearly works cohesively on both aerodynamic and mechanical fronts. The above front wing was altered twice within the same amount of weeks between Australia and China.  

SF70H_FW comparison_annotations

Ferrari’s development rate has been refreshing in 2017. In Bahrain the Scuderia introduced their front wing proper for the season (left), featuring six elements cutting the entire span and a more pronounced vortex tunnel.

vjm10_bargeboards

Pretty in pink: It doesn’t matter what colour the Force India is in, the team continue to punch well above their weight despite the regulation changes. The design office is creative and not afraid to produce complex geometries such as their bargeboards and splitter above.

w08RW_spain

Mercedes unleashed an extensive aerodynamic overhaul to the W08 in Barcelona. The nose, bargeboards and engine cover were heavily revised while the spoon-shaped rear wing was ousted for a conventional design. A monkey seat winglet straddles the rear crash structure to draw the exhaust plume upwards.

RB13_bargeboard

Red Bull’s ‘struggles’ has pushed Adrian Newey back into action, although it would be unfair to say that they got the car wrong. The RB13’s clean design leans more towards drag reduction than outright downforce and the car is often up top of the speed trap charts. More complex bargeboards arrived in Spain – is this the start of their come back?

Tech Analysis of ALL 2016 cars!

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.

2015 Singapore GP Tech Highlights

Quick note: I’m back at university now so don’t expect me to be right on the case with tech throughout the rest of the year. Got to set my priorities correctly so I can only apologise if things on the blog seem a little late in the future. Thanks!

Heading into the latter stages of the season now, and pretty much every team on the grid had some form of upgrade for Singapore. With Japan following in quick succession, the Marina Bay circuit provided a perfect opportunity to test these new components in strenuous conditions on a demanding track layout.

High downforce specification aero packages always look strange after the Italian GP in Monza, as F1 draws its focus away from reducing drag and back to sticking the tyres into the ground. Let’s see what the teams had to offer. Continue reading

2015 Hungarian GP Tech Highlights

#CiaoJules

The Hungaroring in Budapest is one of the most old-school tracks of the year, featuring a mixture of slow/mid-speed corners that really challenge a Formula 1 car’s chassis capabilities. Because of this, we see plenty of teams who do not necessarily have a good powertrain shine through if their aerodynamic package is strong, such as Red Bull.

There is only one long straight where a good engine can really stretch its legs, so downforce levels are almost as high as Monaco but a good chassis balance is better rewarded due to the sweeping corners in the middle sector, whilst traction is less of a key factor.

Whilst most of the teams will be preparing a substantial upgrade for when F1 returns after the summer break, there were some noteworthy changes to some of the cars in Hungary. In this week’s Tech Highlights we will look at upgrades from McLaren, Williams, Red Bull and Mercedes, plus a look into the reasons behind Sergio Perez’s rear suspension failure during FP1 and indeed Nico Hulkenberg’s front wing failure during the race. Continue reading

2015 British GP Tech Highlights

Despite Silverstone’s challenging aerodynamic demands, there were surprisingly few upgrades visible on most cars for the British grand prix weekend, with only Force India and Ferrari producing any goods worthy of real note. So – for that reason – we will look exclusively at these two teams in this week’s Tech Highlights, and especially into what is virtually a B-spec Force India car. How does that new nose work? How is it legal? Let’s find out… Continue reading

2015 Monaco GP Tech Highlights

Monaco is – as we all know – a proper street circuit. Even the likes of Singapore don’t compare to the challenges the streets of the Principality present to the drivers. It is a track like no other, and it is for this reason that a variety of technical changes are made to the cars to tackle it.

In this Tech Highlights post we will look at some of the widespread changes in general plus a couple of specific modifications made by a few teams. Continue reading