Tag Archives: lotus

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.

2015 Belgian GP Tech Highlights

Spa Francorchamps is a track with a very unique set of demands: top speed for the long Kemmel straight and the run through Blanchimont, whilst maximising grip in the high-speed middle sector. It’s a tricky balance – year after year we see teams bring multiple packages to this event to find the perfect tradeoff. 2015 is no different, and there were plenty of items to look at across the Belgian grand prix weekend.

This week’s Tech Highlights covers Mercedes’ impressive-looking rear wing, Ferrari’s low downforce package and McLaren-Honda’s continual woes (despite a power unit upgrade) amongst plenty of other tech news as the second half of the season kicks off. Continue reading

2015 Australian GP Tech Highlights

The opening round of the season in Melbourne produced few technical upgrades, although most of what was brought to the final test session was intended for the opening races of 2015. Whilst we can expect a few more bits for Malaysia, this Technical Highlights post runs through a couple of the larger developments from the teams from the final Barcelona test and the minor detail changes made for Australia. Continue reading

Link: Lotus E23 render analysis

e23 nose

A link to yet another render image analysis for Richland F1, this time of the Mercedes-powered Lotus E23 which you can find here.

The nose solution they have this year is quite interesting – instead of extending a stub out of the main bulk of the nose, Lotus have opted to attach it to the bottom. Of course this limits the amount of flow available into the splitter region but let’s not forget that the ‘chin’ solution has been used by the team before (2009, when they were formerly known as Renault), so they know what they’re doing.

I would say that they’re trying to use the neutral section of the front wing coupled with the chin to accelerate flow and induce a bit of downforce. The nose is also sculpted on each side to invite flow in beneath the chassis, helped by its narrow width. In other words, they could be onto a winner here…

2014 Abu Dhabi GP Tech Highlights

As F1 extends its stay in Abu Dhabi for a two day test mid-week, it was no surprise to see further developments on the cars during free practice despite being so late into the season. An early analysis of some components on Friday will help give the teams a headstart when the test begins, whilst also providing data that little bit earlier back to the factory as preparations for 2015 are well underway. Continue reading

2014 United States GP Tech Highlights

In terms of tech droughts it would be fair to say that the past month has certainly been through one. Thanks to customs regulations in Russia there were little new parts three weeks ago and the teams had to compensate in Japan. Thankfully after a healthy break and more relaxed laws over goods, the US GP was a perfect opportunity to bring developments. Some teams even brought 2015 prototype components for evaluation. The Circuit of The Americas is an ideal proving ground for such parts as the track tests aerodynamic performance to quite an extreme: high speed corners and long straights force teams to cut drag whilst retaining a high level of downforce. Continue reading

Analysis: The good and not-so-good of each car – Part 1

This post was requested by @robb___alexander on Twitter. I have another post coming up that was asked for via email so please get in touch and I’ll see what I can do as the summer break continues.

To say that a car has a “bad” feature would be incorrect – it’s rare that a team designs something bad. No team designs something bad because they have the data to tell them that it isn’t. However, there is a competitive order so clearly some cars have worse features than the top guys. In this piece I aim to dissect each car and pick a few plus a minor points from them.

Changing the minor points will not necessarily make the car quicker because it is all about the complete package. Take Mercedes as an example: if their power unit is so good, why do the manufacturer team still have such an advantage over the likes of Williams and McLaren? Their car overall is the performance benchmark and it is composed of a number of technical solutions that make it one of the most dominant cars in the sport’s history. Continue reading