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.
If you haven’t already caught some of my tech analysis in the past couple of Motorsport Monday magazines then here’s your first glimpse of some: I dissect McLaren’s new front wing (only on Alonso’s car) and also explain what is going wrong (again) with the MCL32 powertrain – it’s not all Honda’s fault! You can also find some mini-articles on developments from Australia on the Motorsport Week website.
Also, a quick question I would really appreciate some responses to: Would anyone be interested in buying a print of one of my many illustrations? Obviously we don’t all want a framed McLaren front wing but something more like the Mercedes W05 below might take your fancy.
Leave a comment on your thoughts, please! 🙂
Haven’t managed to do all of the cars this year but I’ve covered five of the ten for Motorsport Week. Here are the links:
- Mercedes W08 – Huge wheelbase and complex bodywork, but is it a winner?
- Red Bull RB13 – Don’t let the outward simplicity of this car fool you…
- Ferrari SF70H – Find out about those crazy sidepods!
- McLaren MCL32 – Can McLaren emerge from the midfield in 2017?
- Renault R.S.17 – Detailed from the get-go, watch out for Renault this season
I don’t normally cover testing anymore but a big thank you to Charlie Stephenson (@myboringhandle) for letting me use some excellent photos he took from Barcelona last week. This short blog post will cover some general tech themes to look out for in 2017 and who I think is the fastest after the first test.
Shark fins and T-wings
Love them or hate them, shark fins are (probably (depending on what Ross Brawn has to say in the near future)) here to stay this season. The lower and wider rear wings are in the firing line of the turbulent wake coming off the front tyres and front wing, so a fin is used to manage the air over the rear of the car. They are particularly useful in yaw situations as the car’s wheels are turning and the wake is blocked from washing over the rear wing by the large bodywork.
Mercedes have taken things a step further by integrating a chimney into their fin – a small opening has been made into the top to cool the internals. Whilst the internal aero won’t so much be pushing hot air through it, the freestream flow above the car will pull out the higher pressure air inside the car.
Then there’s the addition of T-wings. Funnily enough, this area of the car has been opened up completely by accident. Up until October there was no bounding box to allow for such devices but in the final release of the regulations somebody made a boo-boo and, of course, the teams have exploited it. T-wings are tiny winglets that help tidy up airflow ahead of the rear wing, kicking air upwards to help the aerostructures at the rear of the car. Williams (above image) have even put two devices on the car whilst Mercedes (below) have doubled them up to induce a greater effect.
The Mercedes version bends over at the wing tips to prevent vortices forming, although some teams may actually prefer an open ended solution. Standalone devices such as on the Mercedes look ridiculous in my opinion but I’m not overly fussed if they sprout from the fin. This area of the car could be festooned with winglets and vanes by mid-season if the situation isn’t nipped in the bud soon.
We haven’t seen anything too outlandish in terms of sensors so far but the usual methods of checking whether on-track data aligns with that seen in the factory were very much evident at the first test.
The larger front tyres have resulted in complex bargeboards and turning vanes to shield the sidepods and floor from turbulence. Large pitot tube arrays are mounted behind the tyre to assess the pressure and velocity of the wake and how it changes in cornering situations. This data can then be used to develop new aero devices around the cockpit, or adjusted to suit a new front wing design.
Flow-visualisation paint (or flo-viz) is a paraffin based liquid that is used to map airflow over the car’s surface. This is particularly useful for getting a baseline understanding of how the air is being influenced by the car’s bodywork on track, which can be compared to flo-viz tests in the wind tunnel and stream traces in CFD simulations. It can also identify areas of flow separation.
The Force India above is absolutely plastered with the stuff. Use of the same colour can be quite revealing to prying eyes, especially in large quantities. Teams can also use various colour combinations of flo-viz to check for cross flow from different parts of the car.
Rake angle is the car’s front down, bottom up attitude relative to the track surface, and increasing this angle has huge benefits. Getting the splitter at the front of the car closer to the floor induces high speed flow along the floor, while a higher rear end essentially creates a larger diffuser for air to expand from. This combination produces a lot more downforce without a huge drag penalty – even a few millimeters of additional rake brings incredible performance gains.
OK, so why aren’t all the teams jacking up the rear ride height? Well, as rake angle goes up, the sides of the floor move away from the ground, which reduces ground effect as low pressure leaks from the underfloor. To increase rake angle you must also seal the floor using complex aerostructures that stem from the front wing. We often talk about the Y250 vortex for a reason: a stable vortex that can span a great distance along the car will improve the seal. The larger 2017 bargeboards and turning vanes will also help prevent high velocity flow escaping.
Red Bull have long been the kings of using rake as their underlying aerodynamic concept. The relative simplicity of the RB13 compared to the Mercedes and the Ferrari should not be a sign of the team’s lack of creativity around the new regulations, as getting the car to sit the way it does in the above image takes a lot of work. Less complex bodywork will also decrease drag, an area that Red Bull have been working hard on in recent years.
Although not quite as extreme as Red Bull, Ferrari are one of a number of teams that have also pursued extra rake to find more downforce. As you can see above, there is ever-increasing daylight between the car and the track the further rearward you look.
McLaren stole Peter Prodromou from Red Bull in 2014 and his influence on the design of the car has become clearer over the past two seasons. Prodromou was Adrian Newey’s right hand man at Red Bull during their prime and his presence in Woking has definitely been felt judging by the MCL32 chassis design. Beautiful front wings, high rake angle and a degree of simplicity are all Red Bull trademarks finding their way onto the Woking cars. It’s a pity that Honda appear to be bloody useless again this year, but let’s wait and see on that…
So, who’s fastest at the moment?
Mercedes. Yes, they grabbed the headline time on Ultra-softs but their impressive long run pace and awesome reliability show just how mighty this team really are. I must admit that Ferrari have also looked pretty good so far and I’ve been impressed by Renault. Perhaps I’ll have a review of things next week to form a full pecking order before Melbourne. God, I’m excited!
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.
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.