Tag Archives: mercedes

Why Technical Reliability Holds Key to 2017 Formula One Championship

By Ben Woods

The 2017 Formula One season promises to deliver one of the closest races in the battle for the Constructors’ Championship in the last five years.

The dominance of Mercedes in recent history has seen the title become a one-sided affair, with the team winning the crown for the past three seasons on the bounce. However, the rise of Ferrari this term has provided competition at the top, with Sebastian Vettel challenging Lewis Hamilton in the Drivers’ Championship.

Due to the performances of the German and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, the Italian outfit have pressed Mercedes at the top of the Constructors’ Championship, and are now down to 10/3 in the F1 betting to secure the crown this season, which may represent good value when used in conjunction with bookmakers’ £50 free bet offers. The quality of the teams and drivers involved will ensure that the battle will go down to the wire.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the race for both awards will be the reliability of the vehicles, which has already played a significant role thus far.

Verstappen’s Woes

verstappen

Source: Max Verstappen via Twitter

Red Bull have endured numerous issues with their two cars, which has effectively ended their charge for both Championships. No driver has been frustrated more by issues than Max Verstappen as his progress has been stymied this term after his breakout campaign in 2016.

After a strong practice session in Bahrain, the Dutchman looked on pace to claim a high spot on the grid, only to fail to fire during qualifying. Despite the setback, Verstappen was on pace for a strong finish in the early stages of the meet. However, he suffered a brake issue as his left rear overheated, sending him careering into the tyre wall on lap 12.

The 19-year-old looked to be challenging Hamilton in Canada for the lead after making a bright start to the race, rising through the field from fifth on the grid. On this occasion a problem with the ERS battery led to his demise in the meet, cutting off the entire power supply to his RB13.

Oil pressure was his downfall in Baku, ending his race on lap 12, while his poor fortune continued as a collision forced him out of the Austrian Grand Prix after just one lap. Unfortunately for the Dutchman, his issues are not consigned to just one area of his car, which has prompted suggestions that Red Bull should perform a complete rebuild of the vehicle during the upcoming break. While the cars tend to be broken down to be shipped between races, they are often split into multiple sub assemblies that are wholly checked over rather than completely stripped apart to save time.

Whether that will be enough to turn the tide for Verstappen is another matter, considering that there will only be seven races left in the term.

Overcoming Issues

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Source: Red Bull Racing via Twitter

The Dutchman’s team-mate Daniel Ricciardo also suffered an issue with his brakes at the Russian Grand Prix, with his right rear catching fire. The Australian had previously had his home Grand Prix in Melbourne ended with a fuel-cell problem after 28 laps, although he also endured a crash that had dropped him down the grid.

Since drastic changes were made to the Red Bulls before the Spanish Grand Prix to improve the aerodynamics, Ricciardo has remained clean in his outings, including his victory in Azerbaijan, to at least make his presence known in the Drivers’ Championship.

RB13_bargeboard

New bargeboards were one major revision among many alterations to the RB13 at the Spanish GP

One of the reasons behind Ferrari’s challenge has been the reliability of their SF70H. The car has provided the speed to match Mercedes’ W08, but has also proven to generally have the endurance and the robustness to keep their drivers on the track for the majority of the campaign.

Only a crash sustained by Raikkonen in a collision with Verstappen, caused by Valtteri Bottas, has prevented the Ferrari from finishing every race this season, while Vettel has been a model of consistency leading the Drivers’ Championship.

The team are expected to take grid penalties later in the season after an early spat of turbocharger failures but it appears as if the Scuderia have got on top of this problem for the moment.

Mercedes have benefitted from the same success as their rivals, with only one major engine issue forcing Bottas out of the Spanish Grand Prix that may well have been caused by his crash with Raikkonen and Verstappen. Hamilton had been flawless until the Austrian Grand Prix when a gearbox issue forced a change, dropping him down the grid, with the same problem hitting Bottas a week later in Britain.

It has become apparent that in the quest to find every millisecond Mercedes have been running the seamless shift system too aggressively, resulting in too much torque from the power unit being transmitted into critical components in the gearbox. As a result the team will have to be more conservative with gear transitions – cutting drive from the engine when the driver upshifts is one way of doing that.

Although what might seem a small issue at the time can have huge ramifications in the races for the Drivers’ and Constructors Championship. Speed can make a vital difference, but reliability is the crucial factor in deciding the outcome of Formula One’s top awards.

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.  

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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.

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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?

2017 Car Launch Analysis

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

 

2017 Barcelona test (1) tech review

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

f1_test_17040

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.

f1_test_17047

 

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.

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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.

 

Testing methods

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.

f1_test_17019

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.

f1_test_17037

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

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.

f1_test_17183

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.

f1_test_17044

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.

f1_test_17091

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!

Tech Highlights: Mercedes/Red Bull ‘energy recovery’ suspension

If you haven’t heard already, F1 is set to ban the hydraulic heave springs that many teams (notably Mercedes) have been playing with over the past 12-15 months. Although it is not an official ban as yet, a technical directive has been issued to the teams addressing the claims that Ferrari raised in a recent letter to the FIA. Ferrari claims that the component can be classed under the ‘moveable aerodynamics’ catch-all phrase in the regulations, and although it has been discussed in great length over the year it is only now that the Scuderia have chosen to make a formal move against the competition. In this blog post we will aim to cover what the hydraulic heave element does and why a ban at this stage of the 2017 developments could have an impact on the pecking order. Continue reading

Tech Highlights: Mercedes S-duct

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.

Continue reading

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.