Tag Archives: nose

Tech Highlights: Top aero features of 2017

As Formula 1 introduced a raft of changes ahead of the new season, 2017 was always likely to produce some new features on the aerodynamic front. Here are some of the key highlights from this year.

T-wings

The appearance of T-wings on this year’s cars is a consequence of the changing of the rear wing dimensions for 2017. During the rewriting of the rules a small region that was previously occupied by the outgoing higher rear wings was accidently left unattended. The extruded 50 x 750 mm area was instantly taken advantage of by the teams, with the majority of them converging on some form of twin element design by mid-season.

w08_twing

Mercedes were one of the first teams to debut a T-wing in 2017

On its own the T-wing produces some downforce with minimal drag due to its wide span and extremely short 50 mm chord length. This in itself is a good enough reason to install one on the car, however it also has other positive implications.

An aerofoil with even a small amount of camber will generate an air pressure difference between its upper and lower surfaces. The air will try to equalise itself as quickly as possible, and the best way for it to do that is for the high pressure flow on top of the wing to flip underneath at the wing tips. This causes the air to rotate, generating a vortex due to the flow’s momentum.

The rear wing produces huge tip vortices due to its high angle of attack, which the teams try to control using endplates. Although the presence of a vortex indicates induced drag, they can beneficial to the car’s aerodynamics as they help pull airflow from elsewhere. You can either use them to pull air over bodywork to produce more downforce, or move turbulence away from more sensitive regions of the car (i.e. Y250 vortex).

The small tip vortex rolling up on one side of the T-wing travels backwards and entwines with its corresponding rear wing tip vortex behind, creating a slightly more powerful vortex overall. This amplifies its suction effect and therefore draws out more air from under the rear wing, thus enhancing rear downforce. It may only be worth a fraction of a second, less than a tenth. But considering its simplicity and minimal manufacturing cost, it is an item that’s definitely worth having.

Serrated bodywork

A lot of previously blocked areas of the car have been opened up for development for 2017, including the bargeboards and the floor surrounding them. While we expected to see the sprouting of flamboyant geometries and the arrangement of multiple turning vanes, it is still fascinating to see the intricate detailing that separates even the top teams.

In 2016 Mercedes started to play with serrated bodywork to manipulate the air more aggressively. Dividing an angled geometry into several sections allows flow to migrate between the two sides, reducing the chances of flow separation. In turn, mini vortices form across each section, which then all roll up into one powerful vortex projected aft of the bodywork. This trend has been carried into 2017: Mercedes have even chosen to stagger a series of mini turning vanes – each producing their own vortex – along the bargeboard’s footplate to provide the same effect.

RS17 BB

This technique can be found on other sections of the car too. Like a vertically mounted turning vane, the floor of the car has a pressure gradient between its upper and lower surfaces – this is due to ground effect. Serrating the floor/bargeboard footplate has become a popular choice for plenty of teams, including Force India, Ferrari and Renault (pictured), as it helps energise the air flowing along the flanks of the car. Air naturally wants to migrate underneath the car, and by introducing it in this fashion the direction and intensity of the flow can be further dictated. This will help seal the floor along the side of the car, allowing teams to run a higher rake angle.

Mercedes cape nose

The caped nose Mercedes introduced in Spain represents one of the most dramatic changes in frontal aero philosophy in recent years. Dubbed the cape due to its trailing, flared silhouette, its job is to direct clean air into the bargeboard area and enhance the Y250 vortex produced at the inboard section of the front wing. It replaces the common solution of a series of turning vanes that hang under the front bulkhead, which offers slightly less efficiency compared to the ‘mini diffuser’ geometry that the W08 now has.

IMG_0048

Image courtesy of Alessandro Berrageiz (@Berrageiz)

The cape’s lipped leading edge is designed to produce a vortex along its periphery, while the smooth underside – which hosts the inlet for the S-duct – aids the transition of laminar flow underneath the bodywork and out of the diffuser-like channels at the back.

The chances of seeing another rival introduce this solution before the end of the season are pretty slim, but it is perhaps something that we might see creep onto other cars from 2018 onwards.

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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 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 Austrian GP Tech Highlights

Better late than never? Really sorry that it’s a week late – I’ve had a busy time working and getting together with friends and family. It’s now 11:15 PM as I begin this post and I’ve got to get up early again tomorrow! Apologies about the illustrations, too. I didn’t really like them when they were finished but it was the best I could do in such a short time frame. In summary: will try harder next time.

Austria’s Red Bull Ring is one of the most demanding tracks for both driver and car, and remains one of the greatest technical challenges on the calendar. Up and down hill braking zones, sharp hairpins and fast sweepers make for a driver’s treat, rewarding precision and bravery but also severely punishing those who push even a little too far – as seen during qualifying by both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

In terms of upgrades, it’s getting to crunch time of the season. The teams are bringing big changes to the cars and this will determine their development path for the rest of the year. If the car isn’t going anywhere then it’ll be a swift transition to next year’s car, whilst those fighting it out for the big points will be hoping to steal a march on a rival every time their car hits the track.

There were plenty (and I mean plenty) of upgrades up and down the field, but which stood out the most? Let’s find out… Continue reading

2015 Spanish GP Tech Highlights

Note: This is essentially my analysis piece for Richland F1, with some added bits and pieces, illustrations and details about the fuel flow monitoring changes that were introduced. Exam season is in full swing so apologies for the not-so-exclusive content this week.

Barcelona is pretty much the best playground for an F1 car. Aerodynamics are severely tested with a variety of long, high and medium speed corners spaced out by a series of straights, whilst the final sector is now a good hunting ground for those with strong mechanical grip after the circuit layout changed in 2008.

With such an emphasis on aero, updates are often developed from around the end of the winter testing period specifically for this race and on into the middle of the season. Teams recognise this as an opportunity to jump ahead of their nearest rival but with almost everyone making gains all of the time, eking out that extra tenth of a second from the overall package is all the more crucial. Continue reading

Ferrari SF15-T

SF15T

At first glance, you may be fooled into thinking that this year’s Ferrari F1 challenger is no more extraordinary than the (rather ordinary) F14 T of last year. When I first saw the launch photos I was, at first, amazed by the apparent lack of change. Look closer, however, and – especially when comparing it with the 2014 car – the SF15-T becomes more logical and sophisticated.

Ferrari were winless for the first time in two decades in 2014. Ultimately, heads rolled and total restructuring across all departments was made during the early winter. Perhaps the fruits of the upheaval won’t be apparent until 2016 or even 2017, but I get the feeling that the SF15-T is the first Ferrari to really have James Allison’s influence stamped all over it entirely. Continue reading

Williams FW37

fw37

After an incredible return to the front end of the grid, Williams hope to consolidate their recent upturn by fighting for more podiums and potentially victories in 2015. Heavy investment (that ultimately put them in debt) last year has indeed paid off as a host of new sponsors join the Martini-striped FW37, a car that looks like a good progression of last year’s concept.

After the first test in Jerez, Williams were joint top of the speed traps (along with Mercedes) despite running on lower power. A recent interview with Pat Symonds revealed that the team have aimed to retain its low-drag characteristics from last year whilst making a good step forward in downforce and early indications suggest this is exactly what they have done. Continue reading