Tag Archives: tech highlights

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 US GP Tech Highlights

In all honesty I didn’t expect to be writing this piece at all, but thankfully the teams provided us this week! Even though we are heading into the latter stages of the season, and despite the distance between Europe – where all of the teams are based – and the US, the developments keep on coming through. Most of the paddock will be looking ahead to 2016 and the upgrades seen in Texas provide a few clues to what we could see next year.

However with no proper dry running (aside from the latter stages of the race, which wasn’t exactly bone dry) it would have been difficult to evaluate the these components, so expect those who brought developments to fully utilise any dry running in Mexico this weekend. Continue reading

2015 Russian GP Tech Highlights

Been crazy busy at university at the moment so unfortunately – whilst I tried to find time to write this exclusively for my blog – I’ve had to copy most of it over from my analysis piece I did for Richland F1. Quick update on YouTube things: very close to getting more videos out… 🙂

The Sochi circuit in Russia is a track of compromise – one of the longest straights on the year kicks the lap off, whilst the high speed S2 and technical final sector make for an aerodynamic headache. This sort of layout shows who has really done their homework and provides us the best chance of seeing the most efficient cars.

With not many more ideal opportunities to introduce new developments to the cars in 2015, Russia saw a number of various upgrades ranging from McLaren’s further revised power unit to an interesting tweak to the Mercedes front wing. Continue reading

2015 Japanese GP Tech Highlights

After the barrage of upgrades that appeared in Singapore, the Japanese GP weekend was a relatively quiet one for developments. Aside from Force India applying the finishing touches to its B-spec VJM08, the only major update came from Mercedes who had, incidently, not brought anything to Singapore a week ago.

So – not much to talk about in this week’s Tech Highlights but we can go into some detail about the Mercedes and Toro Rosso tweaks. Continue reading

2013 Brazilian GP Tech Highlights

After a long, hard year of maximising the current regulations, this final edition of the 2013 Tech Highlights still has plenty of things to look at, including some items that will carry over into next season. Despite the fact that the teams will have put over 80% of their resources into the 2014 car some months ago, the technical side of the sport never ceases and it is for this reason why I love writing on this blog so much. There are always things to talk about and I hope you enjoy this final post in this section until March next year.

Lotus

Introduced at the USA GP last weekend, the E21 featured metal machined tyre squirt slots ahead of the rear tyres which have been carried over for this weekend. The slots reduce the effect of the turbulence, generated by the sidewalls of the tyre, impinging on the diffuser to further increase the efficiency of the underfloor aerodynamics. This is done by bleeding airflow from above the floor through the slots, projecting into the turbulent area and offsetting this “squirting” effect.

Lotus slots

These slots are machined from metal rather than carbon fibre. Mercedes also have slots produced from the same process. This is unlike Red Bull and Ferrari, with their slots made out of carbon fibre. I understand that the only feasible reason for the difference in material is to reduce warping, created by the heat of the exhaust gases that head directly next to this region of the floor. Although there is a fence guiding the gases to their eventual location, it does not fully prevent the slots getting heated. Metal is more heat resistant than carbon fibre and therefore seems a more reliable choice.

Red Bull

With Pirelli bringing their 2014 prototype tyre this weekend, the teams chose to bring various pitot tube arrays to gather data on how the new tyre characteristics change the airflow structures of the car under loading. Unfortunately, the wet weather denied the teams of an opportunity to test next year’s medium compound slick tyre, so the tubes had to be packed away again. Except for Red Bull…

During the early parts of FP1, Mark Webber’s RB9 was armed with an array behind the left front tyre, measuring the airflow being projected off of the tyre and suspension members. This was possibly a calibration run as there did not appear to be anything new on the front wing that would prompt a measurement test.

Later in FP1 and during FP2, Sebastian Vettel’s car was equipped with another array, this time located behind the rear left tyre and also behind the diffuser. After initial installation tests on intermediate tyres, the team elected to go out on the 2014 prototype slick, despite the damp conditions. The purpose of this experiment was to gather as much information about the aerodynamic flow structures on the new tyre to help develop for next year. However, with the wet conditions, Vettel was unable to push and put much loading through the tyre, making their findings almost irrelevant.

They may get some idea of airflow structures under simple circumstances, such as the loading of the tyre at speed along the straight. The car is designed to go round corners, so perhaps this was a failed exercise for the Milton Keynes squad. Ross Brawn, responding to comments made about the tests carried out by Red Bull, said: “Sometimes taking no measurements is better than gathering false or distorted information”.

Aside from the tyre testing I found it interesting to hear that the team deliberately asked the FIA to do a front wing load test on three front wings for this weekend. The wings were identical and the same as the ones brought the last round in the USA. In terms of structure, however, they may well have been made up differently. Perhaps they were trialing a new carbon layup for next season. More flexi-wing antics in 2014?

Rear brake sensors, wired through the top wishbone, were also mounted on Vettel’s RB9 to gather more data on the braking characteristics of the car. This will be essential next season as the more powerful 2014 ERS (Energy Recovery System) will have a greater influence on the braking of the car in comparison to the current KERS unit. Such is the power that teams will be allowed a control device, monitored by the ECU, to smooth the braking phase, as the system harvests energy much more aggressively. More on this in a future 2014 post.

McLaren

Also hoping for some 2014 tyre running was McLaren. On Thursday a picture was taken of this sensor attached to the front wing endplate. These are not thermal imaging, infrared sensors however. I am unsure of what they are designed to measure although it could be sidewall deflection. Having said that, the sensor appears to be facing directly towards the face of the tyre, if not more to the inside shoulder.

Mercedes

A new piece of information that has to come to light since last weekend is the introduction of new Brembo calipers on Lewis Hamilton’s W04. Hamilton has made it clear that one of his main struggles with the Mercedes car is its different braking characteristics compared to the previous McLarens he has driven. Unlike Mercedes, McLaren use Akebono (or Carbon Industries) calipers and discs. According to Hamilton, the Brembo combination does not give the initial bite that he desires. Paddy Lowe’s switch from McLaren to Mercedes mid-season may well have influenced this change.

2013 United States GP Tech Highlights

Once again, few and far between updates on the cars this weekend as the season is very quickly drawing to a close. However with Ferrari and Lotus still firmly in the hunt for second place in the Constructors’ championship, both teams have been forced into making some changes to the cars for this weekend to keep in touch with Mercedes.

Ferrari

Ferrari have slightly updated the front wing cascade on its F138, creating a total of three elements at the endplate of the device instead of two elements previously.

Ferrari FW cascade

An additional element here will produce a slightly different vortex, aimed at guiding airflow around the front tyre to more critical components downstream such as the leading edge of the floor and the bargeboards.

The team were also re-evaluating their new sidepod airflow conditioner introduced in Abu Dhabi although it was never raced. This was coupled with a strake at the base of the vane that replaced the r-vane introduced in Japan.

The fact that Ferrari keep changing this area of the car on a regular basis is quite concerning as this is a relatively sensitive region of the car. It works in conjunction with the edge of the floor and the Y250 vortex produced off the main plane of the front wing, guiding vortices that help seal the airflow beneath the car that travels on into the diffuser. In this video posted on SomersF1, we can see the large vortices that are directed by this component – http://www.somersf1.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/austin-gp-video-compilation-of-vortices.html

The team have been changing this area quite a lot lately so perhaps their aerodynamic issues lie at the rear of the car. They have certainly been struggling with traction lately although I am unsure if this area of the car can be related to such problems.

Also new on the car this weekend was an interesting modification to the outer walls of the diffuser (see the image of it here – http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-vx-nSelktu0/UoYDbfrPzVI/AAAAAAAAIlU/Dmk8XOqnW4M/s640/diffusore+ferrari+2.jpg). Confusingly, the modification appeared to be exactly the same shape and specification as the last version only that it was a rapid prototype of it rather than finished carbon fibre. It was as if the carbon fibre outer wall had been cut off and replaced with the rapid prototype with some sort of filler to blend the two together.

Perhaps there were some minute differences, such as the angle of the projection of the wall, but nothing major had been changed. They would certainly have the facilities to quickly produce something like that at their factory and send it over within a day, or even at the circuit itself.

Finally, the team chose to replace an updated beam wing seen in Abu Dhabi to a more conventional, straight layout for this weekend.

Lotus

Introduced on Kimi Raikkonen’s car in Abu Dhabi, Lotus were pursuing their latest iteration of their rear wing endplates in free practice, taking it forward to qualifying and the race for this first time this weekend. They are composed of 7 strakes hanging beneath the endplate, compared to three, thicker elements from the previous design.

Lotus RW endplates

These strakes are designed to work in conjunction with the airflow coming off of the brake ducts upstream and with the outer wall of the diffuser below. Each strake points outwards slightly, aiding the outwash and upwash of the diffuser below.

Both cars ran the long wheelbase this weekend, confirming that the team clearly see a gain with this configuration rather than just a preference between the two drivers as Heikki Kovalainen was brought in to replace Kimi Raikkonen, who is undergoing back surgery.

A second, smaller bulge – behind the large “pelican beak” – beneath the nose also appeared on the E21.

Red Bull

If you have Google Chrome (or just copy and paste into a translator) I would thoroughly recommend reading this article – http://www.omnicorse.it/magazine/32639/f1-gp-austin-tecnica-la-red-bull-con-i-cerchi-trattati-con-il-polysil-e

It would appear as if Red Bull have added a heat sink – in the form of a silicone coating from Polysil – to the rims of the RB9, aiming to transmit more heat from the brake/hub assembly inside of the front tyres. Perhaps this radiates the heat directly onto the sidewalls of the tyre which would help during the tyre warming phase.

With fluctuating track conditions at the Circuit of Americas during qualifying, Red Bull were one of the only teams to produce consistent laptimes. This could have been aided by generating heat more quickly into the tyre using this method.

It could also be used as a way of managing the turbulence created by the tyre immediately behind as the heat could change the characteristics of the passing airflow.

2013 Abu Dhabi GP Tech Highlights

In all honesty I did not expect to be writing this today! Yet, despite only a week’s turnaround, teams still managed to bring some bits and pieces to Abu Dhabi this weekend. With 2014 certainly at the forefront of everyone’s mind now, most (if not all) of the updates in this article will have been created with the intention to possibly be placed on next year’s car.

Williams

Williams have always been plagued by their Coanda exhaust system, despite the fact that other Renault powered teams (mainly Lotus and Red Bull) have had a lot of success with the engine-exhaust combination. At the last pre-season test in Barcelona, Williams introduced a full-Coanda ramp system that aimed to emulate the designs from Red Bull/Lotus. The cost to produce this system must have been extortionate and it failed to produce consistent downforce at the rear of the car. Pastor Maldonado described the FW35 as “undriveable” on many occasions even before the season had begun.

The team then reverted back to its older specification semi-Coanda layout that is composed of an exhaust exit hanging over the floor and a gap between the exhaust exit and the rear tyre that the gases eventually reach. This produced consistent downforce and made the rear of the car much more predictable although the performance from this component has never been as strong as other teams.

In Abu Dhabi, the team were testing a basic exhaust package to try to replicate the effect of having an aero neutral exhaust exit for 2014 (the exhaust pipe must exit at the centre of the car below the rear wing between 0 and 5 degrees). The exhausts on this package exited along the sidepod line and had no influence on the floor. However, the drivers preferred this package to the current semi-Coanda system and chose to stick with it for qualifying and the race. This is quite a staggering discovery: the fact that after two years of development work on the current exhaust system the team chose to run a very simplistic solution is not a good sign for Williams.

Aerodynamics seem to be the Achilles’ heel for the team of late and I should think that they will be trying to lure the services of Ross Brawn from Mercedes to rebuild. Bringing in Felipe Massa (along with engineer Rob Smedley) wouldn’t do them any harm, either.

Ferrari

Some quite large scale updates appeared on the F138 for this weekend although they may have been aimed at 2014 development.

Ferrari pod vane

Ferrari have combined two vertical fences with a horizontal, downwash aiding blade that attaches to the sidepod airflow conditioner. We have previously seen just a horizontal blade stemming from the conditioner across the top of the sidepod before attaching to the cockpit side. The F138 has, surprisingly, never featured Vortex Generators (VGs) on its sidepods so seeing something similar to them this late in the season is quite strange. At first I thought the two fences were VGs but then, thanks to a helpful reminder in the comments section, I was proved totally wrong (I find this ironic as I produced a piece on vortex generators).

From this piece we concluded that VGs work by drawing high energy airflow down into the boundary layer, re-energising the layer and preventing boundary layer buildup over a gradient. The two fences above, however, are covered by the horizontal blade and therefore do not act as VGs. I am assuming that these fences act only to redirect airflow over the shoulder of the sidepod towards the exhaust plume. This could also aid the downwash of the exhaust gases in the same way that a VG would, only on a much smaller scale.

On the subject of VGs, I did discuss the possibility of maintaining them for next year’s cars with a few members of the F1 “technical community” on Twitter. The aim of placing VGs and blades on top of the sidepod area is to push the exhaust plume down into floor area around the rear tyre. With the exhaust exiting far away from their current location next year, is there still a need for VGs here?

If Ferrari, or any team, were to produce an extremely contoured sidepod there would be a need to place VGs in this area to attempt keep airflow attached along the entire length of the ‘pod. There may well be some radically shaped bodywork in this region next year as the engines are bigger and provide more cooling. This will result in various ways of stacking the intercoolers and radiators that are needed to cool the V6 turbo power units for next year.

Ferrari floor

There were also some subtle changes to the floor for this weekend. These openings at the side of the floor running alongside the sidepod allow turbulent flow from the front tyres to escape without affecting the surrounding flow heading towards the diffuser. The leading opening has been rounded and reduced in size and the trailling one has remained very similar to the previous version.

At the base of the sidepod airflow conditioner was a new floor-mounted blade that replaced the ‘r’ vane introduced in Korea. I am unsure if this was just run in practice only or if they carried over to qualifying/race.

Lotus

Kimi Raikkonen ran the short wheelbase edition of the E21 in Abu Dhabi and he will probably continue to do so for the remainder of the season. Raikkonen has not responded well to the long wheelbase (100mm longer) introduced in Italy as it does not suit his driving style. Romain Grosjean has certainly upped his game which has probably amplified Raikkonen’s struggles of late. However the short wheelbase should suit the Yas Marina circuit a lot better, particularly in the tight and twisty final sector.