Formula One car development blog

Lotus debuts 2015 nose concept

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Lotus have unveiled their new 2015 nose concept, set to be tested in FP1 by one of their drivers. The team was undecided on Thursday who would debut it.

The design is the result of development for the team's 2015 car, named E23 Hybrid, and reflects the changed regulations that will effectively outrule the team's current twin tusk nose cone. Lotus have said they don't expect their interim nose to work effectively just yet, given that is has not been designed to work with the E22, but rather aims to allow the team to run some comparisons and get real on-track data.

Technically, the nose itself looks a lot like the current nose, with the gap between the tusks filled. The team has likely gone for the simple route, using the research from the tusked nose to create the new crash structure. It's possible that for this reason, the interim nose houses a left and a right crash structure inside the shrouding, albeit that the total length of the nose has now shortened (the tusks extended ahead of the front wing). The new nose body stops halfway over the front wing, with two protruding supports serving as the connection points with the front wing.

Interestingly, the tip of the nose is curved up, attempting to get just that little bit of extra air underneath the nose. This immediately indicates one of the biggest challenges for most teams going into 2015, as all current noses that are set to be outruled were designed to maximise airflow underneath the nose, allowing for more downforce generated by the car's floor and its rear diffuser.

Lotus have yet to confirm if they plan to run the nose at the two other remaining events of the season.

Toro Rosso adds S-duct in new nose

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Toro Rosso have come to Japan with a new nose cone on their STR9, which notably also included an S-duct inspired by Red Bull Racing. The car's new nose is much thinner on the lower side, now featuring a short bulb at the very front to meet the regulations while minimizing the obstruction to airflow underneath the nose cone. The previous 'finger nose' was much thicker and was an essential part of the front crash structure, whereas the new one has its crash structure starting further back.

While the introduction of this nose cone was originally planned for the Singapore GP, the design is a remarkable effort, knowing that none of this development will be transferable onto next year's car, due to the modified regulations that aim to prevent these nose extensions.

The S-duct on the other hand may very well provide the team with useful information for its 2015 development programme, as nothing in the rules prevents any such duct this year or the next. The S-duct, named for the shape of the duct inside the nose cone, bleeds some air off the boundary layer on the lower side of the nose and directs it to a vent on the upper side. In Toro Rosso's case, the vent is noticeable exaxtly behind the 'Cepsa' sponsorship logo.

Lotus trim tiny rear wing for top speed

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Lotus were seen racing at Monza with the smallest rear wing of any car. The team created a Monza-only rear wing, another alteration of the already fairly skinny rear wing seen at Spa-Francorchamps. The wing retains the V-shape in the middle of the wing, but different to most wings, the Monza spec does not extend to the maximum allowed height. Instead the upper flap is trimmed down, before a removable gurney flap was added. The nature of the wing also allowed the team to remove any remaining louvres in the endplates.

Along with these changes, the rear wing also features a single, central support pylon that links to a bridge over the exhaust pipe. It remains to be seen whether this change is permanent, but it's interesting to see the team move away from their asymmetric pylon that connects to the car left of the exhaust pipe towards a commonly seen layout. Note however that the E22 continued to features asymmetric sidepod outlets, the left hand side being much larger than the right to be able to cool the intercooler that sits low down in the left sidepod.

In the end though, it didn't matter much, as once again neither of the Lotus drivers came close to scoring any points. I understand that part of Lotus' lack of top end performance is due to their engine cooling setup, having less capacity and therefore the team's inability to exploit their Renault engine fully. Additionally, cutting rear wing is one thing, but making it this small also virtually eliminates all advantage you can get from DRS, making overtaking equally impossible.

Williams low-drag rear wing for Monza

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Similar to most other teams, Williams have introduced a new, one-off rear wing to adapt to the requirements of the Monza Autodrome. Focusing on top speed, drag shedding is the easiest with a smaller rear wing, given that the rear wing generates much more drag per point of downforce compared top the diffuser. This also explains why teams are never modifying their diffuser, simply because it's more efficient and probably more complicated to alter as well.

The new rear wing fitted in the FW36 features an identical endplate as the one in Belgium, except for the reduced amount of louvres. This has been reduced to one as more are hardly needed due to the smaller angle of attack of the rear wing. The design of the rear wing itself means there are less strong wingtip vortices anyway, so less louvres are needed to help reduce them.

Perhaps the most interesting design feature of the team's Monza rear wing is that they put in the effort to create a new fairing for the DRS activator in the middle of the wing. While the one at Spa was still a big hub to help control airflow under yaw, the new one is clearly aimed to create as little of an obstacle to the airflow as possible. The support is as narrow as possible, and the thicker, bullet-like fairing follows the direction of airflow as is drops down over the bend of the rear wing's main plane before being kicked up.

Mercedes keep advantage with aero updates

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Mercedes introduced a considerable update package at Spa, making sure they kept their advantage to the competition. Possible the most important of those updates was the revamp of the car's nose cone which required a new crash test. The new solution is smaller at its bottom and also slightly higher at the top - note how the supports for the cameras have become shorter. This not only gave aerodynamic gains, but according to G. Piola this also helped to reduce weight, a feature that was arguable the primary purpose of this update. It was reported that, including the team's latest package, the car is now 8 kg lighter than at the beginning of the season, allowing to move ballast rearwards to improve traction - even though this is still strictly limited by the regulations on weight distribution.

In combination with the new nose cone, the team also modified the turning vanes underneath the nose. Running a three-element solution for most of the year, they introduced a turning vane which consists of four elements to separate the airflow blocked in between the front wheels more precisely.

The rear wing was revised for the penultimate European round. The height of the moveable flap was decreased and to reduce drag its leading edge was cut in in four points forming a trio of waves. On Friday the team ran it with gurney flap which was then removed come qualifying.

Finally, the team also reverted to the basic one-flap monkey seat which was seen at the post-Silverstone tests, possibly a better solution for the lower downforce requirements of Spa-Francorchamps. It is hence reasonable to speculate that either this specification, or no monkey seat will be used at Monza.

Caterham debuts new nose cone

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It's a God's gift, Caterham's new nose cone on the CT05. While the visual appearance may not have been the top priority for the team in terms of aerodynamic development, the modified nose cone is a whole lot better looking that before. True, it could still be better, but such as the rules that strange looking noses are currently a good solution to keep airflow underneath the nose.

In any case, Caterham did not change much to the concept of its car, retaining the matte black cone that forms the front crash structure. Above that however is now a much more elegant structure, slightly rounded at the top and including a vanity panel to create a smooth, continuous upper surface towards the monocoque. With the team not modifying the front suspension, it's good to see how much higher the nose is around the upper wishbone, while at the bottom, at the connection point of the pull rod, the bodywork is more rounded.

Force India continues to switch between engine covers

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One month ago, at the Austrian Grand Prix, Force India introduced a major aerodynamic upgrade package on its VJM07, including a modified nose cone and different bodywork around the engine and exhaust. The difference is obvious around the "Claro" logo when comparing the Canadian specification to the car running at Silverstone. Tighter packaging is an obvious aerodynamic advantage and proved possible even while retaining the location of the oil cooler above the exhaust pipe, fed by the secondary airbox inlet.

In the German GP weekend, the team pushed on in this direction, now relocating the oil cooler to the sidepods, ditching the secondary inlet, reducing the volume of the car's upper bodywork even further. It is unconfirmed to me what exactly was not perfectly right with this package, but it may very well be that the shift of internal components did show an issue that needed to be resolved before racing it. In any case, at the German GP, the VJM07 was equipped with a rather strange combination of designs, featuring the Silverstone engine cover but with the secondary inlet closed off, possibly relying on internal airflow to provide sufficient air towards the oil cooler.

It is obvious this was a sub-optimal solution, and at Hungary, the team turned up with its Silverstone configuration once again, leaving the secondary inlet open to feed the oil cooler. It is probably safe to assume that the team will continue to try different configurations, especially given the high speed nature of upcoming races at Spa-Francorchamps and Monza.

Williams revives shark gills for cooling

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Williams introduced a new cooling solution on its FW36 this weekend at Germany by adding a series of small apertures on the legality fin of the airbox cover. The small extension on the airbox cover is there only to fit the minimum area rules of the bodywork, but Williams have found a new use by creating fins to provide engine cooling.

Many teams have small apertures in this area for cooling, but Williams' solution surely is elaborate. The team have seemingly chosen to use shark gills because they usually produce less turbulence compared to a single, larger opening.

Shark gills actually used to be a very popular cooling solution in Formula One, culminated by the championship winning Renault R25 of 2005 that brought Fernando Alonso his first World Championship. The gills as they were in use on the sidepods of the Renault however are no longer legal since the FIA disallowed any opening in the sidepod's bodywork (the same rule also bans the possibility to add numerous winglets and chimneys on the sidepods).

McLaren backtracks on suspension blockers

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Along with its brand new front wing, brake duct modifications and floor edge updates, McLaren changed the configuration of the rear of its MP4-29 in Austria. A new diffuser was part of the car's aerodynamic upgrade package, featuring different curves at the outer extremities, allowing for a little more expansion in the diffuser. The winglet sloping around the edge of the diffuser has now been cut back, making it a very similar configuration to the diffuser that the team ran in the races before the Spanish GP.

McLaren have also, for the first time this season, raced its cars with blockers only attached on the lower track rods, making for 2 blockers contrary to 4 and thus virtually cutting their butterfly suspension in half. The team experimented with this layout in free practice in Canada but went on to race with the fully blocking suspension arms. This likely means that McLaren have finally found some additional rear downforce, making the upper and highly draggy blockers unneeded. It will be interesting to see if McLaren retains this layout for the next races, and even if or when they will decide to drop the lower blockers as well.

Finally, also marked in the image are a number of paired, converging strakes added in the central part of the diffuser. Each pair will create two counter rotating vortices, energising the air in this area of the diffuser. This particular design is more or less copy paste from Red Bull Racing, and so we may expect to see them appear on more cars as the season progresses.

New sidepods just the beginning for Toro Rosso

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Toro Rosso have introduced new sidepods on their STR9, removing the curvature on top of the sidepod in favour of a new, more gradual slope towards the rear suspension. Looking from the back of the car it is obvious what the team have tried to achieve as the hot air exits are now closer to the floor, converging towards a design used by Red Bull and Mercedes AMG. In fact, more and more teams are going this direction as Force India had a similar sidepod update, leaving McLaren to be the only team left with outlets alongside the exhaust pipe.

The move may also have allowed the team to relocate some sidepod internals further down to lower the car's centre of gravity, but thus far the team have not confirmed this.

Also note that the monkey seat above the exhaust pipe as seen in Austria is nothing new and featured on the car at Monaco as well. It seems it was only dropped for Canada due to that circuit's lower downforce requirements.

Despite this looking like a big update, the team's Technical Director James Key noted handily that the updates are a start of a series with more to come at Silverstone and Hockenheim.