Formula One car development blog

Cockpit edges: to round or not to round?

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Since Toro Rosso introduced their shorter nose cone on the STR10, the team also added long fins on each side of the upper edge of the monocoque. It's a unique feature across all current cars and appears to be aimed at reducing air to spill over the edges of the monocoque.

This can be a particular issue under yaw, for example when the car is turning left. Air that is then flowing left of the monocoque could spill over the edge and end up in the cockpit opening area, one of the least efficient of a Formula One car, partly due to the movement of the driver's helmet.

The fins on the Toro Rosso may prevent this from happening. Similarly, Lotus has opted for a small radius in the rounding of the upper edges of its monocoque, creating the same effect as the fin on the STR10, except that the Toro Rosso has a slightly smaller frontal area. One negative of the Toro Rosso solution however is the increased surface area, increasing the boundary layer effect.

The design decisions made by Lotus and Toro Rosso are remarkable, as no other team appears to have gone this route. All other cars appear to have a rounding radius of close to the maximum allowed 50mm. The Red Bull RB11 and Mercedes F1 W06, both products from well funded teams are clear examples of that, so it remains to be seen whether Toro Rosso's recent addition will gather interest from rivals.



Ferrari puts new front wing in use at Melbourne

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Come the third and final pre-season winter test at Barcelona, Ferrari brought along a new front wing for the SF15-T. For me the SF15-T has the fundamentals of a great front wing, as long as they develop on the concept over the course of the season. As expected, the new wing was used on both cars in Melbourne, but clearly Ferrari only introduced it at the final test to maximise development time.

The old wing (inset) had a three element cascade unit with a north mounted turning vane on top. This is so that oncoming airflow is given more of a outwash of the front tyre and trailing edge of the front wing wake, which is guided to the sidepods and barge boards of the car.

Clearly, for the 2015 car, the requirements for the front wing have changed considerably as a different nose requires different airflow management along the centre of the wing, whereas the team's decision to go for blown wheel nuts changes the ideal flow ahead and around the front wheels.

Contrary to a trend of adding more and more slots over the entire width of the front wing, as is particularly seen on the Mercedes, Red Bull and Toro Rosso, Ferrari have actually combined part of the wing's main plane with the first flap where it sits closest to the nose cone. It's a feature also seen on the Sauber C34 and a definite step away from Ferrari's 2014 front wing designs.

Their new front wing also comprises an east mounted turning vane by the cascade. This is supposed to give the air flow even more guidance and management as it passes onto the central section of the car. This is mainly a flow management device that will induce a vortex off of its tip, flowing onto the inner edge of the front wheel.

Ferrari also added an outboard canard on the outer edge of the endplate. This creates a pressure gradient between the coefficient low and high pressure, as the air flow is drawn to the lower section of the car. This approach was neatly used on the Force India and Sauber in 2014.


Short nose and new front wing add downforce on STR10

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Toro Rosso have introduced a big update to their STR10, including a brand new front wing and a shortened nose cone. It is understood that the car's longer nose cone was initially designed as a base to get through the crash tests and get testing, while the team subsequently focused on what is generally considered a better aerodynamic solution. Two technical heads have confirmed to me that the shorter nose is indeed a better solution, admitting that this has to do with the flow coming off the standardised central section of the front wing.

The new nose is not dissimilar to the one run by Red Bull Racing on their RB11, featuring a thumb to meet the section rules while trying to create the minimum possible obstacle to airflow.

It's also interesting to see how the team has been experimenting with camera positions. Initially featuring arched supports, last week the team located its camera housings just ahead of the upper front wishbones, while on the new nose, the cameras are moved even further down, out of line from any front suspension arms.

Along with the new nose is also a radically different front wing, now featuring 5 elements and 6 where the wing is trailed by the front wheels. The stacked elements are also completely new. The only constant here appears to be the retention of the tyre temperature cameras fitted atop the wing, close to each front wing endplate.


New nose and camera mounts for Mercedes

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Mercedes AMG have come out on track today at Barcelona with an updated nose cone, along with new mountings for the camera pods. Even though unconfirmed reports recently noted that the FIA asked Mercedes and Ferrari to revert to more traditional camera mountings, the team have now come up with small vertical carbon fibre supports to mount the cameras even higher above the nose cone. It moves the camera out of the airflow onto the front suspension, whereas the shape of the mounting's attachment to the nose will certainly generate a vortex that is likely flowing in between the upper and lower wishbones.

Interestingly, and very similar to the second iteration of Mercedes' nose cone on the W05, the new nose retains its short shape but has been slimmed down underneath to draw more air underneath the car - it's very visible when looking at the #KeepFightingMichael sticker.


The revival of the blown wheel nut

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Jerez pre-season testing has definitely seen somewhat of a revival for the blown wheel nut, seeing that three of the major teams have introduced the system into their cars. All three of them also seem set to keep going with it, as none of these cars were seen with closed wheel nuts (yet).

Williams debuted this idea in 2013 on its Williams FW35, designed by Mike Coughlan. Having run it for the entire season, Williams opted against it in 2014. Is certainly triggered some interest with other teams, as then Champions Red Bull Racing came up with a similar design just a month after Williams debuted it. RBR however didn't push on with it, simply because it needs development of the entire car to get it working correctly.

Come Jerez 2015, it appears that the blown wheel nuts have gained interest, different rims have been introduced at the same time to create the most efficient way to control the front wheel's wake, a crucial property for the behaviour of a Formula One car. McLaren appears to have the most complex rims, with small channels on the outside, possibly to transfer more heat from the cooling air into the rim. Ferrari on the other hand have updated OZ wheels with a bigger closed area around the wheel nut while Red Bull Racing have a new ring on their specification of OZ wheels.

Also in the picture is the front wheel of Mercedes AMG F1's W06, showing how the Championship winning team have gone for an entirely different direction (for now). The team is running a very straightforward front wheel rim and have even removed the ring that they had in 2014.


Mercedes ditches log style exhaust on PU106B

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Following a year of running with a very compact log style exhaust (as pictured) in 2014, Mercedes have now chosen to ditch the concept and go for a more conventional equal lenght exhaust manifold as seen on the 2014 Renault engine.

An obviously different noise coming from the Mercedes powered cars yesterday was followed by a further confirmation from Mercedes' Head of Engines at Brixworth, Andy Cowell that the new Mercedes 2015 power unit, named PU106B, features an 'entirely new exhaust concept'.

Having strolled around in the pitlane at Jerez, I can confirm that at least Lotus is not running with a log style exhaust, but instead a wrapped package of exhaust tubes very similar in size and location to the configuration of the Renault powered cars in 2014. Sadly a picture is missing, but I'm sure visual confirmation will follow.

In 2014, Mercedes already started testing with an equal length exhaust manifold before switching to a log type at the final pre-season test in Bahrain. While that proved to be a good solution, not in the least for packaging reasons, an equal length manifold can provide advantages for the effectiveness of the turbo. As exhaust tuning is a rather complex subject and designing the optimal exhaust layout depends highly on the power requirements for a certain rpm range, it may be that the change is influenced by the reportedly higher revolutions that the new Mercedes is capable of.


A closer look at McLaren's new wheel rims

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McLaren's long term wheel supplier, Enkei, has provided the team with new rims for the 2015 season, or at least the start of it. Finished in matte black, the wheels were on display at Jerez today, showing very different front and rear wheel designs. The reasons for this are obvious, with first of all wider tyres at the rear, but more importantly for their design, much less heat coming from the rear brakes. Due to weight transfer under braking, and the energy recovery system that kicks in on the rear axle, the front brakes work much much harder than the rears.

Dissipating the heat from the brakes efficiently is the main design influence for today's F1 rims, and those of Enkei are a brilliant example. As can be seen, the rims have just 5 thick spokes in the central part while numerous smaller channels are designed on the outside. Note that the tyre nozzle is neatly integrated into the rim in an attempt to provide less hindrance to air passing through the rim.

The rear rims (inset) are of a more conventional design with a 90° nozzle for convenience and a tyre pressure monitor (absent on the front rims).

Finally, the rims also continue to feature coated dimples on the inside (as visible on the front rim photo) to enable the rim to take up heat quicker, and thereby help the tyres to stay at their optimal working temperature.


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.