Formula One car development blog
Despite only having a 7 day gap since the Chinese GP, Ferrari have brought another update to their F138. The team fitted new sidepod panels on both their cars during the entire weekend, increasing the volume of the sidepod around the UPS logo. The difference is clearly visible when you focus on the joint of the foremost panel - with the Shell logo - that was unchanged and the new panel with UPS on it.
The previous design had fairly visible downward ducts, still somewhat similar to their "Acer duct" naming of 2012, although they would now have to be called "UPS ducts". Now, the underside of those ducts has been beefed up. While it is hard to say what exactly the team is aiming for, it is possible that Ferrari wants more air to flow alongside the UPS logo rather than pushing it down towards the floor.
Also visible in the picture are the new shark gills close to the car's floor. These are added to increase cooling performance but are likely to disappear again at events with lower ambient temperatures.
Caterham F1 have brought the first updates to their CT03 since the beginning of the season. The team urged a few updates as soon as it appeared that there were considerably issues with the car that would make it unable to put up a fight to any other team. The updates seem to have had an immediate effect, with Charles Pic saying after free practice that the team were to adjust the car set-up as the updates immediately brought in understeer thanks to increased downforce at the rear of the car. A more comprehensive number of updates will be added at the Spanish GP in 3 weeks time.
So far, the updates were only tried on Charles Pic's car, including a new bulkier nose that copies an idea pioneered by Lotus last year to help clean airflow underneath the high nose. Sauber and Force India are teams that have followed that trend before, with Red Bull trying it on last year's car as well.
Perhaps more importantly is the new Red Bull style panel aside of the sidepod. This greatly helps control how air ends up at the back of the car.
Red Bull introduced a new beam wing on its RB9 this weekend at Bahrain. The new version will generate a little bit less downforce than the more conventional one used during the first 3 races of the season. Although a smaller beam wing it itself is nothing special, the roundings on the trailing edge of the wing are interesting indeed. The element is aimed at generating more downforce close to the centreline of the car while the reduced frontal area will cause less drag and downforce closer to the rear wing endplates.
Also new on the RB9 is the different cut-out on the central hot air outlet, aimed at keeping the car's internals at acceptable temperatures in the heat of Bahrain.
Red Bull Racing have copied Williams' hollow front wheel axle and wheelnut to allow air to pass through. Identical to the Williams version that was used since winter testing, the wheel nut is empty in the middle, which allows air caught by the brake ducts to flow out in an attempt to control the front wheel's wake. The latter is an important factor for rear downforce and also explains why teams are not using a similar system on the rear wheels, where it is more beneficial to have smaller brake ducts.
The system was only seen in the Friday practice sessions on Sebastian Vettel's #1 car.
Already since the Chinese GP of last week, Mercedes are running a slightly different front wing which includes a tiny lip on top of the stacked element support.
Also marked in the image are some interesting details which show how much attention Mercedes have put into this new front wing after basically struggling with that part of the car for several years. The support for the stacked element for instance is not as simple at it may initially appear as it is clearly shaped differently long its height.
One other thing that is remarkable is the shape of the flap support, including the front wing adjuster. At most teams these are two separate element or a more solid item, but Mercedes have clearly put effort into making this item as small as possible to create the least possible effect on the airflow.
Lotus Technical Director James Allison has revealed that the team will introduce a new element in the front suspension that is mainly aimed at better controlling the ride height at the front of the car: "We will trial a suspension modification – internal rather than to the wishbones – which is an evolution of something we ran to good effect during pre-season."
Allison does not reveal what exactly will be tried, but his further comments claar up a few things: "You’re always trying to find the right compromise between the mechanical grip that the suspension’s articulation offers to the tyres and holding the aerodynamic platform at the optimum height from the road, and we believe this is a step forward in helping us achieve that."
Indeed, each team is aiming to attain the best possible ride to make sure the tyres keep into contact with the track over their entire width. Even though that is possible by softening up the suspension, doing so at the front would induce the need to raise the front as brake dive would be more pronounced. This on the other hand will adversely affect aerodynamic performance. Lotus' new system, whatever it may look like, is certainly different to the system that was banned in January 2012 but similar in its purpose. The new update is therefore either aimed to improve the frontal ride or to maining the same suspension behaviour while allowing to the run the car a little bit lower than before. Either way would help the car's performance and will raise interest from other teams if the modification proves effective enough to use in races.
McLaren has introduced a modified sidepod bodywork design that features a bump on top of the sidepod. In fact it looks like the fat lady sat atop of the sidepod, creating this new version. The idea is to draw a little bit more air down onto the exhaust more rapidly, helping the curving down of the exhaust gases aft of the exhaust channel. The difference of course is clear because of McLaren opting to paint less of the car's bodywork in silver.
The design is not new at all and follows a trend set by Mercedes as their F1W04 features a similar dent in the middle of the sidepod, creating a mild U-shape in the upper surface. Lotus have recently done a similar design by applying it on their ramp style sidepods.
As an aside, also note that McLaren ran without gills underneath the upper frontal wishbone, hinting at either modified internal cooling channels or simply because the Chinese GP weather posed less of a challenge than the burning heat of Malaysia.
The Malaysian GP is a notorious challenge for the teams due to its high ambient temperatures and high humidity. As opening up the car creates additional drag, teams optimise their cars for lower temperatures and add outlets as needed.
Various teams have of course different solutions. At Lotus for instance the team added cooling gills aside of the cockpit, a very common outlet used also on the Mercedes AMG F1W04 and the Red Bull RB9. Toro Rosso realised this is an interesting cooling place as well, but rather than fitting a grill that helps extract air from within the sidepod, the team simply removed a panel, something that is likely to cost them quite a bit of drag - note the goldfoil on the monocoque, fitted to reflect radiation heat from the sidepod.
The rear end of the car is the second area where teams are opening up the sidepod, usually extracting hot air close to the car's centreline. Williams have done this by means of of combination of smaller outlets while Red Bull opted for a single additional opening just ahead of the frontal upper wishbone of the rear suspension.
Lotus have started the season in anger with an impressive amount of car developments. Already at Australia the team brought a new front wing, while this time in Malaysia there is another new front wing, along with this heavily modified sidepod bodywork, fitted only on Kimi Raikkonen's car. Raikkonen will continue the weekend with the new layout but Romain Grosjean will have to wait until the next race as the team were unable to get two pieces ready.
The new sidepods are a rather large update to the car, all aimed at better getting the exhaust gases to where the team wants them to be. The upper side of the sidepod has been lowered slightly, creating a wide channel that aims to pull air onto the exhaust exit. In combination with this is the modified exhaust channel, which features a steep edge just above the actual exhaust while the outer side has been raised, similar to what the exhaust channel on the Red Bull RB9 looks like.
Note the yellow flow line in the image, indicating what is likely to be the airflow above the sidepod and subsequently the flow of the exhausts. It is effectively the downward flow of the air above the sidepod that helps bend the exhaust gases down - which are blown out of an upward exhaust pipe.
The fact that the new exhaust channel is from inconel also shows the time pressure the team was on to get this part as soon as possible on the car. The metallic parts are much quicker to manufacture but respresent a slight weight penalty compared to a carbon fibre version.
Also note the metallic strake just ahead of the rear wheel which further helps guide exhaust gases to the gap between the rear wheel's inner sidewall and the outer edge of the diffuser. It is in this area where the highly energetic exhaust flow is used to bleed underneath the floor and seal off its edges.
As if it was still 2012, Lotus have kicked off the new season by introducing a brand new front wing on their E21. The team has been focusing on front wing development for years, and with seemingly great results, as performance has steadily improved in recent seasons.
The new front represents another fairly major step, with modified endplates and a more flat stacked panel. The most interesting feature of the front wing may however be the thickness of the lower flap, painted in black on the new version. While this is likely designed to make better use of the ground effect of the front wing, it also enables for the element to be ballasted, a common practice in F1 as it's an area that enabled weight to be positioned very close to the ground and a far forward as possible, enhancing its effect while not having a negative impact on the height of the car's centre of gravity.