Formula One car development blog
Although subtle, McLaren have introduced a minor change on the car. The winglet, just above the radiator air inlet, is effectively a connection between the sidepod panel and the monocoque.
The new winglet is a positioned a little higher above the sidepod aims to control airflow just above the sidepod, a crucial area to ensure efficiency of the downwash exhaust.
Red Bull introduced a considerable number of changes on its car at Singapore, including a new front wing, diffuser and DDRS. Perhaps of a little less importance, but still interesting is their new nose cone. Just like Williams did, the new nose has a slight bulge below the nose, in the middle of the nose but just behind the front wing pillars. Overall the tip of the nose on the Red Bull is also slightly lower, resulting in more airflow over the nose and less under it.
Such change is remarkable, especially because the currently nearly maximum-height noses of current F1 cars are all focused to get as much air as possible under the nose and towards the floor. It is of course part of Red Bull's changes to improve the balance of the RB8. Adrian Newey mentioned before the Japanese GP that "the team have been focusing mainly on restoring the car's balance after losing the effect of the exhaust blown diffusers that we had for the past two years".
Ferrari is more and more struggling to keep up with the development pace of other teams, with Singapore being no exception. The team brought a new rear wing featuring interesting changes, but after testing both the new and the previous wing on Friday by applying flow-vis paint, the Italians opted to use the older version on both cars as the new one did not bring the improvement the team had hoped for.
The new wing features a lot more slots in the endplate (the old wing is displayed in the inset), extending onto the rear wing's flap. The idea of this is to reduce the strength of the vortex coming off of the endplate, reducing the drag from the wing assembly. To help with this, the cut-out at the top of the endplates, just behind the flap is also more pronounced.
On the lower end of the endplates, 8 vanes now work in combination with the diffuser, attempting to extract as much air to the outside of the vanes, hence trying to speed up the flow in between both endplates.
While a single wing may not be a problem, Ferrari do have a serious problem on their hand, as they have already failed numerous times this season to get their car updates to work effectively. The team for instance had a considerably different front wing at Valencia, but after 3 consecutive Fridays of testing finally decided not to use it.
Another change, a number of winglets attached to the barge boards were seen at Hungary, but never again. Given the high downforce nature of the track, one could have expected to see this item return at Singapore, but that was not the case.
All in all, the problems are creating trouble at Ferrari, with Alonso now openly expressing his worries about Ferrari's development progress. Domenicali and Fry also immediately left Singapore after the race to return to Marcello as soon as possible to oversee further developments for the remaining races of the season. Under their self dubbed “less haste, more speed,” the engineers at Maranello are now hard at work to try to solve the problems which are likely to be correlation issues with the wind tunnel.
Ever since their famous exhaust updates where the team brought several different versions to test on the track, development has not gone like the team would have liked. Some updates have worked, but those that don't are costly in the race for the championship.
Red Bull Racing debuted a new front wing on the RB8, featuring two changes. The first of which is the addition of an extra slot where the front wing is ahead of the wheels. This means a little bit more air will reach the underside of the flap, filling the low pressure area underneath the front wing. Although this can add downforce at the front, its most important function is likely to be better control of the airflow around the front wheel, hence the front wheel's wake and underneath the car's floor.
Secondly, the upper flap was split up into two panels where that flap is not ahead of the wheels. This is again a change that effects the car's aerodynamic performance further downstream. Having two panels instead of one means there are two ends, hence also two less strong vortices coming off the inside tip of the flaps, instead of a single, stronger one in the previous design.
The Williams FW34 appeared at Singapore with a new nosecone design, featuring a bulge underneath the tip of the nose, in between the front wing supports. Force India have run a similar, but more pronounced bulge during the entire 2011 season on their VJM04. If not for aerodynamic benefit, the bulge can also enable the team to make the nose slightly heavier.
The front edge of the nose has changed as well, now more rounded and extending further ahead of the camera hubs that are still located on each side of the nosecone.
Mercedes AMG has become the latest team to adopt a downwash exhaust outlet. After having already tested it on track during the most recent young driver test at Magny-Cours, the W03 was immediately fitted with the new exhaust layout in Singapore and was also found good enough to race.
The team's design very much resembles that of the Ferrari F2012 where a bulge on the side of the sidepod incorporates the upward pointing exhaust pipe. The U-channel behind it attempts to prevent the exhaust from flowing upwards, while at the end of the channel, the outer airstream helps to suck the gases downward onto the diffuser area. The result is that exhaust gases flow near the car's floor, which in turn gets heated. To counteract this effect and protect the carbon fibre from burning, heat protective foil that has been applied on the floor, just ahead of the rear wheels.
The result of this, combined with a likely modification to the engine map to ensure a more even exhaust flow, is, according to Ross Brawn, more downforce at the rear, especially out of tight corners as it appears it gives the most benefit at lower car speeds.
Note that just like at Ferrari and McLaren, the F1 W03 features a small air outlet below the upper suspension arms, and similar to Ferrari also outlets aside of the exhaust channel. The 3 louvres on each side of the cockpit opening are likely unrelated to the different sidepod layout, but have been added to cope with the high temperatures at Singapore.
With Mercedes now having made the conversion, the only teams left without a downwash exhaust are HRT and Lotus.
McLaren have run two interesting wing packages at both Spa and then Monza, two circuits known for their high speed straights, with Spa adding a high number of medium speed corners to the mix.
At the Belgian GP, McLaren had a medium downforce rear wing ready for both drivers, but only Jenson Button decided to use it - and he went on to win the Grand Prix with ease. The rear wing featured an upward curve on the leading edge of the wing, causing a lower pressure difference between the airflow streaming above the wing and that streaming below. Together, this will lead to lower downforce and lower drag.
The car's front wing on the other hand changed little compared to Hungary. The team were sufficiently happy by reducing wing angle at the front, since the medium speed corners require high front downforce anyway.
Monza was an entirely different story, with the team using the same rear wing for both its drivers this time, but combined with a different front wing. Although modifications are small, the team removed the outer parts of the stacked elements to reduce downforce at the front. Additionally, the wing's trailing edge was revised with a smaller upper element, albeit now with a small gurneyflap on the outer edges - the flap is black, fixed on the trailing edge of the upper red panel, and marked with an arrow.
Sauber have been furiously at work to develop their car and keep up with the progress other teams are making throughout the season. Considering their pace at Spa-Francorchamps and Monza, that does not look like a problem for the Swiss team.
One of the updates used at Monza was a low drag front wing. Contrary to many other teams who ditched the cascading elements on the front wing, Sauber instead chose to apply minor modifications to the red part of their wing. Especially close to the front wing supports, the red element is curved to create less downforce than before and instead may be aimed at generating a vortex that can prove beneficial for downforce generation at the back of the car.
Interesting as well are the modifications to the front brake ducts. Before Spa, Sauber was using a vertical, carbon fibre fence close to the wheel with a conventional inlet, adapted in size to the cooling requirements of the specific circuit. At Spa, the team tried one of those with the inlet made of rapid prototyping material, bonded to the carbon fibre fence. However, a new ducting system was also tested, with the area between the tyre and the fence used as an inlet, dropping the oval shaped scoop. This design is very similar to what Williams and Ferrari are doing, but given that the team also tested the more traditional design on Friday at Monza, it remains to be seen if the scoop-less brake duct is to be retained for Singapore, where temperatures and cooling demands are usually higher.
The team have also brought new rear wings to both the Belgian and Italian GP. The Belgian version featured a slight W-shape of the leading edge while the Monza spec dropped that W-shape again and featured even less frontal area for reduced drag and downforce.
McLaren have brought quite an interesting update to Spa as they have changed the way to tackle airflow around the top and edges of the sidepod. Previously, the car's sidepod featured a fairly traditional, vertical and solid sidepod panel. Since the Spanish GP, the leading edge of the top of the sidepods featured two or three vertical fins - as on the Lotus - to better manage airflow that will eventually end up streaming over the exhaust outlet.
This time around, McLaren ditched the sidepod panel and fins but instead created a sidepod panel that extends over the side pod's upper side, creating a wing that should help keep the flow attached over the sidepod. It takes no genius to realise that this change will have its effect on the exhaust flow, and therefore also the amount of downforce that is generated at the back of the car.
Also note that the car now also features two small winglets below the mirror. This was inspired by Ferrari's design, except that Ferrari also redesigned its mirror support to act as a winglet. McLaren chose to keep this unaltered and simple add two winglets on each side of the monocoque.
McLaren's car updates have pushed the car back up in between the front runners, and unsurprisingly, the improvement came once again from exhaust modifications. McLaren redesigned the sidepod to have the exhaust exit lower above the ground and further back, creating a more consistent flow onto the outer extremities of the diffuser.
In essence, McLaren's update appears to be influenced by Ferrari's famous acer ducts, something which the MP4-27 now features as well. The ducts are sloping down and feature an undercut of the sidepod, allowing air to flow underneath the tail of the duct and towards the centre of the car. The resemblance is striking, and particularly interesting because it was Ferrari that initially copied McLaren's downwash exhaust exit.
In addition to the sidepod, the fins at the bottom of the rear wing endplate have been modified as well. Again, these work in combination with the diffuser to generate downforce at the rear end of the car.