Formula One car development blog
The test in Barcelona from 12 to 14 February saw McLaren introduce a few new aero bits, including small wings on each side of the monocoque. The idea is copied from Renault who have been running similar devices since the Canadian Grand Prix of 2006. Only available to Alonso during the test, the 'ears' are positioned like an airplane wing and therefore do produce lift instead of downforce. The primary reason for such a compromise is improved airflow towards the rear of the car where eventually more downforce is gained than what's lost by the ears themselves. McLaren's ears are single element and placed closer to the driver's helmet than at Renault.
The new Spyker car is not only painted in a new colour, it has also been completely redesigned. At this time it even appears to be one of the most aerodynamically changed cars of the field. The nose area has especially required a lot of attention as the team perfected their front suspension to a functional zero keel design. The visual similarities with a twin keel originate from the turning vanes, located at the exact same position as where the keels are usually located. The new layout came together with an upgrade of the nose cone. It was slimmed and raised in order to allow the best possible airflow underneath the car.
Just 15 years ago, a barge board was a vertically mounted plate to guide air more fluently around the air intake area. Several teams did not use such a panel as they found it not beneficial. In sharp contrast are today's F1 cars. The F2007 for instance is equipped with a mixture of panels in the barge board area. While preserving the cut edges at the upper side of the main board, smaller turning vanes have been added to improve airflow. Especially remarkable is a small carbon in between two bigger panels. It needs no explanation to understand that nowadays the frontal side pod area is vital for optimum cooling and minimal drag.
McLaren have impressed in the testing season so far as their cars have often proven to be the fastest among the competitors. While that may not be important, the team is also experiencing very few mechanical problems. In fact only 3 problems arose in the last few weeks of testing, with the last one being yesterday on Alonso's car. The car was fixed surprisingly fast and McLaren have stated the problem was caused by a testing program in that area of the car. Just like with a previous problem 2 weeks ago, the team looks like testing its car under extreme conditions to see how long the car lasts without engineering interference. It may be that the team has learned from Renault who won their championships partly thanks to an extreme car reliability.
In recent years the Toyota cars have become known for their chunky car layout and the use of an incredible amount of fins and flaps all over the body. Although the TF107 looks like an improvement compared to the TF106, the engineers still seem to love to develop fins to fit to the car in every possible area. Looking at the image - a close-up of the outer part of the front wing - shows the regular front wing with above it an extra - red - element, similar most of the other teams by now. However, a small black winglet attached to the FWEP is unique for Toyota. Time will tell if the team got their focus right or are still looking too much to the details.
The new Honda has just been launched in its black testing livery but it is already quite obvious the car has gone through serious aerodynamic changes. In fact the team have been following their own filosophy. As a result, their newest creation does not really resemble any other car. The nose cone in particular was made thinner and higher than the Red Bull RB3, the Renault R27 or the McLaren MP4-22. As more air will pass aside of the nose and therefore flow onto the suspension arms, Honda also rejoined the steering arm and upper front wishbone together just like every other team. Their first version of the zero-keel design (in the RA106) had the rods separate, despite the aerodynamic disadvantage.
The new Renault R27 mirrors are one of the most eye-catching novelties on the 2007 contenders. After Ferrari came up with the idea to put the mirrors on the outer side or the sidepod, several teams investigated the idea. Together with the sidepod panels that Renault introduced at Canada last year they make for a good combination of minimising drag. The new mirror position is especially beneficial because it is behind the front wheel and not visible on a front view of the car (and thus also not in the main air stream). The most important disadvantage is the distance of these mirrors from the driver's head, possibly combined with decreased stability.
The new BMW Sauber has just been released and appears to have undergone a serious diet over the winter. The upper part of the image shows the new F1.07 and compares it to the F1.06 of 2006. The team have visibly put great effort in the front end as the nose has become smaller and thinner than previously. While the tip of the nose isn't much higher, the monocoque is higher to better fit the suspension. Although this might well increase the centre of gravity of the car, Toyota have also walked the same path. The arrows point to another improvement of the aerodynamics, as an air intake for cooling is now moved from the top of the monocoque to the tip of the nose, similar to most other teams. Mechanically, this is a zero keel design just like last year with an almost identical outer suspension geometry. BMW might have chosen to not change too much as they will also have to adapt to their new tyre supplier Bridgestone.
Contrary to the belief of most people, Ferrari designed a zero keel front suspension layout for their brand new F2007. The upper wishbones are very thick at their base, even more so than last year. Because of the dimensions of the upper wishbone, the lower one has been moved backwards and was made very thin. It attached directly to the monocoque as it fits the description of a zero-keel car. The picture shows that there are actually two thin fins extending to the ground which act solely as aerodynamic devices. It is clear Ferrari has put in serious effort on the front after a long time of sticking to their outdated single keel model.
The 2006 season has been above all a year to remember doubtful interference by the FIA, the governing body of the sport. After a pretty peaceful start of the year, the race directors woke up at Monaco after Schumi deliberately parked his car on the circuit during qualifying. The German was, surprisingly, punished for his actions. Later on, it looked like payback time after the mass dampers were disallowed at Renault after a possible Ferrari complaint. All the way through the season, marshalls were also handing out penalties during qualifying for (un)deliberate blocking, the most blatant being for Alonso at Monza. And even then, the teams were prohibited the use of flexible wings early in the season while Ferrari was allowed to run the aerodynamic carbon rings in the rear wheels. While some teams were obviously experiencing hard times and are thinking through their 2007 strategies, the FIA have a lot more to reflect on.