Formula One car development blog
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.
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.
Since their major car update at the European GP in Valencia, Ferrari have been testing a new version of its front wing. Since then, the wing has appeared in every free practice session on Friday and Saturday, on both cars, but at no occasion has it been used to race. While the visual changes do not seem to be major, the new wing certainly has an interesting influence on the car's balance given that the team prefer to test it a little bit longer. Of course, the rain in Silverstone and Hockenheim have not helped the Scuderia in this respect.
Either way, the new wing has a smoother curve on the trailing edge of the upper flap. The stacked element was reduced in size slightly, but it seems that the changes around the endplate are most important for this update. The new iteration features much larger apertures that allow air flowing outward of the endplates to be sucked into the low pressure area underneat the front wing's flaps. There, is is flowing faster and upward, generating downforce.
Along with the angled front wing adjuster, air getting underneath the outer extremities of the wing is used for downforce and at the same time directed as much as possible around the front wheels. This should help reduce drag a little bit but can also greatly influence the car's balance as it will change the flow field in the wake of the front wheels.
Further proof of the importance of this area is the cut in the flap of the stacked element where it joins the endplate - aside of the Shell logo, as marked with an arrow. This cut is specifically designed to reduce the strenght of the vortex that comes off of the front wing at the arrow's location. While this reduces somewhat the downforce generation of the stacked winglet, it reduces the amount of air that is spilled over the top of the endplate. This, again, would have an - apparently unwanted - influence on the flow around the front wheel.
Amidst a large number of updates brought to Valencia, Ferrari changed the mirror supports to gain an aerodynamic effect from those as well. In the image, Massa is pictures on Friday with the old supports which is a neutral element with its length as short as possible to keep drag low.
The new version, as in the upper part of the image shows how Ferrari modified the supports to be aligned with the vortex generators at each side of the cockpit.
The Spanish HRT team came up with a special rear wing aimed to achieve better top speeds at the end of the straights of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. While that in itself is not special, the actual design is, because it's been a while since we saw such a tiny rear wing on an F1 car. The wing is especially impressive with DRS open, where it generated very little downforce, but also a little drag as possible.
The wing did pay off, as HRT was among the fastest cars on the straight, but unfortunately that came at a cost in the corners. Brake problems for both cars after only 25 laps of racing meant it didn't matter much anyway, as both cars were forced to retire before the halfway mark.
Williams designed a new one-off low downforce rear wing for the Canadian GP, which unfortunately for the team didn't pay off. In fact the special rear wing did not offer a big top speed improvement, at least not compared to what other teams came up with. During qualifying for instance - which is of course always with DRS open at the speed trap, the drivers posted 318.8 and 317.8 km/h, good for 19th and 20th positions on the top speed rankings.
Interesting as well is how this is a competely different rear wing to Williams' unraced 2011 Canada spec wing. Last year, the team opted for a design with raised outer edges, while this year's wing obviously features a raised central part.