Formula One car development blog
After rumours emerged in the Italian press about RBR's alternator, Renault Sport have now confirmed to F1Technical that Red Bull Racing is indeed using a McLaren Electronic System alternator in combination with the Renault engine. The firm notes this is the case "for some time now", with all other Renault powered teams still using the Magnetti Marelli alternators, similar to last year.
Renault's technical director, Rob White, says this is the result of the problems during 2012: "We suffered unacceptable recurrent reliability issues with alternators fitted to the RS27-2012 engine that we supply to all our teams. At Renault, we take full responsibility for the design and integration of the engine and ancillary equipment supplied to our teams, including the alternator. We worked with the support of our teams and suppliers to develop countermeasures to eradicate last year’s problems. The work was underway before the end of the 2012 season. It was completed during the winter and validation was signed off in pre-season testing. These solutions have been implemented on alternators for all of our teams and we continue to monitor the situation closely."
While having two different alternator options now fitted on the RS27-2013, Renault also pointed out that the options to pick are still in Renault's hands, and that two alternatives are now available due to differing electrical requirements on different cars.
"The alternator generates electrical power to match the electrical consumption of the car and to maintain the charge of the battery. For chassis reasons, the electrical power requirement may vary between different types of car. In parallel to addressing the reliability issues experienced in 2012, and having consulted all our teams, we have increased the electrical power capacity of our alternators. To manage the technical and logistic risks, we have worked with two suppliers for the electro-magnetic components to provide alternator parts to our specifications. Responsibility for alternator supply to the teams and supplier choice for all components and assembly operations remains with Renault."
The options appeared to have paid off, as no issue was found on any car so far this year.
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.
Force India have brought a new pit light system to the German GP. After extensive testing in the factory, the new system will replace the lollipop and should improve average pitstop times for the team. The lead technician will now press a button to switch the light to green.
A similar system was introduced by Ferrari in 2008 but abandoned after Felipe Massa's early exit from the box at the 2008 Singapore GP tore up a refuelling hose. The Scuderia is however again using the system this year, along with several other teams.
Virgin Racing have designed their car completely with CFD technology, and hence didn't rely on any wind tunnel data, nor did it have testing data at the time of its design process. Based on engine data provided by Cosworth, Wirth engineering decided on a tank size just enough to do a race. The team have however found that when the engine is carefully tuned for performance, it consumes more fuel, putting the team in trouble with its fuel tank size.
Although the team is still working on a new fuel tank that can fit more fuel in the current chassis, both cars have been fitted with new fuel collectors ahead of the Melbourne GP. While this will not make a huge difference, it could reduce the pain the team will be suffering until the new fuel tank arrives, expected by the first of the European races.
While Red Bull have chosen a development approach rather than a complete redesign, the list of optimisations on the car is nearly endless. One of the more interesting items is the location of the brake calipers, constructed by Brembo in Red Bull's case.
On both the front and rear wheels, the calipers are positioned at the bottom end of the brake discs, creating the lowest possible centre of gravity for the wheels. While Honda have come close to this in 2006, most teams have compromised their approach by positioning the pads more to the rear. This position was often necessary to provide enough cooling to the brakes, and it is a particular achievement that Red Bull managed to design its brake system like this, at a time when the brake system will be pushed harder than ever.
Realising that all teams are now competing this season with a zero keel front suspension, I spotted this at the Belgian Grand Prix. The picture shows how the front suspension - which is totally different than that of the TF107 - is attached to the monocoque. The zero keel - which denotes the lack of vertical suspension support under the nose - allows for a much better airflow under the nose and towards the sidepods. The picture does show an extension on the car's centre line, but that is merely a manner of putting ballast in the right place.
So far for the zero keel then, because a closer look to the tub shows that the lower foremost wishbones are connecting to small extensions. One could therefore argue if this concerns an actual zero keel or a twin keel. The attachment of the turning vanes to the mini-keels does however reflect McLaren's 2003 design which has been adopted by most of today's competitors.
McLaren have recently been using steering wheels with 4 paddles, rather than the usual two. The 'telegraph' have reported that, while the upper paddles are used for conventional up and downshifting, the additional levers allow the driver to select a different engine mapping, independently from the gear shifting.
The currently used standard engine control unit enable to teams to program a number of predefined engine mappings, optimising traction or driveability in different conditions or at different speeds. The new system enables the driver to change gears and simultaneously change to a different engine mapping by pulling the paddles at the same time. Most importantly, it looks to be allowed by current regulations as these only stipulate that engine mappings can only be changed by the driver. Any automatic change acting upon a gear shift is forbidden.
Already considered a manual traction control system, the drivers have not the ability to effectively limit wheel spin when accelerating out of slow corners while not reducing power at higher speeds. When finally considered legal by the FIA, Ferrari is likely to be quick and copy the system to recover from their current performance deficit.
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.
2006 was the first of a string of F1 years with V8 engines after a rather long period of running with the 3 litre V10 engines. Although engine manufacturers claimed it would not reduce costs (and they were right) the FIA pushed the proposal through since the level of performance was increasing too quickly. The end of the V10 was closed with Honda topping 1000hp before dropping around 250hp when running at Bahrain in 2006. Most manufacturers proved not to be ready but all have gained performance and made sure their to be homologated engines are good contenders for 2007. As of 2007 there is a limit on 19000 rpm and only very strict development. This season might become closer than ever and it certainly will be in terms of engines.
At the time the F1 circus arrived at Hockenheim, Renault and Alonso were building up a comfortable lead in the championship. However, the FIA decided to interfere and decided to ban the innovative mass damper solution that was used and approved by the FIA since the Brazilian GP of 2005. Although Renault managed to win the title, Pat Symonds recently said that the fuss seriously hampered Renault's progress towards the end of the season.
The mass damper itself was in fact a movable mass inside the nosecone of the car. About 9kg mass could therefore be considered sprung mass, a considerable advantage over the other teams. The device was particularly effective on kerbstones and in acceleration where the inertia of the mass would effectively pull the nose down to the track and increase front end grip.