Formula One car development blog
In an interesting turn of events, Red Bull Racing have introduced a different nose cone for its RB9 at Canada, one that drops a bulge underneath the nose that was added on the RB8 back in Singapore 2012. Right now, when Ferrari is testing its own nose bulge for the first time, Red Bull crucially drop it, opting for a very flat nosecone.
At the same time, the cameras have also been moved from the tip of the nose to a more traditional position just ahead of the upper front suspension arm. The vanity panel meanwhile was also changed, reverting to a version that was briefly tested at the final Barcelona winter test.
Ferrari were extremely busy testing several aerodynamic configurations of its F138 during the first practice sessions of the Canadian Grand Prix weekend. Some of the switched components include a new nose with bulge underneath, a lower downforce front wing and the sidepod panels that curve over the top of the sidepods. All this in combination with the longer vs shorter sidepods, something that the team have trouble with deciding which is in fact the best option to go for. Even both race drivers have differing opinions on those components.
It seems like Ferrari is testing all possible combinations, but the front wing pylons appear to be fixed on the new design. At least as far as the changed leading edge is concerned. Alonso for instance has been seen with a straight, vertical trailing edge of the pylons while Massa at one point had a curved version with the black panels tapering off towards the track surface.
The bulge underneath the nose was not a constant but is Ferrari's attempt to control airflow underneath the nose. It's a very similar solution to the bulge on the Force India VJM06 or on the Lotus E21.
A new front wing was also tested, featuring stacked elements that do not attach to the inner wall of the endplates but instead curve down toward the main plane, allowing a free stream of air onto the 7 wing elements that sit just ahead of the front wheels.
Contrary to several other teams that focus on introducing major upgrade packages at once, Red Bull is steadily improving its car by adding small changes each and every Grand Prix. At Monaco, the team had a new rear wing endplate, copying a feature that was debuted by Williams and later also copied by Marussia and McLaren.
The vertical opening close to the leading edge of the endplate creates a small vertical aerofoil with the aim to pull more air in between the endplates. The lower pressure of air underneath the rear wing elements will also help with this effect. This will not only lead to a little additional downforce but may also marginally improve the behaviour of air flowing in between the inner wall of the rear tyre and the rear wing endplate.
Although the aerodynamic differences are much more subtle than they were 10 years ago, teams are still bringing high downforce packages on their cars at Monaco. Ferrari is no different with a new monkey seat and high downforce rear wing. To indicate how the difference is in the detail, the rear wing used at Monaco is actually nearly identical as Massa's rear wing at the Spanish GP at Barcelona, a track that has a much higher average speed than Monaco. Fernando Alonso on the other hand used a lower downforce rear wing in Spain. The subtle differences can be found in the shape of the gurney flap and the leading edge of the main plane.
A new item on the F138 is the monkey seat, which is a very steep 2-element winglet. Teams make use of the central 15cm of the rear wing for such small additional elements to extract more downforce at the cost of some drag. While several other teams opted to use monkey seats also at lower downforce circuits, Ferrari so far did not use any such device this year.
Also note that Ferrari added an air inlet for the rear brakes, attempting to keep the brakes cool.
McLaren have effectively rounded completed their string of updates by running its new front wing at the Monaco Grand Prix. Following the introduction of a large number of performance updates, the front wing was brought in late on Saturday at the Spanish Grand Prix and was only tested in the final practice session.
At Monaco however, the MP4-28 featured all updates seen at Spain. Among those are a new rear wing which includes a curved endplate with strakes on the outside, similar to when Lotus was running at the beginning of the season. The sidepods have also undergone a major revision, with the upper side now lower down. This feature is very similar to the Mercedes F1W04 and was already copied by Lotus a few races ago. It allows better airflow towards the exhaust area, helping the exhaust gases to flow down onto the diffuser's edges. Along with this there is a new curved sidepod panel as well as the return of the vertical vortex generators above the sidepod air inlets, replacing the horizontal flow conditioner.
A final note goes to the front wing, which features more curvy panels, a modified flap adjuster and the removal of the vertical vortex generator in favour of an extension to the stacked element. All in all, the updates seem to work pretty well, as McLaren could easily keep up with the cars ahead at Monaco, and had it not been for an engine problem during qualifying, Button may have finished even higher up.
Pastor Maldonado was seen running in the Williams FW35 featuring the stepped nose and front wing of last year's FW34. Williams have lost the direction for its aerodynamic development, and as updates do not bring the expected progress, the team is now checking the efficiency of the car with better known elements, such as the 2012 nose cone and a front wing used late in the 2012 season.
Mike Coughlan, the team's technical director said "We were running different parts across the two cars this morning to try to improve our overall performance. We were happy with what we saw with Pastor’s car, but we made some changes this afternoon which didn’t work as we wanted, so we will be comparing the data from this morning to bring back the performance"
Indeed, the car appeared to work well with the older nose, which may point to a problem of airflow interaction between the front end of the car and the leading edge of the floor. Despite the progress, AmuS have learned that the team will be unable to use the 2012 spec elements as they might fail the beefed up front wing strength test.
Ahead of the season, there were already strange things going on at Williams. During winter testing the FW35 sometimes appeared with a lower nose, and other times with a very high nose, similar to the FerrariF138. The team was undecided even then, but denied there was a struggle going on. Instead they mentioned "ongoing evaluations" as the reason. Since then, the team also reverted from their ramp exhausts to a version similar to the 2012 layout.
Toro Rosso have perhaps introduced the biggest update package of all teams at Barcelona, with the STR8 now being fitted with a new ramp style exhaust. The team have however not exactly copied any of the existing designs but instead opted to go their very own way and come up with a very special ramp.
Previously the team had an exhaust more similar to that of McLaren, but the new version should help draw the exhaust gases down better, or at least in a more controlled way. Just like with Lotus and Red Bull, the sidepod included an undercut that helps channel air underneath the sidepod onto the central part of the diffuser. The particular thing here is that Toro Rosso's channel is entirely open while all other versions feature a closed channel. As this is of course the initial version on the STR8, more development in this area is likely to appear in future races.
Feedback from the drivers is already positive, with both saying the car is much more stable and easier to setup.
McLaren have pinpointed their problems of 2013 to a problematic correlation of wind tunnel data and struggling to get a persistent airflow around the Pirelli tyres, which are now flexing differently than last year. Jonathan Neale even likened their problems to those at Ferrari last year, saying the Scuderia people will surely know how it feel to be in the position McLaren is currently in.
As a first step to resolve some car problems, the team introduced a modified sidepod panel that now features a bridge to connect to the shoulder of the sidepod, similar to what can be seen on the Red Bull RB9 and by now on various cars. Although not perfectly visible on the image, the bridge is actually quite thin, with a much shorter chord than the vertical panel actually is.
In the same move, the vortex generators on top of the sidepod are back, reverting from the horizontal winglet that was copied from Lotus earlier this season.
Caterham have introduced the second part of their major upgrade package for the CT03 which should help the team get ahead of Marussia again. Part of the update package was moved forward and introduced on Charles Pic's car in Bahrain, including the bulge under the nose, revised rear wing endplates and the new sidepod panels.
This time around, the focus was mainly on the front end, with a raft of updates aimed to help increase front downforce. The most obvious change of course is the vanity panel on the upper side of the nose which now hides the ugly step. Although this is likely to give only a marginal aerodynamic improvement, it's still a big improvement to the eye.
More importantly for the car's efficiency is the new front wing that finally ditches the unconventionally big stepped element, replacing it for a wider, shallower 2-element winglet similar to what other teams feature on their front wings. The main panels have also been revised, with notable changes on the inner edges and a smaller slot gap between the wing's base and the first flap.
Furthermore, the brake ducts have been revised to add a vertical fence that extends further forward and new turning vanes appeared under the nose, now more similar to the designs of Red Bull Racing and Ferrari.
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.