Formula One car development blog

Honda repositions oil cooler on new engine spec

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Honda have spent 3 of its 7 development tokens to resolve some of the most important issues of the carmakers' current F1 power plant, and subsequently made the upgraded engine specification available to McLaren for initial running on Friday at Spa-Francorchamps.

Part of the engine's upgrade include modifications on the combustion chamber, the intake and the exhaust system layout in an attempt to increase efficiency. The team have also reduced mechanical friction by changing the gear train system.

One visible change to the engine is the relocation of the oil cooler, as marked in the image. This cooler was previously and uniquely mounted high up in the engine cover, behind the airbox, and therefore somewhat apart from the engine itself. As the picture shows, this radiator has been moved to above the gearbox, slightly angled upwards to the back. The new location has reduced the length of the connections while enabling aerodynamicists to reduce the volume of the roll hoop and move the central outlet funnel lower down to increase rear wing efficiency. There will of course also be the benefit of the lowered centre of gravity, improving the car's cornering characteristics.

Also note that Honda's upgrades are not all present on the engines introduced at Belgium, with some items to be added and changed at the next two races.

At Belgium only, Jenson Button amassed penalties to drop him 50 grid positions, while Fernando Alonso totalled 55. Both had two new internal combustion engines fitted on their cars, 2 turbo chargers, 2 MGU-H and 2 MGU-K units. The Spaniard in addition took another penalty for the use of the 6th electrical control unit. The strategical solution enabled the McLaren drivers to take the penalties by dropping just 2 grid positions each, thanks to a rule change that made the penalties non-transferable to the next races.

Mercedes re-introduces curvy rear wing

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Perhaps the most obvious aerodynamic change on any F1 car at the Belgian Grand Prix was Mercedes' new rear wing, featuring a curve not seen on any current Formula One car. Rather than a fully horizontal leading and trailing edge of each of the rear wing's elements, the new wing features a curved shape that is lower in the middle, hence creating a wing that generates more downforce closer to the car's centre line.

The technique was used on several older Formula One cars, such as the McLaren Mercedes MP4-19B with which Kimi Raikkonen won the 2004 Belgian Grand Prix. Interestingly however, since the introduction of the DRS system, no team has ventured out on track with a curvy wing like on the Mercedes F1 W06, most likely because of the complexity that comes with creating such a wing.

It's well known that in recent years, teams have updated their rear wings with an eye on maximising the DRS effect, thus allowing the wing to cut as much drag as possible while the DRS (the upper rear wing flap) is open. This is all reasonably well understood for invariable wing profiles along the span, but becomes difficult with curved edges.

The whole purpose of the curvy wing is, just like it has always been, to create an optimal solution for a given track. A curvy wing like this should help cut drag, as it focuses on creating downforce in the middle, while on the outer extremities reduces the strength of the vortex that originates from the top of the rear wing endplates (due to the pressure difference between airflow in the inner and outer sides of the end plates).

Please also note that Mercedes have opted to assist the wing's efficiency in its central part by adding a single-element monkey seat, further making it clear that this change is a way to search for the right balance between downforce and drag, rather than simply reducing drag to attain higher top speeds (as other teams have done to keep up with Mercedes on the straights).

It is unclear at the moment if this wing will be seen again (since it likely generates more downforce that Mercedes wants for Monza), but one can expect that, if not this year, many other teams will have a go at a similar design for 2016.

McLaren relieved to get data on short nose

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Only just validated in an FIA crash test, McLaren brought its new shorter nose to the Austrian Grand Prix, with the single available item to be fitted on Fernando Alonso's car. As was publicly stated by several teams in winter testing, short noses do have their advantages, particularly due to the mandatory neutral central section of the front wing.

Red Bull Racing is the other recent example of reducing the car's nose, even though it wasn't as radical a change as McLaren did, replacing its very long nose by a short version that hardly overlaps the front wing. The trick here for the team, as well as for Red Bull, turned out to be the frontal impact crash test, which this year specified a deceleration minimum for the first 150mm of the nose cone. While good for safety, the rule change was made to get rid of last year's finger noses.

McLaren's new nose cone is very similar in concept to that of the Williams FW37 or the Red Bull RB11, with a central section to meet the regulations, and as big as possible apertures left and right of that bulge to reduce aerodynamic blockage and increase under-nose airflow.

Alonso's first lap crash at the Austrian Grand Prix however didn't provide any useful data for the team, so McLaren continued on with comparison tests, both with Vandoorne and Alonso behind the wheel of the MP4-30 on Tuesday and Wednesday, resulting in two satisfactory days for the troubled outfit.

Alonso underlined after the test analysis at the factory still has to show if the new nose is an improvement: "I think we finished the test with some good information. Now, we need to go back to the factory and analyse everything, but we definitely have a lot of data to go forward with. I’m pretty happy with how the test has gone."

Along with the new nose, McLaren also introduced an updated front wing and new tyre squirt slots in the floor ahead of the rear wheels. The team is also understood to race a lighter monocoque at Silverstone, enabling engineers to have more ballast to move around the car as needed.

Red Bull's pride fails to bring major improvement

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Red Bull's Christian Horner was proud as a monkey at Barcelona, where his team finally showed up with a short nose, following 14 internal and 4 FIA tests (as reported by AMuS), until at last a design was found to match the regulatory requirements. 2 days later however, the same Horner was quoted as saying "we'll have to look at 2016", effectively writing off the 2015 campaign after another disappointing race.

As mentioned by the team, the new nose is considerably shorter, having quite a big impact on the car's overall efficiency. There is consensus among teams that the shorter nose design is probably the best in the current regulations as it is the best solution to cope with the flow structures coming off of the standardised central part of the front wing.

With under-nose flow still very important, Red Bull arched the front wing supports backwards as well, creating a bigger aperture on each side of the "thumb" to get air pass underneath the nose cone and onto the splitter further downstream. The new nose similarly retains the tapering underneath, something that is also seen on the Mercedes F1 W06, also in an attempt to get more air underneath the centre of the car.

The new design is undoubtedly an improvement for the RB11, but their main problems continues to be the Renault power unit, and how that copes with the packaging restrictions in the RB11 chassis.

Ferrari seeks to exploit Coanda effect on sidepods

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Ferrari have brought a dramatic car update to Barcelona, and it appears there was hardly an exaggeration when Arrivabene claimed beforehand that 70% of the car was changed. Clearly, the team has put a lot of effort in getting this update package together, but with the changes so dramatic, Ferrari nonetheless opted for Vettel to run with the updates and Raikkonen without, getting a full race of comparison data.

On Friday, Raikkonen was still seen running Ferrari's new update packages, including a new sidepod shape, featuring a new outer shape over their entire lengths. As is the case with airflow around a forward moving car, the changes start at the front, where the shoulder of the sidepod has been lowered on the outer edges, reducing frontal area and hence drag.

The yellow lines marked on the image show what may be the direction of flow in this area, where it seems like Ferrari aims to guide more air into the lower rear end of the sidepod. It would seem like the team has designed its sidepods to make use of the Coanda effect, where air flowing low above the floor, around the sidepods will be used to help pull air from around the sidepod's shoulder down. While that idea may not be new, it's probably most explicitly used here on the SF15-T.

With more quality airflow potentially available underneath the sidepod's hot air exists, the team also decided to reposition the outlets to be higher above the floor (if not clear, just compare where the sidepod crosses the suspension arms and note how in the new configuration the sidepod's bodywork is all above the rear suspension pull rod). With the aperture around the exhaust pipe also narrower, the total exhaust aperture has been reduced, again for aerodynamic benefit. The higher location of the outlets will meanwhile also reduce the lift generated by the sidepods. In addition to that, the potentially higher speed flow over the diffuser can similarly help increase the efficiency of the diffuser.

While it's difficult to imagine the exact airflow around a Formula One car, the modified sidepod panel and bridge, along with a new tiny vortex generator close to the car's floor (at the SKF logo) indicate that Ferrari are clearly looking at this area to extract more performance from their car.

Toro Rosso fits rear wing support through exhaust pipe

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Introduced at the Australian Grand Prix and continued in Malaysia, Toro Rosso have designed a unique rear wing support that appears to protrude the engine's exhaust pipe. A central pillar is common to all teams to help support the aerodynamic forces exhibited by the rear wing to assist the rear wing endplates. Usually though, teams design a carbon fibre fork around the centrally mounted exhaust pipe, or otherwise create a carbon fibre mounting within the engine cover, above the exhaust pipe.

Toro Rosso have now gone for a very unconventional method, fixing a metallic support (marked as B) (most likely made of Grade 6 Titanium alloy) onto the gearbox housing. This support protrudes the exhaust pipe once bolted onto the car (via mounting A), providing a mounting point for the central rear wing pillar. The exhaust pipe itself has a teardrop shaped vane welded into it, fitting around the rear wing support (as confirmed by ScarbsF1). Crucially, that welding is not in the last 15cm of the exhaust pipe to be permitted in the regulations.

Obviously, this is technically a viable solution with less elements located in the airflow. The downside is a minor blockage inside the exhaust that may negatively impact engine performance, but it appears as if that doesn't outweigh the advantages for Toro Rosso.

Also note that Toro Rosso ran a 3-element monkey seat on their STR10 in Melbourne and a two element version in Malaysia (as pictured).

Finally, although not entirely clear, it looks to me like C is a heat insulation wrap around the exhaust pipe.

More gills on Williams to manage heat

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With Malaysia being all about heat management, Williams have added new gills on each side of the cockpit to provide additional cooling for the car's internals. Even though this in itself is nothing new, it's interesting to see that Williams appear to have put in some effort in making the fins efficient, arranging them in two rows of variable sizes. It makes us suspect the team won't limit their use to a single Grand Prix.

Note that the area containing the gills is more or less the only possible location for teams to add apertures in the sidepods, apart of course from the rear end hot air exits and the 5cm closest to the car's floor. The latter area is usually not preferred as clean airflow in this area is often required for good efficiency of the diffuser.

McLaren adds 2-channel S-duct in car nose

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McLaren is pushing on with aerodynamic development while Honda focuses on getting its power unit up to speed. The most notable update seen on the MP4-30 chassis at Malaysia is the addition of an S-duct in the nose cone, undoubtedly pushed by Petr Prodromou who worked on the feature with Red Bull in recent years.

Similar to the inlet on the Red Bull RB11, air is caught via a wide channel underneath the entire span of the nose cone, with the outer extremities however feeding channels to provide cockpit cooling rather than the S-duct. Different however is that on the McLaren, the duct splits in two, provided an exit on each side of the pitot tube hub fixed on the car's centreline atop the monocoque. The split channel was probably necessary due to the location of other components, but it does have a slight disadvantage in that it had an increased internal surface area, negatively influencing airflow through the channel via the boundary layer effect.

Cockpit edges: to round or not to round?

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Since Toro Rosso introduced their shorter nose cone on the STR10, the team also added long fins on each side of the upper edge of the monocoque. It's a unique feature across all current cars and appears to be aimed at reducing air to spill over the edges of the monocoque.

This can be a particular issue under yaw, for example when the car is turning left. Air that is then flowing left of the monocoque could spill over the edge and end up in the cockpit opening area, one of the least efficient of a Formula One car, partly due to the movement of the driver's helmet.

The fins on the Toro Rosso may prevent this from happening. Similarly, Lotus has opted for a small radius in the rounding of the upper edges of its monocoque, creating the same effect as the fin on the STR10, except that the Toro Rosso has a slightly smaller frontal area. One negative of the Toro Rosso solution however is the increased surface area, increasing the boundary layer effect.

The design decisions made by Lotus and Toro Rosso are remarkable, as no other team appears to have gone this route. All other cars appear to have a rounding radius of close to the maximum allowed 50mm. The Red Bull RB11 and Mercedes F1 W06, both products from well funded teams are clear examples of that, so it remains to be seen whether Toro Rosso's recent addition will gather interest from rivals.

Ferrari puts new front wing in use at Melbourne

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Come the third and final pre-season winter test at Barcelona, Ferrari brought along a new front wing for the SF15-T. For me the SF15-T has the fundamentals of a great front wing, as long as they develop on the concept over the course of the season. As expected, the new wing was used on both cars in Melbourne, but clearly Ferrari only introduced it at the final test to maximise development time.

The old wing (inset) had a three element cascade unit with a north mounted turning vane on top. This is so that oncoming airflow is given more of a outwash of the front tyre and trailing edge of the front wing wake, which is guided to the sidepods and barge boards of the car.

Clearly, for the 2015 car, the requirements for the front wing have changed considerably as a different nose requires different airflow management along the centre of the wing, whereas the team's decision to go for blown wheel nuts changes the ideal flow ahead and around the front wheels.

Contrary to a trend of adding more and more slots over the entire width of the front wing, as is particularly seen on the Mercedes, Red Bull and Toro Rosso, Ferrari have actually combined part of the wing's main plane with the first flap where it sits closest to the nose cone. It's a feature also seen on the Sauber C34 and a definite step away from Ferrari's 2014 front wing designs.

Their new front wing also comprises an east mounted turning vane by the cascade. This is supposed to give the air flow even more guidance and management as it passes onto the central section of the car. This is mainly a flow management device that will induce a vortex off of its tip, flowing onto the inner edge of the front wheel.

Ferrari also added an outboard canard on the outer edge of the endplate. This creates a pressure gradient between the coefficient low and high pressure, as the air flow is drawn to the lower section of the car. This approach was neatly used on the Force India and Sauber in 2014.