I'll be splitting this article in 5 paragraphs: background & evolution, endplate, main wing, cascades and complete picture
Background & evolutionThe roots of the wing go way back to 2011. During the Korean Grand Prix weekend Ferrari trialed a totally new wing concept, at the time more akin to the Red Bull one, for the next season. They actually found the wing an immediate improvement and decided to run it for the rest of the season. In general concept/philosophy the wing and cascades were kind of similar to the ones above, although it had a lot less elements and was simpler.
Coming in 2012, they changed the endplates. The back-end treatment of those would remain very largely the same until this very day, having the last few centimeters bend outwards and having a small, inverted vertical piece attached to it. The main wing would gradually evolve during the 2012-2013 period, gaining elements, slots and overall complexity. The cascades would follow the same path until the 2013 United States GP, changing the outer cascade to a 3 element one. That one is featured on the current spec.
Over the period 2012-2013 Ferrari struggled with wind tunnel correlation issues, which was evident by the wide variety of endplate slots, very often trialing several designs during free practice but getting none the wiser. We'll see during this season if Ferrari finally hacked it.
EndplateLooking at the endplate in its current iteration, we can notice Ferrari built further on its general design: a straight vertical plate and the aforementioned back-end treatment (colored yellow). The bend in the endplate diverts air, air bled off from the wing elements, outwards in a more fluent way while the attached lip completely blocks air from the footplate, while also creating a small low pressure zone behind it. They probably didn't extend the lip more to above to avoid too much drag and boundary layer buildup. I assume Ferrari put these solutions there to get air away from the tire.
New for this year there is a horizontal slotted plate on top:
I think this is an evolution from last year's small horizontal strake at the back of the endplate. It created/creates a vortex at its rear tip, while also carefully guiding air. This year they extended that strake across the complete length of the endplate. The slot probably is there to bleed off air, keeping air underneath the horizontal plate more attached, which benefits the vortex at higher speeds.
Finally, we have Ferrari's latest slot solution in the endplate:
Compared to previous years, Ferrari has chosen for a far more modest slot arrangement, having a thin one at the base of the endplate merging with a bigger one nearer the back. The thin one bleeds off high pressure air from the bottom wing elements. Since the latter elements have a much higher AoA, thus creating airflow with an even higher pressure, a bigger slot is needed to sufficiently get that away. That airflow is at lower speeds useful to bleed to underneath the wing elements, but at higher speed can lead to stalling issues. Bleeding off this high pressure air instead out of the endplates remedies the issue. Just before the big slot Ferrari installed a small outwards-bending flap, which creates a low pressure zone. This aids the extraction of the aforementioned high pressure air.
Most of the air on the outside of the endplate ends up blocked by the vertical lip at the back, turning this air into very low energy air, which easily gets sucked into the low pressure area behind it and send away from the tire.
It's a complex structure. We'll see if Ferrari solved their correlation issues and holds on to this design.
Main WingAlthough in terms of philosophy an evolution dating back from 2011, it’s a new design even compared to last year. It has, compared to last year’s FW, in absolute terms one additional element, bringing the count up to 7, but in contrast has less far reaching slots. In fact it only has one slot completely through and through, although a few more end up close to that.
The first 3 elements are inside the main plane. Ferrari very carefully detailed these elements. I believe they shaped the overall structure into a venture tunnel, trying to speed up airflow, drop pressure and increase downforce. It’s also beneficial, in conjunction with the other elements, to reduce tire wake, since the airflow gets up washed and not send into the tire. Also note the relief change at the edge of the neutral center zone.
This works together with the 4th element:
I believe they use it to accelerate and straighten airflow (dark blue arrows) along the Y250 axis. This is a small, but pretty nice solution, which should be extra beneficial when the car is in yaw. The higher energetic airflow also benefits splitter and floor.
The last flap(s) was/were a bit puzzling me at first. Normally their tips should be reserved for sharp edges creating powerful vortices. On pictures it looked like it not only just merges those tips, but also just creates a stomp tip. Eventually one picture showed it actually has a protruding tip (red circle) but due the clean white of the livery it was difficult to spot. This tip is responsible for the infamous Y250 vortex (light blue), a critical vortex for airflow towards the splitter, floor and eventually diffuser. I’m not 100% sure, but I think the long slot leading towards the tip bends the vortex a bit towards the desired location (turning vanes underneath the chassis).
Further up the road we find a small vane/strake (yellow) that bends and splits airflow just ahead of the wheel. It boxes in airflow ahead of the tire to minimize influence on the airflow outside the tire wake. Ferrari very interestingly dropped the inverted horizontal gurney tab right on of the last element ahead of the tire, while it still was there during earlier tests and last year, and other teams still ran such a solution. This normally would create a rotating flow structure to push airflow even higher and more away from the tire. One possible explanation could be that Ferrari experienced stalling issues due to it. We’ll see if it returns later on.
CascadesLike aforementioned, the current iteration of cascades were introduced during the 2013 United States GP. The intention back then was to trial run them for this season, with success now it seems.
The inner side of the cascade consists out of 3 elements, with the edges stacked inwards of the cascade. They want to keep outside airflow attached to the cascade. This creates an ‘outwash’ that moves air away from the tire. Interestingly, Ferrari made a slot in the vertical fence (yellow). They possibly bleed off high pressure air from the “2 element” side of the cascade, avoiding airflow separation. Finally we have a small vane (light blue) that aids in up washing the air, as well as creating a vortex (red).
Complete pictureAll these parts of the complete front wing are of course attuned to one another.
Airflow around the endplate zone is quite complex. First off, airflow entering the first wing elements (blue) will be accelerated and both upwashed and outwashed, because the elements themselves are stacking in an outwards bend. This is a powerful flow. The airflow (red) coming from between the endplate and wing elements, will be caught in the former’s path and also bend away from the tire, the same as the low energy air (green) at the back of the endplate. The small low pressure zone behind the lip further enhances the effect. A very complex structure with a sole purpose: reducing wheel drag by diverting en masse air around it.
The lower pressure airflow coming from underneath the cascade will suck in the airflow coming from the wing elements. Ferrari very carefully designed this tandem; if the low pressure airflow comes too close to the lower wing elements, the corresponding airflow could separate too quickly, possibly leading to downforce loss. Their aim is to get the airflow pulled higher up nearer the back of the wing.
This wing as a total package is the result of roughly 2.5 year’s evolution; hence the incredible amount of detailing it received. During its ongoing progress Ferrari was plagued by issues that gave different results whenever they tried updates on track. If the signs are true, Ferrari might be finally rid of that bump in the road and updates on this wing will be there to stay.
Images and text by Andy Urlings
A big thanks to Will Tyson, theWPTformula, for checking, correcting and giving several tips that benefitted this article