Formula One car development blog

Ferrari trial halo-mounted mirrors

By on

Ferrari showed up at Barcelona with new wing mirror supports. Instead of the attachment to the chassis shoulders, the wing mirrors are linked to the halo. The team have meanwhile also added a winglet just above the mirror housing, perfectly shading the mirror itself when looking at the car from above.

It was only between the Chinese and Azerbaijan Grand Prix that the FIA announced that mirrors could also be attached to the halo. The Technical Directive was a response to the decreasing rearward visibility for drivers, especially since the aerodynamic regulation changes of 2017 that introduced wider and lower rear wings. It was felt that the increase of on-track incidents was the result of this, so more leeway way given to the designers.

However, as ever with opening up regulations, teams were quick to analyse how the change could be exploited to increase performance, and Ferrari was obviously quickest, being able to design, optimise and manufacture the winglet and new mounting in less than 4 weeks.

As the different mounting is unlikely to really offer a performance advantage, the new winglet may provide exactly this. It is clear from the shape that it aims to direct air downward, in line with the upper shape of the sidepods. This should eventually have a (minor) effect on the efficiency of the rear wing. The mirrors themselves remain unchanged and continue to feature the unique open housing



McLaren surprises with unique nose cone

By on

McLaren didn't disappoint with their much anticipated aerodynamic update to the Renault-powered MCL33. With updates all around the car, the most intriguing changes were done at the front, where an entirely new and unique nose cone has debuted on the car when it was sent to scrutineering on Thursday afternoon.

McLaren was clearly inspired by solutions seen elsewhere, with the team now implementing an open thumb nose, akin to Red Bull Racing's solution to reduce drag created by the tip of the nose. However, the new nose features another two apertures, left and right of this opened tip. Combined, they make sure the nose complies with regulatory requirements to have a low tip of the nose, while the width of the three apertures combined enables the team to move the front wing supports further apart from each other.

The structure that sits downstream of the three apertures is complex, but generally speaking, it is the central thumb that forms the tip of the structural section of the nose, which is shape-wise similar to the previous design, albeit a lot narrower. It widens up just ahead of the front bulkhead connection, making it similar to Mercedes' solution, albeit with a shorter nose. Just like on the Mercedes, this exposes the upper front wishbones more to free airflow, enabling these to have an increased aerodynamic effect.

The outer two inlets at the tip of the nose cone are part of an aerodynamic shape that incorporates the front wing supports. The leading edge of that section shows how much McLaren wants airflow underneath the nose, in between the front wing pillars. To control this flow, the aerodynamicists have also added a cape-like structure - thankfully all painted in orange - that mildly slopes downward. Clearly there to control airflow structures downstream, the design is similar to Mercedes' solution. The layout introduced by McLaren though makes the cape an integrated part of the nose, whereas it seems more of an add-on for the Mercedes.

All these changes combined are no doubt interesting, but McLaren have also added fairings along the shoulders of the nose. This is entirely new, and seems to be designed for helping the airflow the is shed off the top of the nose to stay attached to the side surfaces of the nose cone. This flow happens on each design of nose cone, as air flows around the edges due to the lower pressure existing underneath the nose cone. It is believed these fairings can help stability under yaw.

Furthermore, it should be noted that it looks like the airflow from the three openings is exited centrally, underneath the nose cone. An S-duct appears to be missing still, but apertures on the underside of the tub may still hint an introduction of such device later on.

No doubt, McLaren has some airflow verification work to do, but the real question is whether all this will be better than the updates that other teams are bringing.


How Ferrari's vented rear view mirrors really work

By on

A lot has been said about Ferrari's innovative wing mirrors. Changes like this are hard to come by these days in Formula One, but Ferrari have certainly thought out of the box here. While all other teams have their mirror housings as round as possible, to limit drag created by them, Ferrari's items feature a small gap all around the actual mirror. The traditional mirrors guide all air around the housing, whereas with Ferrari's new design, some airflow flows through the housing.

While it's obviously easy to spot thanks to Ferrari not painting the inner fairing, it brings us to the next question of what is actually the purpose of the design.

The most widely spread idea seems to be bending of air into the upper sidepod inlet, but some closer views at the relative position of these two elements make this very unlikely, as the curve would have to be quite sharp, requiring something like a proper wing rather than just a vent through the housing of a simple mirror.

Dismissing this, drag reduction seems to be the most obvious reason. In fact, Red Bull are reducing the frontal surface of the mirrors by angling them more, precisely to reduce this drag. But then, why doesn't Ferrari just do the exact same thing?

The answer is more complicated than it looks, so some CFD analysis by Vanja Hasanovic reveals a few interesting, and perhaps unexpected results of the new design. First of all, drag seems to be increased. Secondly, air is indeed drawn downward slightly, but not enough to curb into the sidepod inlet. It will however be convenient, given the subsequent downward slope of the sidepod's upper surface.

The above image, showing total pressure when looking from above, reveals what is really going on. It is clear that the wake of the Ferrari SF71-H mirrors is of higher pressure, which provides an advantage for downforce generation of elements further downstream. Knowing the the mirrors are actually shadowing the rear wing, the true advantages of the design will have to be sought at the rear of the car.

At first sight, it looks like the design may be of particular interest to the teams that have followed Ferrari's sidepod inlet path, namely Haas, Williams and Red Bull, so it will be interesting to see if, and how quickly they would be trying to copy it and put it onto their cars in an actual race.


Red Bull sort out bargeboard panels

By on

In what continues to be a crucial area of aerodynamic development, Red Bull Racing turned up in Australia with an improved version of their barge board panels, which make up for a quite complicated set-up, even this early in the season. Thanks to the stable regulations, teams are happily continuing the development paths of last year, even though further downstream, Red Bull's high sidepod inlets are a big change compared to their 2017 RB13.

Still, the barge boards were complex at the car's launch, but once the car hit the track in Barcelona, it was found that the set of winglets was moving a bit too much, leaving the team with inconsistent aerodynamic performance numbers. It made the team chose to run their car without the appendages throughout most of winter testing, while at the factory, work began to rectify the situation.

The result could be seen in Australia, with the RB14 equipped with a boomerang-style element, very similar to what Williams have. This helps strengthen the entire setup, along with the other joins that keep each flap in position, relative to one another.

Also of note at the new vortex generators standing up on the leading edge of the floor, and a new twin wing mirror support, with the outermost element now connecting to the fairing that included the side impact crash structure - notable mounted below and ahead of the sidepod inlet, similar to Ferrari's design.


Mercedes kicks off the development war

By on

The Spanish GP is usually the venue of the introduction of the first significant development packages of a season. This year, Red Bull was expected to launch a heavily upgraded car after its woeful start to this year’s campaign. The energy drink-owned team brought some aerodynamic changes to its challenger, but it was Mercedes that drew most of the attention to itself by a major front end aerodynamic update.

The biggest change visually is the car's narrow nose, which obviously had to undergo a separate crash test before it could be used on track.The narrower version means there is a well-marked transition at the front bulkhead, where the detachable nose cone meets the front end of the chassis. Under the nose section, there is a very elaborate turning vane, already nicknamed 'teddy cape', to manage the turbulent wake of the front wing.

The way Mercedes engineers are paying attention to the details is clearly showed how the camera mountings were updated for this race. The construction of those mountings, and the exact position of the camera hubs are tightly regulated, but Mercedes still found a way to create slender mountings that provide the least possible obstruction to airflow passing aside and just on top of the nose cone.

Similarly at the front, the brake ducts evolved, with a different 2-element winglet now present on the suspension support arm, along with a revised shape of the inlet fairing.

The car's floor also underwent considerable changes, with the barge board getting a similar upgrade to work together in front of the sidepod. Together, they manage the vortices coming off the front wing and attempt to cleanly direct airflow underneath and around the sidepods. The complexity with serrated extension has made it nearly impossibly for teams to introduce modified barge boards without also adapting the floor, as both are extremely dependent on each other.
For the Spanish GP, the bargeboards got even more sophisticated. Three vertical vanes are now placed on the horizontal plane of the bargeboards. There is no other bargeboard which is close to the Mercedes’ solution in terms of complexity and serration.

Further back, the floor also features an additional small vane directly ahead of the rear tyres to direct air away from the turbulent area. That section of the underfloor was already rather complex with nine cuts along the side-edge. And for another extra bit of downforce, Mercedes also added a monkey-seat after running the W08 without one so far.

Mercedes also worked on its engine. It brought an updated power unit to Barcelona. The upgrade is aimed to improve the reliability of the Mercedes W08 EQ Power+. It can, however, have an impact on the power as well since it can allow the drivers to use the power unit closer to its maximum for a longer period of time in race conditions. Both drivers got new internal combustion engines, turbochargers, MGU-H and MGU-K units which are all only their second of the season. However, Valtteri Bottas had to revert to its previous ICE before qualifying. He later blew that engine, which was used in the first four races of the season, during the race.

Still, that's not the end of the story. Having been overweight at the start of the season - partly due to an overweight gearbox - the team focused on shedding some of that. 3kg was reportedly shaved off with the Barcelona update. That's only part of the way however, as Hamilton admitted after the race he did not have a drink bottle onboard for weight saving.


Mercedes S-duct evolution

By on

While other teams have been busy copying Mercedes' S-duct inlets in the nose cone, the championship team itself was busy further developing its own device. The team have certainly taken inspiration from McLaren's solution of 2016, with an outlet ahead of the kink in the nose cone, and split up by the fairing around the pitot tube.

An image taken today by f1today also shows the clear evolution that Mercedes have done, making the outlet clearly a lot larger than it was on the F1 W07. On last year's car, the slot exit was located aft of the pitot tube, and quite far behind the front bulkhead as well. This year, the outlet was moved considerably further forward. This is particularly noticeable when you take into account that the pitot tube has not moved relative to the front bulkhead.

Today's image also shows how the front wishbones connect to the monocoque, with the upper ones connecting to the chassis at the highest possible point. It appears as such that the S-duct exit was made as wide as was possible while ensuring rigidity for the suspension. The steering arm enters the chassis ahead of the front bulkhead, with the steering rack also screwed onto the chassis, ahead of the front bulkhead, but protected inside a carbon fibre housing. The latter should also make a quick nose cone change easier.


2017 design trends: adoption of the S-duct

By on

Having been tried, used and developed by several teams in recent history, 2017 finally looks to become the year in which (nearly) all teams add some form of S-duct on their cars. It is a solution which was first pioneered by Ferrari back in 2008. Back then, it was aimed at improving their airflow underneath the nose cone at a time when front wing development was possible in the central section of the wing as well.

The major regulation changes of 2009 removed the possibility for Ferrari's nose ducting. A further restriction came after Mercedes used the front wing stalling double-DRS system. The FIA then stipulated that apertures more than 150mm ahead of the front wheel centreline could only be for driver cooling.

Still, that enabled Sauber and Red Bull, and later also McLaren and Force India to use the commonly known S-ducts, featuring apertures underneath the nose cone and guiding air through an S-shaped duct through the nose to exit on the upper side, usually just ahead of the front bulkhead.

In 2016, Mercedes and Toro Rosso implemented further improvements to the system. By carefully designing small inlets left and right of the underside of the nose cone, inlets were made possible within the scope of the regulations. This enabled much more straightforward internal ducting, and a more beneficial inlet location. The result is that this year, Toro Rosso modified its inlet design to resemble that of the Mercedes F1 W07 and Ferrari, McLaren and Williams following the same route. Red Bull Racing and Renault seem to have stuck with apertures less than 150mm ahead of the front wheel centreline.

S-duct designs on McLaren MCL32 and Renault RS17

On the outlet side, teams seems to be following a route initiated by McLaren in 2015, where the air exited ahead of the transition from the steep upper nose profile to the flat upper side of the monocoque. Toro Rosso and Mercedes notably chose this route, and also split the outlet by putting the pitot tube in the middle. McLaren interestingly chose to the move the pitot tube out of the way this year and ended up with a similar solution to Renault.

Now it's only down to Haas and Force India to add S-duct on their 2017 contenders...


Shark fins and T-wings to be banned on safety grounds?

By on

Following the launch of the first few cars in launch week, voices were raised that shark fins, engine cover sails, or whatever they would need to be called, should be banned from Formula One. F1 teams themselves didn't agree however, as Red Bull's attempts to get them banned last summer failed, most likely because some teams were already happily exploring the aerodynamic possibilities of such engine cover extensions.

Now, with testing underway, and literally every car underway with one shark fin or another, and in some cases with additional T-wings attached to them, some in the paddock expect that the fins may well get banned ahead of the start of the season. Such short notice regulation change is possible, but only on the grounds of safety.

Footage shot during today's testing at Barcelona, in this case without a T-wing on the VJM10, shows that there may indeed be a risk of wings breaking off. It would of course be possible to make them more rigid, but such footage could be used by Charlie Whiting to get rid of the appendages.


Blown wheel hubs continue to be tricky business

By on

Blown wheel hubs have been adopted by a large number of teams this season, but the feature continues to keep aerodynamicists busy.

At Monza for instance, Red Bull Racing briefly tested an alternative to the open wheel hubs by putting a conical cap inside each front wheel's axle. The cap did appear to have small apertures to still allow some airflow to get through, but clearly much less than what would otherwise be possible. Both cars however were running the usual open hubs in qualifying and the race.

The test is particularly interesting as it comes just one week after the Belgian Grand Prix, where Ferrari also did some running with the front axles covered up.

Difficult to get right

Open wheel hubs already date to 2013, as they were first seen on the Williams FW35 with Red Bull using a similar system that same year. Modifications to pitstop regulations, requiring a safety pin to be fitted to prevent wheels coming off, saw the system disappear in 2014 before redesigns reappeared on various cars at the start of 2015.

It works by sending part of the airflow caught by the front brake ducts through the axle, where it exits through the aperture to manage airflow in the wake of the front wheels. As this obviously requires larger - and more draggy - brake ducts, the system is, as always, a tradeoff between more airflow alongside the inside or the outside of the front wheels.

The system is generally speaking fairly difficult to get right, not least because its downstream effect is influenced by the rotation of the front wheels, yaw and pitch. This makes it complext to simulate reliably in the wind tunnel.

While many teams are using it, the fact that Mercedes isn't shows it's not a straightforward solution. Paddy Lowe confirmed during winter testing his team is looking at it from time to time, but have found that other development routes are more beneficial.

It's interesting how Red Bull's and Ferrari's tests came at circuits that require relatively little downforce. This suggests that the design is less of an advantage on high speed circuits, and instead helps downforce with some drag penalty.

It will be interesting to see how this evolves, and if Mercedes will ever decide to implement this design on their dominant cars. It may be that next year's wider tyres will make this system less, or even more interesting as well.


Haas revives double-waved rear wing at Monza

By on

The Haas F1 Team drew a lot of attention with its new double-waved, M-like rear wing, a completely unique shape for a modern rear wing in Formula One. It's rare these days to see a rear wing that has a different shape along its entire span, and hardly a surprise that Mercedes have, or at least had the most varying profile with its spoon rear wing, as the ones used at Monza and Spa-Francorchamps. Apart from the need to test it under yaw, such designs are furthermore made difficult by DRS, as the DRS trigger and flap usually needs appropriate redesign as well.

Still, Haas pulled it off, with an M-shaped profile of the main plane and the leading edge of the moveable flap. The team did not use the wing at Spa, but it could possibly been seen again at other venues this year, as it still offered more downforce than some other wings seen at Monza.

In the top speed charts, both Haas cars were, in qualifying, around 5km/h down at the speed trap at Variante della Roggia on the factory Ferrari cars, who raced the same, upgraded Ferrari engines. That's pretty much at the bottom of the ranking. The team's drivers however were happy with their car's balance - thanks also to a modified front wing -, and eventually only missed out on points due to other factors than pure pace.

While the rear wing does look refreshing, and very different to what other teams are using, the idea is still not entirely new. Renault for instance - with James Allison as its Technical Director - fitted an M-profile rear wing to its Renault R30 as well. While clearly more simple in shape and without a moveable upper flap, the team ran this rear wing in the early races on 2010. Once they finished their own version of McLaren's F-duct - a much more efficient way of cutting drag - the team reverted to a conventional horizontal profile.