Formula One car development blog

Mercedes trials chimney via dorsal fin

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The Mercedes F1 W08 was seen in testing at Barcelona with a shark fin that features an opening on top.

This hot air outlet is obviously a trade-off with openings at the back of the car, but may be an interesting development route now that the rear wing is now placed lower, putting it quite a bit below the exit stream of the chimney. In addition, by opening up this cooling outlet up there, Mercedes is able to cut down on venting at the rear of the car, allowing cleaner flow underneath the rear wing and on top of the diffuser.

This particular type of cooling outlet is usually nicknamed chimney due its shape being very similar to an actual smoke shaft. It is not a novel type of solution in F1 as it dates back to the early 2000's.

Back then, cars featured these outlets on the sidepods. The benefit was/is a much more aerodynamically efficient solution than regular openings for cooling, with the turbulent and low energy air coming out of it being vented high above and away from the aerodynamic platforms.

They got effectively banned with the regulation changes of 2009 which regulated a minimum radius of the sidepod's bodywork. Sauber later found a way to circumvent this by integrating one in the sidepod turning vane for its Sauber C30 back in 2011, but it was eventually discarded due to the additional pipework that was necessary inside the sidepods, making these more bulky in critical areas as well.

As our previous article mentioned however, it remains to be seen if the solution will be allowed for long. If the FIA bans shark fins based on safety grounds, than this avenue will be closed off as well.

F1 2017 explained: Key changes

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The regulation changes for 2017 are quite extensive, to such a measure that many designers have said it's their biggest change they have had to cope with in their careers. Lots of details have changed, but there are a number of highly impacting changes, aimed primarily at increasing downforce and enhance the way a Formula One car looks.

The front wing for instance will feature a swept forward shape while also being wider by 7.5cm each side. The latter provides additional downforce, while the former is meant to improve the looks as well as lengthen the nose a little bit, enabling teams to pass the front impact tests more easily.

The rear wing was also transformed, located 150mm further back, and 150mm lower while being wider as well, resulting in more downforce and an increased cooperation with the diffuser, which will additionally provide more downforce. Even though it could complicate designs a little bit, there was always going to be the necessity of a rear wing redesign due to the larger diffuser.

Thanks to Mercedes, we've got the highlights lined up in two clips. One indicating car changes, the other highlighting the impact of the wider tyres we'll see in 2017.

Ferrari tweaks front wing

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While Mercedes introduced fairly extensive updates on their car's rear wing endplates and barge boards, Ferrari had some upgrades that focused mostly on the front of the car. Apart from a pair of small winglets behind the front suspension, the front wing was modified to further improve airflow control ahead of the front wheels.

Following the trend of pushing as much air as possible outboard of the front wheels, the front wing endplates were modified to feature a curved trailing edge, allowing more air to stream outward and around the front wheels. For the same reasons, the curvature on the leading edge of the footplate was also changed, reducing the total surface of the wing element and slightly increasing the side of the channel in between the wing's base plane and the footplate.

All in all, this underlines the direction in which F1 front wing designs are evolving, with designers increasingly trying to find improvements downstream, thanks to vortices, rather than looking for outright additional front downforce.

New nose and camera mounts for Mercedes

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Mercedes AMG have come out on track today at Barcelona with an updated nose cone, along with new mountings for the camera pods. Even though unconfirmed reports recently noted that the FIA asked Mercedes and Ferrari to revert to more traditional camera mountings, the team have now come up with small vertical carbon fibre supports to mount the cameras even higher above the nose cone. It moves the camera out of the airflow onto the front suspension, whereas the shape of the mounting's attachment to the nose will certainly generate a vortex that is likely flowing in between the upper and lower wishbones.

Interestingly, and very similar to the second iteration of Mercedes' nose cone on the W05, the new nose retains its short shape but has been slimmed down underneath to draw more air underneath the car - it's very visible when looking at the #KeepFightingMichael sticker.

A closer look at McLaren's new wheel rims

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McLaren's long term wheel supplier, Enkei, has provided the team with new rims for the 2015 season, or at least the start of it. Finished in matte black, the wheels were on display at Jerez today, showing very different front and rear wheel designs. The reasons for this are obvious, with first of all wider tyres at the rear, but more importantly for their design, much less heat coming from the rear brakes. Due to weight transfer under braking, and the energy recovery system that kicks in on the rear axle, the front brakes work much much harder than the rears.

Dissipating the heat from the brakes efficiently is the main design influence for today's F1 rims, and those of Enkei are a brilliant example. As can be seen, the rims have just 5 thick spokes in the central part while numerous smaller channels are designed on the outside. Note that the tyre nozzle is neatly integrated into the rim in an attempt to provide less hindrance to air passing through the rim.

The rear rims (inset) are of a more conventional design with a 90° nozzle for convenience and a tyre pressure monitor (absent on the front rims).

Finally, the rims also continue to feature coated dimples on the inside (as visible on the front rim photo) to enable the rim to take up heat quicker, and thereby help the tyres to stay at their optimal working temperature.

Toro Rosso STR9 gets new nose

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Toro Rosso have fitted a new nose cone on their STR9 on Saturday at Bahrain, the penultimate day of testing before the Australian Grand Prix.

It was always a bit odd to see two bulges on each side of the chassis and at the front bulkhead with the detachable nose cone then featuring an entirely flat upper profile. The new design however explains why the bulges were there, as the team now have a nose that features two high arches on each side of the "finger" extension. The arches are the result of further attempts to get more air underneath the nose and as such feed more airflow under the car and through the rear diffuser.

Wheel rim coatings to heat the tyres

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Even though it's been known for a while, recent thermal imagery has shown the true effects of rim coatings to manage tyre temperatures. The coatings were first photographed on Mercedes AMG's Advanti wheels, featuring dimples on the inside of the rim as well (inset). Later on, Red Bull was confirmed to also use a similar treatment of their OZ Racing wheels, although in their case the inside of the wheels features grooves rather than dimples. Ferrari meanwhile are said to be coating their OZ Racing wheels as well.

It was recently also found out that the black coating is actually Polysil, produced by Nanoprom near Sassuola, Italy. It is a solvent based product containing polymers of silicium, mainly designed to protect all sorts of materials against surface friction. The product is typically sprayed to create a film of only a few microns to reach hardnesses of up to 9H. This is achieved mainly by letting the product fill up tiny gaps in the imperfect wheel surface, creating a very smooth result that may also help to reduce turbulence within the wheel.

Its black colour however is interesting for teams as that will help for the rim to absorb heat from the brakes into the Magnesium alloy wheel itself. As the rim itself has a very high thermal conductivity, the heat going into the metal is then spread rapidly throughout its entire body and partially transferred into the tyre through the tyre bead. As a result, it is possible for teams to keep the tyres at a more constant temperature, reducing the rapid drop of temperature of the tyres when running on long straights. Instead, with the rim properly warmed up, the tyre wall is kept warm, preventing the tyre's thread to cool off too quickly. The net result is more grip at turn-in as the tyres haven't cooled down as much as without the treatment.

The thermal images in the inset show how this works brilliantly for Red Bull Racing. All three are shots from an onboard camera on Sebastian Vettel's car at Circuit of the Americas during Q1 at the US Grand Prix. The first is taken on approach to turn 19, the second shows the turn-in point on turn 19, and the one below shows him at the end of the pit straight, before braking. It is evident that in all three images, the rim is relatively warm, and that by the end of the straight, the tyres are still lighting up across the entire thread's width. Similar images from Mercedes AMG show similar, but less pronounced effects, while on the Ferrari the wheel was not marked as hot by the thermal camera, indicating a lower temperature than with the other teams.

Even though it is still early days and nobody knows yet what will be the operating temperatures of the new 'conservative' Pirelli tyres, it is nonetheless very likely that this technology will continue to be used in 2014. Even more so, with Nanoprom citing the possibility to use their coatings on composites and aluminium, it is nearly sure that it is or will be used on parts of the engine as well.

Ferrari's high downforce Monaco package

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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 roll hoop cooling assembly

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Detail pictures of the roll hoop on the McLaren MP4-28 have revealed that the team has largely retained the cooling layout of the 27. Just as on any other current F1 car, the main, somewhat triangular inlet feeds air to the engine required for burning fuel in the cylinders. Contrary to popular belief though, air is not pushed into this inlet, but the engine is sucking air in, reducing the drag penalty a normal cooling inlet would generate.

Underneath this main inlet is a smaller one, positioned more or less behind the driver's helmet and a little backward of the airbox inlet. As the picture shows, a small cooling radiator is positioned in the engine cover, underneath the channel that feeds air to the engine. Already since the MP4-26 of 2011, McLaren have positioned the KERS cooler here in an attempt to free up some space inside the sidepods. It's a change originally fuelled by the U-shaped sidepods on the McLaren MP4-26, a car where McLaren pushed for low, small sidepods to clean up airflow to the back of the car. As it gives packaging benefits, the team retained this solution, albeit that a radiator positioned this high up in the car, no matter how small, will have a negative impact on the car's centre of gravity.

Red Bull 'rubber nose' flexing confirmed

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Red Bull has drawn attention to its flexing front wing again at the recent Abu Dhabi GP. When changing the nose cone of Sebastian Vettel's RB8, it was clear that mechanics could easily bend the nose cone. Footage has also shown that when hitting the kerbs hard, the nose shudders, creating a tilting effect for the front wing.

While this may be new to many, Red Bull's bending nose has been discussed on the f1technical forum since the very first winter tests of this year, and even earlier when you consider previous cars built by Red Bull Racing. Comparative images showed that the tip of the nose of the RB8 was seemingly lower to the ground at high speed than at low speeds. In fact it is an ingenious way to work around the front wing stress tests as those focus on putting weight on each side of the front wing, trying to detect up and down flexing over the entire span of the wing. Red Bull's wings have always passed every test, as the team was able to construct a wing that is strong enough while allowing some flex in the nose to tilt the wing in its entirety when under load.

Experts on the matter have meanwhile also confirmed that it is fairly common to design and produce the tip of a nose to be a little softer to be able to pass the front impact crash test, but none have been found to implement it in such extreme way as Red Bull have done. It is also believed that, while the flexing was present since the beginning of the season, Red Bull's new nose cone, introduced at the Singapore GP further increased the benefits.

Apart from the obvious aerodynamic benefit, one may also have to consider Red Bull using the design to create a mass damping effect, similar to what Renault did in 2005 and 2006 with its tuned mass damper - before it got banned. Although still beneficial, the need for additional mass damping has been drastically reduced since teams started using J-dampers or inerters.