With 2015 car launches and pre-season testing closing in rapidly, let's have a look at the 2015 nose cone regulations. They have brought much confusion amongst followers, especially given the reworked regulations of 2014 that saw several teams implement ingenious designs to extract the most out of the given ruleset.
The result in 2014 was the "finger nose" extension that blended seamlessly into the chassis. It proved to be a popular and efficient approach because teams were able to keep the high tub line for aerodynamic purposes while the narrow finger extension was designed solely to meet the dimension regulations of the front section. Such non-structural extensions effectively worked against the 2014 rules which were designed to increase safety.
It are those safety concerns that pushed the FIA into a review of the rules, leading up to the current Technical Regulations.
It is expected that most, if not all teams will now have a longer swooping nose coming down and past the front wing slightly. This is because teams have to meet the homologated crash structure regulations. As seen on Marussia's wind tunnel model for 2015, a small thumb is likely what remains of the current finger noses as teams will attempt to limit the hindrance of airflow while incorporating a longer crash structure to meet the regulations.
An example of a possible nose cone can be seen in the below drawing. A more or less triangular tip on the nose is a probable solution, and likely more elegant than the expected thumb noses.
Key regulation elements
A single external vertical cross-section must be perpendicular to the car's centre line, of more than 2000mm (squared) at 150mm behinds its most forward point. Furthermore the overall width of the cross-section must not exceed 330mm.
A linear taper is similarly mandated from behind the second section to the front bulkhead while another rule stipulates the nose must be entirely symmetrical.
Meanwhile all lines drawn normally and externally to a vertical cross-section taken 150mm ahead of the front wheel centre line and perpendicular to car's actual centre line. Of which must not exceed vertical longitudinal plane lying on the car's centre line.
All of this yet again is to make the cars safer in case of a T-bone accident. As the nose and its impact structure are longer they will absorb more energy on impact and distribute it evenly up the nose as it breaks.
Is there much room for development?
Insiders and specialists agree that the wording of the rules have left very little room for design freedom due to a tighter grip on the front wing and nose cone this year. Still, nothing is impossible, and even a nose cone based on the 2014 Mercedes nose is a possibility, even though the U-shape of the nose will be outlawed.
The nose design of 2014 that comes closest to the 2015 regulations is without a doubt that of the Ferrari F14T. While exact measurements are obviously not available, only minor modifications seem necessary to make the nose comply with the new regulations, albeit likely not one of the best designs that one can imagine.
Just like the year before, the new rules attempt to lower the noses because of safety and creates headaches with engineers on how to claw back the lost downforce. The rear is especially likely going to suffer, as getting air underneath the car and into the rear diffuser was the main reason for the high noses in the first place. Those who have managed to master the new nose regulations and re-gained aerodynamic performance are hence likely to be front runners. Given they are equipped with a competitive engine.