Technical analysis – Australian GP

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As the old tag has it, in Formula One you do today what you should have done yesterday. Such incredible is the rate of development. This year, development is more important than ever because teams can make inroads with every step they take since the aerodynamic rules have dramatically changed for the 2017 campaign with the increased dimensions of the car.


The team with the best race pace in Melbourne also had a few technical changes. The SF70-H had only a few new parts in Barcelona, but some of the latest developments were mounted in Australia. Ferrari followed Mercedes in the form of development. Both teams introduced changes to enhance performance and opened up different parts of the car to optimize the car's cooling package. Ferrari partly introduced modifications to meet the cooling requirements of Melbourne and partly brought new parts to enhance the aerodynamic performance of the new machinery designed by Simone di Resta and his technical crew.

The engine cover around the exhaust pipes were significantly opened up compared to Barcelona. The new Ferrari has an extremely tight engine cover and side-pods which means the team has to compensate it in other areas.

Ferrari which brought the S-duct concept into F1 in 2008 uses the solution in 2017 again after it neglected it for a few seasons. For Melbourne, the inlets of the S-duct were increased in its size. In Australia, Ferrari could not hide the inner structure of its S-duct and the first photos were taken which show how the air is directed into two channels which cross each other. Since it is not easy to lift the airflow upstairs, engineers have to play around with different pressures to energize the flows.

The Italian team also modified its side-mirror supports which are curved outwards more significantly. The old version was a vertical, simpler one. Ferrari operates with quite a few small winglets around the sidepods and cockpit area. The small vane on the cockpit was also refined for Australia.


The world champion team of the past three year started the Australian GP with a pretty optimistic and ambitious cooling package. As air temperatures were higher than in winter testing (the thermometer reached the 29 Celsius degree), the squad had to modify its cooling configuration to enable the car’s system to cool the different parts down sufficently. The team opened up the area around the exhaust pipes after the Friday running. The upper element of the engine cover was also enlarged. The Anglo-German team tried out different versions of the engine cover during testing, it has a completely closed one, a partly closed one, but the final version that they put on the car in Melbourne had a pretty long opening where the hot air could escape from the car.

Mercedes introduced some other aerodynamic updates which all aimed to further optimize the airflow around the car. Such a development was the T-wing. This less attractive wings which found their way back to Formula One after a long absence, was already used by Mercedes during testing. The team updated its first iteration during the second week of testing when it swapped the original one with a double-element one. For Melbourne, Mercedes introduced a three-element version which is primarily there to clear the airflow rather than produce downforce.

Red Bull
When Adrian Newey and his design team unveiled their latest product, the RB13, everyone was caught by surprise by the cleanness and simplicity of the new machinery. The difference in complexity of the new Red Bull was even more highlighted when it was compared with the highly sophisticated Mercedes and Ferrari cars which work with a high degree of serration around the bargeboard area.

Many waited, therefore, for Melbourne to see a completely redesigned Red Bull. The big development package did not arrive, however, small detail changes were seen on the car. The nose cone pillars were increased in their length to have a bigger influence on the direction the airflow takes while flying towards the bargeboard area. Those were also modified, the delta-shaped elements got indention so they lost from their original surface. The turning vanes around the sidepods were also developed for Australia, they are bigger and form a triangle.

McLaren brought a series of small updates for Australia. The Woking-based team introduced a new front wing which features modified upper flaps which grew in their area. Only one exemplar was produced in time for Melbourne which was used by Fernando Alonso. The bargeboard area was developed for Melbourne. One extra horizontal vane was added to the underfloor which can be seen as the extension of it. McLaren has an interesting vane which connects the bargeboards with the chassis. Compared to the testing, it became a more curved, sophisticated form. Only Alonso could use the new solution. The technicians also mounted a few vortex generators on the sidepods.

Similar to Ferrari, McLaren also failed to hide its front S-duct from the photographers. It features a dual-channel configuration, but they don’t cross each other unlike the Ferrari-version.

Haas also brought a few updates for the season-opener. The American team modified its front wing. The updated version has a more curved outer section of the main flap compared to the one used during the Barcelona outings.

The squad which enjoys the second year of its foray in F1 had a troublesome time with its T-wing. It vibrated so much while cornering that the FIA asked the team to dismantle it for the second free practice session. The team, however, did not give up and strengthened its structure for Saturday and used it for the remainder of the weekend. The fact that Haas clung to the T-wing clearly shows that those bring a measurable benefit despite to the claims that the aesthetically less attractive wings are of no benefit.

Smaller updates
Force India brought a modified floor to Australia which features a series of cuts ahead of the rear tyres. Those aim to clear the air attached to the underfloor before the flows reach the back of the car. Force India’s version is rather unique with its 17 cuts.

Williams only introduced a minor modification to its front wing. The endplates got two tiny triangular elements.

Renault modified the mirror pillars. Formerly, they were vertical but the new version expands outwards.

Sauber introduced its own T-wing concept. The team tested it in the practices, but it was dismantled for qualifying and the race. The Hinwill-based squad also modified its bargeboards which got more sophisticated with an added larger front section.