Technical analysis – Azerbaijan race

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Azerbaijan, Baku Street Circuitaz

The Azerbaijan race saw a series of experimentations with various aerodynamic configurations. The Baku race track poses a great challenge for engineers and drivers to find the best setup regarding the ideal downforce level.

The 6003m long circuit which is the fastest city track on the calendar, features two very different characteristics. The 2km long start-finish full throttle section requires mininum drag while the slower, technical inner section would welcome maximum downforce. Further complication is that downforce is also needed to generate heat into the tyres which can lose a significant amount of temperature on the never-ending main straight.

Renault
The French manufacturer implemented a series of aerodynamic changes for the Baku street circuit. The engineers introduced a new turning vane under the nose. It consists of three different elements with two of them connected to each other and building a tunnel. The horizontal plane of the bargeboards were also updated. It now features six curved, S-formed slots instead of five.

The Enstone/Viry-based squad also brought a new rear wing to meet the requirements of the quick circuit. The new one is a curved, ’spoon’ rear wing. It is a very different configuration to the one used in Montreal. The Baku-specification features a spoon main profile instead of a linear design and has less slots in its endplates.

Red Bull
The energy drink-owned squad had to compensate with its aerodynamic configuration for the lack of peak engine performance in Baku, the largest city below the sea level. The engineers developed a special Baku-rear wing which is very much like a Monza-spec wing. It helped Red Bull to reach top speeds of the likes of the Mercedes-powered cars and did not leave Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen too vulnerable on the never-ending main straight.

However, the extremity of ’flatness’ of the wing was a big question mark as it does not give the necessary downforce level through the technical inner section and on top of that it leaves the drivers with a big task in terms of warming up the tyres. Interestingly, Red Bull has experienced troubles with switching the hard Pirelli tyres on for one timed lap since the beginning of the season. The RB13 was pretty good at generating heat into the tyres in Baku, though.

Red Bull's chances were also lifted by Renault as it brought an improvement for its 2017 power unit. It was not a hardware update, but a new software which enabled the team to get more power from its current unit.

Toro Rosso
The Faenza-based team used a new rear wing in Baku. Spectacularly, the engineers opted for a rather high-downforce configuration rear wing in Montreal, but the team had to change its aero configuration due to the 2km long full throttle section of the Baku city track.

The new rear wing is not the copy of the parent company’s, Red Bull’s Baku-specification, but much more a Ferrari-style spoon wing. The team was happy with its configuration which was showed by Daniil Kvyat who set the fourth best sector time in the last segment of the track in the qualifying session.

Mercedes

Mercedes did not introduce significant updates in Baku. It rather concentrated to find the ideal aerodynamic setup for the track with two faces. The Brackley-based team brought a Baku-special low-downforce rear wing. Its main profile is a curved, but not in that extent as the likes of the Ferrari’s spoon wing.

Due to its engine advantage, Mercedes did not need extremely trimmed wings such as Red Bull and it wanted to reach the right amount of downforce to generate heat into its tyres. The engineers found the right balance between downforce and top speed as neither Lewis Hamilton nor Valtteri Bottas complained about such warm-up issues Mercedes faced on smooth surfaces earlier in the year.

{Ferrari}

Ferrari used a higher downforce rear wing than its rivals in the majority of the Friday practices. The team then swapped it to a ’spoon’ rear wing to increase its top speed on the main straight as both drivers were off the speed in the last sector which would have made them vulnerable in the race.

With the significantly curved rear wing, Ferrari managed to find some pace in the last sector, but faced woes with heating up the tyres. Both drivers found it hard to get the best out of the tyres in qualifying conditions. However, the ’spoon’ rear wing proved to be the right choice in the race especially for Sebastian Vettel who was forced to fight his way back toward the front after his 10-second stop and go penalty.

The team also experimented with various smaller aerodynaminc changes. It modified the camera mounting on the nose cone which now sit on two tiny horns. The engineers of the Maranello-based team also tried out two unique engine cover extensions. They help the car’s aerodynamics and cooling. The elements enable the team to use an engine cover with a more curved ending without sacrificing the cooling efficiency. These extensions were only used in the free practices, but they are expected to return in the future.

Haas

The American Haas Team introduced a raft of aerodynamic changes for Baku.

It changed the philosophy of the rear wing design. It now sits on two supporting pillars instead of one. The lower part of the pillars embrace the exhaust pipe.

The monkey seat also got updated for the fastest city track of the current calendar. There are now two monkey seats, one sits on the rear crash structure while the other one covers the exit of the exhaust pipe from above. This double-monkey seat configuration was pioneered by Ferrari.

McLaren-Honda
The team gave its best to come up with the best aerodynamic package for the Baku street circuit in a bid to compensate for its under-powered Honda engine.

The Woking-based team’s engineers modified the front wing, it tried to decrease its drag by cutting the inside edges of the upper flaps. Despite to all the effort regarding various aerodynamic changes, McLaren could not make up for its power deficit and was trailing behind all the other machineries in the top speed trap.

The brake ducts also went through some changes. Stoffel Vandoorne’s car was equipped with measurement devices during the Friday practices.