Category Archives: Technical

5-race gearboxes introduced as part of new rules

A raft of changes have been announced for 2011 and 2012

A raft of changes have been announced for 2011 and 2012

The FIA has announced a new series of rules for the 2011 season, and some to be introduced in 2012, the most important of which being that gearboxes now have to last 5 races.

This improves upon last year’s restrictions of 4 races on the same gearbox. As the 2011 F1 calendar contains 20 races, this means that most teams will be looking to use only 4 gearboxes for the entire season.

2011

Steward penalties have been revised relating for the rules on “driving and driver conduct”. Race Director Charlie Whiting also has the option to close the pit lane during the race, for safety reasons, if he deems necessary.

The rules will be clarified as to when cars can overtake the safety car, following the controversy at the Valencian GP. Shallow wet tyres (behind the full wets), are now reclassified as intermediates, but that’s what most of us have been saying anyways.

A penalty can be awarded to any driver who fails to use both specifications of tyres during the race. The cars will be modified to allow “anti-intrusion panels” to protect the driver’s legs in case of an accident. On the technical side, the definitions of the “reference plane, and reinforcement of bodywork deflection tests, especially at the front of the reference plane” have all been changed.

2012

For the 2012 season, all team radio communications will be available to F1 broadcasters. The intention of this is to allow more transmissions to be displayed to the audience.

Fuel compounds will be produced from biomass, but no further detail is available at the moment. The number of suspension uprights will also be limited.

The long-awaited 2013 engine rules have been announced, as well as a statement on team orders, and these will be dealt with in separate articles.

F1 2013 engine specs set to be revealed

Current F1 engines are set for an overhaul

Current F1 engines are set for an overhaul

During the World Motor Sport Council meeting this Friday, speculation is mounting over the possible announcement of the 2013 engine specifications for the F1 grid.

The general belief is that 1.6 Litre, 4 cylinder, turbocharged, direct injection engines will be the ones to be used. Compare this to the current spec of 2.4 Litre, 8 cylinder engines, non-turbocharged engines the grid are currently using.

Scarbs F1 is  reporting that further details include: “88mm bores, 100kg\h fuel flow rate.”

Power output is expected to remain around the same (if not slightly lower), and fuel efficiency should drastically improve by up to 50%. These changes are not to reduce the actual CO2 output of the grid, rather to encourage environmentally friendly engines to be used on road cars.

600 bhp is expected to come from the actual engines, while 150 bhp may be supplied from energy recovery systems such as KERS, and the possible introduction of an engine gases recovery system.

The one disappointing stat from this expected announcement is that engine revs will be reduced (naturally, not limited) to about 10,000 rpm. Further details should arrive in the next few days.

Toyota Motorsport split with Hispania

HRT have lost another technical partnership

HRT have lost another technical partnership

Toyota Motorsport, who have, for this year, been offering technical support to the struggling Hispania team, have today said that they will cease operations with the team. Toyota claim that this contract cancellation is because of a lack of “contractual payment obligations”.

HRT have already split up with another technical partnership, the last one was with Dallara, their chassis provider, back in May. However, this time it is more serious, as Toyota have been supplying the team with a wind tunnel, driving simulator, and an engineering services supplier. Without this, the team is in much worse state for the 2011 season.

Toyota’s statement reads as follows:

 Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) confirms that all cooperation 
with Hispania Racing F1 Team (HRT) has been terminated and 
will not resume.

TMG retains all intellectual property rights to its current 
F1 car and is completely free to pursue other projects and 
support new customers for its high-performance engineering 
services.

TMG regrets that HRT has not met its contractual payment 
obligations and will pursue all available options to reach
a satisfactory conclusion to this matter.

If you ask me, the HRT team are becoming more and more of a joke. Their “technical facilities” don’t exist any more, they have been strangled with a lack of investment from their owner, and are simply miles off the pace compared to their rivals. Some have compared the team to Minardi, but I remember people actually liking Minardi.

A complete takeover is needed of the team before it embarresses Formula 1 even more.

Hispania to use Williams gearboxes for 2011

The Hispania team have announced that they are to use Williams gearboxes for the 2011 season onwards. They follow Lotus in moving away from the current supplier to all 3 new teams, Xtrac.

Hispania will use Williams gearboxes from 2011 onwards

Hispania will use Williams gearboxes from 2011 onwards

Hispania have, along with the other teams of course, suffered many technical retirements this season, and like Lotus, many of these were because of transmission and gearbox failures. Geoff Willis has previously complained about Xtrac’s lack of reliability:

.

"Most of our problems have been related to transmission 
hydraulics, which is a complicated part of the car. It 
is the first time that Xtrac has been involved as a 
supplier of the whole system."

It appears as if Cosworth engines had a role to play in this deal as well. Both teams already use Cosworth engines already, and Williams claim that today’s deal will “extend for the lifecycle of the current Cosworth engine technology”.

This is a good step forward for Hispania to associate themselves with a trusted supplier. Xtrac won a contract from the FIA to supply cheap transmission systems to the new teams this year, but have done themselves no favours by supplying what appears to be very unreliable machinery to Lotus, Virgin and Hispania.

While both Lotus and Hispania have both stated their intentions to move away from Xtrac, Virgin have made no such announcements. Bernie Ecclestone has recently suggested that Virgin is suffering from a lack of investment by Richard Branson, and this may be what is holding them back.

Ground effect and turbos to return for 2013 with new regulations?

Formula 1 teams are closing in on finalising the regulations for the sport from 2013 onwards, which is understood to include the reintroduction of turbochargers and ground effect. This is being done for two reasons: To improve the spectacle for the fans, and also to make the sport more environmentally friendly.

The F1 grid looks set for huge rule changes in 2013

The F1 grid looks set for huge rule changes in 2013

The most interesting changes being suggested, and nearly definitely being introduced, involve the complete reshuffle of the engines of the cars. The engines will be 1.6 Litre 4-cylinder models, and boosted by turbochargers. These new power plants should produce 650bhp, and should be powered by numerous energy recovery systems. While this last section cannot be fully explained, I would guess that it would involve the revival of KERS, as well as generating energy from exhaust gases.

Also added onto the engine regulations is a plan to limit each driver to 5 engines a season. On the environmental side of the engines, there will probably be a fuel flow limit introduced, which will limit and reduce the amount of fuel entering the engine. This will make the engines more fuel efficient, as Sam Michael, Williams technical director, explains:

"Rather than dump as much fuel in as we can at the moment, there 
will be a fuel flow metre - so you won't be able to blow more 
than a certain amount of fuel. It is a good chunk less than we 
had at the moment."

As for the cars themselves, Patrick Head, co-owner of Williams, and Rory Byrne, a former designer for Ferrari, are working with the FIA to write up new rules. On the safety front, the cars are being planned to have greater crash protection at the front, with the sidepods being moved forwards being the main objective.

Also, all of the teams are collaborating on changing the aerodynamic setup of the cars to improve overtaking opportunities, and ground effect is the main suggestion in this area. Put simply, ground effect reduces the pressure under the car, meaning that the area above the car will have higher pressure, therefore pushing the car onto the ground. This produces a huge amount of downforce when it is used correctly, and also does not turbulate the air as much as rear wings, meaning the car behind has a better chance of following the car in front.

While it cannot be 100% guaranteed that these changes will be implemented, I would still say that it is very likely. Personally, these all look like great changes, especially the ground effect, as the aerodynamic flow of air to a car running behind should be much cleaner, and could well be a good idea to improve overtaking without making it too easy (ie. proximity wings).

Also, Formula 1 does have a role to pay in promoting environmentally friendly technology for the road. While KERS technology is being implemented on a good few road cars already, the cars’ exhaust gases are certainly untapped in terms of power potential. I will note though that the cars themselves weren’t awful in terms of efficiency (the entire F1 grid, over an 18-race season, uses less fuel than a single Boeing 747 trip from London to Japan), it is a good improvement to make.

It is still unclear when these new rules and regulations will be fully released.

Adjustable rear wings for 2011 – but only for overtaking

It has been announced by the World Motor Sport Council today that adjustable rear wings will be introduced into Formula 1 for the 2011 season, but can only be deployed when a car is following another, and cannot be used by the leader. This has been implemented to assist overtaking.

The adjustable rear wings would not be allowed to be used in the first 2 laps. Also, it can only be activated when a driver is less than 1 second behind the car in front. The driver is notified by his electronics (a light probably) when the system can be used. When the driver hits the brakes after using the rear wing, the system is disabled.

The World motor Sport Council explained this system in more detail:

"From 2011, adjustable bodywork may be activated by the driver at 
any time prior to the start of the race and, for the sole purpose 
of improving overtaking opportunities during the race, after the 
driver has completed two laps.

The driver may only activate the adjustable bodywork in the race 
when he has been notified via the control electronics that it is 
enabled. It will only be enabled if the driver is less than one 
second behind another at any of the pre-determined positions 
around each circuit. The system will be disabled the first 
time the driver uses the brakes after the system has been activated.

The FIA may, after consulting all the competitors, adjust the time
proximity in order to ensure the purpose of the adjustable 
bodywork is met."

I’m not sure about this one. This system gives about 15 km/h extra speed in a straight line, and that is plenty to pass the car in front. However, it may be making it too easy to pass another car, and then when a driver has been overtaken, they can just repass them the following lap.

The F-duct was banned (a good thing in my book) to make way for this innovation, and coupled with KERS (I will write on this later), this could well make overtaking too complicated for the fans, and for the driver.

Extreme gap in tyre compounds for German GP

Bridgestone F1 tyres

Bridgestone F1 tyres

Bridgestone have announced that they are to bring a 2-step gap in the tyre compounds in the tyres that they will bring to the German Grand Prix, in an effort to mix up tyre strategies. Following the Canadian GP, the Japanese company had said that they would be more radical with their tyre compound choices.

For the race in Hockenheim, Bridgestone are to bring the super-soft and hard tyres, meaning that there will be a 2-step difference in tyre compounds, the first time that this has been done this season. Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone’s head of motorsport tyre development, said that the characteristics of the Hockenheim circuit allowed this extreme tyre variation to go ahead.

However, for the next 4 races after this, there will only be 1 gap between tyre compounds. In Hungary, the super-softs and mediums will be used, and similarly for Singapore. The soft and hard tyres will be used for Belgium and Italy.. Hamashima explained these choices:

"The Hungaroring requires a softer allocation as finding grip is 
always a target there. Spa and Monza are high speed tests for 
cars and tyres, needing a harder allocation because of the heat 
durability requirements. Singapore is a high-speed street course 
where the softer allocation is suited."

Personally, I think that a 2-step difference is dangerous, as performance in the cars will vary wildly across the race. What do you think? Is this a step too far to “improve the show”, or is a simple and effective way of spicing up the racing?

Technical evolution of the cars in 2010 (Part 1 of 3)

In a 3-part series, I will look at how this year’s Formula 1 cars have developed technically, as well as new innovations on the cars. This is the first post, looking from testing to the 7th race in Turkey. The second part will be written up after the end of the European season (after the Monza weekend in September), and the final part will be after the season concludes.

F-duct

The F-duct is the most controversial innovation so far this season, and has already been banned for next year. The F-duct got its name, as it was located where the “f” on Vodafone is on the engine cover on the McLaren car. McLaren developed this invention before the season began, but it was really only first noticed in the first few races.

The F-duct will be explained in its original McLaren format, as it has been altered by other teams. There is a duct on the nose of the car, which takes air in and feeds it to the rear wing, which is perfectly normal. This air travels around the side of the car, and crucially, past the side of the cockpit. So, a driver had place their hand/wrist/leg on a hole on this tube, and stop the air travelling to the rear wing. This means that there is less air on the rear wing, meaning less downforce and less drag.

The F-duct is only applied on straights, as this is the only situation where less downforce is wanted. It is estimated that an F-duct is worth between 6-10km/h on a straight. Sauber were the first to copy this design, followed closely by Ferrari, then Force India and Red Bull. Each team has used a different configuration, such as Sauber’s duct beginning on the sidepod and not the nosecone.

While Force India and Red Bull are the latest teams to introduce the F-duct, neither of them ran it during the Turkish Grand Prix. Red Bull found their system to be inconsistent and difficult to operate, though it is unknown why Force India did not run the device.

Mercedes' opening of their F-duct

Mercedes' opening of their F-duct

Red Bull's more complicated F-duct system

Red Bull's more complicated F-duct system

The driver-operated mechanism for the Force India F-duct

The driver-operated mechanism for the Force India F-duct

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

.

Mercedes’ airbox

At the start of the year, Mercedes GP had managed to avoid making its airbox design a structural part of the car’s rollover protection, and therefore wasn’t part of the chassis development ban. This meant that the team were free to change it across the season. Before the first race, a small slot was introduced behind the engine air intake, which improved aero efficiency at the rear of the car.

However, by Barcelona, the team had already introduced a radical new intake, which is much lower and further back than before. It is still not a part of the actual chassis, as it is part of the engine cover, meaning it can still be developed over the season. These changes ensured that airflow over the back of the car was cleaner, and helped the performance of the rear wing.

So far, no other team has attempted to copy this design, or at least we haven’t seen it in action yet. Having said that, it is an ugly invention, so I wouldn’t be sad to see this innovation fail.

Mercedes' new airbox innovation

Mercedes' new airbox innovation

Nico Rosberg running Mercedes' radical new airbox

Nico Rosberg running Mercedes' radical new airbox

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Ban on outboard wing mirrors

An outboard wing mirror is where the car’s wing mirrors sit on the outside of the cockpit, often on top of the turning vane. However, the problem with this design was that it was outside the drivers’ peripheral vision, which meant that it was not within their straight line of vision, meaning a driver had to look away from the road to look in the mirrors.

After many near misses and collisions, most notably Michael Schumacher, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso in Australia, the FIA sought to ban outboard wing mirrors, effective from the Spanish GP onwards. Though these mirrors were worth about one tenth of a second in aerodynamic efficiency, the teams were forced to move their wing mirrors to the inside of the cockpit, so they were inside a drivers’ peripheral vision.

Outboard wing mirrors, visible here on the Williams FW32

Outboard wing mirrors, visible here on the Williams FW32

Wing mirrors on the inside of the cockpit, seen here on the Red Bull car

Wing mirrors on the inside of the cockpit, seen here on the Red Bull car

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Diffuser starter motors

As with outboard wing mirrors, diffuser starter motors have been banned, in this case since the Australian Grand Prix. Under normal circumstances, a Formula 1 car’s starter motor is in the back of the car, which makes it easy for the mechcnics to plug in the starter motor. Remember, F1 cars do not carry a starter motor themselves. To accomodate this, a small hole or slot must be made into the diffuser section of the car, to allow the starter motor to be plugged into the car.

However, the teams began to see how they could exploit this section of the car. The slot was made unnecessarily large, and aerodynamically sculpted, so as to improve airflow around the diffuser of the car.

Once complaints were made, the FIA swiftly closed the loophole allowing these devices to become too large in the first place, by placing a size limit on diffuser starter motors.

McLaren's diffuser starter motor, which was one of the designs against the rules

McLaren's diffuser starter motor, which was one of the designs against the rules

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

This was the first of a 3-part series. The second post will be up after the Italian Grand Prix weekend.

Teams agree to ban F-ducts for 2011

Sauber's interpretation of the F-duct system

Sauber's interpretation of the F-duct system

The Formula 1 teams have agreed to ban the F-duct devices on the F1 cars for 2011, despite pleas for McLaren to keep the innovation.

McLaren had taken the lead in the development of the F-duct early on, when they had their system ready by the season opener in Bahrain. All of the other teams have since been trying to catch up on McLaren’s advantage, by creating their own F-duct systems. However, since the teams’ chassis are homologated for this season, many teams complained that they were struggling to make their own devices.

Since Bahrain, Sauber, Ferrari, Mercedes and Williams have all managed to run blown rear wings, but the rest of the teams were concerned that these devices could go out of control next season, on cost and safety grounds. Therefore, at the FOTA meeting at Barcelona after the race today, a decicion mas made to ban the F-duct for 2011, despite McLaren trying to convince the team principals to keep it.

The CEO of Mercedes GP, Nick Fry, explained that the F-duct system was both dangerous and brought little to the sport:

"I personally think that it is sensible to nip in the bud 
technologies that, on the face of it, don't really have a relevance 
for use outside of F1.

By the end of the year I know we, and I am sure most of the other 
teams, will have an F-Duct on their car and that neutralises the 
advantage of having it.

The engineers have already come up with ideas for next year that are 
zany in the extreme, and it is difficult to see how they would be 
used elsewhere. Plus they would be expensive.

I know it is disappointing for those who invent these ideas, but I 
think what people have to get used to is, like the double diffuser 
idea, they may be fairly short lived.

You get your pay back for the year when you have got it and other 
people haven't - and if it isn't a useful technology then it comes 
off.

What we should be encouraging is stuff that we can be using 
elsewhere, and I am personally a big proponent of KERS because 
of that."

A very good move by FOTA here, in my opinion. If you were watching the BBC analyse qualifying and the race this weekend, you would have seen footage of Fernando Alonso driving dangerously, with both hands off the wheel at some points. His left hand was operating the F-duct, while the right hand was changing the brake bias, and looking down at the same time. I know that driving an F1 car is supposed to be an extreme challenge, but this is just stupid.

Anyways, it does bring very little to the sport, whatever way you look at it. The double-decker diffuser was banned (2011 onwards) on the same basis. Technical innovation, in modern F1, should be intended for environmental, high performance or “improving the show” (sorry) purposes. The only one of these the F-duct gets close to is performance, but since it really is an unecessary device, there’s no reason for it to be in Formula 1.

McLaren’s Friday Practice pace is genuine

Normally, it would be impossible for us to find out what fuel weights drivers are running during Friday Practice. However, a well-placed photograph has shown us that both McLaren drivers were running 140kgs of fuel in Friday Practice in China.

140kg is around the amount of fuel used for an entire race distance. We can therefore conclude that McLaren were running race simulations in practice. Not only this, but the fact that Hamilton and Button led both Friday Practice sessions shows the MP4-25 has serious pace this year.

If you have a look at the photo above, there are two sentences at the top. Each one refers to telemetry when running used or new prime tyres. However, to the right of these, you can notice 140kg as the amount of fuel in both runs, although you’ll need good eyesight to see it.

From this, Red Bull should be worried. If McLaren can win practice sessions with a race fuel load on board, then they should be the biggest contender to them this year.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 55 other followers