Tag Archives: Technical

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.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

FIA: Ride height control systems are illegal

Many teams believe that Red Bull are using a ride height controlling system

Many teams believe that Red Bull are using a ride height controlling system

The FIA, the governing body of Formula 1, has faxed all of the teams and notified them that any type of system that controls the ride height of the car while on track is against the technical regulations, and is illegal.

In the last few weeks, suspicions have been arising concerning Red Bull’s suspension system, after allegations that it can control the ride height while on track. There is suppposedly a device in the RB6 that allows it to be lower to the ground, and therefore gain a downforce advantage, in qualifying.

This device may take the form of a pressure-operated component, which keeps the car as low as possible to the ground as the fuel burns off. Because of the refuelling ban, the cars are full of fuel at the start, and without a ride height controlling system, this is the lowest they would be to the ground in the race. As the fuel burns off, the car would become lighter, and therefore rise, meaning a loss in downforce.

Since qualifying is low-fuel, all of the cars should be quite high up from the ground, since no modification to the car should be made in between qualifying and the race. However, Red Bull seem to have been able to run their car quite low to the ground in qualifying, and keep the car up when they put the fuel in the car for the race.

However, these are just rumours, and nothing has been proven or denied. The Red Bull RB6 cars were heavily scrutineered before the Malaysian Grand Prix, and nothing suspicious was found. Still, the FIA has found the need to clarify this issue, in case other teams try to use an innovation like this. Their statement reads as follows:

"Any system device or procedure, the purpose and/or effect of which is to change
 the set-up of the suspension, while the car is under parc ferme conditions will 
be deemed to contravene Article 34.5 of the sporting regulations."

Article 34.5 reads as follows:

If a competitor modifies any part on the car or makes changes to the set up of 
the suspension whilst the car is being held under parc fermé conditions the 
relevant driver must start the race from the pit lane and follow the procedures 
laid out in Article 38.2.

The only way Red Bull could change the ride height of their cars legally is by doing it during the pit stops. It is rumoured that Ferrari were going to try this method, but there is no evidence to support it.

FIA closes rear diffuser loophole

Artwork of McLaren's starter motor and diffuser design

Artwork of McLaren's starter motor and diffuser design

The FIA has clamped down on 4 of the teams’ diffuser designs, after they closed a loophole in the technical regulations which allowed the teams to aerodynamically improve their diffuser with the starter motor.

At the moment, there is a hole in the starter motor, to allow the car to be started up. However, these holes have since been aerodynamicaly sculpted to allow diffuser improvements. While the FIA cannot do anything about the aero sculpting, they can limit the size of the starter motor hole. They felt that this hole was too wide, which is not a technical infringement, but is against the spirit of the rules.

While there is no strict dimensions for the starter motor hole, the FIA have sent out a letter to each of the teams, laying out the maximum diameter of the hole, and maximum projected area that is now allowed. This rule change affects four teams – McLaren and Mercedes, and Renault and Force India are rumoured to be the other two.

This means that these four teams will have to change their starter motor and diffuser designs before the Australian Grand Prix next weekend.

How F1 cars have evolved from last year

As you all should remember, 2009 was the year of massive technical regulation changes, which hugely shoock up the order of the grid. Brawn GP were the best to learn from the regulations, which required a perfect aerodynamic balance. Since then, many teams have caught up, and the 2010 testing season has shown us that technical innovation  has moved on from last year. So, let’s have a look at what the teams have been inventing.

Accomodating larger fuel tanks

Wheelbase and fuel tank capacity changes

Wheelbase and fuel tank capacity changes

The main change to the 2010 regulations was that refuelling is banned. This meant that the fuel tank capacity has increased (2) from 120 to about 235 litres. This huge increase in size ensured that the teams would have to deal with two problems: 1) Adjusting the car’s balance and 2) Moving the mechanical components to facilitate this.

The inevitable solution was to increase the cars’ wheelbases. However, it was critical that the increase was not too big, in order to save handling, and thereby tyre wear. Through multiple innovations which we will now analyse, the wheelbase was only increased by around 15cm. This means that the extra 160kg of fuel has less effect on the weight distrubution of the car. However, the increased tank size meant that mechanical components had to be moved. It is believed that some teams have moved the oil tank  behind the fuel tank (since 1998 it has been ahead of it), to allow space to be saved, and therefore meaning minimal increase in the wheelbase.

Shorter gearboxes (5) save unnecessary wheelbase extensions

Shorter gearboxes (5) save unnecessary wheelbase extensions

Another innovation was to reduce the size of the gearbox, again to reduce the need of moving the wheelbase. This was combined with the fact that all of the other mechanicals were moved slightly more than the wheelbase adjustment. This space deficit was countered with a smaller suspension system (see picture above). Only Red Bull seem not to have gone down this route, instead choosing to keep its pullrod rear suspension, which moves further down the car.

More space for the double-decker diffuser

Ferrari's engine mounting allows more space for the diffuser

Ferrari's engine mounting allows more space for the diffuser

Like it or not, but the double-decker diffusers meant that the teams were looking to extract maximum downforce in the rear area. The front section was dealt with by the front wing, so the diffuser was the best area to work on. An interesting solution introduced by Ferrari replicated that on the very intelligent design of the Arrows A2, from 1970. Their F10 engine was mounted at a 3.5 degree angle (1). This meant that the exhaust pipes are located further forward than usual, which allowed for more space at the back for the diffuser. This solution was first done by the A2 in 1970.

All of that means that there is more space to play with in the back of the car. The concept of the double-decker diffuser was that there was a slot in the underside of the car, which fed a much larger diffuser on top. The extra space generated by the exhausts being moved forward means that the diffuser will be larger, meaning more downforce.

Higher gearbox positioning allows for more diffuser space

Higher gearbox positioning allows for more diffuser space

A more simple solution from Red Bull here. Adrian Newey’s idea was to elevate the gearbox instead of shortening it, which had the same effect without difficulties with the shorter gearbox afterwards. The yellow area in the photo shows the difference made by a simple adjustment. This explains why they retained their pull-rod suspension (see 3rd paragraph on larger fuel tanks) in stead of reverting to the traditional push-rod system. Since the pick-up points of the pull-rod suspension are now lower, it means that space for the diffuser is increased. These are two completely different solutions to the same objective: Make space at the back for the diffuser. This is why Formula 1 is such a great place to show technical innovation.

Rear aerodynamic airflow

McLaren's rear aerodynamic layout, which aims air at the rear wing and diffuser

McLaren's rear aerodynamic layout, which aims air at the rear wing and diffuser

As well as the diffuser, airflow management was important on the outside of the car. McLaren’s MP4-25 is the best example of this. First of all, completely the opposite of Ferrari, their exhausts have been moved further back (red arrow). The second part of this solution is to use the airflow of the airbox exit to cool the air from the gearbox radiator (blue arrow). The smaller red arrows show how these two airflow systems go over the diffuser, and the lower part of the rear wing, at certain speeds.

At lower speeds, this air goes through the diffuser, to generarte low-speed grip. When the car becomes faster, and the front and rear wings become more powerful, this airflow then moves to the lower part of the rear wing (black rear wing section). This creates a certain amount of grip without the original drag of the diffuser. This solution shows how the car’s aerodynamic system can change between grip and speed as it gets faster.

Frontal aerodynamic airflow

McLaren's front nosecone splitter, which separates airflow

McLaren's front nosecone splitter, which separates airflow

Again, McLaren’s aero setup is noteworthy here, as it incorporates a solution used by Williams last year. The nosecone splitter (black arrow) changes the airflow passing over and under the front of the car, and thereby the entire aerodynamic layout of the car.

The Sauber C29's endplate system

The Sauber C29's endplate system

As well as this, the cars’ endplates are getting more and more complicated, as the teams look for more methods to divert the air away from the front tyres. Last year, it was more difficult, as the tyres were wider, and the endplates were therefore creating more drag as they pushed more air sideways in the car. This year, because the front tyres are narrower, the endplates now feature more sections to create as little drag as possible, while still ensuring that the tyres weren’t making turbulent air by mixing with the car’s airflow.

While most teams opted to push the air outside the front tyres, Sauber went for a mixture of two solutions: To move the air around as well as over the tyres. The inner part of the endplates is traditional in creating as little drag as possible while diverting airflow. However, the interesting section is the outer part, which moves air over the tyres. As well as having a dual layout system, it means that slightly more downforce is generated by the cars at speed.

So, as we can see, there have been plenty of new technical innovations for the 2010 season, and we haven’t even started yet! Hopefully, across the season, we will see some morenew inventions, which I will feature on the blog in several round-ups across the year.

Anderson: 2010 rules bad for overtaking

Gary Anderson

Gary Anderson

The former technical director of Jordan, Stewart and Jaguar, Gary Anderson, believes that narrower front tyres for 2010 will make overtaking more difficult in F1.

Anderson, who is now a technical correspondant for Autosport, said:

“I think the aerodynamic grip will overcome the mechanical grip loss by a reasonable amount. The full contact patches added up are what gives the car the grip level on the track, but the aerodynamics of the car are going to improve quite dramatically.

“And I think that’s wrong, because all the way along the FIA has been trying to reduce the downforce of the car to improve the overtaking, and from the simple rule of just changing the front tyre, suddenly you’ve increased the downforce levels and made overtaking worse again.”

“So it’s going to be very difficult to know. But it’s going to be about the cars and the drivers that know how to look after their tyres, because you’re going to have to do much longer stints on the tyres now.”

Because front tyres are now narrower, there is less turbulence coming from the front wing and suspension area, meaning more downforce at the front. This may lead to understeer, which can be corrected with either high rear wing angle, which increases drag and reduces speed, or lower wing flap angles at the front. This will mean about the same downforce as before the narrower tyres, but less drag and therefore higher speed.

Anderson belives that this, coupled with the refuelling ban, should not be underestimated.

“It’s going to be interesting for sure,” he said. “It’s a pretty big rule change – it will change everything that the teams have learned over the last 15 years.”

“Race strategy was such an important factor in potentially winning a race. And it’s not only refuelling. The front tyre is a narrower tyre, which will lead to better aerodynamics because there is more air that can get through between the front wheel and the monocoque. So the aerodynamic changes to the car will increase the downforce.”

“The performance of the car next year should be better by a reasonable amount, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them half a second quicker, something like that.”

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