Tech Analysis: Bahrain test review
Having already discussed some of the latest tech appearances on the cars at the midway point of the second test session in Bahrain, this piece aims to give you a short overview of the updates we’ve seen on the cars of late. With all but the Renault-powered teams seeking further performance, the second test session was a prime opportunity for the teams to start stretching the legs of their creations for the year ahead.
The fleet of new parts that landed on the C33 last week is not necessarily an indication of more productivity over its rivals but more of a sign that it means business this year. Having opted to keep most of its components under wraps in Jerez, Sauber arrived in Bahrain with a new front and rear wings, rear brake ducts, sidepod aero devices and modifications to the diffuser to name but a few.
The front wing was more of an evolution than revolution and we are yet to see any extreme endplate design – something that was anticipated due to the narrower front wings for this year. Perhaps the teams are choosing a larger surface area to play instead, which should produce a little more downforce and creates more opportunities beneath the wing to divert airflow around the front tyre behind.
Sauber’s latest iteration features no more than 7 elements at its outboard section, the main plane split into 5 in itself. Extra elements results in more consistent downforce across a range of speeds, although overall peak downforce is lost as a result. Other changes were made to the endplate fence where an elongated vertical slot was added, coupled with small undercut to the rear of the fence. The cascade elements remain the same.
Along with some modifications to the middle of the car, Sauber have done a lot of work at the rear, too. New rear brake ducts made their debut which feature stacked flick-ups. These vanes are profiled to form miniature wings and aim to apply downforce directly to the rear tyres as well as generate a further upwashing effect at the rear of the car as they work in conjunction with the rear wing and the diffuser.
The diffuser itself has also undergone a little bit of treatment, with the top edge now including a common-place Gurney tab and some additional bodywork around the rear crash structure. Again, these devices aim to extract more from the rear of the car.
Finally a new rear wing was also present. A completely different design to its Jerez-specification counterpart, its profile is much deeper and more smoothly finished. This was coupled to a small winglet installed above the exhaust – the Monkey Seat winglet.
Jerez’s woes continued in Bahrain and it appears that whilst they still have inherent cooling problems, the main cause for their troubles may actually be the integration of Renault’s power unit rather than just cooling. Red Bull are no stranger to unique packaging (often in tight confines) so this might not come as a surprise to you.
Instead of running a refined, if temporary, rear bodywork to gain a bit of mileage, the team seem adamant that there is nothing wrong with the way the RB10′s rear bodywork is packaged. On day one of the test they must have realised that they shot themselves in the foot with this idea and decided to install small, tube-like inlets at the base of the sidepod in the same place we previously saw cut-outs in Jerez.
Quite why they didn’t bring a more conservative package to Bahrain is beyond me but they are the ones with the information, not me…
Addressing some of the issues surrounding Renault’s power unit, Lotus installed an outlet on the spine of the E22′s engine cover, directly above the turbo unit. This outlet is complimented by a pair of inlets further up the engine cover which creates a miniature cooling system just for the turbo.
The inlet/outlet is formed together into one removable panel in order to change the size of the aperture of both inlet and outlet quickly, should more extensive cooling be required.
It remains unclear as to whether the outgoing, hot air from the turbo is aerodynamically useful to the rear wing directly behind, although my guess is that this is not the case.
With cooling set to be an issue throughout the season, Mercedes set about exploring different options in Bahrain. Inspired by Red Bull’s cooling package of recent years, the Anglo-German squad ran a layout akin the the RB10 by opening up the bodywork around the exhaust and reducing the size of the sidepod outlets.
This allows a little more airflow to reach the top of the diffuser as the sidepods are made a little skinnier as a result. However it transpired that the team preferred the original configuration seen in Jerez and was used predominantly throughout all four days of testing. It is likely that we will see a return of this solution next week for the final test, however. A combination of both outlets could be used if things get very hot in future races.
Having successfully debuted their ‘mushroom’ (yes, that is what McLaren call them!) rear suspension in Jerez, McLaren came to Bahrain with a more refined solution. In the second test session the MP4-29 featured fully carbon fibre fairings whereas in Jerez the elements were believed to be 3D printed to see if they were worth developing further. There are rumours of more developments to come from McLaren around this area of the car, and we may only have to wait until next week to find out.