Tech Analysis: Final test updates
So, testing is done and dusted. The next time we see the cars they will be out on Albert Park circuit and will most likely look a little different than they were when they left Bahrain last week.
Although plenty of developments were brought to the final winter test session, many race-specification parts were not tested due to the immense (and often delayed) programs the teams were trawling through. To name one example, Mercedes were rumoured to be bringing and even lower, shorter nose but it failed to pass the crash tests. Every team will be working around the clock to prepare the cars and ship out vital performance updates that they hope will improve their position come Sunday next week.
In the mean time, here’s what we saw last week…
Maranello must have been a hive of activity between the two Bahrain test sessions. The F14 T had a lot of new components on board, including several cooling options at the rear of the car.
Starting at the front, the anticipated arrival of a new front wing was growing and we finally saw their latest iteration on the second day. Featuring no more than 7 elements at its outboard edge, its design takes a lot of cues from its 2013 predecessor, with the main plane divided into three segments and the upper flaps split into four at various stages.
The endplates remain very basic although this is not to say that their design is flawed. It is the underside of the wing that aims to divert airflow around the front tyre immediately behind. hence the lack of visible detail. It is only when you view the wing from behind that we get an impression of what the team are trying to achieve.
The main cascade winglets are split into three elements where they curl upwards, producing a staggered surface for airflow to pass around/through. This surface will generate a larger vortex that will also offset airflow around the front tyre.
Finally, the small bulges at the top outboard region of the wing house small, IR cameras that monitor the front tyres. A live feed will be sent back to the pits as the car travels, allowing engineers to get an indication as to how the tyres behave across a stint.
Further back, Ferrari installed a pair of horizontal vanes just behind the T-cam on top of the airbox/engine cover. We have seen these devices before but have disappeared since the higher rear wings came along in 2009. These will generate a set of vortices that aim to extract more performance from the central section of the rear wing behind.
New rear wing endplates were also evident, scrapping the large, vertical slat at the trailing edge in place of a more conventional single profile. This was coupled with minor revisions to the leading edge and a variety of upper flaps on the rear wing.
Another team that have been extremely busy of late, Mercedes were aiming to maintain their position as pre-season favourites last week.
The Brackley squad have refined the rear end of the W05 ahead of the first race by treating the rear diffuser to a pair of triangular extensions. These extensions branch above the central section of the diffuser where airflow is expanding at its fastest. Airflow passing out of, and over the top of, the diffuser in this region will be form high-velocity vortices as they hit the triangles, producing an even lower pressure region which forces further expansion at the rear of the car.
The 2014 Silver Arrow also featured new vertical strakes added to the floor ahead of the rear tyre. Vortices are again the theme of the day here as they aim to offset turbulence created by the rear tyre from disturbing the low pressure airflow passing beneath the car.
An updated sidepod airflow conditioner (the vertical elements flanking the car) was present which curled over the top of the sidepod to attach horizontally against the outboard, vertical vortex generator. Whilst its primary function is to deflect front tyre wake away from the critical sidepod undercut area, its shape forms a nice funnel for airflow to bend around the sidepod.
Despite growing concerns within the team that they are not developing fast enough, McLaren had a few things on offer in Bahrain.
Over recent years teams have opted to extend their rear wing endplates right down towards the top of the diffuser. This allows airflow passing around the suspension and tyre regions to be managed to a greater degree. However McLaren have bucked the trend as the MP4-29 ran with very short endplates last week.
Shorter endplates were very common pre-2009 and the Woking outfit have chosen to return to this concept. It remains unclear as to why they have done this although it could perhaps relate to how their multiple vertical slot layout (at the trailing edge of the endplates) works in conjunction with the diffuser. It could even be a method of weight saving as a lot of teams are still tight on the weight limit.
The team also continued to develop its ‘mushroom’ rear suspension layout in parallel with their apparent minor cooling issues. Offsetting the ‘mushrooms’ allowed hot air to exit more freely out of the large, cannon outlets whilst also retaining their aerodynamic advantage.
Alongside an updated rear bodywork, Toro Rosso turned up with a new nose and slightly modified front wing.
Its design takes a lot from their launch specification nose and retains the ‘m’ shape along the top, albeit a little more exaggerated. They have copied Force India in that they have extended the mandatory “nose” crash structure above the minimum height to meet the wedged, upper section at a higher point. This increases the volume of airflow that is allowed to pass between the two front wing pillars which increases the potential for parts further downstream.
Triple element cascade winglets were also installed but I am still convinced there is more to comes at the front end of the car in particular. Given that they are still dealing with numerous power unit problems that lack of updates shouldn’t be surprising but we should expect to see more modifications made ahead of the first race next week.