Tech Analysis: Austrian GP updates
Visiting the Red Bull Ring for the first time in 11 years presented a bit of a technical unknown for the teams. They have the data from back then stored and ready to use, but the modern generation of cars are a castaway from those of the previous decade. Going by track characteristics, the circuit is very similar to Silverstone in terms of straights followed by medium and high speed corners, plus the occasional slow turn, so downforce packages will be similar in two weeks time.
The MP4-29 was clad with the second phase of upgrades that are designed to propel them towards the front of the second place battle behind Mercedes. Progress has been made but McLaren are suffering from a draggy car combined with one that doesn’t have as much downforce as the front runners and it’s a tricky situation to be in.
The first of the most visual changes was the addition of a new front wing. The wing has reprofiled flaps that are now more curved towards the inboard section. This corresponds to the changes made at the Y250 section where the main profile of the wing has been uplifted slightly to force a stronger vortex along this axis of the car.
Accompanying these changes are a set of modified cascade winglets and a pair of turning vanes, very much akin to those on the Mercedes. The under-chassis turning vanes have now taken on a form more in line with other teams’s concepts, creating a three-element outsweeping vane attached to a flat base just behind the nose assembly. Combined with the flap and Y250 edits, the airflow structures around the front of the car have been extensively changed in a big to produce more downforce from components downstream.
The highlighted bulge on the nose cone is a camera that is used to track the position of the front wing endplates as it loads up at speed. The new front wing may have a different carbon layup towards the outboard edges so the team could be assessing if the wing is behaving as desired.
Further back, the rear brake ducts and diffuser were addressed to. The diffuser has a much more square edge to it, increasing overall volume and encouraging airflow to expand outwards as well as upwards. The base of the central section of the diffuser was lined with pairs of vortex generators like Red Bull. These tempt airflow to remain attached to the top wall of the diffuser increase upwash.
McLaren again ran without the upper mushroom wishbone fairing on the rear suspension in a bid to reduce drag. You have to question whether the fairings are really doing their job properly as their designed to induce rear downforce, which is exactly where McLaren are having issues. The front end of the car looks very good, especially at low speed. This is a problem that the team aim to resolve by the end of the European leg of the season.
Force India were another team to bring extensive updates, this being their first stage with the second arriving for Silverstone. The modifications made were quite wide spread but nothing too drastic.
A lot of changes were made around the sidepod area. At the leading edge, the team introduced an extension to the vertical turning vane, now curving over the shoulder of the sidepod and attaching horizontally with the vortex generating devices at the cockpit side. This is of similar design to the Lotus and Ferrari solutions by extending only the trailing portion of the vane, leaving the leading edge to stand alone and creating a vertical split. The horizontal segment will encourage downwash of the sidepod towards the rear of the floor.
Following on from Ferrari in Canada, Force India also arrived with extended sidepods. The outlets form a double barrel shape above the diffuser with the rear suspension elements passing through the extended bodywork.
These changes were accompanied by a new wing mirror mounting. The mirrors were previously attached to the top of the monocoque by a very small joining piece. The new mounting forms a dog leg shape which manipulates the airflow to work better with the new horizontal vane across the top of the sidepod.
The front wing pylons received a slight tweak, too. The pylons – that attach the wing to the nose assembly – have been extended forwards slightly and have a greater ‘lean back’ towards the upper nose section.Generally, teams have been placing the pylons as far over the back of the wing as possible to effectively create a pair of turning vanes that aid airflow management around the floor area. Force India have bucked the trend with this design, although perhaps it is designed to encourage more air beneath the nose rather than manage the lower region of airflow.
A much improved STR9 turned up on Saturday although yet more reliability set backs prevented a point scoring opportunity on Sunday. Jean-Eric Vergne suffered a front left brake failure and Daniil Kvyat an unexplainable rear suspension failure.
Likewise with McLaren, Toro Rosso had a new set of under-chassis turning vanes of similar guise to the former outfit. Rear brake ducts and new front and rear wings were also installed.
Interestingly, the front wing follows McLaren’s now-departed design. The upper flaps have a large surface area and are very box-like in shape. Along with the modified leading edge of the wing, this should generate a bit more downforce at high speed in particular. The cascade winglets now feature three elements with a turning vane each on top to push airflow around the front tyre.
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic