Tech Roundup – China and Bahrain

Tech Roundup – China and Bahrain

The first 4 fly away races of the season have set the scene for what could become a huge Championship battle. With 1 eye on the 2013 season and the other looking down the road at the impending rule changes for 2014 this season is going to create an interesting battle for teams not only at the front of the grid but all the way through it. We have heard so much already from the teams, drivers, journalists and broadcasters about Pirelli’s new tyre line up for 2013 with everyone discussing the implications. The issues are not only about strategy caused by the fast degrading rubber but many teams feel they have been hampered by poor scale model representations of this years tyres, given to the teams by Pirelli to aid in their cars designs.

Pirelli also announced after China that they plan to change the compound being used in the Hard tyre and from Barcelona onwards the tyre will resemble a choice much closer to the 2012 compound. This therefore puts more prominence on the usage of the Medium tyre with circuits featuring the Hard tyre now likely only to be tied with it rather than a 2 step gap to the Soft tyre.

The mechanical gains/losses of the Pirelli tyres this season however are not the only concern to the teams with many left scratching their heads over their cars aero performance. Much of 2012′s technical advances centered around the mastering of ‘Coanda’ exhaust setups, in order to extract additional downforce. The idea behind this method is to get the exhuast plume between the side of the tyre and edge of the floor, ‘Sealing’ the diffuser. The new construction of the Pirelli tyres means the Sidewall of the tyre is much more forgiving and this deformation is what has caught some of the teams out but moreover means all the teams will make adjustments in this area to extract a more consistent level of downforce.

Red Bull

The team arrived in China with a new floor for the RB9 featuring an additional Vertical Floor Strake ahead of the rear wheel. The idea behind this is as discussed above, aiding in the manipulation of the airflow between the rear wheel and Diffuser. The Floor Strakes are aimed toward each other creating a nozzle for the air to exit, vorticising it and therefore re interpreting the direction it takes.

RB9 Floor

In Bahrain the team evaluated a blown front axle on Vettel’s car during Friday’s Free Practice sessions. They returned to their regular design for Qualifying and the Race but having utilised a similar design at the start of 2012 that subsequently banned by the FIA they may try it again going forward.

Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix Preparations, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Thursday 18 April 2013.

The team also revised their approach to the Rear Wing Endplate Louvres in Bahrain following many others who have adopted an horizontal design.

Red Bull RW Endplates

Effort was also made with the Beam Wing which has been slimmed at the outer edges in order to reduce drag and the enlarging of the Engine Covers outlet to aid in the raised temperatures.

Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Sunday 21 April 2013.

Lotus

Having installed a large upgrade to the E21 on Kimi’s car in Malaysia they installed the same on Romain’s car in China. In China the team altered the design of their outboard Airflow Conditioner adding an additional element that works in harmony with the Horizontal Vane that runs atop of the Sidepod.

Lotus VG

Ferrari

Having already implemented a 7 Tier Front Wing on the F138 the team adopted a new Endplate in China. The change in design is aimed at both improving airflow attachment at the outer reaches of the Wing whilst changing the characteristics of how the air flows around the front wheel. Tied with this a small alteration was also made to the Cascades.

Ferrari FW Endplate Changes Under the nose of the F138 the team altered the Turning Vanes, producing a 3 tier element in place of their 2 Tier design.

Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday 13 April 2013.

At the rear of the car the team opened up the Engine covers exit (blue arrow) to aid with cooling whilst also removing the vertical Endplate section on the Brake Drums (Yellow Arrow). This is again likely a response to controlling the airflow between the rear wheel and Diffuser.

Ferrari Rear End

Mercedes

Having got their season off to a fantastic start the usual thermal degradation tyre issues seem to have bestowed the team in Bahrain. The aforementioned change of Hard tyre compound may well help the Brackley based squad as they seem to have struggled juggling the temperature requirements of the differing compounds. In China the team made a minor revision to their Front Wing Cascade removing the outer vertical section.

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McLaren

Having openly admitted the team have encountered issues with the MP4-28 the team revised the exhaust layout for China highlighting that some of their shortcomings are aero related. The new bodywork employed by McLaren at the rear of the MP4-28 sees a shortened section of Bodywork which alters the area in which the exhaust plume lands on the floor of the car.  This will not only change the targeting of the exhaust plume but adjust the way in which the airflow traveling around the side of the Sidepod migrates into the coke bottle region.

McLaren Exhaust

 

As I mentioned in my last article the likes of Williams and Sauber are extremely disappointed with their start to 2013 and so I’m sure will be bringing significant upgrades to Barcelona especially on the back of Caterham bringing their major upgrade package forward to Bahrain and being raced on Charles Pic’s car.  It was a significant upgrade with a new Nose, Bargeboards, Airflow Conditioners and totally revised Rear Wing.  Whilst writing this piece the team have also been conducting a Filming day at Magny-Cours where the team also ran the CT-03 with a Vanity panel applied to the nose.  The progression made by the two more rearward teams of Caterham and Marussia this season may not be enough to overturn their more midfield rivals but it certainly shows that both outfits are moving in the right direction.  Meanwhile at the other end of the spectrum Force India have made strides towards the top end of the grid, perhaps fortuitously through finding gains from the Tyre aero area’s others have seemingly come unstuck with or just by virtue of the repackaging of the VJM06 to cater for the ‘Coanda’ exhaust it wasn’t designed for in 2012.  All in all the VJM06 is a solid package and the team have a good handle on the tyres but it remains to be seen how far into the season they can hang onto this as just like everyone around them they struggle to balance the needs of this and next season.

The three week break from Bahrain to Barcelona couldn’t have come soon enough for the struggling teams but the return to Europe will also make it easier to dispatch upgrades to the race teams with some teams likely to have large programmes to cover during the Free Practice sessions.