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20 Feb 2018
Sauber C37 launch analysis

Sauber are the fourth team to release images of their car ahead of the new season and it’s worth noting that the C37 has several bold and interesting features.
As you cast your eyes over the car the first thing that strikes you as noteworthy is the inlets created either side of the thumb style nose tip [1]. They’re similar to the ‘nostrils’ used by Force India since 2015, with the intent of improving the flow around the cars frontal section, which has also seen the front axle moved forward, inline with an increase in wheelbase as a direct consequence of using the 2018 Ferrari powerunit.

Aft of this the team have added some control vanes on the side of the nose [2], influencing the expected improvement in the airflow in that region, a design choice already used by the other two Ferrari powered teams during 2017 and augmented further by at least Haas so far in 2018. It’s unclear at this point whether the inlet for the ‘S’ duct resides under the nose at this point of the car or whether it’s been joined upto the nostril inlets. Similarly the launch images reveal what looks like a double ‘S’ duct outlet, one ahead and one behind the Pirelli logo, however, the forwardmost one may well be just a convex panel that ‘trips’ the airflow on its way to the ‘S’ duct and the nose/chassis transition.

The car shown is completely devoid of brake duct fairings, which is either a sign of them not being ready for the launch or that the team didn't want to disclose their design ahead of the pre-season tests.

Interestingly the team have adopted the raised upright position for the suspension [3] as used by Mercedes and Toro Rosso in 2017, the intent of which is to give more flexibility in terms of setup, an improvement on the management of the tyres and places the entire upper wishbone into a more aerodynamically desirable position. 

However, Sauber have gone one stage further, as vortex generators have been placed on both the forward and rearward leg of the upper wishbone to maximize how the airflow moves around that region, reshaping the wake generated by the front tyre that may also be detrimental to the performance of the floor, sidepods and rear wing downstream.

The C37’s sidepod layout may seem conventional when compared with the launches we’ve had so far - where those teams have lowered the upper side impact spar similarly to Ferrari’s 2017 design. However, on closer inspection the sidepod has been compacted vertically in order that the main inlet can be narrowed considerably [4]. 

Furthermore, the team have a supplementary cooling inlet above the main one set slightly back down the sidepod [5] and partially disguised from certain angles by the sidepod slat, which resides in quite a high position over the top of the lowered sidepods leading edge. Although not as large the inlet brings to mind Benetton’s 1989 challenger - the B188, which also sat atop the main sidepod inlet.

Although we’d seen teams utilise the 20mm of freedom for halo fairings in the last test of 2017, Sauber are the first to show their 2018 challenger with a winged, rather than streamlined, variant.
The halo fairing shown by the team features two large winged elements, both of which are used to realign the airflow, tidying up some of the aerodynamic inefficiencies the structure creates.

The bladed roll structure used in 2017 (left) has been retained, with the compartmentalised inlets also preserved, albeit made smaller, with a large inlet set further back over the top of the engine cover in order to deal with the revised airflow discharged by the halo.

Gone is the shark fin, as per the instructions of the FIA, replaced by a shorter version [8] similar to the one tested by the team toward the end of last season. You’ll also note the supplementary periscope inlet, which is another feature that the team used at points last season in order to maintain temperatures under the bodywork.

The team have worked with OZ on their wheel rim design for 2018 as they search for control over the airflow that passes through them and their relationship with the tyre in terms of temperatures. At the rear of the car they have taken on board a similar design used by Red Bull in 2017, with numerous ribs [9] used as a heatsink.

During 2017 both Mercedes and Ferrari utilised a duckbill style winglet on top of the rear crash structure. Similarly for 2018 Sauber have introduced such a winglet [10] in order that the exhaust plume be upwashed.

The rear wing has been developed slightly when compared to 2017 and is now supported by two pillars, rather than a single one that intersected the exhaust, likely due to trying to save weight and due to the fact that the exhaust must be longer this season.

Overall the C37 is an interesting machine that should see some decent gains for the team but, it really comes down to how that correlates with everyone else's improvement from last season.  Many elements of the car are direct descendants of the development work done by the team throughout 2017, including the front wing, turning vanes, bargeboards and floor, all of which are likely candidates to be revised as testing and the opening part of the season unfolds.
The C36 (left) vs the C37 (right) shows how much more detail the new car has over last years.
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19 Feb 2018
Red Bull RB14 launch analysis

Red Bull, the canny media operator, have launched their 2018 challenger - the RB14 with a special livery that has got fans going "Please keep it", "That's amazing", all whilst knowing they'll get another injection of media buzz when they unveil their race livery in Barcelona.

This all comes with the team having moved forward their schedule for 2018, albeit only by a week, as a sign of their intent to get out of the blocks earlier this year. They were the team on the move last season and undoubtedy had the largest leap in terms of performance from day one to the chequered flag in Abu Dhabi. However, whilst their 2017 campaign was fraught with development issues from a chassis and aerodynamic perspective - having had correlation issues, caused by the switch to wider cars, their 2018 campaign may be held back by the very same issue that has been a thorn in their side since 2014 - the powerunit.

The Red Bull and Renault alliance has been on shaky ground ever since the French outfit bought back into the sport as a 'Works' entity, ploughing more and more resource into their own efforts, at the expense of the close relationship that had been forged with Red Bull at the tail end of the V8 era. 

2018 is supposed to be last year of this tie-up, and with Mercedes and Ferrari extremely unlikely to supply one of their closest adversaries it seems that Red Bull may have to do some extreme sucking up to Renault or drink the Honda kool-aid, just as their sister team Toro Rosso have had to this year.

It'll be interesting to see how these relationships unwind during 2018, as antagonising the French supplier will only lead to a reduction in information and co-operation, which will hurt their championship chances. On the flip side it'll be fascinating to see how they interact with their potential bedfellow for 2019 - Honda.

From a technical perspective the RB14 is once again an evolution of its forebears, retaining much of the DNA of the RB13 but also taking on ideas seen elsewhere on the grid.

The open ended nose tip [1] utilised throughout 2017 makes a triumphant return allowing the oncoming airflow a less obstructed pathway under the nose. Meanwhile, the front wing is a carry over from last year, with the drooped flap tips [2] on display that were used at the post season test in Abu Dhabi. Elsewhere the team continue to distance themselves from much of the field, especially with their endplate/footplate interpretation [3].

The car retains a similar setup in terms of the nose shape, camera supports, ‘S’ duct, brake ducts, blown axle and turning vanes, the latter of which will likely change during testing. However, the most intriguing part of this area of the RB14 is the way in which the suspension is mounted, with the outer connecting point raised up in a similar, albeit not as aggressive way to the choice made by Mercedes and Toro Rosso last season [4].
This has also led to an aggressive approach on the inboard end too, with supports that jut out from the chassis connecting them to the upper wishbone [5]. The forwardmost of these inner mounting points is exceptionally high, positioned relatively far forward and angled in a downward slope, meaning the wishbone sleeving is not only twisted but swept rearwards in order to have the desired aerodynamic effect. Meanwhile, the rear leg of the wishbone also has a chassis spar with which it connects and whilst it is less aggressively angled it is swept too, albeit in the opposing direction, and used to direct airflow around the revised sidepods.

The bargeboards are a development of the ones used by the team in the latter part of 2017, with an extra vertical panel assisting with the flow pattern that’s changed with the introduction of the new sidepod concept. This will undoubtedly be an area of intense development again throughout 2018, as the designers still come to terms with the freedom they have.
Red Bull have followed Ferrari's lead with their 2018 sidepod design, placing the impact support spar in the low slung position, giving the designers more scope in terms of surface geometry for the sidepod.
If the Haas and Williams reveals told us anything it was that most of the field would follow in Ferrari’s footsteps and utilise the low-slung position [6] for the side impact spar that they did in 2017. The introduction of a specification side impact spar for 2014 took away some of the creativity that had come to bear in previous seasons but, as the FIA put it would improve safety and reduce costs.

As we can see with the overlay the specification style spar had locked the designers into a similar design path, with the spar ordinarily traversing the area just above the inlet (see RB13, right), whereas the option taken by Ferrari in 2017 and copied by at least Haas, Williams and Red Bull in 2018 allows much more freedom, allowing the sidepod to be pushed back, limiting the aerodynamic inefficiencies created by the front wheel wake but is also creating an opportunity for the designers to alter the aerodynamic center of pressure and weight distribution of the car.
From this angle we can see how narrow the sidepods inlet is, assisted by the fact that the side impact spar no longer dictates the width to the sidepods shoulder.
As you’d expect Red Bull have taken this concept and pushed the limits further, creating a very narrow periscope inlet [7], in as high a position as possible, which undoubtedly works well with the complex front suspension in order to get cool air through the sidepod, whilst also resulting in extremely tight packaging that’ll improve aerodynamic performance.

Flanking the sidepods we find a large array of deflector panels [8], taking what the team learnt from the introduction of their Ferrari style deflectors in Singapore last season and giving them a more Mercedes twist, utilising four vertical panels in order to protect the sidepods shoulder from the wake created by the front tyre and improve the flow of air along the cars length.

Astride the top of the sidepod we find a deltoid shaped winglet [8], similar to the one used by Toro Rosso in 2017, but rather than terminate at the sidepods shoulder it extends beyond it tapering off into an endplate that likely creates a vortex that influences the airflow passing around the sidepod, rear tyre and rear wing.   

The sidepods themselves have a whiff of RB5/6 about them, such is there shrink wrapped appearance [9], which is staggering given the additional content required for the ancillary coolers associated with turbocharging and the hybrid systems.

The engine cover [10] features a collection of panels, rather than the single element used by the team in the last few seasons, suggesting that they intend to make more changes in this area as the season progresses, in order to improve cooling and aerodynamic performance. The team retains its single centreline support pillar for the rear wing but, they’ve utilised an inverted Y-Lon style appendage to surround the exhaust and then mount to the top of the crash structure this year, rather than having it mounted to the engine cover.

The RB14 appears to be a very well put together machine, taking the best technical elements of Red Bull's late charge in 2017 and combining it with the novelties used elsewhere on the grid. What will be interesting to see going forward is how much scope for development the team have throughout the season.
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16 Feb 2018
Williams FW41 launch analysis (Top 10)

Williams are the second team to show off their 2018 challenger and it’s packed full of wholesale changes as the team look to revive former glories. Led by Paddy Lowe, who joined the team too late into the development cycle of their 2017 challenger to make meaningful changes, it features several design cues utilised by their adversaries last season.

Joining Lowe, as part of an overhaul of their technical department, was ex-Lotus and Ferrari designer Dirk De Beer, taking up the role of head of aerodynamics. It’ll be of no surprise then that this years car is an amalgamation of last years leading duo, packed with features that they hope will help to shape the FW41 into a serious contender.

The FW41’s front wing [1] builds on the design utilised in 2017, utilising a triple element mainplane and short chord flaps. Meanwhile, the nose continues to feature a thumb style tip and ‘S’ duct, however, it now features a ‘cape’ design [2] much like the one run by Mercedes last season.

The Mercedes influence can be seen further downstream too as the bargeboards sit astride numerous longitudinal serrations [3]. Above this they have an elongated version of the boomerang wing [4] used by Mercedes in 2017 too. However, the length of the boomerang means it is connected to the outboard deflector [5], which bears a significant resemblance to the one used initially by Ferrari and latterly Red Bull in 2017.

The cars midriff, much like the Haas design, takes its influence from last years clever sidepod arrangement utilised by Ferrari. Adopting the low-slung side impact protection spar and enclosing it in its own bodywork [6] allows the sidepod inlet to be pushed further rearward, improving aerodynamic and cooling efficiency. Weight from the associated cooling hardware inside the sidepod is also pushed rearward, helping to balance the distribution demands placed on the team by the introduction of the halo.

The change to this style of sidepod has clearly influenced the overall design, with an extremely svelte waistline and aggressive undercut tapering toward the rear coke bottle section, which’ll undoubtedly bring a significant leap in performance when compared with last years more conventional layout.

The halo, although painted in white to match the livery gives up no clues in these images as to the aerodynamic fairing that’ll be used. With 20mm to play with all of the designers have been working tirelessly on mitigating the aerodynamic issues associated with the safety structure, but in Williams case we’ll have to wait to see what they do in this respect.

The airbox remains largely unchanged when compared with its predecessor, having already opted for a wide inlet in 2017. Aft of this the engine cover uses the maximum permitted area, with an enlarged spine replacing the shark fin cover used last season[7]. The team have also retained the wide strip atop the forwardmost horizontal section of the cover [8], as they look to maximise the amount of side force being generated.

As expected the FW41 features a low T-Wing [9] similar to the one used by the team throughout 2017, taking advantage of the area of freedom within the regulations.

The rear wing is now supported by two swan-neck style mounting pillars [10] either side of the exhaust, rather than the single yet perhaps heavier alternative single pillar used in 2017. The open-end style louvres utilised last year are retained whilst the complexity of the lower straked section of the endplate is increased once more.
The influence of Mercedes 2017 challenger is revived at the rear of the car, as the curled outer Gurney style tabs used by the Brackley based team have been studied and implemented by Williams for 2018.

I think many F1 fans will join me in hoping that Williams can claw their way back toward the front of the grid. However, I do see the FW41 (at this point) as only a stepping stone in that journey, as whilst they'll undoubtedly have seen their numbers improve when compared to last years field you'd expect the leaders to have learnt valuable lessons during that development phase that will continue to shape their cars going into 2018.
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15 Feb 2018
Haas VF18 brief launch analysis

As expected the VF18 is an evolution of last years machine with several areas tidied up and refined, whilst the decision to converge on ideas used elsewhere up and down the grid has clearly been taken in some areas of the car.
[1] The front wing is very similar conceptually to what the team ran during last years campaign albeit much more complex, especially in the outer section where the flaps have been divided up.

[2] The nose is very similar to last years design, although the pillars have been revised in order to improve the flow downstream.

[3] The integrated turning vanes used by the team in 2017 have been refined further in 2018, solidifying their role in the movement of airflow around that region of the car.

[4] Purchasing their powerunit, gearbox and suspension from Ferrari means they have commonality that gives us clues as to how the factory team will set up. You'll note that means the car utilizes a blown axle at the front of the car again too, assisting the front wing in its efforts to control the wake she's by the front tyre.

[5] Having seen what Ferrari did last year with the design of their sidepod, Haas have taken cues from the design, moving the upper of the two side impact spars forward and into a lower position, allowing more freedom to design the sidepod.

[6] Alongside the sidepods flank a large louvred deflector panel can be found, similar to the one introduced in the United States last season.

The installation of the halo has led to a few changes, including the use of a serrated windscreen which will reduce the buffeting to the drivers helmet that'll be changed by the safety structures introduction.

[7] The airbox has been placed as high as possible and made wider in order that the quality of airflow into it isn't dramatically affected by the halo.

[8] The shark fin, outlawed by the FIA for 2018, has been replaced by an engine cover with an enlarged spine, whilst the T-Wing, which the FIA had also looked to remove, can be found in the lower position fancied by both Williams and Sauber last season.

[9] The duckbill style crash structure winglet used by Mercedes and Ferrari in 2017 has also been utilized.

[10] The rear wing is once again enforced by a pair of swan neck style mounting pillars, whilst the open-ended style louvres that have almost become commonplace up and down the grid have also found their way onto the Haas.

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