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27 Apr 2012

Bahrain proved to be another exciting race spiced up by further technical upgrades bought to the race by the teams.
I have already posted an article on the main reason why Red Bull have made a leap forward here:

Having reestablished themselves as a championship contender Red Bull's upgrades didn't stop at the ones shown in my other article, they have also employed another of Sauber's tricks for this year which is to place a slit in the rear of the floor just in front of the rear tyre. The reason for this slit is to reduce the impact of 'Tyre Squirt' this is the air that is pushed aside by the rotating wheel. In the case of the current regulations Tyre squirt effects the sealing of the diffuser as the airflow from the sidewall of the tyre pushes sideways converging with the diffuser flow and causes turbulence. The shape and position of the slot helps to move the flow of air, thus reducing the 'Tyre Squirt' issue. Ferrari also adopted this solution in Bahrain but with 3 slots as opposed to 1 and with a varied degree of angle. I expect by Mugello we will see most teams using the slot(s) with perhaps the exception of Lotus who seemed to have opened themselves upto the idea of using the tyre squirt to their advantage. As you can see in their picture the diffuser has exits on the outer proportions of the diffuser where most teams will usually enclose with end fences.

Monkey Seats

These are the little winglets that you see atop of the beam wing. With DDD and EBD the teams could generate more than enough downforce from the diffuser however with these options banned the teams have to more and more creative in how they gain downforce. Monkey Seats are not a new thing for F1 but simply a revisit due to the current regulations. Acting as a mini wing the Monkey seat acts in much the same way as the rear wing it sits within, providing additional rear downforce but comes with the same net drawback as the Rear Wing – DRAG. I'm expecting to see some flexing rear beam wing assemblies cropping up in order to bleed some of the downforce off at high speed. Teams like Lotus and Red Bull have integrated theirs into the beam wing with much smaller versions. The use of / positioning of the engine cover outlet will also be positioned in accordance with the particular Monkey Seat. Ferrari are having to sacrifice their low slung outlet in order to maximize the seat as you will see they have added a slit further up the engine cover.

Wheels / Wheel Nuts / Wheel Guns

I was going to do a separate article about this but feel it is pretty relevant considering the McLaren pit stop issues at Bahrain and China. Mercedes and Ferrari have this year both opted to run with a 'Nut in Wheel' solution which means the nut actually forms as part of the wheel. This is not to say it rotates as part of the wheel (would be a nightmare having to rotate the whole wheel whilst gunning it on) but floats in attachment to the wheel. Schumacher's race was bought to a climax in China due to this innovation as the problem of cross threading a wheel nut is compounded by the nut being attached to the wheel. Had the mechanic been able to stop Schumacher from leaving the box the team would more than likely have had to resort to replacing all 4 wheels again. This is due to the nature of cross threading a wheel nut as once the thread is stripped from the nut it must be replaced. In the case of the 'Nut in Wheel' solution the team would be forced to replace all 4 wheels as you can't have odd tyres (Tyre allocation rule).

I'm speculating somewhat here but McLaren have had left rear wheel issues in consecutive races firstly with Jenson at China and twice more for Lewis in Bahrain. Exhaust gas manipulation is still not an exact science and heat generation toward the rear left wheel could be to blame.
With both the China and Bahrain circuits being clockwise, heat generated by the exhaust that should be heading inbound over the diffuser could be drifting outbound toward the left side.  As the car corners and the 'Coanda effect' drifts away slightly on that side of the car. The hub that the wheel nut goes onto is made of Titanium however the nut itself is made of aluminium. Aluminium's thermal properties are much weaker than titanium however the nut could act as a heating sleeve expanding that region of the hub more quickly making it difficult to put the new wheel nut on.

Ferrari may be behind on the track but in the pitlane the team are excelling coupled with the 'nut in wheel' solution I believe Ferrari may have got a better handle than most on the ban of helium operated wheel guns. (Helium was being used by the teams to speed up their guns due to it being less dense) Their wheel nut apparently only has 3 rotations rather than the 6 most teams use which will also speed up the process.

McLaren & Sauber's sudden loss of pace

With F1 being the closest we have seen in a number of years most were surprised to see that 2 of the teams that were quick in the previous 3 races were out of sorts in Bahrain.
Just before the race there was a rainfall around the circuit which is very rare. This lead to a 10 degree slide in track temperature from Qualifying to the Race with temperatures in and around 40-42 and 30-32 degrees respectively. Thermal tyre degredation is something that all the teams are working hard on this year to manage and I'm guessing that due to the temperature variable this could have made an impact on the McLaren and Sauber as they tend to be much kinder on the tyres than those around them. A big drop in temperature means that from a mechanical grip point of view they were not able to work the tyres enough as their package would have worked better at a higher track temp.  Red Bull coming with their new package compounds the lack of pace shown by these 2 teams along with the first real showing of the Lotii's true race pace.

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