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12 Jan 2016

I've mothballed this post several times but have finally decided it might be worth visiting given news today that changes to the 2017 regulations may be watered down further still.

It was originally the intention of the FIA to increase speeds in Formula One, reducing laptimes by 5-6 seconds.  However, as the Strategy Group and teams have become involved arguments have presented themselves on just how this can be achieved.

One of the main reasons for mothballing this post is that I'd like to illustrate the proposals, however, this takes time, something that can be quite precious, especially when I'll need to do it all again when the technical regulations are actually released.  As such, for the purpose of this article I have 'borrowed' some images from the great Giogio Piola's animation....

Giorgio presents what he believes an F1 challenger might look based around information that has been fed to him about the 2017 regulation changes.

As we can see from the overlay (above, top) the most obvious change is the width of the car, which centres around the introduction of wider tyres, increasing the cars track from 1800mm to 2000m, with the front tyres increasing from 245mm to 300mm and the rears 325mm to 400mm.    This increase in tyre width is an attempt by the FIA and Pirelli to put an emphasis back on mechanical grip, something that will be immediately lost by the increase in downforce in any case.

You'll note from the image above that there has also been talk about deltoid shapes, notably to the front wing and sidepods leading edge.  In the case of the front wing this has an effect on the 'neutral section' which sits 250mm either side of the centreline, as such you may be used to hearing the phrase Y250 vortex.  A deltoid shaping of that section will not only change how the vortex forms on the car it also changes how the wing and car deal with being in the wake of another car.  You'll note that Giorgio has intimated a point 200mm forward of the current neutral sections leading edge, which changes how airflow forms and is distributed downstream on the car, perhaps improving how the car deals with 'dirty air' spilt by the car ahead.  (I'd certainly like to see the CFD analysis behind this change)
The increase in tyre width also means the front wings width is increased by 100mm too, keeping parity in terms of where the front wing sits in front of the tyre.  However, this has a two fold effect, not only does it give the designers more scope with which to place turning devices (such as cascades and canards), allowing them to turn the airflow inside and outside of the tyre.  It also gives them the opportunity to consider flexible wings, something I'm sure they've kept shtum about when issuing the FIA with their version of the regulations, especially as it also aligns with the use of a deltoid neutral section.

Front wing flex was an area of huge development during 2010-2012, primarily focused on Red Bull's ability to stay one step ahead of their rivals.  The wings were designed to droop (flex) at their outermost edges, in order to change how the outer footprint of the tyre impacted on aero downstream and frame the flow inbetween.  As such, I suspect we'll see revised load tests introduced within the new regulations, curtailing the practice before it gets off the ground.

The increase in the mainplanes length will almost certainly require modification to the nose regulations too, with the nose length and positions corrected to match.

Returning to the overhead shot you'll note that Giogio has also highlighted the leading edge of the sidepods as a possible area of revision.  Like the front wing he is suggesting that a deltoid shaping will be required, with a 15degree applied.  This would have an effect not only aerodynamically but thermodynamically and structurally.  Firstly, over the last 6 years the teams have proliferated this area with airflow devices, such vortex generators, leading edge slats and airflow conditioners, maximising the performance of the sidepod.  These are of particular importance when the car is in transition, as the wake from the front tyre is re-purposed.  The sidepods are home to many of the cars coolers, be it air-to-air intercoolers, radiators or a plethora of oil coolers.  By changing the inlet shape/geometry it will have an impact on the performance of the coolers housed within.  Lastly, in 2014 the FIA specified the design of the side impact crash structure, meaning all the teams now use the same design.  This lies within the area which Giorgio has highlighted, meaning that it will need to be redesigned, with the radius of the sidepod in mind and perhaps even placed further back.

In front of the sidepod we can see that an enlarged bargeboard (highlighted in red) has also been proposed, which is interesting given how the 2009 regulations originally sought to remove them altogether and then re-introduced a much, much smaller area for them to fit within.
Giorgio also indicates the proposed boat tail floor, which is 100mm from the centreline wider at the front of the car than it is at the rear.  This is of particular interest to me as currently the tail area of the floor is proliferated with tyre squirt slots, of which this may be trying to deter.  Furthermore, it reminds me of the floor used by McLaren in 2009.
McLaren MP4-24 - Barcelona 2009
At the rear of the car Giorgio depicts a rear wing which is not only reduced in height, it has been moved further back and inclined by 15-20 degrees.

From the rear we can see that the rear wings height will be reduced from 950mm to 800mm with the overall flap box reduced from 750mm to 600mm to match.  Meanwhile, the overall width of the wing will be increased from 750mm to around 900mm, which has inspired Giorgio to depict some WSR influenced curved endplates, retaining the brake duct fins (The change to the rear wings width will clearly have an impact on DRS too).  You'll also note that Giorgio has mounted the rear wing on a beam wing, which is also inline to return and increase the downforce that can be leveraged from aero structures that combine in the upwash (Diffuser / Beam Wing / Rear Wing).

This also leads to an increase in the diffuser, which was originally intended to be increased in height from 125mm to somewhere around 225mm.  Furthermore, the diffuser upsweep which currently starts at the rear wheel centreline was to be moved to 330mm ahead of the rear wheel centreline, expanding the diffusers output tremendously.   Now whilst this isn't quite the ground effect tunnels many of the older F1 fans were craving it would have gone past the size of diffusers we saw in the double deck diffuser days, for example.

However, recent discussions in the technical working group and by the strategy group has hinted that the increase in diffuser size will be minimal at best, as they listen to those that think increasing diffuser performance may have a detrimental effect on overtaking.  Whilst I agree that it may increase the risk of 'dirty air' the measures they're proposed with the front wing at least look to marginalise the issue.  Meanwhile, lowering the rear wing structure, re-introducing the beam wing and increasing the height of the diffuser inherently changes the shape of the turbulence of the lead car.  Furthermore, we have been through a stage recently 2010-2013 where the influence of the exhaust plume helped to drive the diffuser, increased wake turbulance (I wish it would be explained as this by the mainstream rather than as 'dirty air') but we still had plenty of overtaking.

2010 and 2012 provided perhaps the best on track action in recent times and coincide with large development cycles, that allowed teams to innovate.  2010 is probably the best example, with the scramble of 2009's major development, double deck diffusers, now much more mature as they adorned all the cars.  However, there were still those that had better solutions.  Meanwhile, the chase was on to utilize flexible front wings, refine the use of exhaust blown diffusers, with Red Bull leading the pack, McLaren's RW80 or F-Duct was seen as a major performance enhancement and so everyone chased its development, refueling was ditched and KERS put on a sabbatical, meaning running weight was now a major balancing act.  This all put the teams under a huge development strain and as they all battled to reign supreme so did their drivers, meaning the title went to the wire.

Whilst the sports detractors continue to beat the drum about the hybrids being the sports death knoll, they'd do well to understand that they're actually more powerful than their counterparts.  The major issue currently faced is weight, as I've discussed many times before, the cars are 60kg's heavier.  Accelerating additional weight, especially through the corners, is an issue. To overcome this there are only really two options, increase power or increase downforce.  Increasing power would require an overhaul of the fuel allowance and/or fuel flow restriction something the Powerunit manufacturers aren't keen on as it will require development.  Increasing power is not as easy as it appears as it will also increase the thermal output and increase development costs.  This leaves downforce as a viable method of overcoming the weight issue, balancing it however seems to be proving difficult.

As it stands it looks like the technical working group and teams are running scared of public perception, diluting what could have been quite the overhaul and perhaps even restored the series in the eyes of those it has lost, as the pinnacle of Motorsport.

Expect an article on what the cars will really look like once the 2017 regulations are ratified.  If you like what you've seen here and/or what I do on a regular basis then I'd ask you to check out my Go Fund Me page -

1 comment:

  1. If you look at these regulations and the time gained by teams in the current set of rules, how much faster do you think the 2017 cars will be or become?


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