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12 Apr 2019

The FIA have tackled several of the teams front wing designs in China, tidying up a few of the design discrepancies that have shown up in the opening few rounds. The teams affected are Mercedes, Red Bull and Williams, all of whom have chosen a front wing design on the same end of the 2019 spectrum, utilising almost full height flaps as they intersect with the endplate.
Image courtesy Mercedes AMG F1

As shown on the Mercedes W10, in the image above, all three had trended toward a rearward cutout in the upper corner of the front wings endplate (red arrow) in order that the high energy vortex that was being created here could be quelled.

With the more traditional front wing design used by the teams at this end of the front wing spectrum the shape, position and actual vorticity of this vortex is not only piviotal to the vortex in question but also the other vortices being created to try and influence the wake shed by the tyre behind. This is the primary reason why the teams moved to this style of cutout, adjusting the pressure gradient as the rearmost flap intersects with the endplate.

The design seen above and used by Mercedes in the first two rounds of the championship is compliant with the regulations, but where things get a little murkier is with Red Bull and Williams - so, let's start with the latter...
Image courtesy @AlbertFabrega
The endplate cutout used by Williams in the opening two rounds (inset) features a large radius corner, whereas the new design for China (main image) complies with the following excerpt from article 3.3.5 in the technical regulations:

In order to prevent tyre damage to other cars, the complete endplate, with the exception of parts of the second volume inboard of the virtual endplate surface must be at least 10mm thick (being the minimum distance when measured normal to the surface in any direction) with a 5mm radius applied to all extremities.

This may seem like a minor infraction but allowing Williams to continue with this different radius on that corner would have invited similar design intpretations by other further down the line.

Image courtesy @AlbertFabrega
Meanwhile, over at Red Bull they had a different conundrum to overcome, as whilst the radii on the corners of their cutout was compliant, the design ran foul of another element within the regulations relating to what we'd see of the flaps if viewed from the side.

Once the front wing profiles have been defined, they must be trimmed by the virtual endplate surface defined in Article 3.3.5, and the portion of the front wing profiles outboard of that surface must be discarded. Where the front wing profiles intersect the front wing endplate, a maximum fillet radius of 10mm may be applied.

This excerpt from 3.3.6 of the regulations suggests that the wing profiles must be trimmed to match the virtual endplate and anything other than that must be discarded. As we can see in Albert's lower image, Red Bull continued to run with a full flap arrangement in the outboard section of the wing, which can be seen due to the endplates cutout. There is some leeway here, as the physical endplate can be upto 6mm distant from the virtual endplates full dimension and only need take up 95% of the virtual endplates entire footprint.

To become compliant Red Bull have opted to run an endplate design without the cutout for the Chinese GP.

Image courtesy @AlbertFabrega

This brings us full circle to Mercedes updated front wing design for the Chinese GP, which features several revisions, including an alteration to the shape and position of the mainplanes leading edge as it intersects with the endplate. It's a change that has an impact on the flaps that reside behind too, altering their shape as they intersect with the endplate.
Image courtesy @AlbertFabrega
The new endplate (bottom) deals more elegantly with the cutout solution and will garner a different response from the vortex, but like the Red Bull's design from the first two rounds it exposed the flaps. The FIA spoke to the team and the flaps were subsequently trimmed to suit the shape of the endplate, bringing them inline with the regulations and a technical directive that had been issued on the matter over the last few weeks.

You'll also note the change made to the footplate which has been shortened and the arc shape altered at the rear in order that the vortex shed works with everything else that has been changed as part of the redesign.

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