McLaren: European GP wing movement

UPDATE: While I am still awaiting a response from McLaren, I have had a direct reply from Charlie Whiting, FIA Formula One Race Director, to my questions. He responds “The slight anomaly you refer to has been investigated and we have told the team improvements need to be made”. I also asked if this area is subject to any specific deflection tests or construction of the wing\pylon interface “there is no stated permissible deflection of the parts you’re referring to, we do of course have a blanket restriction on any bodywork moving but, in some cases, we define limits given that no bodywork can be designed infinitely rigid”. So it seems any movement there should not be evident at the British GP.

McLaren sported a new front wing at the European GP last. Although the endplates, main plane and cascades were all new, it was the way the wing mounted to the nosecones pylons that has caught attention. From the onboard Tv footage the wing can be seen to apparently and progressively separate from its mounting. However this movement is caused, it is likely to spark questions on flexible aerodynamics, although its clear the McLaren was passed as legal by the FIA scrutineers checks.

http://www.twitvid.com/NLDQ1 Video via Ian Doreto

As McLaren place their camera pods on the front wing pylons (the two vertical plates bonded to the nose cone) and also slightly behind them, the onboard footage presents a clear view of the side of the pylon and the wing below it.

Typically the construction of this area is relatively simple. The wings central section has a metal plate bonded to it, through which run threaded studs. These studs pass up inside corresponding holes in the pylons and are then fastened down with nuts. This makes the assembly rigid, with no freedom of movement. Teams fit a spacer shim into the gap, to ensure the wing sits at the correct static ride height when fitted to the car. Almost every team follows this basic design.

However from the onboard footage, it appears that the McLaren wing is hinging on the pylons allowing the wing to rotate backwards slightly. What can be seen is a gap incrementally opening up at speed towards the rear of the interface between wing and pylon (pictured above). Then as the car slows, the gap closes back up to nothing. I have seen two onboard shots of both the cars in the race and both appear to behave in a similar way (pictured below).


This would have the effect of flattening the front wings angle of attack at speed, decreasing downforce. Depending on the way the diffuser sheds downforce at speed, this would have the effect of inducing understeer, probably for the purpose of making the car more balanced and stable for the driver at high speed. The practice of flattening front wings has been seen before, historically it’s not been unusual to see a front wing flap flatten out at speed, as the compliant flap is subject to aero load.
By achieving a better aero balance at speed, this achieves a different effect to the Red Bull, which appears to droop the front wing into an anhedral shape at speed, this creates more downforce rather than shedding it. So Red Bull are seeking more performance, rather than managing the cars balance.

McLarens wing behaving in this way could be explained in several ways, perhaps as the result of a manufacturing fault, I will ask the team if they had any such problems with the new front wing in Valencia.

I have heard previously from several ex-designers and technical directors, that even in recent seasons teams have had springs in designed into this area. Designed in such a way, that a gap opens up by creating some compliance in the wing\pylon interface. Normally by having a sprung mount, the spring being preloaded to meet any FIA test, but above the FIA load the spring is able to move the wing in a controlled manner. This is of course a far easier way to control the wing than compliance designed into the carbon fibre lay up. The rules do not specifically state that such compliant mechanisms are banned, although a similar wording has been created for the T-Tray splitter mounting. Following the precedent of the Red Bull front wing, which also appears to move at speed, it seems that any movement of the wing is allowed as long as the wing passes the FIA deflection tests. Which is in turn contradicting the FIA demand for bodywork to be rigid and having no degree of freedom in relation to the body/chassis unit.

3.15 Aerodynamic influence :
With the exception of the driver adjustable bodywork described in Article 3.18 (in addition to minimal parts solely associated with its actuation) and the ducts described in Article 11.4, any specific part of the car influencing its aerodynamic performance :
– must comply with the rules relating to bodywork ;
– must be rigidly secured to the entirely sprung part of the car (rigidly secured means not having any degree of freedom) ;
– must remain immobile in relation to the sprung part of the car.

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41 thoughts on “McLaren: European GP wing movement

  1. Is there a link/info on the front wing test cases – what exactly is tested? Or is that inside the FIA rules which is a nightmare to read for person without specific terminology knowledge.

  2. Scarbs, quick question: this reminds me of the Ferrari front wing from a couple of years ago. The one that had the upper element attached the nose via a pin that could slide in/out of the mounting point and allow the wing to flex. IIRC Ferrari were forced to change the wing and make the upper element attachment point “rigidly secured” as the free-floating pin solution was deemed to not meet the rules.

    Surely McLaren’s solution here would fall foul of the same interpretation?

      • So is it conceivable, that McLaren have done this, and made it perfectly visible with the low mounted camera to prove a point, (apart from gaining a low drag front wing)?

        I think that for the Ferrari seeing the crystal clear movement pushed the FIA into changing their tune and actually having to curb these things. Could seeing this on the McLaren help convince the FIA to adjust how they treat the fact that teams are evidently not complying with the rule of having these parts “fixed to the car”?

  3. You’ve made a small mistake in your article, with the low pressure or ‘lift’ area of an F1 wing being effectively ‘upside down’, the tips of the wing moving down is actually a dihedral shape. It would be anhedral on an aircraft wing where the low pressure area is on top.

    • Ive been corrected on this before and you are correct. But as most people only know the definition of anhedral\dihedral unrelated to the lift surface, I’ll keep using it this way.

  4. Am I right to say that this constuction violates the last 2 statements of the 3.15 article:

    – must be rigidly secured to the entirely sprung part of the car (rigidly secured means not having any degree of freedom) ;
    – must remain immobile in relation to the sprung part of the car.

    • It would seem to be like that. But then again, the Red Bull wing has been doing similar things for over a year now and the FIA allows them as long as they pass the tests.

  5. Been trying to find some footage to link to, unsuccessfully!! However, when Vettel span off in the wet during FP1 (?) in Turkey, and the car was being winched onto the lowloader to be recovered, it could be clearly seen that there were 2 cables / wires hanging out of each of the pylons. As soon as the car was in the pits the nose was covered, and a Red Bull engineer grabbed the broken wing as though his life depended on it! (Which it probably did!!) Might these cables be connected to the rigidity / flexibility of their front wing? Sorry if this has already been covered – I’ve only just discovered your work!!

    • Vettel crashed using a design of new front wing, which is why it was so sensitive. thes cables have been seen before and appear on other cars, they are for sensors and unrelated to any flex in the front wing.

  6. Looks like a flexible wing mount, I can’t see Charlie being all that pleased about this. And this has nothing to do with the wing flexing, it’s a completely separate issue.

  7. Let’s think like American Lawyers, shall we?

    Why?

    Assuming the intent of the FIA in having a reference wing area (common to all cars) is to limit downforce and aerodynamic R&D costs.

    Then, McLaren obviously and deliberately, alters their design of a “reference wing element” to permit “designed flex.”

    And Charlie Whiting, plus the FIA stewards, rubber-stamp the arrangement.

    You are basically looking at the “moral equivalent” of Gordon Murray’s joke around the time of the “self-lowering suspension” silliness that he might as well put a big switch on the car that said “this alters the ride height.” (c.1981)

    Murray’s complaint was that his “self-lowering hydraulic suspension” was aerodynamically passive and subtle, while his imitators simply had the car drop artificially and obivously.

    If there isn’t more going on here than a simple, single GPs worth of tweaking, I’ll eat my hat.

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  9. Scarbs, while you infer that it loses angle of attack at speed, would the wing not also get closer to the ground as well, thus increasing downforce? Of course, we’d have to figure out the rate at which a wing increases downforce relative to ride height, versus the rate at which it loses downforce relative to angle of attack.

    Beyond that, perhaps they get the best of both worlds: the closer wing increases downforce with little drag penalty and the lesser angle of attack then partially reduces that downforce increase while also reducing drag. Therefore, they end up mostly maintaining the balance of the car, and perhaps marginally increasing downforce with a relatively large loss in drag.

    • The wing elements flatten at speed so no, they don’t produce more downforce. They produce less downforce. And probably have a slight bonus effect on top speed by reducing the overall drag of the car

      • Perhaps I wasn’t clear with what I was trying to convey.

        While the wing would lose downforce by reducing the angle of attack, I am proposing that the wing could have a net increase in downforce since it ends up closer to the ground (hence my comment regarding which would have the higher rate: the loss of downforce due to decreased angle of attack, or the increase of downforce due to closer proximity to the ground).

        There are two competing parameters here. I take it that you think that a 2~3 degree drop in angle of attack would lose more downforce than would be gained by that same movement allowing the wing to be 10~20 mm closer to the track surface.

        I’m not sure which rate is steeper, hence my lack of conviction in my prior comment.

      • No I understood your original comment. The wing will gain some downforce from being lower. But its the front edge that gains the most from lower ride heights, to achieve this the wing would have to rotate the other direction (when seen from the side). So I doubt the net gain is more downforce with the wing behaviour we saw….

  10. The regulations are poorly-worded and they open up the possibility for the FIA to ban any car any time. That’s how I see it.

    Whiting saying if it passes the test, it’s legal, that’s not how it seemed to work in 2007 for Ferrari very well…

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  13. It seems that the upgrades to the McLaren slowed them to slower than Ferrari’s pace. I think we’ll see McLaren abandoning this wing design come Silverstone. Obviously this is not the way Red Bull have designed their front wing. Back to the drawing board…..

  14. Really cant see anything from the video, all i notice is the shadow move across and back again, but that would just be from the car moving angles

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  16. I am taking the opportunity of you being able to talk to Charlie Whiting to ask a question: Why don’t we have the engine usage data, as we used to have in 2009/2010 included in the FIA race report. We are quite a lot to badly miss this data. Can you help ? Do you have the info yourself ? Can you ask Charlie ? ;-)
    Many thanks in advance

    • Why engine (fuel) data became available at first place?
      From my point of view this data is not something teams want to share.
      Was it related to rumors that teams run midsection under weight regulations?

      • Not taking about fuel data but about engine’s usage data: Where do the teams stand in terms of engines used. We always had that data in 2009/2010 in the race reports from the FIA. I find this data very useful in terms of team’s strategy. As an exemple here is my file (a jpeg image in fact) for 2010.

  17. Mr. Scarbs, I sent a reply to this question and it went to another one of your bloggs.
    After watching Vettels car, it seems the wing flexes under high g-force while acelerating. As soon as the tire turns the wing pops up.
    The wing is to thin for any large amout of ballast and the angle of attack is decreased because the rear of the car is going down while accelerating. Then a slight turn of the wheel and bang it pops up.3rd,4th,5th doesn’t matter,then once again the car goes high gs from aceleration the wing folds down. There has to be a lever hiden in the walls of the nose from the front suspension to the pylons, across the beam to the wing elements. The wing moves so softly with the front tires at high suspension frequency, that pitch control of that wing must come from a independent source like a movable ballast.
    Along with the height changing rear end how can the car be deemed legal. The torsion bars are tuck in the bottom of the transmission and theres no possible veiw point, its hieght control is either hydro-electric or movable ballast working on the opposite of the torsion bars fulcrum.
    Bet I’d get a great pay check if I knew for sure.
    Thanks for your efforts,awsome websight
    Paul Belles

    • “slight turn of the wheel and bang it pops up”
      Measuring wing movement by onboard camera (relative to wheels) is very wrong idea because track landscape, accelerating and braking force suspension move up and down in places that look flat on TV.
      “wing moves so softly”
      …when movement done by solo g-force.

      “rear of the car is going down while accelerating”
      it isn’t, rear of the car has lowest point at end of straight and very little movement with acceleration. sport cars suspension just hard to keep car close to ground 24/7

      how hard front suspension is and little movement it do

      I see no artificial movement (“wing flexes under high g-force while acelerating”), just by wind/g-force

  18. Mr. Scrabs,
    That was the best my crew and I came up with,your videos drew complete silence.
    Thank for your reply,fantastic videos.
    Back to the board.

    Thank You,
    Paul Belles

  19. Its a very subtle effect in the vid. I would say its not conclusive of anything as there are all sorts of changes in light direction. However my hunch is that your right and well spotted. it must be a direct failure to meet that regulation you site. Then on the other hand having to design a car you know Lewis is going to stock car race around maybe you integrate a torsional impact buffer in the pylon? it could certainly do both. If you feel the redbull wing flex is increasing downforce then its an opposing strategy which the mclaren appears to use, to reduce drag in high speed. I thing where the RB is better is that an Anhedral actually gives a lateral component to the downforce perhaps as much as 10% ie, its not actual “down” but canted downforce, this with the massive camber on their wheels gives them better cornering speeds or put another way potentially stresses the tyres less. This season has become too much about tyres for me.

  20. The red bulls wing does a few things, one its shape is a v plow. As air increases speed,the wing rolls back, down but the outer tips get closer to the tire. That allows air to move around the tire better to the outside, that keeps air clean to the spilter and radiator. Second the fold down comes in around 2nd to 3rd gear, maybe 3rd to 4th that range is the start of max aceleration g load and the start major aero down force. At this time the spitter and under tray start to become more efficent.Heat from the radiators are pushing the car, the exhaust are inducing air flow to the rear and the weight is moving to the rear. In order to maximize traction for a seamless shift. The front wing looses down force in relation to speed ,but maintains its push on the front.Remember that the greatest drag on a open wheeled car is the tires, finding a way to deflect that load is parimont. The closer to the tire the wing tips comes makes a jet effect causing air to migrate to it leaving air flow to tray and spitter pretty clean. Carbon weeves, danfoss shape shifting material and the new types of titanium are temperature sensitive or would distort. I say the the wing and suspension are g-load sensitive because that makes it accurate and simple. We are talking fractions of a inch equate to 400 to 700 lbs of downforce as well as a 100 hp. in power. In the late 80s Nigel Mansell said an 1/8th of a inch in ride height equaled 300 lbs in downforce, I would say thats easily doubled now. The Renault is 40 to 50 hp. down on straights and smokig the field because something moving and using less power to do it.

    • If I am wrong than Vettel would have taken Canada. He didn’t make a mistake he simply had no rear grip and caught the car in the wet at opposite lock. Which means he had good grip at the front. With no areo sopport at that speed and a mandatory bias between front and rear, the car should have gone straight with under steer.
      A active suspension works well with aero but bias at 4 to 5Gs. now thats energy.
      I go to move a 6000 lb. boiler, me and another guy, one johnson bar 6-2″ nipples done deal.
      Why doesn’t the Red Bull lock up its front like everybody else, or as much. More weight on the front tires, simple.
      Look at the Renaults engine program through the 90s, less weight more torque, more stoke less bore less weight. Less weight more torque,all the work is done down low.Just like any good porn star.
      F1 cars don’t cruise there on or off, wheres the energy.
      3 rules govern wheel racing,1. take air off front tires, 2. take air off rear tires, 3. stop counting your money and get back to rules 1 and 2.
      Mclaren car is full of right angles and that front wing is a mess. That merc power plant is fanastic,thats the only keeping them in it. Same with schumy’s team.Ferrari, well money can’t buy you love and that’s why you buy a Ferrari.
      Low track temps cooked Vettels rears because he couldn’t get a weight shift,if I’m wrong I can still move boilers and I can fire em off too.

      • If I am wrong than Vettel would have taken Canada. He didn’t make a mistake he simply had no rear grip and caught the car in the wet at opposite lock. Which means he had good grip at the front. With no areo sopport at that speed and a mandatory bias between front and rear, the car should have gone straight with under steer.
        A active suspension works well with aero but bias at 4 to 5Gs. now thats energy.
        I go to move a 6000 lb. boiler, me and another guy, one johnson bar 6-2″ nipples done deal.
        Why doesn’t the Red Bull lock up its front like everybody else, or as much. More weight on the front tires, simple.
        Look at the Renaults engine program through the 90s, less weight more torque, more stoke less bore less weight. Less weight more torque,all the work is done down low.Just like any good porn star.
        F1 cars don’t cruise there on or off, wheres the energy.
        3 rules govern wheel racing,1. take air off front tires, 2. take air off rear tires, 3. stop counting your money and get back to rules 1 and 2.
        Mclaren car is full of right angles and that front wing is a mess. That merc power plant is fanastic,thats the only keeping them in it. Same with schumy’s team.Ferrari, well money can’t buy you love and that’s why you buy a Ferrari.
        Low track temps cooked Vettels rears because he couldn’t get a weight shift,if I’m wrong I can still move boilers and I can fire em off too.
        XWAY DA WING WHITTDING

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