Ferrari: front suspension installation

Ferrari inerter visible through the hatch in the top of the chassis

Unusually for a teams media image, this shot shows the front inerter installation on the F10.  What we can see here is the car without its access panels, revealing how the team mount the inerter between the front suspension rockers.  An inerter is a simple device akin the Renault Mass Damper, pioneered initially by McLaren.  It consists of a weight that spins on a threaded rod as the suspension moves, in order to balance out the ‘bounce’ of the tyres.  This creates a more consistent load at the contact patch and resultingly better grip from the tyres.

We can also the linkage in the steering column in the larger access panel. 

While on the edge of the monocoque is a round adjuster for the torsion springs.   This has been reported as a ‘ride height adjuster’, but a similar pair of adjusters has been on the top of the Ferrari moncooque for years.  I suspect these are simply the same preload adjusters, re-sited to suit the  “V” nose.

Bahrain: Petrovs Renault retirement

In this weekends race Petrov retired with e a suspension problem, it transpires the ride height adjusting shim fell out between the carbon pushrod and the titanium end fitting,  Here James Allison explains “On lap 11, Vitaly reported that the car wasn’t behaving normally and he began losing a lot of lap time to Barrichello. We called him into the pits for a precautionary check and found a problem with   the   right-front   suspension   pushrod   that   forced   us   to   retire   the   car.   Upon   further investigation, it transpired that the pushrod had been touching on the chassis when running on very heavy fuel at the start of the race. This damaged the bolt that attaches the pushrod to the car, and meant we lost a shim from the suspension, causing the DNF. Robert preferred a slightly different ride height and was fortunate not to encounter the same problem. We are, of course, disappointed  that  we  did  not  discover this  problem  during  pre-season  testing.  The  parts  in question will be modified for the next race to ensure that it cannot recur.”

At the top of the pushrod You can see where it splits to allow the shim to be inserted


Pushrods: these are normally used to adjust ride height, adding shims between the carbon pushrod and the metal top section

Bahrain: diffuser clarification

Although some aero devices were deemed legal in Bahrain, the FIA scrutineers did take a different view of some teams starter holes.  This hole is allowed with in the rule to be in the diffuser in order to alow the starter mechanism to be inserted.  Normally this is a simple round hole, but some teams have expanded the hole into a much wider ellipse shape.  This effectively makes the starter hole an extra slot to alow the diffuser to be steeper and create more downforce.  The Scrutineers have asked for these designs to be changed before the Australian GP.

McLaren Snorkel: How it works

MP4-25 - The infamous snorkel

It has now emerged from comments by Martin Whitmarsh to that McLaren do indeed have a link between their rear wing and the snorkel on the top of the chassis.  While a link between the two parts emerged during testing as they were both fitted with the same aero testing set up, it is only now that the full picture has emerged.  Using the driver to interact with the snorkel feeding the rear wing and its attendant slot, the wing can ‘stall’ increasing straightline speed when the driver needs it.

How its done…

The snorkel on the top of the chassis feeds a duct passing down inside the footwell, its position is some where around the pedals, most probably it runs down alongside the brake pedal\footrest so as to avoid the mandatory padding inside the cockpit.  This duct has a ‘hole’ in it to ‘cool’ the driver inside the cockpit.  However the duct continues inside the chassis, past the fuel tank and up and over the airbox (probably passing by the hatch fitted high up on the engine cover), then through the shark fin and into the rear wing flap. 

When the driver places his foot\leg over the ‘hole’ the flow is diverted into the rest of the duct and this feeds the slot on the rear wing flap.  There is enough airflow through the convoluted duct to disrupt the airflow under the rear of the wing, effectively breaking up the flow around the wing.  This is what F1 aerodynamicists term a ‘stalled’ condition, although this is different to the term ‘stall’ used in aeronautical aerodynamics.  In this ‘stalled’ state, the strong spiralling flows coming off the wing, that lead to the huge drag penalty a highly loaded F1 wing incurs, break up.  With out these flows and their resulting drag penalty, the car is able to get to a higher top speed, by around 3-4kph.

When the driver is ready to brake for the next corner, he releases foot\leg and the airflow passes back into the cockpit and the rear wing flow reattaches, creating downforce and its attendant drag.  In this format the car can lap normally with its wings delivering maximum downforce.

This set up is legal as the rear wing slot in itself is legal (used by McLaren, BMW Sauber last year).  There is no specific working to prevent wing stalling in the rules.  There are no moving aerodynamic parts, except perhaps for the drivers foot\leg.   It’s a piece of interpretive genius, but perhaps as far removed from the spirit of the rules as you can get. 

What now

Of course now its deemed legal, teams can either formally protest it or adopt it themselves.  Doing the the latter is possible for most teams, as they have apertures in the footwell area to fit a snorkel, while the shark fin and rear wing are easily created.  But, finding a route for the duct out of the tub might prove the headache, as the monocoque may not have any openings sufficiently large enough.  This year the monocoque is also is subject to homologation and hence cannot be altered until the 2011 season.  Of course ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’, teams will not want to lose a straight line speed advantage.

McLaren: Legality and Bahrain spec

MP4-25 - Rear wing scrutineered and declared

Correction the diffuser has again appeared in its full guise in FP1, we all make mistakes…!

Incidentally McLaren arrived with major revisions around the rear of their car. firstly the diffuser shown in the pitlane for scrutineering was devoid of the upper deck bodywork that extended to the beam wing. this slotted panel effectively stretched the diffuser into a longer and higher device for more dowforce. While the diffuser below this panel is the same version as McLaren ran late in their testing programme. above the diffuser the crash structure and slotted beam wing remain the same, but the added duct to vent the oil cooler has gone.

Renault: Gearbox

Renault R30 Gearbox

Renault have produced a state of the art gearbox, certainly compared to last years.  At the Launch James Allison told me the two boxes would look totally different if placed next to each other and they are.  They’ve retained the Ti case, but added no carbon to the outer surfaces. Its certainly slimmer too, judging by the bulges to clear the clutch and gears along the side. The damper\torsion bar arrangement is neat too, again using near vertical torsion bars but moved right to the front of the case.  Thus the dmapers are inclined backwards toward the rear fo the case and the antiroll bar is clearly visible at the very front of the case.  It appears as though the case is shorter and the differential lower too.

R29 Gearbox

R28 Gearbox

Bahrain Technical preview

Four months and eighteen days after the engines fell silent in Abu Dhabi last November, the F1 seasons finally kicks off again in Bahrain this weekend. 

With the much talked about rule changes of banned refuelling, narrower front tyres and no wheel fairings, the teams are packed into a tightly competitive bunch.  Or perhaps its fairer to say three bunches, as Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Red Bull fight for the front positions, the new teams will bring up the rear, sandwiching a mid field almost too close to separate on pace.  Certainly a bumper year for F1 and no doubt some bumping going on over the opening laps as the drivers vie to make their mark early in the season.

Looking to the opening race, the teams will have a challenge with the revised Sakhir track.  Its not that the track layout is particularly demanding, indeed the tracks previous character of medium speed corners has been dumbed down with a new twistier section added.  Instead it’s the heat that will punish the teams, who of course have only tested pre-season at cold or wet Spanish tracks.

This year the track has been revised with a new section after turn4, adding nearly a kilometer of slow twisty turns before rejoining the track at what was turn5.  Making the track totally incomparable to last year and offering no particular excitement in terms of added overtaking opportunities.  .  Thus the track remains a typical modern F1 track; long straight, lots of medium\slow turns and no fast corners to speak of.  This change brings down the average speed and the percentage time spent at full throttle.  Plus sand blown onto the track surface will compound the new narrower front tyres tendency to understeer.  As result teams may opt for slightly higher downforce to gain lap time, but the straight remains at one kilometer long and provides nearly the only scope for overtaking in the race.  Set up is going to be a tricky balance between race and qualifying, especially if the wind is variable and bearing in mind the added question of set up compromise between qualifying on a light or heavy fuel set up.

Even if the long straight demands a low drag set up, teams will be forced to trade aerodynamic efficiency for cooling.  Plus the new infield section will see the cars at lower speed for a longer period, which will reduce airflow through the radiators, especially coming not long after the long main straight with the engine flat out.  Already in testing we have seen teams running outsized cooling outlets in preparation for the heat of Bahrain.  These bodywork sets may be put away after this race and brought out again in Malaysia, after running in Australia with a more efficient set of bodywork.  Typically teams will run larger outlets, cut back ‘coke bottle’ bodywork and supplementary panels around the sidepod front and cockpit to gain every possible square centimeter of cooling exit area. 

Braking is considered heavy at Bahrain and although brakes are less susceptible to ambient heat, they will demand larger ducts to cope with the slow down from 300kph off the main straight with a 5g deceleration into the first turn.  Additionally the new in field section will not allow the brakes to cool as much around the lap.

As the first race of the year, Bahrain will also see the first of many new ‘firsts’; new teams, new tyres and Cosworths & Xtracs return to F1 racing.  It will also be quite exciting to see the sub-3 second pit stops during the race.  More technically interesting, Bahrain will see the first chance for the FIA to inspect all the cars at scrutineering and there is a possibility McLaren rear wing may provide the controversy having been bubbling up from winter testing.  For the spectator this will also be the first opportunity for the cars to be seen in race conditions.  For us technical fans this not only means on track, but also the cars being parked in their garages unprotected by roller screens, that are curiously allowed in testing  but barred from races for safety reasons!  It is normal practice that wings and bodywork are left on trestles in the pit lane, open for all to see (although so far McLaren have been hiding their shark fin top body section in the garage).  Equally new homologation rules this year mean that the design of the; tubs, crash structures and wheels used at this race will remain on the cars until the final race, safety and reliability issues aside.

From a competitive point of view this will be our first chance to look at the cars in actual race conditions, although relative pace will not be clear until qualifying is over, even then the teams differing qualifying\race set up strategies will not be clear until the race end.  Even then the Bahrain track and the other flyaway races are not fully representative track. Spain and turkey are more conventional but by then we will be seven races into a nineteen race season.  Raising the question what is a conventional circuit these days, if the classic European tracks are in decline?

Updates are expected from many teams for this weekend, perhaps the most hotly anticipated is the Mercedes definitive 2010 bodywork.  Having run 2009 Brawn wings an floor for the winter tests, internet rumours abound about what is expected.  A controversial diffuser has been touted, while I have even heard noises about a switch away from the now bulbous nose.  The team conducted a straight-line test at the UK Rockingham track, allegedly with the new set up fitted.  Sadly no pictures merged from this test.

McLaren’s Jonathan Neale commented they have some upgrades due too, including a more conventional rear wing to counter any possible scrutineering issues.  Additionally the team have some diffuser tweaks and an option on which sidepod fins to fit.

Renault have announced an aero upgrade, no doubt including the dramatic Front wing and ‘faired’ wheels seen on the last day of testing.

Of course for the new teams the race will be a learning experience.  With Lotus running reliably, unlike Virgins whose Hydraulic problems cost them any chance of longer runs in testing.  Clearly Hispania Racing will hard pushed to get two completely new untested Dallara chassis out of the garage enough to make any impact and sadly no USF1 cars will race this year.