Publications: F1 Race Technology Report

Every year High Power Media, who publish ‘Race Engine Technology’ (RET) Magazine, produce a number of magazine format Race Technology Reports. Covering F1, Moto-GP, Nascar, Drag racing and 24-hour racing.

Just out is the current F1 Race Technology issue, covering Technical subjects from 2011 and 2012.

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McLaren MP4-26 2011 – Fan Tail (Octopus) Exhaust

McLaren went into 2011 with an aggressive design strategy, this was a response to the poor initial form in 2010 and resulted in the dramatic “U” sidepods and a mysterious exhaust system.

It was this exhaust system that stole most of the column inches in the F1 press and the fan forums during pre season testing. One particular column fed the interest around the exhaust and christened it the “Octopus”. The article suggested the exhaust was ducted to several exits and used high temperature Glass Ceramic Carbonfibre (GCC). It went on to explain the unreliability of the exhaust solution was due to the heat making it fail.
It was true McLaren’s first tests, even from the first private shakedown runs before the public testing had started, demonstrated a problem with the initial exhaust design. But this exhaust solution was not the “Octopus” as described; in fact McLaren Technical Director Paddy Lowe explained to me at the 2012 cars launch, that “it didn’t look anything like an Octopus”. Adding “The exhaust we had was a slot, we called it a fantail”, which was a simpler, albeit still innovative solution.

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Mercedes AMG: Engine Build Challenge

During my visit to Mercedes AMG before Christmas, the company set us a challenge that’s been put to other more notable visitors. In the engine build area, two engines were arranged in each bay, but without the coil pack, heat shield and exhausts fitted. Our task was to fit these parts to one side of the engine, along with tightening each fastener to the correct torque setting. A dozen journalists attended the day, the challenge being made even greater as the two current Mercedes AMG drivers had also previously completed the challenge.

The coil pack is handed over and the challenge starts...

The first job was to fit the coil pack. The four-pronged carbonfibre cased unit is a press fit atop each spark plug, then the we needed to connect CAN electronics interface near the front of the airbox.

Next the heatshield goes on... (eventual challenge winner watching intently behind)

A small reflective coated carbonfibre heatshield goes over the coil pack, attached with three small bolts, one of which is smaller and requires a different torque setting.

Access to the 24 exhaust studs under the engine was surprisingly good

Then onto the exhaust system, weighing about 3kg each exhaust is hand made from thin sections of inconnel welded together. Although the 4-into-1 exhaust is one assembly, there is some play in the primary pipes joints with the collector, so fitting the four exhaust pipes to the studs on the engine requires a little fiddling. Each exhaust pipe bolts to the exhaust port with three nuts, two above and to the side of the exhaust pipe, and one centrally below.

A blur of hand movement gets each nut threaded on...

Each of these 24 nuts being tightened to the same torque setting. With the engine up on the stand and being able to kneel below the engine, getting access to each fastener was surprisingly easy, none of the exhaust pipes being particularly obstructive. I’m sure doing the same job with the engine in the car and the floor fitted is a very different story.

A quick check that each nut is torqued correctly and the job's done.

I completed the challenge in 4m 30s and I was satisfied I’d done a good job. However ex Racecar Engineering magazine editor, Charles Armstrong Wilson completed the challenge in an impressive 3m 30s! Even though one (un-named) journalist took as long a 7m 57s, as group us journalists were confident we’d done a good job. But the teams Drivers had soundly beaten us all. Nico Rosberg did the challenge in 3m 15s, while Michael Schumacher did it thee minutes dead!

The job of the F1 engine builder and mechanic is a difficult and skilled one, the skills of the F1 driver are ever impressive and I’ll stick to drawing racecars and not working on them!

Abu Dhabi Test: Red Bull Aero Rake

Red Bull started the Abu Dhabi Young Drivers test with a mass of aero testing equipment fitted to the RB7. Although the test is supposed to be to assess young drivers, this is the first open test since the season started and teams make use of this time to gather data from the car. In Red Bulls case this was a repeat of tests from last year, where the front wing ride height and wake is being measured by a range of sensors.

Pictures via &
Airflow around the front tyre is critical with the post-2009 wide front wings. The ever more complex front wing endplates direct the airflow around the tyre. This effect varies greatly with front wing ride height, so that when the wing flexes down under load at speed, the airflow changes. I have learnt from F1 aerodynamicists that the effect of the endplate on flow around the wheel as the wing flexes down, is perhaps more important than downforce gained the wing being closer to the ground. So the Red Bull and also Ferrari tests are critical to understand how the airflow passes around the tyres with varying wing ride height.
Clearly the gains from flexible front wings will be an ever greater performance factor next year. Even though the FIA rules amended for 2011 were even more stringent than in 2010.

In Red Bulls the case the set up consists of three main elements; the aero rake, ride height sensors and the cables holding the front wing.

Wing mounting cables

Wing cables & Nose hump – Picture via &

Ride Height Sensors

Ride Height Sensor – Picture via &

Ride height Sensors – Picture via &

Aero Rake

Rake detail – Picture via &

My interpretation of how the rig works is: the wing is allowed to deflect at speed to a specific height, this is controlled by the cables from the hump on the nose. By limiting droop, a number of wing ride height settings can be assessed during the runs. Laser ride height sensors both in the centre and at the front and rear of the endplate will confirm the actual ride height and wing angle being tested. Then the rake will take measurements of the airflow. The driver will then run at a fixed speed along the straight, keeping a consistent speed will ensure the data is consistent and the amount of wing flex can be predicted for each run.
This will create an aero map of flow across the wing and with the wing at different attitudes. The data from the tests will be used to confirm CFD\Wind tunnel results and direct the team in deciding how the wing should flex in 2012.

We can now look in detail how the rig is made and how it works.

Cables holding the front wing

During some runs we saw the cables lying loose between the wing and the hump. Which confirms they are cables and not solid rods, as with the rake mountings. Being cables they could not be for measuring wing position, as not being stiff, they would not be accurate enough. With the size of the nose hump and the other equipment to measure ride height, I now believe they are to control the droop of the front wing. Perhaps the test wing is more flexible than the usual race wing in order to achieve more attitudes under load. Its possible the hump contains hydraulics to adjust the droop of the wing to different attitudes during each run. The 2009 Red Bull used hydraulics in the nose to control the then legal adjustable front wing flap, so it’s a proven approach to fit more hydraulics into the nose cone. Being able to alter wing attitude on the move would greatly improve the amount of data gathered from each run. With there being two cables for each wing, one mounted on the main plane and the second on the flap, the wing could be controlled not only in droop but also the angle of attack. So that the wing could reproduce different beam and torsional stiffness of a future wing.

Ride Height sensors

We have seen laser ride height sensors fitted to cars through Friday practices and extra units fitted for testing. For the front wing rig Red Bull ran five ride height sensors on the wing. The central unit is fitted to the neutral centre section of wing. This would measure true wing ride height, as the centre section is relatively stiff and is not part of the deflecting structure of the wing. Then two ride height sensors are fitted to front to the front and rear of the endplate. These would measure the ride height of the wing tips. Using the centre ride height sensor as a base line provides the amount the wing tip is deflecting. Just as with the double cable arrangement supporting the wing, the two endplate ride height sensors would measure any change in angle of attack, the delta between the front and rear sensors showing the wings angle of attack.

Aero Rake

With the wings attitude controlled and measured by the cables and sensors, the wake of the wing is then measured by the aero rake. This is an array of sensors measuring air speed, velocity and perhaps even direction. Two rows of rakes are employed and these are securely mounted to blisters on the nose cone. Just as with the wing mounting cables these struts may be attached to hydraulics to raise the rake over a range of positions, to map a wider area behind the wing. A slightly messy part of the mounting system if the bundle of cables exiting the rake and passing up into the nose cone to be attached to the cars telemetry system.

Analysis: Ferraris Front Wing Flutter

In free practice for the Indian GP, we saw a violent fluttering of Felipe Massa’s front wing. This is a higher frequency movement than the flex we commonly see on front wings – in fact, the movement is enough to cause the endplates to hit the ground, sending up showers of sparks. Bearing in mind that the wing is around 75mm off the ground when the car is at rest, we can appreciate the amount of movement that’s occurring here.
This movement is not an aero benefit in itself, but may be symptomatic of other flexibility in the wing.
Ferrari Flexi Wings 2011 Indian Grand Prix FP1 by Mattzel89

This clip shows the Ferrari crest the hill before braking into a turn (4s into the clip). As the car crests the hill at high speed with DRS open, it’s clear that the wing is bowed from the aero load. It’s possible to see the side spans of the wing bend down from the central section. At this point there is some vibration in the wing, but not an excessive amount. As the car starts to go down hill (DRS still open) and passes a shadow across the track, the wing starts a rocking motion (5s into the clip). This rocking soon increases in violence until Massa closes the DRS and starts to brake as usual for the corner (at 9s), so this episode only lasts three seconds. I counted around 20 movements of each endplate, which increase to the point where the endplates’ skid blocks strike the ground.
The cause may be explained as follows: the wing is bowed at speed, but as the car crests the hill the wing is unloaded slightly. Then, as the car starts to move down hill, that load would reverse and the wing (which was already vibrating) is sent into a rocking motion. One endplate moves down, while the centre section and wing mounting pylons appear to be rigidly fixed to the car and are not moving. The load passing from the endplate must have been transferred across the central spar of the wing to the other endplate, which now drops. This movement resonates in a wave from one side of the wing to the other, increasing in frequency and amplitude until the wing actually hits the ground.
I can’t explain why closing the DRS and braking calmed this resonance so quickly, but the wing rapidly returns to the low-amplitude, high-frequency vibration seen elsewhere on track.
Also, I’m no expert on composites but my limited knowledge does suggest that carbon fibre structures are relatively well damped (compared to, say, a metal structure), the rebound effect of flex being relatively well damped and not prone to oscillating.
Ferrari introduced the new front wing in Korea. Alonso ran the wing as it was clear that it displayed the accepted level of flex as used by many other teams. The wing is legal as it meets the more stringent FIA 2010 deflection test. Last year Red Bull set a precedent when its wing, which openly appeared to bow downwards at speed, passed the tests and was declared legal, even when the test loads were increased mid-season.
This bowing effect – where the tips of the wing move downwards at speed – is commonly used as the front wing then sits closer to the ground and can generate more downforce. Despite a lot of theories about mechanisms or heat being responsible for the flex, the answer is much simpler: it is down to the way you want the wing to work i.e. the tips to bend down without the wing twisting and thereby reducing the wing’s angle of attack. This is all done with the lay-up of the composites – I’m told it is a “nightmare“ and have heard of composites technicians spending weeks trying different lay-ups to get this effect, but once worked out it is very effective.
Of course F1’s knowledge of carbon structures has been used to create very stiff parts, but now that we are starting to allow controlled flex, we will start to see resonance becoming an issue. There is a new field of knowledge to be understood and controlled.
It seems the wing was tried again in FP3 and the FIA has taken an interest in the wing. The wing was removed and one would assume that it will not be raced for fear of mechanical failure or a post-race ban, although Ferrari’s Friday press release may suggest that the wing is a development item not planned for use in the race, but as part of the 2012 programme. Pat Fry: “We continued with the now usual parallel programmes: on the one hand looking for the best set-up for the car at this circuit and on the other, working to get a greater understanding of the latest aerodynamic updates, with the new car project in mind.”
We have seen extreme movement of front wings before in super slow motion, such as wing tips fluttering, wings swaying sideways on their mounting pylons and endplate devices flapping. All of these movements, although highly visible, have been accepted by the FIA because the tests have been passed. All of which is to the detriment of the overriding regulation that bodywork should be rigid and immovable.

Thanks to Andrew Biddle ( for his assistance as Copy Editor

McLaren: Indian Front Wing Analysis

McLaren tested its new front wing in first practice for this weekend’s India GP. The new front wing is a hybrid of the current wing and a revised main plane. McLaren has been alone in running a main plane with two distinct sections; the geometry of the wing is split between the span which sits ahead of the wheel and the inner span which sits in clearer air. This split wing has been run since Singapore 2010 (shown inset on the illustration).

The new wing has a straight mainplane profile, the old wing was split into two section (inset)

The new wing has a straight mainplane profile, the old wing was split into two section (inset)The new front wing maintains a consistent profile across each span, making the wing appear far simpler. Whatever gain the team found from the split design has been won over by the gains from a wider single profile. Perhaps the wake structure of the old split wing worked at the expense of peak downforce, as the new wing clearly has a larger working area as there isn’t the need for the complex join midway across its span.

Clearly the wing now has more working area, without the complex joint

Although the main plane is new, the wing retains its endplate arrangement, with the wing curving down to form the lower part of the endplate, which is near standard practice for this year. The upper part of the endplate is formed by a vane which also mounts the outer cascade winglet. Both the cascade elements have been retained – the ‘r’-shaped double element vane now mounts directly to the wing rather than to the complex metal section joining the two different wing spans.

McLaren McLaren uses two cascade elements: an inner

Thanks to Andrew Biddle ( for his assistance as Copy Editor

Front Anti Roll Bar Solutions

An excellent Sutton Images picture seen on, taken through the aperture on the front of the McLaren has given us a rare chance to see the set up of the front suspension.


Typically most teams follow the same set up for the front suspension in terms of the placement of the rockers, torsion bars, dampers anti roll bars and heave elements. As unlike with rear suspension, the raised front end almost dictates a pushrod set up in order to the get the correct installation angle of the pushrod. However the McLaren antiroll bar shows there is some variation in comparison to the norm and also highlights Ferraris similar thinking in this area.

In comparison to my more recent posts, this is not a breakthrough in design, simply a chance to see the teams playing with packaging to achieve similar aims.

Typical front suspension

As an overview of the conventional of the rocker assembly in the attached diagram shows the rockers are operated by the pushrod, a lever formed by the rocker operates each of the suspension elements. Compressing the heave spring and wheel dampers, extending the inerter and twisting the torsion bars.

A typical "U" shaped ARB: Arms connect the torsion bar to the rockers via drop links

Typically teams use a “U” shape anti roll bar (ARB). In this set up the antiroll bar is connected to the rocker via drop links, and then each arm twists the torsion bar when the car is in roll. When the car is in heave (car going up and down, no roll) the ARB simply rotates in its mounts and adds no stiffness to the suspension. Different torsion bars in the anti roll bar create different roll stiffness rates for the suspension. Teams will either switch the entire ARB assembly for a different rate ARB. Red Bull have engineered their ARB for the torsion bar to be removed transversely through the side of the monocoque, in a similar fashion to removing the normal torsion bars.
However McLaren and Ferrari have gone a slightly different route.

Mclarens ARB

McLarens ARB is formed of two blades joined by a drop link

In McLarens case their ARB is a simple blade type arrangement. These blades are splined to each rocker the blades are joined at their ends by bearings and a drop link.

In roll, the blades react against each to create roll stiffness

When in roll the rockers rotate in the same direction, one blade goes down and the other goes up, the stiff drop link transfers these opposing forces and the blades flex. These opposing forces add stiffness to the front suspension in roll.

In heave, the blades move together

In heave the rockers rotate in different directions, both blades move down and the increasing gap between their ends is taken up by the drop link. So the blades do not flex and do not contribute to heave stiffness.
Different thickness blades create different roll stiffness; they must be removed from the rockers and replaced to achieve this.

Ferraris ARB

Ferraris ARB uses two blades joined by an elegant arched guide

Ferrari have used this solution at least since the late nineties, the idea has been seen on older Minardis too. I suspect the idea was taken to Minardi by Gustav Brunner, who may also be the creator of this elegant solution.
Similar to McLaren the roll stiffness is provided by blades splined to the rockers. But the connecting mechanism is instead a single bearing sliding inside an arched guide. Just as with McLaren ARB, when in roll the two ends push against each other to create the reaction force to prevent roll. When in heave the bearing slides through the arc of the guide and no force is passed into the suspension.

I don’t believe either of these solutions has a compliance benefit over the other. The McLaren\Ferrari systems may be take up a little less space inside the nose and may weigh a little less. But both will be a little more complex when changing the roll stiffness.