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 Post subject: 2010 Cars - Testing
PostPosted: 07 Feb 2010, 09:55  
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Tech focus: the 2010 cars
by Gary Anderson and Giorgio Piola
Autosport

    Testing this year is going to be more confusing than ever because of the different fuel loads, and who runs what. But at the end of the day, it usually washes out that somebody has a go with a close enough fuel load – and the Ferrari was quickest on all three days in Valencia this week. It does look like it is there, and the Sauber looked consistent too.

    I think we have seen people learn from being in a poor condition last year, and that will make it good. Brawn and those teams at the front had not got very far to go, whereas Ferrari, BMW and McLaren had a long way to go.

    I think that Ferrari are in good shape, and Renault are not anything special. Williams are probably nothing special, and I think McLaren are okay but not as good as Ferrari.

Spoiler:
The design implications of the 2010 regulations

The regulation changes for this year, including the ban on refuelling and the narrower front tyres, have had obvious implications on the design of the 2010 cars.

Last year was the beginning of a new set of regulations and, as we saw, some teams found solutions to those pretty quickly and some teams didn't. So, this year will really be a case of optimising that regulation package.

Front wings and narrow tyres

This work starts right at the front of the car – with the front wing endplate design and the front wing treatment. We can see on most cars that this is an area that has had a reasonable amount of attention – it is an area that has dramatic implications because the rest of the car only works as well as that front wing assembly airflow wake allows.

Image

That is why people pay so much attention to the nose area, which the chassis section between the front wheels, the front brake ducts and the front wing plus front wing endplates. There are various solutions in there, with different levels of complexities – from the Toro Rosso that is very similar to last year's Red Bull, through to probably the Virgin car which is one of the least complex, compared even to the Renault.

How good the research level is, and how complicated you can go with it, determines what level you go to. But it is really a vital part of the car because it affects the rest of the car dramatically.

Because the front tyre is narrower by 25mm on the inboard side, that will change the front wing and front wing endplate slightly. It is not a matter of bolting on last year's one and getting the best out of it. It is a matter of starting to play with it again – because the wake that comes off the back of the front tyre affects the car quite dramatically. That wake will be reduced a bit and, because it is narrower, you can work the front wing differently. That is one of the areas that you are going to see some attention over the first couple of months because people are finding their feet with it.

Bigger fuel tanks

Going into other regulation change, the fuel tank size is bigger. It will add about 20 centimetres to the length of the car if you just cater for a bigger fuel tank. And that has lots of implications for weight distribution and the general centre of gravity of the car, which you need to take into account.

The big thing this year is qualifying, because qualifying on low fuel and racing on high fuel will be tough. To get a car balance that will suit both and be good to the tyres in both conditions – be able to warm up the front quickly in qualifying and not overheat and overwork the rear tyres in the race, is going to be a real big compromise in design and one of the areas that the teams are going to have to look very deeply at.

The answers to that are really going to come from testing. It is really quite difficult to do much of that from your vehicle dynamics studies, because it will be down to the durability of the tyre – and that is an unknown thing. So I think we will see cars at the front of the grid who may not be as good in the race, performance wise, and cars further back at the start who are better in race conditions. That is always good for a bit of excitement.

Image

The fuel tank size is big enough, once you have used a bit of fuel, to affect weight distribution by trying to trap the fuel, either forward in the tank or rearward in the tank. You can affect the weight distribution at, say, two-thirds race distance by baffling the fuel in the tank and controlling it in the area that you want it to be controlled.

Regarding the design of the tanks, there is a bit of a trade-off in height. You cannot really go stupidly high because of the way the aerodynamics works. The top of the head rest area automatically gives you a top of where you can put the fuel tank to.

If you imagine the centre of gravity of these cars is 15cm up from the bottom of the car, then fuel up to that height lowers the centre of gravity, because it is below the COG. After you go above it, it starts to raise it. So there is a point where the car changes its characteristics – slowly, but reasonably dramatically, because of the COG height.

So you don't want to go stupidly high with it for either mechanical or aerodynamic reasons. The width of the fuel tank is defined in the regulations. It has always been there – overall 0.8 metres wide, 0.4 metres from the centre-line – and the sides of the chassis have always been aerodynamically shaped to allow the radiators to fit in nicely and get good flow through the sidepods. I think most teams will now have made the monocoque shoe-box shaped, squareish, to get the maximum fuel tank in there to minimise the length. But there is a compromise in the whole thing.

Fuel economy is going to be a big thing. There are cars out there that will start the race 10-15kg of fuel lighter than the others and that is a significant difference if you consider that 10kg is roughly 0.3 to 0.35 seconds. If you take that, that is 0.2s per lap average over a 50-55 laps race – so that is a significant influence if you have good fuel consumption.

Tweaking the double diffusers

After everyone learned about the regulations a bit more from the double diffuser saga, the gearboxes have taken a big hit this year I think. The end result is, to make the double diffuser a lot better, then the gearbox needs to be a lot narrower; a lot higher, so once you come off the back of the engine you want the diffuser to come up underneath the gearbox, which is the route I would take; and longer – or a combination of all three. And looking at the cars we've seen so far, I think most teams have done a combination of all three.

We are still getting the double diffusers covered up by the teams' skulduggery – so we haven't seen much yet. But that will all be revealed as time goes by. I think there are a few out there, having looked at it, who have pushed the limits pretty far.

You can still read the regulations, and still not understand why it is legal, and there is one area of the rules where theoretically it doesn't say that two surfaces have to join up – and that is what the teams are exploiting. But it is where you go with that – because you could in dreamland get pretty excited with it and turn it into an horrendous piece of kit. And some teams have probably done that.

Time will tell whether they a) do comply with what the FIA says is legal now and b) if it does give them the performance that they think.

The trends of the 2010 designs we have seen

The high noses

I have a little bit of a question mark about this concept myself – as the current teams have gone for a more symmetrical nose high-up. If I was looking at something and trying to find what I would classify as the right solution, I think the Mercedes GP answer is a pretty nice compromise. It has a lower nose, it has got quite a change of section from the front of the nose to underneath the nose – coming into a V-section to try and get the air off the front wing.

All of that is to try and help and get as much air as possible through between the front wheels. That airflow, and the percentage of free stream airflow you can get against the percentage of front wing affected airflow you get, actually makes the diffuser and underfloor work better. That high nose solution to me – I still have a question mark over that. I am not a great believer in that type of nose, and if I was looking at something I would be looking at something along the Mercedes GP route – it is a very neat solution to it.

There are two or three penalties from doing this. A droopy nose is difficult for the crash test because you get a turning moment, when the front of the nose wants to bury itself underneath the car. That structurally can be achieved okay, though. The high nose is easier for the crash test because it is a fairly symmetrical unit – all the panels in it are doing the work so you can end up with probably a slightly lighter nose. However, it is higher up, so it is the compromise of one thing against another. I doubt very much if the high nose really does give you anything super on airflow.

Image

Whenever you have a curved surface, like the Mercedes GP nose for example, the air is accelerating off the top of it down into the sidepod area. Then on the top of that nose, you will get lift – because you have a low pressure area there. So the more in line with the flow that nose is, the less lift you will get off it – so there is a little bit of a compromise in that.

If there is treatment like the Mercedes GP has got, the little fins on the side of the nose, and the Red Bull bulges further up, then they are stopping that airflow getting off the top of the nose as such. And in doing that, they are reducing the low pressure area on the top of the nose so there will be a minimum amount of lift on it.

Everything has a bit of a compromise, but it depends on what you are looking for. If you are looking for that last one kilogramme of difference in downforce, then the difference between the Mercedes nose and the McLaren nose could be as small as that. It really is very tiny numbers.

The shark fin engine covers

When the car is in the middle of a corner, theoretically it is sliding at about 5-degrees to the airflow. So your engine cover is not really a symmetrical thing with flow down each side of it. One side is more hidden to the airflow as such – and if the air can spill over the top of the engine cover at that 5-degrees, then it gives you lift on the outside of the car. So putting that fin up there reduces this lift. It helps keep the engine cover more symmetrical and keeps the flow attached to a) help the rear wing and b) stop the negative effects at the top of the engine cover.

It is small stuff, but to take it a bit further you will start seeing sportscars with that type of thing – and that is to stop them flipping over when they spin. There is such a mass of bodywork there that they get such a lot of lift on the top of the body, that it makes the car fly.

If you look at the Mercedes GP engine cover, that little bit of fin it has got is enough to stop that happening. It does not have to be as stupid looking as some of the others. But then being stupid looking doesn't hurt, because you can put a bigger sticker on it!

The Mercedes GP engine cover and airbox treatment is a very neat solution. It is very well done and detailed, like its nose. There are some really nice things on that car, but then there are some other things that are a bit clunky.

Undercutting the sidepods

There is only a certain amount you can do to the cars within the regulation boxes that you are allowed to, but I suppose one of the main themes we have seen is the undercut sidepod, radiator inlet area – and trying to get that to work harder with whatever bargeboard you can get in there.

That is a very powerful area because again your bargeboards are scavenging the airflow out from underneath the chassis, and trying to increase the velocity of it. And the faster you can get the airflow to arrive at the leading edge of the sidepods, the more the diffuser can do on it. If you are travelling at a certain speed, and if you can double the speed of that airflow at the front of the sidepods, then that is four times the downforce you can get from the underfloor. So, you really want to try and get that air there – and that undercut sidepod trend is giving it space for the now more restricted bargeboard position to drag that air out and present it at the sidepods at a much better quality, and at a much higher velocity.

At the outer corner of the sidepods, that vertical wing section – the twisted device – is to try and stop the wake from the front tyre getting sucked into that area and spoiling the undercut working. That area to me is an area where the trends differ and some people still have to catch up with it a bit I think. It is an area that can be very beneficial to the underfloor of the car, and you are talking there of maybe five or six per cent downforce – which can be half a second per lap. That's in just small detail in that area.

The cars

We've seen seven of the current teams test their cars at Valencia this week. Here are some first impressions of what we have seen so far

McLaren

We haven't seen anything of the diffuser yet, so I cannot comment on that. But the McLaren is, I think, a very logical car. The front wing is good, and has all the complexity that you would expect from them. The details in their car are excellent – as was the detail with their car at the start of last year. But the actual performance wasn't there then.

Looking at this year's car, it is a step forward from last year in that it has got a better front wing package, a better front endplate package, a better front of the sidepods – and the sidepods themselves are better. The exhaust outlets are better positioned, and the whole package seems to be a very co-ordinated thing right through.

I've seen one picture of the diffuser, and I was a bit worried that some people might be getting carried away, and it could be a step too far. And that can affect the car's performance and consistency quite a lot. I think the McLaren is a good package, as far as everything we know about it, but I might just question the diffuser.

Ferrari

The Ferrari I initially questioned, because they have gone to a longer gearbox as a way to optimise the diffuser. And the launch package – that really seemed to be the big area that they were pushing in.

Having stopped development halfway through last year, I was expecting more from them – especially in the front wing area.

But they now have run a different front wing during testing, and it does look a bit more exotic. I am not a big fan of a two-piece front wing, a main plane and a flap, and I think whenever the downforce levels change because of the wing's inevitable airflow separation, you get a much bigger percentage change on it.

If you have got the opportunity to test with it, play with it and set it up, and get everything right, then okay. But as a general rule of thumb, the multi-piece wing, either a three-piece or five-piece, is more resilient and has a wider working window. Ferrari seem to be able to make it work on a one-off run, because they have been very quick, but I am not so sure it is the thing I would like to go racing with. And the effect of traffic on turbulence is greater on a two-piece wing than on a multi-piece wing as well, so there could be consequences later in the race with that solution.

Mercedes GP

There are a couple of interesting things on this car. Last year they had the steering track-rod in line with the bottom wishbone, which I thought was quite a good thing for stiffness and for aerodynamic control.

With the front wing being lower, the bottom wishbone has more control over the front wing wake. But they have moved it this year in line with a lot of treatment at the front of the chassis. That area of the car is very aesthetically pleasing, and because of that they have a very narrow front wishbone pick-up, and you can't get the steering rack in. They have probably moved it for logical reasons, but it was a good solution and would have been nice to keep somehow if they could have done.

The treatment around the front of the chassis, between the wheels, the top of the chassis – like Red Bull Racing last year but a little bit nicer – all that stuff is, once you see it in detail, pretty good.

And again the detail around the engine cover package and airbox inlet is all a very neat and tidy solution to getting good airflow, and good quality air, from the drivers' helmet and the airbox.

There are a couple of areas like the diffuser where they have not gone as far as they could have, or should have, done. I think everybody has pushed pretty hard on it, and they may have stood still a little bit in that area and tried to make other things better.

And for me the sidepods are a little bit clunky – a bit F3000ish. There is not much to them, as far as the exits and how the details and exits of the exhaust pipes get out of there. I am sure it is stuff that functions okay – but visibly it doesn't look quite as good as I would have thought detailed wise.

Williams

Williams probably had their best season last year in performance, but it didn't actually pull home the results. And I question the fact that they stated they had a good handle on last year's car, so they were going to start with a clean sheet of paper this year. I think that was a bit of an illogical thing to do in a way because the car last year was neat and tidy.

It had a low nose, the COG was lower, it had reasonably conventional front suspension, and had a lot of good little things that didn't go right out one end of the compromise list, if you know what I mean. I would have had a tendency to hold onto a few of those concepts, but they seem to have gone and built a new car. It is so easy to lose yourself when you build a new car – especially when you are trying to climb-up as Williams are doing at the moment after having a few rough years. They need to put a couple of solid years behind them.

There is also the change to Cosworth, which was always questionable. If I was them, I would have gone the other way and said let's try and optimise a few bits here – let's not just throw the baby out with the bathwater as such. And I am afraid, they might have hurt themselves a little bit. At best they could have stood still and at worst they could have gone back a little bit.

Renault

The colour scheme is lovely, but that is about it! It seems that the launch car was quite a bit different from the car that has run on the track – which I found to be a little bit confusing.

I don't see anything on it that to me is really on the limit. The rear suspension is a push-rod format, but they have got very wide-spaced wishbones and the dampers and all that are really well forward. The very angled push rods are to tidy up and minimise the cross-section at the rear of the car. That is good detail but it is small detail.

I would worry a little bit, and feel that the team needs to regroup and find what they are trying to do. The front wing endplate treatment isn't as exotic as it could be, or probably needs to be. To me, this is one of the most basic cars of the current teams that have been involved in F1 before. I don't think there is enough in there to be honest.

Scuderia Toro Rosso

I think it is just last year's car with a bigger fuel tank. And rightly so, I suppose. The car at the end of last season for Red Bull was very good, although Toro Rosso underperformed.

Why, whenever they were setting themselves up to build a new car, would they try and reinvent the wheel? Tidy up a few bits and pieces on it and it is not a bad vehicle. So put a bigger fuel tank in it and try and optimise a few bits, know the car you have got and go and get on with it. I don't think they have done the wrong thing.

BMW Sauber

They obviously learned a lot last year, because whenever you make a mistake, that is the one time that you learn a lot. If you are good, then you learn very little, which is what Brawn/Mercedes will find out this year.

They have been quick, but being quick in testing this year is very different to being sure it is going to work out. The car doesn't look anything exciting, but that is probably because it is black and white – and that makes it very, very difficult to see the car.

There are all the right bits on it. If you look at the sidepods, look at the nose, and look at the front wing endplates – the parts that makes thing function - they are all good, and lap time wise they seem to be working.

Testing: First impressions

Testing this year is going to be more confusing than ever because of the different fuel loads, and who runs what. But at the end of the day, it usually washes out that somebody has a go with a close enough fuel load – and the Ferrari was quickest on all three days in Valencia this week. It does look like it is there, and the Sauber looked consistent too.

I think we have seen people learn from being in a poor condition last year, and that will make it good. Brawn and those teams at the front had not got very far to go, whereas Ferrari, BMW and McLaren had a long way to go.

I think that Ferrari are in good shape, and Renault are not anything special. Williams are probably nothing special, and I think McLaren are okay but not as good as Ferrari.

We have to wait for a few more days testing to find out some more answers – and this time next week we will have seen the new Red Bull Racing RB6. These are interesting days.

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