Mercedes W02 – New front wing analysis

After three tests Mercedes produced their updated front wing at Barcelona today.  Elements of this wing have been seen on the Launch specification wing, such as the extra slot made in the main plane.  The wing (main plain and flap) itself is largely similar to the launch spec wing, while the endplate and cascades have been changed.  Mercedes front wing design harks back to the Brawn BGP001 of 2009.  The BGP001 pioneered the idea of the endplate-less wing.  With the wider wings for that season sitting as far out as the width of the tyres, the contemporary endplates before that time, no longer worked to direct  flow inside the front wheel.  Brawns aerodynamicists reshaped the wing to best redirect flow around the front wheel and effectively removed the vertical endplate and replaced it with vanes. These vanes are there to both redirect airflow and to meet the minimum bodywork rules.  To aid downforce in the area inboard of the front tyres, Brawns designers added a free standing winglet, known as a cascade.  Through out 2009 and 2010 BrawnMercedes developed the wing, but retained the two element layout.  The new wing retains all of these features to some extent.

Mercedes W02 launch spec front wing

The free standing cascade has been retained, but this is now aided by a small additional winglet inboard of the main winglet.  The split between the two winglets is inline with the inner face of the front tyre. This is not coincidence, as the two winglets seek to create tip vortices trailing both inside and outside the front wheel to set up  the airflow structures dividing either side of the front wheel.

Detail changes to the endplate include a small cut out in the trailing edge and a complex leading edge.  The raised section of footplate (the horizontal outboard section of endplate) cleverly features a tiny vane inside.  this vane curves outwards and was a feature of Mercedes 2010 wing.

Mercedes have not gone as far as a full three element wing, across its full width.  Instead they have divided the wing into three sections across its width.  Near the endplate, the wings leading edge rises, this reduces the angle of attack and amount of load this area of the wing creates.  This is because the area in front of the tyre is not a good location for creating downforce, as the tyre sits directly downstream of the wing.  The inner span of the wing nearest the cars centreline is also much reduced in chord length and angle of attack, again downforce does not want to be created here, as the wake will upset airflow over the middle of the car.  Thus the middle of the wing span, which sits both away from the tyre and the centre of the car, is the area where most load is created on the wing.  We can see this section has both the greatest flap size and angle of attack.  To keep the airflow attached to the wing with its more aggressive geometry, Mercedes have moulded a slot into the main plane.  Higher pressure air above the wing enters the slots and helps keep the flow attached to the wings underside.  This section of wing is therefore a termed a three element (two slot) wing.  This creates downforce where its most efficient to do so, maximising downforce for the minimum drag and downstream disruption.



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