Now entering their third year what was Team Lotus and now Caterham F1 have produced their most contemporary package yet. Also in the second year of their partner ship with Red Bull and Renault for the supply of their power train, there will be inevitable comparisons of the CT-01 to the cars from its technical partners. Indeed superficially the car bears some resemblances to the RB7, but the car is indeed the work of the technical team lead by Mike Gascoyne and Mark Smith in Hingham. Where as Red Bull supply the GearboxHydraulics and Renault the EngineKERS package.
Although the rendering of the car is clearly wearing 2011 spec wings, vanes and brake ducts, its evident the car is another step forward in design terms for the team.
Three features stand out as different from the 2011 T128; the nose, the sidepods and the roll hoop.
Firstly the nose (Cutting from this months F1Racing magazine) is the first example we have seen of the revised 2012 nose regulations, limiting the front of the nose to a height of just 55cm. However the remaining raised monocoque section between that and the cockpit can be 62.5cm high, so we see the step between these two sections and this is partly softened by the ridged “V” nose. (more detail on the 2012 nose rules)
The sidepods follow the Red Bull template with slim sidepods tapering out at their base. The coke bottle shape streamlines smoothly into the gearbox fairing, there being no cooling outlet from the sidepods themselves, instead the tail funnel acts as the main outlets, while there also appears to be small outlets either side of the cockpit sides.
Amidships we see the all-carbon blade type roll structure from 2011 has disappeared, replaced by a more conventional roll hoop. With part of its structure exposed in the form of the struts supporting the roll structure. Its likely this structure has some metal in its construction. The use of heavier metal in the structure, is offset by the shape being more structurally efficient and probably of equal weight compared to the all carbon blade.
The nose cone is much wider and shallower than in 2011, this being create enough mass within the deformable structure while still meeting the “V” shaped front bulkhead. A new front wing is in development, its likely this will follow the 2011 trend for an endplate-less design with a three element wing meeting the centre section in a curled profile. The raised front section of chassis means Caterham have retained their steeply include front suspension. Interestingly, the bulges on the nose, seem to a reverse twin keel and mount the front leg of the upper wishbone. Around the cockpit opening their appear to be cooling outlets, these aiding cooling allowing much slimmer sidepods. The bodywork aft of this area bulges outwards slightly and sweeps back smoothly around the engine to the tail funnel. In meeting the 2012 regulations the exhausts are tucked in quite low and inboard. The mandatory last 100mm of exhaust being covered by fairings formed into the engine cover. From these pictures its hard to tell how steeply the exhausts are angled at. Therefore its hard to tell if the exhaust effect the flow under the rear wing.
As the sidepods are so slim and there being no low level exhausts, there is a wide expanse of exposed floor. The diffuser sweeps outwards and there is a generous cut out around the rear wheels. The centre section of the diffuser often termed the boat tail is exposed to the airflow. Suggesting the rear impact structure is raised clear fo the floor. This is in contrast to Red Bulls preferred practice of a low rear crash structure. The lowered section probably allows airflow over the floor to pass through the starter motor hole to aid airflow passing up under the diffuser.
By using the Red Bull Carbon fibre gear case, the rear suspension is also largely taken from the Red Bull. Thus it employs pull rod operation for the springs and dampers. However the KERS installation may follow either Red Bulls Pannier style battery installation or the more typical under-fuel-tank installation.