Having been discussed amongst the Technical working group for some time, the 2013 Technical regulations have now been published, with a just couple of small updates. The first being the option to fit a simple panel over the stepped nose for aesthetic reasons, the second being the banning of DRS having a secondary effect, as with the Mercedes Double DRS system.
These will not be changes that will unduly effect the development of the2013 cars, which are already well underway, but the former change will make the cars look a little different.
“3.7.9 an optional, single piece, non-structural fairing of prescribed laminate
(whose precise lay-up may be found in the Appendix to the regulations) may not be more than 625mm above the reference plane at any point”
Teams will now be able to hide the step in the nose with a simple sacrificial panel. The allowance to run this ‘modesty’ panel over the stepped nose was initially discussed in 2011, when the aesthetic impact of the proposed rule became apparent.
It was safety that drove the regulations to alter the nose for 2012, already long standing regulations created a cockpit side that was a minimum of 550mm high, but the rules allowed the nose tip to be as high as 625mm. Obviously the effect of a nose tip passing over the cockpit side and into the driver in the event of T-bone accident doesn’t bear thinking about. So in advance of further reaching nose height regulations for 2014, this interim step was suggested. For 2012 cars had to have the top of the nose cone under 550mm, however the rest of the footwell of the monocoque could still be as high as 625.
As the majority of the nose had to be as low as 550mm, this meant that even with a lot of deformation in crash, any remaining part of the nose cone would never rise above 550mm.
Teams found having the nose and the chassis as high as possible provides an aerodynamic advantage, as this provides more airflow around the lower half of the car. The obvious result was teams pushed the upper surface of the nose and monocoque as high as possible, to get the maximum airflow under the car. This resulted in the near flat topped nose at 550mm and a flat topped monocoque behind it at 625mm. Everyone was aghast at when the first car was unveiled for 2012 with the resulting step was formed between nose and chassis.
While some teams found an aerodynamic solution to the airflow disruption the step causes, most teams managed with an inefficient design of a simple if brutal step. A few teams and most notably McLaren, opted for a lower chassis which eased the need for the step at the loss of some aerodynamic potential.
Now for 2013 teams will be allowed to streamline the step, with a thin aerodynamic fairing that can be no higher than the tub at 625mm. This is a sacrificial part it forms no part of the impact structure, it’s simply there to make the stepped nose look better and with it perhaps bring a small aero benefit.
As the fairing must be made of a prescribed laminate construction, it cannot be a structural part and is designed to be safe in the event of an accident. So In the event of a crash the fairing will simply break up or break away, in the T-bone scenario the fairing will not cause harm to the driver.
It’s been suggested that the FIA could have mandated a low nose tip and then a linear taper of the structure back to the front bulkhead. This would have looked similar to the step nose and fairing, but would have been less safe in a side impact. As the nose crumples it would eventually be higher than the cockpit side.
While you can never say “never” when it comes to the designers exploiting a rule, this fairing will be subject to the existing rules for the nose cone. So the fairing must be enclosed and sit atop the nose cone no higher than 625mm. Teams cannot form holes through it aside from the driver cooling hole, which was exploited on the Red Bull’s stepped nose this year, so the wide nose slot is likely to disappear on the RB9. Sauber’s alternative solution to duct airflow to tidy the flow off the stepped section is also likely to disappear, although this design does have other benefits in reducing the boundary layer build up under the nose cone.
Teams do not have to run the fairing, some teams might be happy to simply keep their existing stepped nose design for 2013.
The new rule maintains the safety aims of the original 2012 nose, but offsets the negative image it has presented to the cameras.
As there’s been such huge interest in the 2013 nose, its worth noting the regulations for 2014 have been published by the FIA for some time. As part of the safety programme the FIA will introduce much lower noses. The nose tip must be centered around 185mm and the front bulkhead lowered to 500mm. Also front wings will be narrower, top rear wings will be shallower and there’ll be no beam wing.
Here’s a quick representation.
DRS secondary effects
“3.18.1 DRS cannot be used to change the geometry of any duct, either directly or indirectly, other than the change to the distance between adjacent sections permitted by Article 3.10.2.”
Even before the 2012 season started the Mercedes Double DRS was already causing ripples amongst the technical staff at the teams. As explained on this blog previously the Mercedes DDRS uses the movement of the DRS rear wing flap to open a duct for a se3ocnady effect. In Mercedes case this effect is to blow through a duct and stall the front wing when DRS is open. Just as with the F-duct in 2010, there was no rule to prevent this. The FIA eventually describing the system as a drag reduction system, which was in line with the aims of the DRS rules. However the system has now been outlawed by a simple addition to the rules. Now the DRS acting on the rear wing flap cannot affect airflow into duct or device for a secondary effect. This clearly bans the Mercedes system, but does not go as far as to ban the passive Lotus Drag Reduction Device (DRD), which Mercedes have now tested themse3ivles. Unless a clarification is issues ahead of the 2013 season we can expect every top team to develop a passive DRD. Somewhat offsetting the rule change made against the Mercedes DDRS system.
F-Duct front wings
We saw last year that Mercedes also created a passive stalling front wing; this was in preparation for their 2012 DDRS. With the new DRS rules preventing part of the 2012 DDRS effect, teams could still exploit a stalling front wing. So the 2013 rules now prevent the ducting of airflow through the centre section of front wing.
This section may not contain any closed channel the effect of which is to duct air directly or indirectly to or from the external air stream for any purpose other than data acquisition.
This means that the nose hole ducting tested in 2011 cannot be used to stall the front wing. However, the front wing can still be stalled by other means, most likely slots above the wing feeding airflow through to the stalling slot under the wing.
Floor flatness tolerance
Ever since 1983 when flat floors were mandated, there has been a tolerance to allow for manufacturing problems. This tolerance was tightened from 5mm to 3mm for 2012. But earlier this year teams were rumoured to be using this tolerance to tilt the splitter upwards. Exploiting this tolerance for the Splitter means the car can run lower at the front by 3mm, gaining crucial front wing efficiency. A technical directive was sent out about the practice and now that has made it into the rule book.
3.12.6 To help overcome any possible manufacturing problems, and not to permit any design which may contravene any part of these regulations, dimensional tolerances are permitted on bodywork situated between a point lying 330mm behind the front wheel centre line and the rear wheel centre line. A vertical tolerance of +/- 3mm is permissible across the surfaces lying on the reference and step planes and a horizontal tolerance of 3mm is permitted when assessing whether a surface is visible from beneath the car.
So now teams cannot purposely curve the flat floor for aerodynamic advantage.