Since its introduction in 2010 the Drag Reduction System (DRS) has gone through a series of evolutions in how the team actuate the movable rear wing flap. Having replaced the adjustable front flap, teams have all switched to hydraulics to power the opening of the flap, where as the front flap angle system introduced in 2009 was commonly achieved with electric motors and only a few teams employed hydraulics.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 F1Talks.pl & SuttonImages.com
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.
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 CFDWind 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.
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.
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 (email@example.com) for his assistance as Copy Editor
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 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.
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.
Thanks to Andrew Biddle (firstname.lastname@example.org) for his assistance as Copy Editor
An excellent Sutton Images picture seen on F1Talks.pl, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 McLarenFerrari 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.
Before the Korean GP, I published a proposal for a flexible but legal splitter (http://scarbsf1.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/a-legal-but-flexible-t-tray-splitter-the-see-saw-solution/). This so-called See-Saw arrangement of the T-tray splitter was a response to the need for the splitter to deflect to allow a low front wing ride height, but still meet the FIA tests. It’s design was influenced by unusual wear marks seen on cars at previous races. My blog post was provocative, as I did not personally believe it is legal. But, by playing devils advocate, it was clear a case could be made for the See-Saw splitters legality. I had seen no direct evidence such a splitter is in use in F1 and I had no information suggesting that it might have been used in the past.
It was therefore a great surprise when I was tipped off that the FIA had sent out a Technical Directive (TD) on the matter during the Korean GP weekend. It transpired that a top teams Chief Designer had approached the FIA to propose they wanted to use just such a solution for their 2012 car. In the teams communication to the FIA Technical Delegate Charlie Whiting, the See-Saw concept was drawn and described as a method to ensure the splitter isn’t damaged by contact the ground, thus making the car more reliable and damage prone. The request further explained the reaction force provided by the FIA test rig, allowed the more complaint splitter to still meet the FIA deflection test. This being possible even without a kinematic fixing joint (i.e.not having a moving bearing or pivot as the splitters fulcrum point).
Its not unusual for teams to take this approach in protesting another teams car. Its less confrontational, as they argue the technologies legality, rather directly protesting another team. There have been several instances of this in the past. The team probably weren’t seriously wanting to use the See-Saw splitter, nor did they feel its use was for reliability reasons. More that they were concerned another team were currently gaining an advantage from its use and wanted the design exposed and its legality confirmed.
The FIA’s response was a technical directive, coded TD35. It’s not surprising that it confirmed such an splitter would not be legal. But, crucially the FIA confirmed that they reserve the right to alter the test to ensure the deflection test procedure isn’t being exploited. Therefore future scrutineering checks, may well include an inspection of the splitters mounting and conducting the deflection test with the cars weight bearing down at different points, rather than sat flat on top of its plank.
Several personnel within F1 teams have since contacted me on this subject. Its been suggested that such a construction is, or has been used in F1. The catalyst for this design was the further restriction on splitters after the FerrariMcLaren protest in 2007. But with the further restriction on splitter mounting and deflection announced at Monza Last year, the See-Saw solution may have become even more useful in 2011.
As yet the change to the FIA testing procedure has not been detailed. Although the Indian GP weekend will be the first chance for the FIA to act on this technical directive with revised checks. It will be interesting to hear if any teams are asked to alter their splitter construction as a result of this.
Another possibility with the Mercedes stalling front wing is that it allows an opportunity to play with the linearity of the cars ride height. In particular the proximity of the splitter to the ground at different speeds. Looking at this in comparison to other possible uses, I would suggest this is a more realistic and beneficial solution than those initial proposed (http://scarbsf1.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/mercedes-f-duct-front-wing/).
As has been much discussed, the front wing needs to run as low as possible to create downforce. To achieve this teams run as lower front ride height as possible. The limitation of a low front wing ride height is the front splitter grounding, this becomes an increasing problem as speed increases and the aero load builds up and compresses the front suspension. So at the ‘End of the Straight’ (EOS) at very high speed the car is at its lowest and splitter is grounding. This forces the car to have a higher ride height, to keep the plank from wearing away in the EOS condition. Thus at lower speeds the front ride height is correspondingly higher, compromising the potential of the wing.
If Mercedes stall the front wing as the car reaches top speed, hence above the speed of any corner on the track. Then when the wing stalls, the load on the front axle will suddenly decrease and the front ride height will increase. Effectively the ride heightspeed map is no longer linear. Ride height will decrease linearly at lower speeds, then above the speed of the circuit’s fastest corner, the wing stalls and ride height increases.
What this allows the race engineers to do is shift the ‘ride height curve’ down the map for a lower initial (static) ride height. Knowing that the splitter will not ground in the end of straight condition. Therefore with the unstalled wing having a lower ride height, more downforce can be generated. When the wing is stalled the lack of downforce is less consequential as the car is on the straight. Plus there may still be the small boost in top speed from the lack of induced drag from the stalled wing.
One other potential of such a solution is the front wing grounding. We have seen the midseason version of the Mercedes front wing ground quite easily in some turns this year. So as with splitter ride height, endplate ride height at top speed may become the limiting factor in benefiting from the wing flexing at lower speeds. Stalling the wing on the straight will see the load on the wing decrease and the wing will naturally flex upwards. Giving the opportunity to flex more at slow speeds and have the stall prevent grounding on the straight.
In comparison to the manipulation of the CofP to resolve handling problems I initially proposed, this would be a more likely purpose of the stalling wing. Perhaps more importantly this would be a universal solution, one that other teams could legally adopt in preference to flexible splitters or excessive rear ride height to achieve lower front ride heights.