Hispania: What options for their 2011 Chassis?

Earlier this month encouraging news was emerging from HRT and its potential partners. In short succession two announcements were made. HRT and Williams announced a gearbox technology partnership. Then days later Pascal Vasselon of Toyota Motorsport GMBH commented “I cannot say much yet, but we continue to discuss with Hispania, I think we will be able to make an announcement a little later”. The team also announced Juan Villalonga as a new backer, with Bernie Ecclestones blessing. These events culminated with the team successfully ended the season in eleventh place in WCC, ahead of Virgin Racing. Things looked good for the team.

However today Toyota Motorsport announced that “all cooperation with Hispania Racing F1 Team (HRT) has been terminated and will not resume”. This deal was believed to be for the rights to use the Toyota TF110 design, modified to the 2011 rules. Although other rumours suggested that HRT were to buy the entire Toyota Motorsport operation, this was believed to wide of the mark. A Toyota chassis mated to the Cosworth engine and Williams gearboxhydraulics would have been a competitive package. However the announcement means two things, firstly the line in the statement from Toyota that HRT had not met “contractual payment obligations” suggests budget was the source of the issue. With Villalonga now backing the team, this may have been down to a cash flow issue in the transition between the limited 2010 budget and the presumably secured backing for 2011. With ties severed to both the 2010 partner, Dallara and their potential 2011 partner, Toyota Motorsport. It seems HRT are now left with no technical partner for the chassis and with little time to find and establish a relationship with another chassis builder. Moreover, there’s now just over three months until testing resumes and four months until Round1 of the 2011 F1 World Championship. Precious little time to get a chassis programme underway. Their competitors will already have firm design plans and have started the build on their monocoques and crash structures.

So what options to HRT have to remain in F1 in 2011?

Possible Partners
Over the past two years there have been entries available to the F1 championship, as a result there has been a corresponding increase in companies with recent F1 design programmes. These programmes could be restarted if funding could be secured. As most of these businesses failed to gain an entry due to lack of funding, rather any lack in technical prowess. Its most likely one of these companies HRT will look to, if they are to build a new car with a new partner.

Epsilon
As a team putting a bid in for both the 2010 and 2011 season they are the ideal partner. Their design team headed by the experienced Sergio Rinland have maintained their F1 programme despite the disappointment in not getting a place on the grid for 2011. Epsilon have in recent years designed, built and campaigned a LMP car. Making their recent background similar to Wirth Research, who were the technical partner on the Acura programme. Equally their Spanish background matches the nominally Spanish HRT team. I’m not sure if Epsilon were only looking for an independent entry, one would imagine that if a deal were to be done between HRTEpsilon it would have been done by now.

Lola B10/30 Copyright: Racecar Engineering Magazine

Lola
Being a volume racing car manufacture Lola have all the in-house facilities and knowledge to produce an F1 chassis. One of the teams to present a proposal for the 2009 season, they lost out to Lotus, Virgin, HRT and USF1. They had got as far as a complete wind tunnel model, lead by their own staff and external consultants experienced within F1. The chassis appeared to be well progressed, considering the early stage it was cancelled. Although the programme was cancelled before the 2009 season, the car was designed to those regulations, which now closely match those of the 2011 rules.

Super Aguri SA03 (2008)

Formtech
Having been formed from the Super Aguri team and consisting of many ex-Arrows F1
Staff, Formtech are almost a ready-to-go F1 operation. They own the IP for both the original Arrows based SA01, but also the Honda based SA02 & SA03. Having started a design programme for the 2009 season, the team folded in 2008. However the programme provided input into the dominant Brawn BGP001 and many of its designers have gone on to other F1 teams with some success. Of course to be legal and competitive Formtech will either have to design a new car or modify the Aguri designs. But they did just such a process at short notice with the far more outdated Arrows back in 2006. Formtech were approached to partner prospective entrants to the 2009 season, so they are a realistic potential partner.

USF1
Despite never getting off the ground, the USF1 programme did produce designs for a car conforming to 2010 rules and with a Cosworth engine. Its not clear who owns this design data, but there remains a body of knowledge and resources within America to develop an F1 car. Of course the problems within the team did lead to questionable design work and the car was incomplete, both physically and in design terms. This is perhaps a long shot in seeking a partner within the timescales available.

Dome
Another of the teams with a long held desire to be in F1. This long term plan has lead to the teams well equipped factory maintaining an F1 programme over a number of years. As with Wirth, Epsilon and Lola the team operate an LMP project, which is close enough in aero and chassis terms to be representative of an F1 design. However like Epsilon, Dome may not be seeking to partner with another team in order to get into F1. Just as importantly they would need to ramp up their design work to get an F1 chassis designed and built within the time available.

Existing teams

Wirth Research
Already providing Virgin with their chassis and gearbox case, Wirth are independent in a similar way (legally) as Red Bull Technology which provided both Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso with their design IP. Wirth were rumoured to be providing Villeneuve with a year old Virgin chassis, but most likely Virgin have a clause in their contract with Wirth not to supply another team in F1.

Williams
Perhaps on shakier legal ground would be Williams aiding the team with an old chassis or even independently designing a chassis. Williams do take on external design work such as the Metro 6R4 rally car, the current F2 car or BMW’s LMP programme. Their supply of gearboxes and existing knowledge of the Cosworth engine would certainly speed up any programme. Its unlikely Williams would risk rushing through a programme, simply to keep HRT on the grid.

Toro Rosso
The team remain up for sale and the price although diminished from a few years, is still a significant investment. An acquisition of STR for its design IP and assets would be a quick solution for HRT. But perhaps unwanted from Bernie Ecclestones point of view, as the grid would be another team short for 2011.

Go it alone
This really leaves HRT with the only option of designing a new chassis or redesigning their current chassis. With Geoff Willis as Technical director, its possible the team could achieve this. Either with contracted-in staff or a design bureau such as Lotus used, the knowledge can easily be bought in. Equally with the huge network of sub contractors supplying F1, the manufacturing could be farmed out to 3rd parties. The approach would depend on whether HRT own the design IP of the Dallara chassis. If they do own it, then modifying the chassis would be the quickest route to a race ready car. Albeit a car with compromises and resultantly suffering on pace.
Main rules changes for 2011 are, Pirelli tyres, fixed weight distribution (45F/55R), no double diffuser. Then there’s the option of KERS and an adjustable rear wing. Presuming the optional wing and KERS wouldn’t be taken up, this leaves the team the task of redesigning; the suspension, the mechanical layout for weight distribution and of course an aero programme. The suspension redesign would be at least in part aided by Williams providing the gearbox casing which will fix the rear geometry.
Designing from scratch at this stage would probably mean a very late build and many compromises in design. Simply to get a very quick monocoque, design in order to get the drawings signed off for manufacture and crash testing. This would be quite a serious undertaking, but would underline HRTs commitment to F1.

Everything boils down to how serious the team are to remain in the sport, which is largely dependant on how much money HRT have to invest in 2011. At this stage its hard to see the team getting anything other than lightly a redesigned chassis ready for the Bahrain GP next year.



Analysis: HRTWilliams transmission technology deal

It seems recently more rumours and speculation circulate around the Hispania Racing Team than around any other team. But the first sign that the team will remain in F1 for 2011, was the announcement that they will be provided with gearboxes from Williams F1 from next season.

In their debut year Hispania (HRT) have run the standard Xtrac gearbox and hydraulics, being mated to the Cosworth engine and in turn to a Dallara chassis. This standard FIA specification rear end has been supplied to all three of the new teams (albeit with Virgin running their own gear case). The set up has not been without its own issues. Largely related to the reliability of the hydraulics package that controls various parts of the transmission. Having been the weak point on an F1 car for many years, for the existing teams at least the hydraulic system has finally matured into a reliable system. So it’s no slur on Xtrac that their first contemporary hydraulics package is less reliable than a seasoned F1 teams set up. To take step forward for 2011 and improve reliability the new teams have been seeking an alternative supply of gearbox and transmission technology. With Williams also running the Cosworth engine, their gearbox and ancillaries are already matched to the same engine as the new teams and reliable with it. So it’s no surprise that Williams have been offering this proprietary technology to other teams.

The short press release provided few details, but Williams have provided me with more information on the technical deal. Announced as a deal for Williams to provide HRT with transmission systems from 2011. The release added that this deal will extend for the life of the current Cosworth engine deal, expected to change with the new engine rules for 2013. This of course underlines the fact that Hispania will continue to use the Cosworth the CA2010 V8 beyond this year.

Williams have a record in sharing gearbox technology, the team provided Toyota with seamless gearbox technology while the pair shared a common engine supply in 2007. Williams had already run a seamless shift of their own in 2006, but this double clutch set up was discarded for their second generation set up. This latter version was shared with Toyota and exploited the now common method of using a double selector mechanism to provide the seamless shift.

What Williams will be providing HRT is a complete rear end package; this will be the complete gearbox including gear case. Williams have run a cast aluminium case for many years, although they have investigated carbon and titanium cases over the years, they feel the Alu case is the best solution for them. When asked if the deal was to provide the same specification as the Williams teams will use, as opposed to a bespoke case, Williams would only say that specific detail was “confidential”. With HRT’s limited budget and lack of technical resources, it would be expected for the team to share a common casing, perhaps with only the detail machining varying between the two teams.

In addition to the gearbox and case, Williams are also supplying HRT with “all associated hydraulics”. Perhaps this is the most critical aspect of the deal, while gearbox technology is not quite a commodity item, it is relatively accessible. However the hydraulics package is harder to acquire and takes time to develop. The systems are not commonly used in other motor sport formulae and differ in detail from Aerospace systems. It was after all Williams that matured modern electro hydraulic controls with their active suspension and winning world championships with them in the nineties. Albeit, it was the pioneering work done by Lotus that introduced the systems into F1 in the eighties.

KERS will be part of F1 again next year, again Williams via its subsidiary Williams Hybrid Power, has proprietary technology available to other teams. However Williams confirmed that there was “no KERS solution under this agreement”. This leaves Hispania to seek a KERS solution from Cosworth or another vendor.

Effectively Williams will provide the entire assembly from the rear face of the engine to the start of the rear crash structure. Primarily this will lead HRT to have the same rear suspension set up as Williams. For 2010 Williams have focussed on packaging their pushrod suspension to create as lower line shape the Red Bulls much talked about Pull Rod set up. Having a push rod set up necessitates having the rockers, torsions bars, dampers and antiroll bars on top of the gear case. With a double diffuser, pushrod creates more space for the diffuser at the cost of a streamlined shape to the cowling leading the lower beam wing. Next year with double diffusers banned, the Pullrod set up may be more beneficial, having less impact on diffuser packaging and better flow to the rear wing. Sam Michael confirmed to me at the FW32’s launch, that a pull rod set up was assessed for 2010, but the concept was discarded. But it’s possible the Pullrod solution could be back on the specification for 2011. Thus HRT will run the Williams inboard suspension geometry leaving the designers to adapt their rear suspension around those constraints and in turn the front suspension to match that.

With the majority of the rear end specified, it remains for HRT to design the rest of the car. The 2010 car was designed by Dallara, but the relationship fell apart after the opening races. Acting as a consultant, Geoff Willis was critical of the Dallara project and HRT have since severed ties with the Italian constructor. Rumours link the HRT team to Toyota, largely as the defunct Toyota motor sport team have F1 designs available for sale. Added to the fact that the base for the otherwise Spanish branded team is based in Germany at Colin Kolles workshops in Greding, some 4 hours drive from Toyota in Cologne. Rumours that the team had bought the entire Toyota operation for some $50m have been rubbished. It’s still possible that the car could be designed using existing Toyota IP or from new by their in-house design team. It’s also possible that a design office lead by Willis using German based design talent, could be a route to designing the car. This approach was taken by Lotus to get their 2010 car up and running.

Hopefully any design programme is already well under way, as the car will otherwise be very late. HRT will need an aero concept, suspension, electronics and the primary structures (i.e. monocoque & crash structures). The lead times for these programmes in both design and manufacturing terms are very long and with the season nearly complete, there’s just four months until testing commences in February. HRT have not confirmed any details of their chassis programme for 2011. So despite the deal announced today it’s far from clear if they can make it to grid next year.

Xtrac: F1′s spec gearbox

Xtrac Project 1044 Gearbox

Xtrac Project 1044 Gearbox

 

Xtrac Project 1044 Gearbox

Along with the Cosworth engine, the FIA have tendered for specification gearbox to be made cost effectively available to all teams. The British firm Xtrac won the tender and hence have returned to F1 as a complete transmission provider after an absence of over ten years. While the internals of the seamless shift gearbox are still secret (aside from the presence of a twin selector shift mechanism) the external details have been published through these pictures. Project 1044, as its known to Xtrac is was developed with the assistance Dallara, who gave input onto the external features for installation, aerodynamics and suspension. As the external case is used by both Hispania and Lotus we now have a clear idea of their rear suspension installation. Largely conventional in its layout, all of the features are common to those seen on other teams gearboxes.  Despite the single specification of outer case, the gearboxes can be machined slightly differently to accommadate the chassis designers exact suspension geometry.

Xtrac: The different mounting points for the rear suspension

The aluminium case features cast mounting points for the; wishbones, Anti Roll Bar, torsion bars and dampers. These are all highlighted in the attached image, although the suspension rocker linkage is absent, but this is a team designed part, so it will vary slightly between the two teams. We could expect that the teams have a heave damper mounted between the rockers and passing across the top of the case, possibly in tandem with an inerter if the team have reached the stage where they have developed a set up to incorporate the device.

In this bare guise Xtrac quote the complete units weight as “approximately 40kg”.

 Further information on Xtrac is available at www.xtrac.com.

Xtrac: The ancillaries are typical example of a conventional F1 gearbox

 

HRT Dallara Cosworth: First impressions

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From what was the Campos Meta team the Hispania Racing team has emerged.  Despite the name and ownership changes the one consistent factor through the winter has been the car. Designed and built by Dallara and incorporating the Cosworth engine and Xtrac gearbox.

Few pictures have emerged of the car from the low key launch today.  However we can see some basic design details on the car.  Sporting a strong likeness to the Dallara IRL car with its low nose and rounded airbox inlet.  Indeed the car has a resemblance to the Virgin VR01 F1 car, sharing basic features such as the “V” nose, tall sidepod fins and undercut roll structure.

Starting at the front the Red Bull-Like “V” nose is mated to a low placed nose cone, thus creating the prominent bulges on top of the chassis.  This allows the lower wishbone mounts to meet under the raised nose.  While the steering track rods are inline with the upper wishbone (most other teams place these lower) below it the front wing is a straightforward three element affair with wide cascades above the main wing and simple endplates.  It’s front brake ducts appear unusually large and are mated to a fairing leading towards the front perimeter of the tyre.

Sidepods follow the common fashion being quite wide to accommodate the fuel tank and radiators and undercut at their leading edge.  At the rear the sidepods do not fall away as radically as the McLaren or Virgin and form a neat rounded coke bottle shape with the exhausts exiting at the very rear just before the rear wishbone.  Allied to the sidepods are the tall pod fins, which also mount the mirrors.  Bargeboards are relatively large and adopt a stepped top profile.

Again contemporary design it taken with the roll structures formed by an undercut inlet  supported by a pair of pylons, Dallara have adopted a circular inlet that forms a near horizontal tube as it passes back over the fuel tank to the cosworth engine.  No fin has yet been added to the engine cover.

Being one of the first of the new teams to start their 2010 development, Dallara lead the packaging of the Xtrac gearbox, setting the mounting points for the rear suspension with its exposed torsion bars.  Behind the gearbox the crash structure splits the rear beam wing, thus HRT along with Ferrari are one of the few teams not to use a fully exposed beam wing. We can see a covered up diffuser which appears to exploit a double design, but like the rest of the aerodynamic details appears relatively simple.