Lotus Renault GP: Fluid Inerter

Lotus Renault GP (LRGP) have been on one of the teams most innovative with their suspension over the past decade. As RenaultF1 They introduced the Tuned Mass Damper (TMD) back in 2006 and have since raced conventional Inerters. Inerters are a special component in the suspension to counteract spring effect of the TyresSuspension, using a spinning mass on a threaded rod to control these loads.

LRGP have also been one of the teams racing hydraulically interlinked suspension and have looked at other ways to legally alter the suspensions performance. It seems this work has lead to the discovery of a new form of Inerter, primarily using fluid for the Inerter effect. This new development has been termed by the team a “Fluid Inerter”.

A cross section of the patented Fluid Inerter

The intellectual property rights to this development have been safeguarded by Patent, allowing the details to be freely accessible in the pubic domain (the source for the picture at the top of this article). My attention was drawn to this development by Italian Mechanical Engineer Rodolfo De Vita, a specialist in Torsional Dampers and Dual Mass Flywheels (DMF).

Background
Becoming ever more complex the suspension in an F1 car has a number of devices to counter loads fed into the chassis, in order to maintain the ideal conditions at the tyre contact patch. We understand the role of springs and dampers, but there remain other spring effects within the suspension system, not least from the high profile tyres. Their spring effect goes undamped and hence is largely out of the control of the teams in setting up the car. Being able to counteract these uncontrolled forces in a suspension will allow the tyre to main better contact with the ground for more consistent grip. In 2003 Cambridge Universities, Dr Malcolm Smith proposed a mechanical method of controlling these loads via the Inerter. McLaren took up this idea and tested the idea in 2004 then went on to race an Inerter in 2005.
In size and construction the Inerter looks like any other damper. Being placed in the same position as a Heave Damper it was well hidden and unknown to most people. Until the “Spygate” saga in 2007, when the design was referenced as both the “J-Damper” and “a Damper with a Spinning Mass”. It wasn’t until May 2008 that I was able to understand and expose the details of the Inerter concept, publishing its details in Autosport.com (subscribers only http://www.autosport.com/journal/article.php/id/1554 ). Co-incidentally this article is cited in the patent documentation!

A Mechanical Interter

An Inerter can be configured in two ways: a linear and a rotary format. In both guises the device uses a toothed drive to spin a mass. Likened to the same effect as a bicycle bell, the load fed into the bells lever is dissipated by the spinning element. In F1 teams use a cylindrical mass screwed onto a threaded rod inside a damper body. One end of the rod is affixed to one side of the suspension and the damper body to the other side of the suspension. Reacting to the acceleration of the suspension, the Inerter absorbs the loads that would otherwise not be controlled by the velocity sensitive conventional dampers.

The Renault 2006 Front Tuned Mass Damper (TMD) - Copyight: Craig Scarborough

The Inerter predates Renaults TMD, which aimed to achieve the same effect. With the TMD a weight is suspended on spring to offset the same forces being fed into the chassis as the Inerter. Renault first raced the TMD in 2005, its discovery by Giorgio Piola around Monaco of that year; both forced a development race and an enquiry by the FIA. It was subsequently banned on what proved to be false grounds. The FIA citing a movable aerodynamic effect as the reason for its ban.
Unaware of its effect on the contact patch, I initially saw the device as a means to prevent the front wing pitching downwards when braking. The inertia of the suspended mass keeping the nose from pitching downwards during the initial braking phase. This I thought would prevent the car from being pitch sensitive. Despite a lengthy court room case, this “aero” function was upheld as the reason for the ban of the device.
Ironically the McLaren was using the Inerter at the time, and despite it being used for the same function was not banned and remains legal and in universal use to this day.

LRGP’s Fluid Inerter Concept
Reading the detail of the LRGP patent, it’s clear this was at least partly a surprise discovery. The Patent states the discovery was “based on lab testing of another hydraulic suspension device”, when it was found that the effect of the fluid within the system “has a very significant inertia effect”.
I would suspect this discovery was made during the development of the linked suspension system. Where fluid lines are used to link the suspension in a similar manner to the Mercedes system I detailed earlier this year (http://scarbsf1.wordpress.com/2011/10/17/mercedes-innovative-linked-rear-suspension/). Perhaps the longer fluid lines to link front and rear suspension provided the discovery, rather than the very short left to right linking pipework. I understand Renault have had hydraulically linked suspension on the car since at least 2009.
With this insight LRGP have proposed a Fluid Inerter using both the inertia of the fluid and a spinning mass. By making the Inerter device more like a damper, where by a damper rod displaces fluid; this fluid is then piped into a circuit to spin the mass. There by both effects can be created. It is the inertance of the fluid that differentiates the LRGP patent to the conventional Inerter proposed by Dr Malcolm Smith.
Inertance is a new term and I’ll quote the patent for LRGP’s explanation of the effect.
“Hydraulic fluid inertance means” concerns an arrangement in which the presence of a hydraulic fluid provides an inertance, where inertance is a measure of the fluid pressure which is required to bring about a change in fluid flow rate in a system. Between the terminals this translates to an inertial force which resists acceleration.
LRGP found that the fluid used was critical to the efficiency of the design. In particular to make it effective for the lightweight and small packaging volume required to make the device work within the tight confines of an F1 footwell or gearbox. Needing to be incompressible and low viscosity, they have proposed several fluids, such as water and oil, but the preference appears to be for Mercury. Although a metal, it’s liquid at ambient temperatures and very dense. This means smaller fluid lines filled with mercury will provide the necessary inertance, compared to larger amounts of less dense fluids. Passing from one chamber in the damper body via the fluid line to the other chamber, the detail design of the length and diameter of the fluid lines are key in creating the correct tuned inertance effect. Just “1 to 50g” of fluid is required to get the desired effect. The range of inertial reaction is quoted as “10 to 500kg, which is a typical range required in Formula One racing cars”.
As a side note McLaren decouple this inertial reaction force into different measured units. Rather than Kg of Inertial force, McLaren use the term “Zog”, this allows them to hide the actual units set up on their Inerter.
Renault suggests winding the lines around the damper body as one solution for the packaging of the fluid circuit. Additionally a valve or shim stack in the damper rod would also alter the amount of fluid displaced, to further tailor the Inerters effect.
With Mercury having a high coefficient of thermal expansion, the patent suggests using a relief valve emptying into another chamber is used to ensure the system has a constant volume of fluid.
Clearly the emphasis is on the fluid to provide the inertance effect, the patent citing a minimum 50%, up to as much as 90% of the inertance coming from the fluid.

In Detail

The device uses the left hand casing as the fluid cylinder & the right hand casing for bump rubbers

Not only does the Patent contain the conceptual information on the Inerter, but also detailed cross sections. I have simplified these to explain the Inerters construction. LRGP have been able to condense the entire solution into a single self contained component, which fits into the same volume as the conventional Inerter.
The device is made up of a main body and a damper rod. The main body split into left and right sections bolted together. The left hand casing forms the cylinder, not only contains the fluid, but also channels machined in the outer casing form the fluid lines. Such that no external pipework is required. The right hand casing allows the damper rod to pass through and also houses bump stops to prevent the device bottoming at the end of its 16mm of bump travel or 23mm of droop travel. In total the device is just 220mm long (eye to eye).
In cross section we can see the casing is a complex machined part. With the right hand chamber formed with bushes, seals and endplates to create the cylinder for the damper rods to pass through. The damper rod along with its shim stack valve pass through the cylinder like piston as the suspension compresses and rebounds. The mercury within is displaced and passes through channels into the channels machined into the wall of the body.

Installation

The Inerter (yellow) is mounted between the rockers

LRGP provide a diagram for the Inerters mounting. This being a typical position between the pushrod rockers. No doubt a similar mounting is found between the rear pull rod rockers. Externally it would be hard distinguish the Fluid Inerter from a Mechanical version. Albeit the Renault front bulkhead design shows almost nothing of the Inerter inside the footwell. The steering rack and anti roll bar getting in the way of the small aperture inside the front of the monocoque. Thus we cannot be clear if the device has raced.

Benefits
One benefit is the technology is proprietary to LRGP and not used under license via Penske or Dr Malcolm Smith. Thus LRGP are free to use and develop this technology freely.
I couldn’t state whether the Fluid Inerter has any compliance benefits over a mechanical one. Perhaps it’s easier to tune via the shim stack in the damper rod, rather than the fixed specification of the mechanical Inerter. Equally it may be easier to maintain, teams needing to strip clean and re-grease their Mechanical Inerters frequently to maintain their smooth operation.
It seems one advantage to this device might be lightweight. The tiny amount of fluid required would be lighter than an equivalent spinning mass. As Inerters tend to be mounted relatively high a weight saving will aid CofG height, as well as ballast placement.
One negative issue is that Mercury is a hazardous material. Considering the unit is positioned ahead of the driver’s legs, any mercury leakage as a result of a major accident will only complicate the health issues for the Driver and Marshalls. I am not aware of Mercury being specifically restricted by the FIA approved material list. Although with just a few CC’s of the liquid contained within the cylinder, this might not be regarded as an issue by the FIA.

Conclusion
However the team came across this solution, it is a new direction for Inerter development. The solution is totally legal, as set by the precedent of the mechanical Inerter being allowed to race, even when the TMD wasn’t
It will be interesting other teams come forward with new Inerter or linked suspension solutions. The only problem is few teams patent their design to allow us such insight to their design.

A view of the outer casing

A cross section of the Inerter

An exploded view of the parts

More references on Inerters

http://www.montefiore.ulg.ac.be/doc/smith09.pdf

http://www.ieeecss.org/sites/ieeecss.org/files/documents/IoCT-Part2-14FormulaOne-HR.pdf

Renaults New Front Wing

Renault have for some time been the team leading with innovations in front wing design. Renault first introduced the feathered set up on the inner tips of the wing last year, by tapering the slot gap between the flaps. Many teams have already copied the feathered design.

Renaults flap is now split into two

But now Renault have gone even further with the concept. In recent races the team have produced a new take on the flap design. The version raced since Germany has split one of the flaps into two. This along with the slot in the main plane creates a stack of five elements for a small span of the front wings width. But in contrast to other uses of extra slots in the front wing, this is not to create a section producing high downforce. Instead each of these steps is designed to create tip vortices to drive airflow along the Y250 axis.

The main plane also has slot ahead of the bulged section in front of the flap

Teams tend to create the greater amount of downforce towards the front outer wing tips. This pressure distribution reduces the load on the inboard end of the wing, in order to better manage the airflow over the centre of the car. However what teams do want to do is to use the relatively undisturbed airflow along this axis and use it to drive airflow over the centre of the car. A steeper wing towards the neutral 50cm centre section of wing would produce unwanted turbulence and rob the airflow of energy. The bodywork rules do allow for some creativity with the vanes and other bodywork allowed along the edge of the monocoque. Known as the Y250 vortex, as most of the aerodynamic effects are created along a line starting 25cm from the cars centreline (Y= lateral axes, 250mm). Components that work along this axis include the front wing mounting pillars, any under-nose vanes, the T-Tray splitter and the intersection of the front wing and the neutral centre section. Flow structures along this axis drive airflow under the floor towards the diffuser and around the sidepod undercuts. Each with the aim to create more efficient rear downforce.

There are effectively five elements created by the four slots (arrowed)

If Renault created a single front wing element with the same angle of attack, a single large vortex would have been produced. This would be far more powerful and pointed outwards a smaller area downstream on the car. By splitting the wing into smaller separate sections, several smaller vortices are created. These are each of lower energy and are spread over wider area. Perhaps this softer approach creates less sensitivity as the cars attitude changes. It will be interesting if any teams has been able to replicate this design by the time their new bodywork arrives at Spa.

Renaults Hungarian Sidepod Fire

The silver canister is visible towards the front lower of the sidepod - via nextgen-auto.com

Update: Lotus Renault GP, have provided me with this response from Technical Director James Alison.

Three days after the incident on Nick’s car, has the team identified the reason why it caught fire after the pitstop?
J.A.: As with most accidents, several incidents combined to cause the fire that Nick suffered in Hungary. First of all, we ran a slightly different engine mapping strategy in qualifying, which produced hotter than normal exhausts. We believe that this elevated temperature and caused a preliminary crack in the exhaust pipe. We presume that the crack then propagated during the laps to the pitstop – this was not evident to us as we believe that the failure occurred upstream of the place where we have a temperature sensor. We believe that Nick then came in with a partially failed exhaust. This pitstop took longer than normal, the engine was left at high rpm for 6.3 sec, waiting for the tyre change to be completed. Under these conditions, a lot of excess fuel always ends up in the exhausts and their temperature rises at around 100°C/sec. This temperature rise was enough to finish off the partially failed pipe and to start a moderate fire under the bodywork.

There was an explosion shortly after Nick got out of the car, on the left. What was it?
J.A.: This was caused by the air bottle which supplies the air valves in the engine. It has overheated in the fire and failed.

Will you have to modify the car before Spa and if yes, is the August factory shutdown a handicap?
J.A.: The incident was highly undesirable, as it has caused us to write off a chassis. We will take steps prior to the next race to reduce the likelihood of a further fire and to ensure that the air bottle cannot overheat. We are in touch with the FIA both to provide them with a full report of the incident and also to explain to them the actions we are taking to prevent a reoccurrence.

As Nick Heidfeld made a pit stop at the Hungarian GP, there was a problem with one of his wheel nuts. This kept the car stationery for an extra 10-12 seconds. In readiness to leave the pit, Heidfeld kept the engine pegged at maximum revs. This extra delay was enough for the exhaust to start to overheat the surrounding bodywork. Without the usual pit fans blowing air over the bodywork, the carbon fibre soon started to smoke and then caught fire. Heidfeld was then released from the pit, as the wheel nut was properly fastened. Sparks were being blown from the car as he sped down the pitlane, this was the action of the exhaust blowing the fragments of the burning carbon fibre bodywork and not electrical sparks as some have speculated. The airflow over the bodywork only fed the flames and by the time he was at the pit lane exit his sidepod was well alight. As it was the bodywork itself that was on fire, the flames were on the outside of the sidepod and looked perhaps more alarming than was actually the case. Bodywork fires are not uncommon and teams have well rehearsed drills to meet the car in the pitlane with the pit fans and a precautionary fire extinguisher. Although it’s fair to say these sorts of fires are normally prevented by detail work to the shape and heat shielding of components early in the cars testing. Particularly around the exhaust which is the greatest source of heat within the sidepod. This year’s unusually long faired-in exhausts contribute a greater risk and the Forward exhaust exit (FEE) of the Renault only adds to the proximity of the exhaust to bodywork. With more conventional exhaust blown diffusers (EBDs), the exhausts are run along the floor to ahead of the rear tyre; these are slightly easier to manage. Additionally the heat shielded ducting for the Renault FEE, also provide a route for flames to exit out of the front of the sidepod, making the flames in closer proximity to the driver. This isn’t to say the Renault FEE is inherently unsafe. Any F1 cars bodywork left to overheat will see the flames rapidly spread across the skin of the cars sidepod bodywork.

http://youtu.be/s9tF7g3CwK8

What made Heidfelds fire more concerning was the apparently explosive moment when debris and gasses were blown out from the cars sidepod as the marshals sprayed extinguisher foam over the burning bodywork.

As the R31 came to rest, the driver jumped out and the fire marshals arrived from a post a few meters up the track. Two marshals tackled the blaze, running from behind the car to around the front to direct foam over the sidepods. As the first marshal carried on towards the rear of the car, the second marshal arrived at the front of the sidepods. Then there was this burst of debris and gas from the front of the sidepod. This appeared to slightly injure the marshal who limped around to the rear of the car. Renault have confirmed “he is ok. No injury. We are sending him a nice gift”. Shrapnel from the burst lay several meters away from the car in the pitlane exit lane. As we’ve seen fire’s are relatively rare in F1, oil fires being the more common and spectacular, but it’s very rare for a burning car to have this sort of violent moment.

Sidepods contain a multitude of systems; many items being solely in the left or right hand sidepods, rarely are any internals symmetrical left to right.

Typical components in this area are.

• Water radiator (LHS)

• Oil radiator (RHS)

• Hydraulic reservoir (varies)

• Nitrogen cylinder for the engine Pneumatic valve return system (varies)

• KERS battery water radiator (RHS)

• SECU, PCU, Battery, Lap time beacon (typically RHS)

• KERS PCU (RHS)

It’s important to note, sidepods do not contain the KERS batteries or the MGU. Also the gearbox oil and hydraulic fluid coolers are mounted atop the gearbox. There is very in the of little hydraulic systems being in the front of the sidepods, only the lines for the power steering passes this far forward in the car.

Seeing the explosion was not backed up with a further blaze of burning oil or steam from water radiators, its unlikely these burst in the fire. Then as most of the electronics are in the right hand sidepod, again these can be discounted. This leaves the obvious exception of the nitrogen cylinder. This is required as F1 engines do not use valve springs but instead a pneumatic pressure keeps the valves pressed open against the cam. In order to provide this pressure and as the system loses a little pressure during the race, a pressurised chamber maintains the required pressure. This comes in the form of a ~half litre aluminium cylinder. (Circled red – twitpic.com/5yycsi )

On most F1 cars and indeed Renaults all the way up to last year’s R30, teams mount these small cylinders inside the cockpit to protect them from crash or fire damage. Renaults R30 placed this on the hand side of the car, down on the small amount of floor between the driver’s seat and the side of the monocoque. But this location is not mandated by the regulations. Pictures of the R31 left-hand sidepod without bodywork, show there is an aluminium cylinder placed in the front section of sidepod. This transpires to be the nitrogen cylinder for the engine pneumatic valves. Probably because Renault had to create a slimmer monocoque to claw back the radiator volume lost to the routing of the FEE, they slimmed the monocoque and fond no space next to the driver’s seat to mount the cylinder and placed it outside on the radiator ducting instead. When this aluminium cylinder was heated in the flames and then suddenly cooled by the marshals extinguisher, the casing shattered sending the pressurised gas out in a hail of debris. This failure of a pressurised aluminium structure could also be the water radiator failing, while some rumours point to this the lack of the plume of steam ejecting from the sidepods after the initial blast, suggests to me this is unlikely. But to be clear, this wasn;t a chemical explosion, merely the failure of the casing of a pressurised vessel. as nitrogen is both intert and not liable to high rates of the thermal expansion

Comment by the team to news websites seems to back this theory up http://www.gpupdate.net/en/f1-news/265636/heidfeld-s-fire-caused-by-overheating-exhausts/ . Although I have yet to have direct confirmation from a source within Renault.

Seeing this was the first instance of such an occurrence that I can recall, I would imagine this might be examined by the FIA and technical directive issues asking teams to place this item in a more secure position to protect it and track officials from a similar incident.

More analysis of Renaults Front Exit Exhaust

http://scarbsf1.wordpress.com/category/front-exit-exhaust/

Renault & Wiliams: Complex low drag wings for Canada


Both Williams and Renault had complex wings for the low drag demands of the Canadian GP. In Williams case the wing is shaped to create most downforce in its centre, leaving a much shallower span near the endplates. This design reduces the pressure difference where the wing meets the endplate. This reduces the vortices produced at the wing tip and hence drag. Although the Williams wing is fitted with DRS, low drag is still critical as DRS can only be used in the race in the situation where the car is less than 1s behind another at the DRS detection zone.

Renault meanwhile have twisted their rear profile to match the oncoming airflow. This is in fact an old wing already seen in 2010.

Renault: Front wing endplate design

Through out 2010 and in the opening races of 2011, Renault have been extremely productive in producing front wing updates. With revisions at the rate of one per race so far in 2011, no other teams has produced the number of iterations that Renault have managed to roll out. In China Renault produced a revised endplate, this was subsequently revised for Turkey along with new wing mounting pylons. For the Spanish GP, there will be yet more updates in this area.

Renaults front wing has been the leader of the current evolution of endplate-less front wings. where as teams used to have a clear distinction between the front wing elements and the vertical endplate, now teams curl down the tips of the wings to form the lower part of the endplate, then add vanes for both bodywork legality and to direct airflow around the front tyre. then the team add small cascade winglets and the entire picture of how the front wing is working becomes complicated. If we remove the vanes and cascade winglet to view them individually, this situation becomes a little clearer.

Another Renault feature has been to split the footplate, last year the footplate sloped down and the tubular-like rim was fitted to the meet the bodywork legality dimensions. Now the team simply slot the footplate to allow airflow to pass low around the front tyres.

Renault also now exploit the camera position by placing the two mandatory camera pods behind the neutral Drawing7 section of front wing. positioned here the camera pods offset the lift created by the neutral centre section of wing. Also interesting to note is the front bulkhead shape of the R31, the “V” nose is unusually rounded at the bottom, as can be seen by looking at the lower rear face of the nose cone.

In Turkey the front wing gains a small flap added the smallest outboard vertical vane. As well as faired extensions to the pylons that mount the wing to the nose. similar to Ferrari sinterpretation of the mounting pylons this, although Renault did extended the pylons to form s vanes, albeit in a slightly different manner in 2009-2010.

Renault – Front Exit Exhaust Details

Copyright Sutton Images via Formula1.com

Although we almost didn’t believe it when the rumours emerged at the launch of the Renault R31, The car does indeed have exhausts that exit at the front of the sidepods. We (@f1fanatic.co.uk and I) managed to see, understand and get the first pictures of the unique set up (http://scarbsf1.wordpress.com/2011/02/01/renault-r31-front-exit-exhausts-fee-explained/). Now the car can be seen stripped in the pit garage, we can see exactly how the Renault packages the exhaust.

The exhaust system routes the four pipes into a collector which then continues to point forwards and direct the secondary pipe low underneath the radiator to the front of the sidepods. As the exhaust routes gasses at up to 1000-degrees C, it needs insulating to protect the other equipment housed in the sidepods. Renault appear to have fitted an insulated jacket around the main length of pipe in the sidepods. What is clear from the set up is that Renault had to raise the radiators to allow the pipe to ass underneath. The R31 has unusually large sidepod inlets and this might to cope with the ducting of the cooling airflow to the laid down radiator.

Copyright: Andrew Robertson (@JarZ)

From these pictures via Andrew Robertson (@Jarz) we can see the front detail around the sidepods. Although the exhaust outlets are not seen here, the problem of the final routing is apparent. Teams need to fit beams to the side of the monocoque for side impact protection. Known as Side Impact Tubes (SITs) there are two pairs to share the load, with one upper pair and a lower pair. As these SITs are heavy, the majority of the work is down by the lower pair, to keep the weight low in the car. Correspondingly the lower SITs are larger and the exhaust needs to pass over these and down to exit sideways.

Copyright: Andrew Robertson (@JarZ)

Renault has packaged these lower SITs into a narrow front and wider rear Tube. The exhaust will angle down along the front tube to blow still pointing downwards across the lower leading edge of the floor. We can see the metallic heat protection on the SITs.

Copyright: Andrew Robertson (@JarZ)

More info on Front Exit Exhausts and how they work – http://scarbsf1.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/trends-2011-exhausts-and-diffusers/

Follow ScarbsF1 on Twitter

Trends 2011 – Exhausts and Diffusers

This year the technical talk has largely been about exhausts.  How teams have adapted to the ban on double diffusers and the added restriction on Exhaust blown diffusers. Just to aid understanding going into the new season, I have explained how these solutions work and how they look from beneath.

Double Diffusers

Force India 2010 Double Deck Diffuser (DDD)

Since 2009 the regulations regarding the floor have been interpreted in a literal sense to allow the double deck diffuser (DDD). Indeed the very same rules were exploited to a lesser extent under the previous rules, but this only produced small extra channels in between the outer and middle diffuser tunnels. With the major cut in aerodynamic aids for 2009, several teams sought to find a way to gain more expansion ratio from the smaller diffusers. In essence the loophole exploited the definition of surfaces formed between the step and reference planes. Multiple surfaces allowed fully enclosed holes, which fed the upper diffuser deck that sat above the 175mm lower diffuser. This allowed diffuser to be significantly larger in order to create more downforce. Notably Brawn, Williams and Toyota launched 2009 cars with DDDs. Other teams soon followed suit in 2009 and last year every car exploited the same loophole. Over the winter the FIA acted to close the loophole, by enforcing a single continuous surface across a 90cm span under the floor. In a stroke this banned the double diffuser, there being no scope to create any openings in the floor to feed the upper deck.

Single Diffuser

Double Diffuser

 

Exhaust Blown Diffusers
Another approach to regain lost downforce was the re-invention in 2010 of the exhaust blown diffuser (EBD). This used high energy exhaust gasses to blow the diffuser, the faster throughput of flow under the floor increased downforce. Two methods of EBDs were used in 2010, one blowing over the diffuser and the second blowing inside the diffuser. This latter solution was more effective at driving flow through the diffuser and created more downforce. However this necessitated a hole made into the diffuser to allow the exhaust gas to enter, I‘ve termed this method an ‘open fronted diffuser‘.

2011: No openings allowed in the yellow 90cm zone, outside certain holes are permitted

A by product of the 2011 rules intended to ban the DDD, also stopped this open fronted diffuser solution. However the rules enforced the continuous surface only across a 90cm width of floor and the diffuser is allowed to be 100cm wide. Thus a 5cm window was allowed each side of the diffuser.

Outer Blown Diffuser – Solution

Red Bull Diffuser: Flow passes under the outer 5cm of floor into the diffuser

Red Bull and Ferrari appear to have found this loophole simultaneously. Recently Sam Michael pointed out this was probably the most efficient way to blow the diffuser under the new rules. As Red Bull appeared with this set up first, its often termed the Red Bull Blown diffuser.

What these teams have done is to open up the floor 5cm either side of the diffuser, then route the exhaust towards this opening. The exhaust gas gets collected by the coved section of floor and this directs the high energy gasses under the diffuser, to recover some of the losses from the more open diffuser allowed last year.

Front Exit Exhaust

Renault Front Exit Exhaust: Flow passes wide around the floor before entering the diffuser

Renault meanwhile turned the problem on its head. As the aim of the EBD is to increase flow under the car, they pointed their exhaust at the front of the floor. I’ve had it confirmed to me by two ex-Renault sources that the exhaust does indeed mainly flow under the floor.

The exhaust pipe outlet sits above the step plane just ahead of the leading edge of the floor. This is not simply blowing out horizontally and across the floor, but is ducted slightly to blow downwards and backwards, this is roughly in line the with the flow trailing off the “V” shape above the splitter. Along with the strong vortices set up by the splitter, vanes and bargeboards, this makes the floor appear wider than it is. The flow will go out beyond the floor and then curl back in and under the floor. Some flow will inevitably pass over the floor, but the most of the energy will be driving more flow under the floor to the diffuser.

McLarens Slit Exhaust

The slit above the floor is visible. Copyright: Liubomir Asenov

No conversation about exhausts this year, would be complete without some speculation about McLaren. Amongst the several exhaust systems run by McLaren over the pre-season tests was a “slit” exhaust. This appeared at the first Barcelona test, but did not seem to appear for the second Cataluña test. The exhaust collector could be seen to duct towards a double thickness section of floor ahead of the rear wheels. This section was also interesting for its longitudinal slot, this slot was not large enough to be the actual exhaust outlet, This might be a cooling slot, or to improve the flow from above to beneath the floor.  I beleive the Exhaust is actually below the floor.  As when the car ran the same floor with a conventional exhaust outlet, there appeared to be a removable section of floor ahead of the rear wheels. Being just outside of the 90mm opening rule, the floor ‘could’ be opened to allow an exhaust to blow through to underneath. If sculpted correctly, the exhaust could be ducted back inboard and blow towards the diffuser from under the floor. It’s possible that this could be in interpretation of a legal opening, assuming it met the maximum fillet radius rules.
I’d expect the resulting exhaust outlets to be a long wide slot, this wider outlet would be needed to meet the maximum radius rules and also reduce the back pressure from the tight curve of the exhaust outlet. As the exhaust would have a tortuous bend, to curl back under itself to direct the flow inboard, rather than out wide around the rear tyre.

Mac Slit: The exhaust might exit beneath the floor in a long narrow outlet

Follow ScarbsF1 on Twitter

Renault R31 – Cooling solution and diffuser performance

Renault are not only unique in their exhaust location, but also their sidepod cooling set up. Its possible that the two solutions are related.

Teams have to find the most efficient way to vent hot air from within the sidepods. This air has to pass through the radiators and coolers, as it passes from the sidepod inlet to the tail of the coke-bottle shape. In order to keep the car as slim as possible for reduced and drag and better airflow to the diffuser and beam wing, teams adopt different cooling outlet solutions to work with the other aero flow structures around the car. In Renaults case the majority of the outlet area is in three places: a tall narrow outlet above the gearbox and two low and wide vents either side of the gearbox. We can see the gearbox oil cooler within the upper outlet, so some of its volume is used for venting this heat. Reducing its ability to vent air from the sidepods.

Renault appear to have chosen the two lowwide outlets in order to boost airflow to the beam wing. The compromise in doing this, is the airflow over the diffuser. Airflow over diffusers might be considered as unimportant, as its the flow underneath creates the low pressure and hence downforce. But with a restricted diffuser height , the use of directing high energy airflow over the top of the diffuser and its trailing edge gurneys, helps the airflow beneath. Effectively making the diffuser act like its larger than it is. With other teams, they use the exhaust gasses or very narrow sidepods to direct as much high energy flow as possible over the diffuser. In Renaults case, the airflow running along the floor does not flow directly over the top surface of the diffuser, as these wide vents are in the way. Some people have suggested the teams are directing the heated airflow from within the sidepods out of these vents and over the diffuser for greater aerodynamic effect. However the reality is different, the air coming out of these vents will be of low energy, having passed through the various cooler matrices. Thus its effect in aiding the diffuser is much reduced.

So why have Renault thrown away some aero gains in this area? Probably because of the exhaust solution, As the flow under the diffuser is accelerated by the exhaust gasses passing under the floor, the diffuser does not need the effect of airflow blowing over the top. Thus they moved to the sidepod outlets to this area and played better airflow over the beam wing.

So far no other team have gone for low wide cooling outlets, but equally contrary to the rumour mils no teams has adopted front exit exhausts either. It will be interesting if any team follows Renaults solution in either of these areas.

Renault R31 Front Exit Exhausts (FEE) – Explained



Renault have found a new solution to the blown diffuser concept. In fact they’ve turned it on its head. With an exhaust that exits at the front of the sidepods.

Last years teams reintroduced the blown diffuser concept, either by blowing exhaust gasses over the top of the diffuser, or by creating an opening into the diffuser to blow inside the diffuser. Both solutions created more downforce. With the latter solution now banned, it seemed the less effective over-blown solutions are all that’s left to race. However LRGP have found another way, blowing the front edge of the floor.

For a diffuser to create downforce it needs as much flow to pass through the venturi as possible. Teams arrange bargeboards and other aero devices to build up a high pressure region ahead of the floor to ensure the greatest mass flow underneath. Its then down to the expansion ratio of the diffuser to pull that flow through. Last years blown diffusers improved the expansion ratio, but not the flow ahead of the floor. What Renault have done in to lead the exhausts forward through the sidepods (about 1 meter) in-between the chassis and the radiators, then turn the exhaust 90-degrees to point it down towards the leading edge of the floor. The exhausts gasses follow the curved leading edge and round underneath the floor. This accelerates the flow under the floor for more mass flow and hence more downforce.


Problems with this solution are mainly to do with heat and engine mapping. With exhaust temperatures of 6-800c some clever insulation solutions are needed to keep hits heat from the fuel tank, radiators and a electronics. Then the Renault engine team lead by Rob White need to design exhaust tuning to deal with a far longer secondary pipe. typically longer pipes are better for low revs, somewhat contrary to the needs of an engine running at 18000rpm. Renault placed their KERS MGU and Battery underneath eh fuel tank, this was clearly to allow the packaging of the FEE. Unlike the McLaren F-duct, it is possible for this solution to be copied as no monocoque alterations are required.

Renault R31 – Launch Details and Analysis

What was formerly the Renault F1 Team and now Lotus Renault GP (I’ll use the term LRGP for this article) have unveiled their new car the R31. It seems some critical details are not fitted to the car for its unveiling, indeed the car was shown only briefly to the press before it was covered back up and returned to the garage. Despite the mystery surrounding the cars exhaust exit location, its clear this is a very new design for the team. In creating this the team were given a mandate to take risks, which probably explains the very different front and rear end treatments. But in packaging the chassis to take KERS and meet the new weight distribution rules, the car has altered only 50mm (longer) and the major masses remain in largely the same locations.

The Raised "V" nose and undersut sidepods are apparent

While James Allison talked up the risks taken with the car, parts which I’m told are yet to be seen on the car, the basic R31 is a step change from the designs of the R29 and R30. Firstly the low straight nose, complete with integral turning vanes has gone. This is replaced by a more contemporary highly raised “V” nose, with the underside of the “V” being particularly rounded and the concave upper surface continues all the way to the nose tip. Only a simple set of turning vanes are fitted amongst the front suspension, but there’s now a lot more space to place additional vanes under the nose. As with most launch cars the front wing is a variation of last years wing and will not remain as it is for the whole of testing. As with last year the steering rack has been placed low in line with the bottom wishbone.

A simple roll structure, albeit with a strange stepped bodywork line

Around the cockpit the be-winged mirror mounts seen on the wind tunnel model are not present, but LRGPs usual large pointed mirror pods are carried over. The sidepod fronts are highly unusual, the inlet shape has gone towards a “U” shaped inlet, rather the “P” shape used by LRGP for several seasons. Additionally the inlet features two peeks, similar to those used by Ferrari. The resulting shape is highly undercut and the sidepods lead back to a exit the tapers outwards to meet the floor, the bulbous coke bottle exit of the past two cars has gone.

The lowline rear end features downward tapered sidepods

Although small cooling outlets next to the cockpit are evident, there were no other apertures made into the sidepods at all. Their unusual tapered exit, created a wide low duct exiting across the top of the diffuser. This low line effect is further accentuated by the move to Pull Rod rear suspension, the engine cover being wider at the bottom and very low around the gearbox. A simple tall cooling exit vents at the end of the tail, with in this is the oil cooler fed by the F-duct-like inlets aside the airbox. For the wing endplates, LRGP appear to have followed a red Bull solution by joining the endplate to the top of the diffuser. Curiously LRGP have not used a rear wing mounting pylon, the exposed beam wing, sits on two supports to mount to the rear crash structure. Around this area the Titanium of the gearbox is exposed to the airflow. It appears as though the differential is lower this year, although Allison couldn’t confirm this. Compared to the simplistic Ferrari diffuser, the Renault under tray is far more developed. Starting narrow and sweeping out to the maximum width, the diffuser is complemented by several fences.

Amongst all of this detail no exhaust pipe is apparent, This is clearly one of LRGPs trump cards. I understand the exhaust does not exit at the rear of the car. This leaves few reasonable option for the pipes location. Either above the gearbox or increasingly rumoured the exhaust routes forward and exits in front of the sidepods. I presume the aim if this were the case, would be to pull airflow from under the nose to create some front downforce and speed the flow up back towards the diffuser. We are being told to expect new parts on the car for its first tests. These are apparently both the exhaust and some parts at the rear of the car.


Aside from the Pullrod rear suspension the main mechanical changes are to accommodate KERS, the Renault engine again having the nose of the crank coupled to spur gears to drive the MGU. The MGU and power control unit PCU are all mad ein cooperation with Marrelli.  While the Battery pack is mounted beneath the fuel tank area. The Renault engine has not had any dispensations this year to increase power. Only the normal changes to package KERS and resolve any reliability issues are allowed.