The new F1 season
‘oh lord won’t you buy me a Ferrari’
I may not have mentioned this before, but I do really like formula 1. When I say really like I actually mean, I love it and have an insatiable desire for all the technical details and little tweaks that the engineers spent hundreds of millions of pounds, euro’s or dollars in developing.
Last season was a bit of a frustration for the scarlet Ferrari’s. They really under performed, Vettell had his car treated like a bumper car at the fair by some of the other drivers, and results did not go the way of the team.
But that is behind them now, a new season is dawning and rule changes and technical rule changes have served to bring hope back that the new season will not be another season of Scalextric style ‘follow the Mercedes’ races.
Pre-season testing has gone well for the Ferrari team, hundreds of laps under their, presumably Gucci, belts and both drivers producing the fastest laps of the session. So before a wheel gets turned in anger at Melbourne in the opening race of the season, I took a little look at how each team has developed the aero package on their cars in the face of technical changes.
One of the biggest changes of the new season, the biggest technical change, has brought about the smallest rear wings ever seen on F1 cars. The rear wings this year a tiny, low slung and will produce much less downforce than in previous years. Couple this with the huge increase in the permitted size of rear tyre’s, it is going to be harder to stick the back end of the cars down onto the track. Traction provided by the larger tyre’s is traded off by the tiny little rear wings. That is a big problem when you have 900 horse power to transmit through the rear wheels.
I noticed with all the new cars, the aero package through the centre point of the car has changed a great deal, side pods and air intakes have changed shape dramatically and the air flow is managed to a much greater degree around the cockpit of the car. Getting the air into the correct shape now seems to be crucial, getting the air into the right flow, before it flows over the engine cover and hits the tiny rear wing is key. I had a look at all the new designs, from all the teams, and I noticed Ferrari has a tweak that no-one else has.
So does the Ferrari speed in testing involve their difference in design to the other teams? Both Vettell and Kimi are well known for wanting cars with stiff and very direct performing front ends. Both drivers like to be able to hurl their cars into the apex of a corner and the last possible moment, neither driver is going to be ever accused of a smooth style, of flattening out bends and coaxing the car through a difficult apex. Both drivers love to spring the shift in momentum in at the last possible moment, to hurl the front end into the apex. I wondered if the new Ferrari design has been done to enable it’s drivers to do this, and has the extra benefit of producing better air flow around the side pods and cockpit surfaces.
So rather than tease, I should go public with my observations, if you have followed this article to this point, then you must be interested in Formula 1 and all the tiny little changes that can make such an impact.
So I noticed the front end wish bones:
Here is the new Mercedes and if you look you can see the back-raking body after the snub drop enforced by crash regulations. But you can still see the bulbous protrusions where the front suspension springs are bolted to the monocot containing the driver. It is shaped like a wave, from the tip of the nose, raking-up sharply to the bulbous spring mounting points and then gently curving back to the tiny bit of plastic the drivers consider a wind shield.
Plus lots of barge boards and wings to sculpt the air around the side of the car. Very pretty and very much like last year.
Ferrari on the other hand as clearly gone down a different path. The cockpit in front of the car is like a slab, flat enough to play cards on. A complete ironing board look. Some the suspension spring mounting points have been moved, shifted into the crash structure of the nose, producing a flat plane of body work in front of the driver. We also see that Ferrari have produced a double entrance to the air pods on the side of the car. The air flow directly in front and around the driver is managed in a very different way to the Mercedes.
So does this very different new design offer the Ferrari drivers a better front end experience? And is this why both the Ferrari drivers topped the lap times in the test sessions in Barcelona? We will have to wait and see, only the first few races of the season will reveal if Ferrari have beaten their rivals to the aerodynamic punch and produced a car that can break the dominance of Mercedes for the last three years.
I am a Mclaren fan by the way, but for the obvious reasons they did not leave me much to talk about in pre-season testing, again……