Tech Talk: Wings of change in Melbourne

Mercedes W05 front wings in Melbourne

With blown diffusers and the elimination of exhaust assisted aero, teams are pushing development to regain downforce in the new V6 turbo era, and with huge torque on tap downforce at low speeds is the Valhalla everyone is aiming for.

During the Australian Grand Prix weekend teams were testing front wing derivatives in this quest for more grip – tech guru Matthew Somerfield gives us the lowdown on what he saw in the Melbourne pitlane.

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Mercedes W05 – New Front Wing

Having not only covered extensive mileage during the pre-season tests but also worked on several cooling configurations, Mercedes have arrived in Melbourne with the rest of the field looking at them as the team to beat.

However as previous seasons have proven having the right power unit is not the only concern for a team and they will need to focus heavily on strategy and aerodynamic performance too. The latter is something the team have clearly worked hard on for 2014 with the WO5 featuring not only some exclusive ideas but the convergence of tried and tested solutions run by other teams in previous seasons.

As part of the build up process the team have revealed a new front wing, left laid on the setup trestle the image provides a great way to analyse the new and old configurations back to back.

The new front wing has very few major changes to the actual wing profiles themselves and points to these operating as the team intended. Instead the changes are focused on the major rule change introduced that affects the front wing.

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The reduction in it’s width from 1800 mm to 1650 mm (150 mm or 75 mm either side). The largest of the ramifications of this change is the way in which the teams turn the airflow around and over the front tyre. This has a dramatic effect as it will also change the way in which the airflow works behind the tyre and re-engages with the floor.

This has led to a change in two area’s between the wings, the outer Endplate [1] that has followed a similar ethos leading all the way back to the championship winning BGP001. This features a full length section rather than the multiple split endplates used for numerous years, which will undoubtedly refocus the airflow.

Symbiotically, a change in both the large outer cascade [2] and the deletion of the smaller cascade [3] but installation of a vertical turning vane [4] will change the way in which the airflow moves outbound and how it interacts or impinges on the rest of the wing.

(Note: Although this new front wing was tried in Melbourne the team decided not to use it for Qualifying or the race, this is not to say it does not do as it should, but that the team were assessing its performance for another race.)

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Red Bull RB10 – New Front Wing

Red Bull Racing arrived in Melbourne on the back foot, problems during the pre-season tests curtailed the mileage covered by the team, scuppering their assessment of aerodynamic solutions.

The team therefore arrived in Australia with several new components, one of which is a new front wing.

The wing itself was not massively different to it’s predecessor (inset) but does feature much more curvature to the mainplane as it meets with the endplate.

Furthermore, the components associated with controlling airflow around and over the tyre have some amendments. Changes in this area will improve the performance of not only the front wing but also the floor and sidepods which are affected by the tyre wake as it tries to make it’s way back into the flow structure.

The main outer cascade now features 3 tiers rather than 2 whilst a vertical strake is mounted centrally within. The strake also features a slot and so will perform more effectively in yaw, whilst the horizontal blade that was affixed to the older specification endplate is deleted.

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McLaren MP4-29 – Revised Front Wing

Basking in the opportunity to run significant mileage during pre-season testing, McLaren were in good stead heading to Melbourne. Having made some significant errors with the ’28’ the team are eager to show their worth with the new car.

The team arrived in Melbourne have a revised front wing that is further keyed at extracting performance given the change of width for 2014.

The team have deleted the smaller cascade element used during testing, whilst an additional vane has been added inbound of the endplate [1]. The purpose of this vane is to further control the flow of air around and over the front tyre with the 75mm loss (either side) meaning the teams need to change their approach a little this season.

This is important due to the way in which the tyre wake tries to impinge on the sidepod and floor downstream. (Analysis by Matthew Somerfield)

Subbed by AJN.