Tech Talk: Silverstone analysis

Technical guru Matthew Somerfield looks back on the British Grand Prix weekend and provides analysis of what he saw up and down the Silverstone pitlane.

Formula One Testing, Silverstone, England, Day Two, Wednesday 9 July 2014
Mercedes

The Silver Arrows have clearly made huge strides with the introduction of the new regulations this season, their chassis / powerunit integration has given them an advantage over the rest of the field.

However they’ve also made strides aerodynamically too, whether this is purely down to the curtailment of off throttle diffuser blowing which has affected rivals Red Bull‘s relative performance, the improvements made by Mercedes to their facilities (Wind Tunnel, tooling etc increased from 50% to 60%), the fulfilment of years of staff building or a more likely a combination of all these factors.

Development for any F1 team needs to be relentless, whether at the front like Mercedes, or one of the rear gunners. Momentum is critical not only for morale but also to stay ahead of the competition, as they have the front runner in their sights, with clear indicators showing them how and where they themselves can improve. With this in mind Mercedes have been making small but track characteristic improvements.

At Silverstone this came in the form of minor tweaks to the Sidepods Airflow Conditioners. Read more on SomersF1>>>

Additionally at the post Silverstone GP test Mercedes introduced a new Y100 Winglet (Monkey Seat) significantly reducing the appendage that usually surrounds the exhaust (inset).

The newer winglet is most likely a development that the team will use on lower downforce configuration circuits coming up, the likes of Monza and Spa, with both still needing decent levels of downforce and balance for the low-mid speed corners whilst reducing drag is essential for the long straights.

The lower downforce/drag configuration Y100 Winglet was also trialled in tandem with a cut down version of the rear wings top flap, with around 30mm lopped off the top of the flap, along with the gurney trim that usually runs along it’s top edge. This will further reduce drag at the cost of downforce.

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Red Bull

The F1 world champions are never one to settle when it comes to the quest for performance and we often see huge changes from the car that starts the season to the one that ends it.

Some changes however often appear very subtle, their change to the Front Wing’s smaller, inner cascade for Silverstone is one such example. Read more on SomersF1 >>>

Red Bull have made numerous revisions to their Rear Wing support pylon throughout the season, with Silverstone offering the backdrop for a further modification. Changes to the 2014 regulations, outlawing the use of a ‘beam wing’ has led to many differing design decisions by the teams, as they look for both structural rigidity whilst maintaining aerodynamic efficiency.

In the case of Red Bull it was clear from the start that the team wanted to run a singular support pylon, minimising the effect the supporting element may have on the rear wing’s mainplane and top flap. Read more on SomersF1>>>

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Ferrari

The Maranello squad still seem a little at sea with their developments, not sure if they should flip a coin, throw a six or simply stick with what they’ve got.

Whether they’re still having correlation issues between their wind tunnel, CFD and actual track components is questionable but key areas of development seem under both constant change, back to backed for correlation and then they revert to the older components.

The reduction in width of 75mm either side of the Front Wing in 2014 has led to them turning their attention to their front brake ducts. Read more on SomersF1>>>

SFI
Force India

The Silverstone based outfit have been going quietly about their business all season, making strides against some of the more established teams. Their ability to control tyre wear has also stood them in good stead whilst they awaited a large raft of upgrades scheduled for Silverstone.

With the programme moving more swiftly than anticipated they were able to bring most of these forward to Austria and so the VJM07 carried most of the parts used there in Silverstone. However as part of their continued assault on the old guard the team tested a new engine cover in the post GP test. Read more on SomersF1>>>

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McLaren

The problems within the Woking based team have been symptomatic of the decisions they made when they first conceived their 2014 challenger. It’s a difficult task as the initial layout of a car can be make or break, re-developing mass sections of car, especially when it relates to cooling like McLaren not only requires physical changes to coolers but re envisaging of aero components.

In the case of McLaren their vision was centered around a need to have enough cooling (internal space), packaging the larger exhaust Mercedes HPP had specified and of course the gearbox designed and catered for their ‘wishbone suspension’.

As we have seen, many of the other teams have moved toward a lower and longer line cooling outlet at the base of the car, whilst shrinking the cooling outlet around the exhaust. This creates another area of low pressure above the diffuser (slower moving airflow exiting from the rear of the car).

McLaren’s ‘wishbone wings’ prohibit the team from following a similar path, requiring them to remove the wings and change substantial areas of bodywork. Under the old regulations this task would be large but not insurmountable, however the curtailment of CFD and Wind Tunnel time makes widesweeping changes fairly prohibitive as the teams cannot then concentrate on refinement too.

The team arrived at Silverstone with a new dog-legged slot ahead of the rear tyre, a solution we’ve previously seen Red Bull employ in the area. Read more on SomersF1>>>