Tech Talk: Hockenheim Analysis

Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Preparations, Hockenheim, Germany, Thursday 17 July 2014.

Tech guru Matthew Somerfield took a good look under the skin of some of the cars of the major players during the German Grand Prix weekend at Hockenheim.

Just as the German Grand Prix was the backdrop for a competitive order change in 2013, the loss of FRIC (Front-to-Rear-InterConnected) suspensions in 2014 could deliver a similar shift. In 2013 a climb down by Pirelli led to the tyre supplier arriving in Germany with a much more rigid construction.

This had an effect on those teams that had done their homework of slipping back down the order, whilst the teams that hadn’t been enjoying the more supple sidewalls used early in 2013 making strides up the competitive order. The whole ordeal left a sour taste in my mouth as the real reasons for the debacle was not made clear by the mainstream media, leaving Pirelli to shoulder the blame.

Mercedes W05 suspension

The problem with mid-season issues like the tyre change and loss of FRIC is that initially it doesn’t always have a large impact on the competitive order, this happens later in the season and usually affects the lesser funded teams that have made the best of the situation early on.

This is due to the development programmes that the teams run. With some updates the gestation and implementation period is short, but others can take months of preparation, with many parts being prepared in tandem with others.

This therefore puts a huge strain on the teams as they have to take heed and adapt their plans, with some even ending up in the trash, perhaps even after months of development work. This of course not only has an impact on the teams plans but stresses resources and increases costs.

For Germany some of the teams continued to push forward developments whilst others played devil’s advocate with older components.

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Red Bull:

The F1 World Champions’ pace compared to the Mercedes powered cars this season must be difficult to internalize for the team. Their aerodynamic prowess has not simply vanished overnight and they arguably still have the best ‘chassis’ in the field, however to try and make up the deficit during the race, they are having to give both drivers a selection of parts to cater for their needs.

At Hockenheim this meant that both drivers ran with different specification rear ends. Read more on SomersF1>>>

Williams:

The FW36 has been a revelation this season with not only the switch from Renault to Mercedes for 2014 now seeming an inspired decision (most probably due to the Toto Wolff connection) but with the car proving to be exceptionally efficient.
Over the last few seasons Williams have struggled to keep up with the development of EBD (Exhaust Blown Diffusers) whether it be the original floor mounted ones with a lack of technical prowess from the Cosworth unit, or with Renault when trying to employ the ‘Coanda’ exhausts.

They not only struggled to model the phenomenon in CFD and the wind tunnel but also replicate any kind of consistent performance during GP weekends. A return to none floor / diffuser exhaust driven regulations with the introduction of the center-line exhaust has re-invigorated the Grove based squad, whilst the arrival of Pat Symonds and a technical restructuring have also paid dividends.

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With less exhaust influence the Williams team have thrived in a more aero efficient formula whilst making shrewd decisions on packaging and gear ratio selections, which are of course heavily regulated this season. Initially it seemed this could be their Achilles heel with short ratios meaning they are always visibly in top gear (8th) much sooner than other teams, however as the season has progressed and their knowledge of the suspension setup/engine mapping has matured the team have made significant strides.

Aerodynamically the team haven’t been massively eager to affect wide-sweeping changes either, instead opting for setup changes to suit each circuit’s characteristics. (Lest we forget that this is a team that produced around 10 different front wings during each of the 12/13 seasons to try and affect performance with little to no performance step).

The teams most frequent changes have come in the form of cooling options. Read more on SomersF1>>>

Ferrari:

Ferrari once again took some sideways steps in Germany with the re-introduction of a much larger cooling outlet at the rear of the car (below). The use of the cooling outlet also bought about a return of the dual rear wing support pylons, which does seem a little counter productive, given that the last time the team used such a large cooling outlet it was in tandem with the singular pylon.

Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Practice, Hockenheim, Germany, Friday 18 July 2014.

I’d therefore suggest that the team were moreover looking for a consistent/well known baseline, as the team looked to race the car without FRIC for the first time. We know that FRIC allowed for aerodynamic consistency which is something that Ferrari have been unable to achieve successfully, compared to their rivals.

That however doesn’t mean to say that their package hadn’t been keyed toward peak performance with it, it is just that they were unable to enjoy it to the level that their rivals did.

As we can see above (arrowed) the team also added some small fins to the skid block’s trailing edge, these fins create vortices which help to keep the airflow attached, creating better stability. These vortex generating fins may have simply been a rudimentary quick fix owing to the FRIC ban to overcome some instability or part of their planned upgrades. Other teams have also run these this season, including Red Bull, Lotus and McLaren

Force India:

Formula One World Championship, Rd9, British Grand Prix, Race Day, Silverstone, England, Sunday 6 July 2014.

Force India had a significant upgrade package in Austria refining what had already turned out to be quite a nice package for the 2014 season. The update package was, however, first scheduled for Silverstone and so with the team bringing it forward there were still some lingering components to come through over the next few races.

At the post Silverstone test the team assessed a new engine cover which repositioned one of the oil coolers, deleting the cooling snorkel but adding an enlarged shark fin.

Now whilst this option was available to the team for Germany and was trialed during Free Practice the team opted for something a little different. They retained their original engine cover (above) but deleted the snorkel inlet and associated internal pipework, having already relocated the cooler. (The previous specification with snorkel inlet can be seen above.)

McLaren:

Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Practice, Hockenheim, Germany, Friday 18 July 2014.

McLaren arrived in Germany with a new rear wing with a few new distinguishing features, the endplates have each been treated to two rows of canards, which rather than being one longitudinal canard are serrated for further efficiency. This is a design that has been prevalent on the Lotus for some time, with airflow rolling off the canard at the endplates trailing edge creating vortices, which makes for an altogether more targeted flow structure in the region.

The canards form part of the 20 mm allowance for the endplates and so the endplate around them has to be narrower to accommodate them. The serrations are used so that the airflow works in the same manner whilst the car is in yaw, otherwise the vortex would rapidly break down as the car changes direction, leading to a loss in stability.

Of course the team have opted to angle both rows of canards upward to further maximise the whole wing’s airflow structure, creating upwash that vicariously leads to an increase in diffuser performance too.

The team have also re-designed their Mainplane and Top Flap with the introduction of ‘tubercles’ to the trailing and leading edges of each respectively. Read more on SomersF1>>>

(Mathew Somerfield)