Tech Talk: Spa-Francorchamps analysis

The Spa pitlane was a busy place during free practice

The Spa pitlane was a busy place during free practice

Spa is without doubt one of the highlights of the Formula 1 calender, the 7km circuit buried in the Ardennes Forest provides the teams with some unique challenges. The sprawling and undulating circuit often provides mixed weather conditions, with pockets of the circuit seeing localised showers.

Sectors 1 and 3 provide some of the longest straights on the calender with the run from La Source, through Eau Rouge to the end of Kemmel straight, providing the backdrop to the most time spent at wide open throttle, if the driver can hold it flat through Eau Rouge.

With Monza just around the corner the teams also use Spa as a way of correlating some parts they’ll use at the next round, so it’s always interesting to keep an eye on the teams during Free Practice.

Mercedes continued to keep a gap on rivals

Mercedes continued to keep a gap on rivals

Mercedes

As we know the pace at which Formula 1 moves and develops is phenomenal and even though Mercedes lead the way, they’re still introducing parts to improve performance and keep the gap to their opponents. In Spa we can see that the team have made some modifications to the nose, turning vanes and front brakes in an effort to drive more and smooth the passage of airflow under the nose. Read more here>>>

Rear wing

Rear wing

Mercedes also introduced a new rear wing for Spa and will utilise the more simplistic Monkey Seat / Y100 Winglet that they tested at the post Silverstone GP test. These changes are of course made inline with their ambition of reducing drag, on a circuit that demands both fantastic top speed whilst maintaining a good level of downforce for the tricky 2nd sector. It’s a tough balance for Spa as too much drag reduction will hinder downforce generation and visa versa. Read more here>>>

Red Bull skinny wing

Red Bull skinny wing

Red Bull

Red Bull’s strength over the last 5 or so years has been their ability to generate more efficient downforce than their opponents. So it comes as no surprise that at Spa, a circuit where being fast in a straight line is one of the largest performance factors, we see them utilize a skinnier rear wing. See more at>>>

Ferrari

Ferrari arrived in Spa with several Front Wing configurations to test ahead of qualifying, all of which will have different direct and downstream effects. Read more here>>> 

Spa’s unique circuit characteristics demand good top speed for the 1st and 3rd sectors whilst retaining a high level of downforce for sector 2. This therefore makes for an interesting decision process when designing/selecting a rear wing, with most of the teams bringing a new specification of rear wing to cater for these demands, Ferrari were no exception.

Ferrari rear wing tweak

Ferrari rear wing tweak

It’s no secret that both Ferrari and Renault have failed to live upto the benchmark set by Mercedes with the 2014 poweruint. As always that doesn’t stop manufacturers trying to make up ground though, with both Ferrari and Renault making strides since the start of the season.

Fuel has provided the platform for large performance gains in both cases, with new blends being used to facilitate better power and performance as the teams look to extract more from their race allocation of fuel. This is an area that Mercedes and Petronas bested their adversaries with before the season commenced and so perhaps have less to gain as the season continues.

Marussia exhaust wrap

Marussia exhaust wrap

Marussia tested (at the post Silverstone test) with their exhaust primaries wrapped, to see what sort of performance gains could be made. It’s something that the other teams have been doing since the start of the season and so it has been one of those head scratchers as to why Ferrari hadn’t adopted it before now. Read  more here>>>

McLaren

McLaren arrived in Spa with several updates, looking to increase the performance of the MP4-29, mainly centred around improving the airflow structures at the rear of the car. As we have seen over the last few races the team have started to move away from the use of their ‘wishbone wings’ as the concept although sound hasn’t produced the type of performance they require.

McLaren diffuser at Spa

McLaren diffuser at Spa

Furthermore as the design of many components was made to cater for them making widesweeping changes has taken time. The team therefore introduced a new diffuser. And more specifically for high speed Spa and Monza, a new rear wing. Read more here>>>

Force India

Having made their largest upgrades in Austria with a few straggling through for the Silverstone weekend Force India made another change this weekend which will impact those that went ahead of it. Read more here>>>

New Caterham nose

New Caterham nose

Caterham

The CT-05 certainly wasn’t going to win any style awards when the team unveiled the car at the start of the season, with perhaps the most hideous interpretation of the ‘finger’ nose on the grid. Their latest design however is much more aesthetically pleasing but more importantly may unlock some further aerodynamic potential in the car. Read more here>>>

Part of the upgrade package was a new engine cover/cooling outlet, which looks to make better use of the region, not only by dispatching of the un-wanted latent powerunit heat but also by improving airflow, especially in the coke bottle region.
Read more here>>>

Analysis by Matt Somerfield