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28 May 2015
Force India VJM08 front brake arrangement - Monaco

Force India originally targeted the Austrian GP to deliver at least one its drivers the B-specification car, however, it won't be ready until the British GP now, having failed the FIA's crash tests.  In the meantime the team continue to develop incremental upgrades to the VJM08 in order to keep pace relative to their rivals.
Having tested the configuration at the post Spanish GP in-season test the team introduced a new front brake configuration in Monaco (left), which sees their brake caliper moved from the front to the rear of the assembly.  This will have some marginal performance effects in terms of CoG and braking stability and even if these have a negative effect on car balance the upshot in aero performance may outweigh it.  The repositioning of the caliper means that the airflow entering the brake ducts scoop can provide better cooling to the caliper, whilst allowing airflow to be proportioned off for aerodynamic gain. 

You'll note that the team have added a crossover pipe in front of the brake disc (marked in yellow), which takes some of the airflow collated by the scoop and ejects it through the wheel, reducing some of the negative effects its rotation can have on the airflow passing around the outside of the car (Think back to the wheel spinner used circa 2007-09 to reduce this).

The change in philosophy won't appear significant from the outset but as the design matures and is used to manage other aero structures it'll yield larger results.  Paramount to this will be the front wing, as it'll allow the team to adjust how much of the wingspan / cascades are proportioned off to deal with the tyres front wake.
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26 May 2015
New front wing deflection test

The FIA have reportedly issued a technical directive to the teams, suggesting that they will introduce a new front wing deflection test, incorporating a trailing edge flap test for the first time.

Details of the new test were exposed by Motorsport here: http://www.motorsport.com/f1/news/fia-toughens-up-front-wing-deflection-tests

The crux of the new test are as follows:

'A 60NM point load will be applied to any part of the trailing edge of any front wing flap.

The load will be applied normal to the flap at the relevant point, and the deflection may not exceed 3mm when measured vertically at the trailing edge in order for the wing to meet the regulations.'


We have suspected for some time now that teams are using flaps that deflect under load to improve the overall efficiency of the car.  The onboard footage of flap deflection on the Williams FW36's front wing in Spa 2014 aroused suspicions with just about everyone about how their wing operated: http://www.gfycat.com/MiniatureYearlyGar.  Of late I have noted from the onboards that Toro Rosso's front wing flaps deflect in a similar manner and whilst flap deflection is inevitable, as pressure builds, the way in which this seems to be happening on these and other cars is not natural.

The front wing designs we see now are compartmentalized, with the outer section used to deal with outboard tyre wake, whilst the flaps deal with generating downforce and the Y250 vortex. Observation of the flap movement suggests that the flaps decline, which would suggest that the teams are looking to reduce drag. What should be considered is that the gap between the flaps may also be being reduced, leading to a 'stalled' situation, with the airflow unable to sustain the angle of attack. Meanwhile, the change in the flaps tip angle also changes the way in which the Y250 vortex operates too, changing airflow downstream.  The overall idea is a reduction of drag and increase in efficiency but as always it's easy to think about the direct consequence of a component but in reality there is always much more to the story, especially when it's the front wing in play....
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22 May 2015
SomersF1's manifesto


Ok, so everyone is reporting the results of the Strategy Group (SG) meeting and what the discussed changes could have on the sport (just as I did here: http://www.planetf1.com/driver/3260/50399/Problems-Not-Solutions).

Firstly, I think it is important to say, we'd all like to see cars that are 5-6 seconds a lap quicker than we currently have, especially with many complaining that the drivers don't drive flat out all the time.  Frankly though, they never will, as there is always an element that requires race management, for the betterment of strategy.  The teams understand that sometimes to go faster you actually have to drive slower, meaning we get drivers driving to a delta and saving a pit stop, fair enough this has been exacerbated by the maximum fuel weight but I'd bet a sizable chunk of money that the drivers aren't starting the race with that maximum fuel weight.
That might sound ludicrous from the outset but fuel is weight and weight can be detrimental to lap time.  If you can complete a race distance in lets say 1hr 29 minutes by driving slowly, with 80kg of fuel owing to less tyre wear and therefore less stops, why would you take 100kg of fuel, take one more stop and complete the race in 1hr 30 minutes?  The example is obviously an exaggeration but it is something that must be considered.  Even in the V8 era drivers conducted fuel saving, it just wasn't so apparent, as there was no maximum fuel weight limit the trade off could be mitigated.

I'm not going to suggest I'm right or others are wrong but what I'd like to do here is make some suggestions on the direction I would like to see the sport go.  As most of you know I'm in favour of the current regulatory format but there are numerous tweaks I'd like to see to improve the racing.

Powerunits

The most complained about element of the current generation of Formula One cars, with many suggesting that the V6 hybrids were a mistake on several levels.  The powerunits (in most cases) actually provide a little more peak power than the outgoing V8's but also weigh considerably more too, reducing the power to weight ratio.  Reduction of the weight, however well intended by the SG's manifesto, is a fools errand, with the minimum car weight dictated by the dry weight of the car and powerunit.  Weight reduction is only really viable with their refuelling caveat, of which I'm really not a fan, as I want to see these guys racing out on circuit, rather than duking it out via strategy in the pitlane.  Personally I feel a return to refuelling may sound like a good idea from the outside, ie having less weight onboard, which allows the drivers to push, but instantaneously it leads to engineers thinking about preserving stint life, rather than pushing, just as they have come to do under the current regulations. 

I'd actually suggest that the fuel weight for each GP be increased to 125kg's, allowing a slightly wider performance window, enabling the drivers scope to push, although I think you also then have to have a minimum fuel weight too, as otherwise it'll sometimes be faster to be slower, ie less time in the pitlane changing tyres that you've worn out pushing hard.

Meanwhile the formula at 10,500rpm that currently dictates that the powerunits can't achieve usable power beyond 12,500rpm(ish) should be adjusted to allow the engines to rev out to the full 15,000rpm.  If fuel flow isn't sufficient to facilitate this then this be amended too.

ERS be expanded upon too, increasing the Energy Store from a maximum capacity of 4mj's to 6mj's, whilst increasing the upper power release from the MGU-K from 120kw's (roughly 160bhp) to 175kw's (roughly 235bhp).  This retains a similar formula to the pre-existing one but takes into account the extra electrical energy that can be harvested braking from higher speeds and the additional energy the MGU-H will require to assist the turbo.

These changes will require the homologation matrix to be relaxed and re-instated after the powerunits re-birth, as although the regulations permit 15,000rpm many of the components are currently designed with tolerances below this.  The changes should also increase the sound of the powerunits to a more acceptable level to both fans and track organisers.

Tyres

I don't care for the introduction of 18" wheels/tyres, if this is the only reason for Michelin to return then they shouldn't.  F1 has done enough pandering toward road relevance, after all when was the last time you saw a 200+mph open wheel road car?  In my opinion 13" wheels are fine and mean that the teams don't have to spend money developing suspension that can handle the change. IF we must increase wheel diameter then 15" would be the maximum I would suggest.
Pirelli have come in for some pretty harsh abuse over the years but did provide what was asked for.  Should they stay on as supplier past their current contract, which runs until the end of 2016, perhaps some revision of the rear tyres width could be made, something in the order of 425mm-450mm (up from the current 380mm) but this will clearly have an impact on the wake produced by the car, requiring some thought on how to counteract this through aerodynamic regulation changes.  Furthermore, I'd be interested to see proposals from Pirelli, specifically on how they'd like to improve things, perhaps expanding upon the number of compounds at their disposal to better cater for the varying track characteristics.  I'd also like to hear their ideas on a qualifying tyre, maybe a compound more aggressive than the lowest race compound, to increase qualifying pace.

Aero

A complex department that doesn't have a strict answer, whilst many are calling for more downforce to be added, all I remember is that it took the technical working group numerous years of research to come up with the 2009 regulations, resulting in a car with significantly less wake than its predecessors but still not enough to close the racing up.  This is why a technical working group (TWG) needs re-establishing, in order that research and simulation be conducted to assess what will and won't work.  Simply making bold statements like, 'More aggressive aero,' is fruitless, aggressive in what way? aesthetically or aerodynamically?

One of the blanket statements I see touted around the most is, 'We should return to ground effect," which appears to stem from an understanding that underfloor aero is free of drag and wings are just plain evil.  There is of course truth in that, but for F1 where extreme competition breeds a need to push the design envelope, the result could be catastrophic.  Just like the dimensional constraints currently placed on the diffuser restrictive regulations would need to be placed on the creation of venturi tunnels.  This is all feasible but requires R&D and an outside hand in the regulation framing.


DRS and other moveable aero has always been contentious to fans, and even more so to the hardcore element who find the whole concept an abomination.  Unfortunately, the wake currently produced by Formula One cars makes its use a necessary evil but something for me that no longer performs the function for which it was originally intended.  In my opinion DRS currently provides the means for a car on fresher tyres to dispatch one which is on worn tyres, returning the cars to the equilibrium they were in before the pit stop phase, which is not the systems original intention.  Its strategic deployment was neutered when the FIA stopped adjusting DRS zones after FP1 and prevented unlimited use during qualifying.

In my format I'd suggest that 'activation zones' be retained, but rather than allow only the chase car to have it at their disposal allow free use for any car.  The caveat is that drivers have a pre-determined time usage for DRS throughout qualifying and the race making it a tool for both defence and attack, whilst also a strategic device for qualifying, performing the undercut, a blitz lap out of the pits, etc etc.

I'd also suggest that the re-installed TWG look into the adjustable front wing design used in 2009 and canned in 2010 owing to the double deck diffusers, with the possibility of its reinstatement to facilitate close racing through the corners.

Sporting Regulations

Formula One's fan base is in decline and has been for some time, the racing can only be blamed in part for this, with viewing factors also coming into play.  Other sports conclude proceedings in a short time frame which holds the attention span of the viewer for that fleeting moment.  For example the typical football (soccer for my Amercian readers) match is 90 minutes not taking into account stoppages and/or tournament rules such as extra time and penalties.  Formula One's race alone can exceed this time frame and whilst most fans don't engage fully with Free Practice sessions, just as most football fans don't go to their teams training ground to assess their performance ahead of the game, we also have to consider qualifying as an important phase of a GP.

I understand that FOM and the FIA have other factors to take into account such as time zones and complimentary series' such as GP2/3 but I would imagine that the protracted race weekend is a factor for the younger generation.  FormulaE has circumnavigated this issue by compacting qualifying and the race into a single day and although this is also due to logistical issues with city centre racing it'd be interesting to see what a similar change would do to increase F1 viewership.  I'd therefore suggest a change of scheduling format with qualifying and the race on a Sunday, with a time gap between the two allowing other series and events to feature.  Furthermore, I'd make Free Practice two long time slots on Saturday, (rather than the current 3 session setup, split between Friday and Saturday).

Saturday
Free Practice 1 (F1) - 10am until 12 noon
12 noon until 3pm left for other racing series and/or events designated by the circuit promoter
Free Practice 2 (F1) -  3pm until 5pm

Sunday
Qualifying - 10am until 11am
11am until 2pm left for other racing series and/or events designated by the circuit promoter
Race 2pm until conclusion

This is just an idea for a shorter format (and something that would most certainly need adapting) but isn't only aimed at facilitating a spike in interest from a new audience / younger generation, but as a way of re marketing Formula One for the circuit promoters.   Fans will tell you going to a race is an expensive affair, not only do you have to find the funds for a the ticket(s), you either need to travel to the venue each day from home, which incurs costs, or you need to stay in a hotel which is even more costly.  Shortening the race weekend, should reduce the cost to those who wish to watch each session, whilst the inclusion of qualifying and the race on a Sunday makes the ticket more-or-less worth its face value.

Conclusion

There are no easy solutions or short cuts, putting loads of ideas in a hat and drawing them out randomly certainly doesn't fix F1.  Take stock, realise what we have isn't that bad and take measures to rectify its inefficiencies.
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21 May 2015
Technical Image Gallery - Monaco 2015

A selection of the best technical images from Monaco courtesy of Sutton Images
McLaren MP4-30 front brake duct and splitter detail
Ferrari SF15-T rear brake duct detail
Ferrari SF15-T rear wing and Y100 winglet detail
Mercedes W06 front brake duct detail
Williams FW37 rear brake duct detail
Williams FW37 rear wing detail
Ferrari SF15-T front wing detail
Ferrari SF15-T sidepod detail, the team have retained the modifications used in Barcelona and raced by Vettel
Toro Rosso STR10 front wing detail
Toro Rosso STR10 front wing detail
Force India VJM08 floor detail, note the tyre squirt slot has been taped over to prevent damage in transportation
Mercedes W06 turning vanes
Mercedes W06 floor detail
Mercedes W06 sidepod detail
Sauber C34 rear end detail
Ferrari SF15-T splitter detail
Mercedes W06 Y100 winglet detail
Mercedes W06 rear wing detail
Red Bull RB11 front wing detail
Ferrari SF15-T new front brake duct, note teardrop shaped ventelation not present in old spec (below)
Ferrari SF15-T front brake duct detail (Barcelona spec)
Ferrari SF15-T floor detail as updated in Barcelona it now features 3 tyre squirt slots
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15 May 2015
A look at Helio Castroneves IndyCar flip in practice at Indianapolis


In the last two days there have been two high speed accidents at Indianapolis, involving cars using the Chevy speedway kits.  Both Helio Castraneves and Josef Newgarden hit the wall at turn one and flipped their cars. Firestone have since spoken out over Josef's incident citing a cut in the tyre which deflated it ahead of the accident.  However, Helio's accident remains a source of some mystery, the footage I have seen suggests he was struggling to rebalance the car as he entered the turn.  We must remember that these speedway aero kits are new for 2015 and will undoubtedly force the teams and drivers to think differently.

I immediately questioned Chevy's endplate-less rear wing configuration when I saw the render, as it will clearly cut drag but what about the requirement of downforce?  The underfloor is a carry over from the original DW12 design and so everything has been designed to complement it and compliment it must.  The relationship between the rear wing and floor is often forgotten about but it's symbiotic, both in terms of drag and downforce.  I suspect without the endplates the rear wing 'stalls' at a certain speed (ie the boundary layer on the surface is so large the flow detaches) ordinarily the endplates would control this 'stall' retaining its connection to the under floors airflow structure, keeping a semblance of downforce.  When changing direction there is a fraction of time that passes as the car decelerates for which the airflow needs to 're-attach', stability can become a massive issue if it doesn't happen quickly enough.  Paramount to this is ride height, with any change disturbing the consistency of downforce that is generated by the underfloor and rear wing.  Therefore, I wonder in the moments leading to Helio's accident did the car lose downforce sufficiently to start the chain of events that led to the car ending up on its roof?

At the end of the day practice is for finding these sort of limits and with the kits being so new the teams will be pushing the envelope, to find the perfect setup.

The other thing that has irked me about the incident is a piece that I read about why the flip happened after the accident, especially as the information is a little light on facts but comes from a source from 'within' the sport: http://www.racer.com/more/viewpoints/item/116730-pruett-why-helio-castroneves-car-flipped

Pruett claims that ordinarily the floor 'functions like an inverted wing' creating downforce, what he fails to explain is that a racecar is in 'ground effect' when it generates downforce, meaning the relationship between the cars tunnels and the ground needs to stay relatively stable for the given speed.  He goes onto make the following statement: 

"Turn an Indy car around at 200mph and feed that air backward through the underwing, and it will behave like a normal airplane wing and generate lift. With enough air speed, and pressure build-up in the  tunnels--which Castroneves obviously achieved, lift turns into liftoff".  

I get the whole "dumbing down" of technical content, it's my niche... and although it makes for easy reading I'm sorry but in my opinion it isn't wholly accurate, the lift in my opinion came from another source of aerodynamic complication we have seen far too often in the past, in LMP racing (see below) and is the reason their fenders now have cut outs in the top.




You may argue that the Indy wheels are exposed on the top, however, they weren't designed to work at extreme yaw angles, perhaps that's why we see this as the car goes sideways (yes that is air between the tyre or tire for my American friends and the track):  


Granted being in reverse led to a stall in the floor tunnels but for me the lift came as a consequence of the bumper pod design.  Racecars aren't meant to work at such extreme yaw angles and at that speed and certainly not in reverse. Accidents will happen and you can't mitigate for every circumstance, I think the most important question is what led to the corrections that Helio had to make?  Here's the video for you to draw your own conclusions....


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13 May 2015
Susie Wolff to guest on the Clare Balding Show

Lewis Hamilton has already featured on the Clare Balding show so far this season, but tomorrow it'll be the turn of Williams development driver Susie Wolff.  Susie will give insight into her life behind the wheel of an F1 car along with some great anecdotes, just like the ones in the clips from the show below.





She is joined on the sofa by World Snooker Champion, Stuart Bingham and tennis legend Pat Cash.

You can catch the whole show:

14th May on BT Sport 1 at 8pm or 10pm
or
15th May on BBC2 at 10pm
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