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19 September 2014
Bite Size Tech: Sauber C33 Sidepods - Singapore

Sauber have already made attempts at rectifying their performance disadvantage this season but for Singapore we find that the team have once more turned their attention to the sidepod bodywork.  This is the 3rd major iteration of their sidepods, with a change made in Barcelona that increased the size of the inlet to accommodate more cooling.  The changes didn't stop there though with the bodywork size and shape adjusted, catering for the way in which the airflow moved dowstream, into the coke bottle region.

The new bodywork, retains the inlet size run since Barcelona but looks to trade off some of the cooling requirements with changes at the rear of the car. This comes off the back of Sauber taking a step the two other Ferrari powered teams took in Spa when they followed suit in Italy covering the exhausts primaries.  The result of which is a retention of heat within the exhaust itself which increases the potential of the powerunit. (Image @ScarbsF1)
An increase in length of the sidepod, will help to retain the aspect ratio of the upper surface, as the upper cooling outlets increase in size encroaches on the sidepods bodywork.  The changes have also ushered in further curtailment of bodywork paint, with the rearward part of the engine cover now left bare.  This will advantages in terms of heat displacement and also marginally save weight.  (Many teams have moved to an elongated sidepod exit this season with the placement, shape and orientation critical to the performance of the floor, diffuser and rear wing, as all these structures can be compromised by it).

The adjustment of the lower outlets means the upper outlet has been increased dramatically in size (above, with the inset showing their Monza specification).  The team have also re-introduced their monkey seat (Y100 winglet) which sits just above the exhaust, looking to increase the upwash effect in the region (assisting both the diffuser & rear wing).  Furthermore the fins that run either side of the crash structure (in the Y100 region) are now two piece elements either side, making them much taller; which will of course change the flow characteristics/upwash in the cars centreline.
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Bite Size Tech: Mercedes WO5 Y100 Winglet - Singapore

As we know most of the performance accrued by Mercedes against their rivals this season comes from their powerunit.  However the amount of work done of the aero side should not be underestimated either with some very decent concepts in play.  It seems more than perhaps most, Mercedes have focused their efforts on using the waste energy created by the exhaust plume as a further performance advantage.  Over the past few seasons the use of exhaust blowing has primarily been aimed at sealing the edges of the diffuser, reducing the impact of tyre squirt and allowing the teams to run with aggressive rake angles.  The placement of the exhaust along the cars centreline looked to reduce its impact but the teams can't unlearn what they know, in this case that the exhaust plume can offer a source of immense energy.  The use of a turbocharger whilst connected to an MGU-H also quells the ferocity of energy dispatched by the exhaust, but nonetheless it's still something that can be used to levy an advantage.

Furthermore the loss of the beam wing for 2014 means that the teams have had to think a little laterally in terms of achieving aero structures that bind together to increase downforce.  The aim of the game being that the diffuser and rear wing work together to increase downforce for less drag.

Mercedes have already made several changes to their Y100 Winglet / Monkey Seat throughout 2014 (Barcelona, Monaco, Spa) alluding to development in the area and also how they treat specific track characteristics inline with their rear wing design.

The team have once again made a small change to their design for Singapore changing the guide blade that sits astride the upper extension of their ladder winglet.
As we can see from the older configuration (inset) the upper blade has been replaced by twin blades, this alteration may seem small but the way in which it manipulates the airflow will of course have an impact on performance.  The inclusion of the secondary blade is likely done to delay the point at which the exhaust plume (and surrounding airflow it guides) interacts with the upper section of the top flap, meaning the team can run more angle of attack without flow separating, increasing downforce and reducing drag.

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Bite Size Tech: Force India VJM07 Front Wing - Singapore

Singapore comes off the back of the stand out aero track of the season, with Monza providing backdrop to the only truly low downforce package.  Before that we had Spa which although it's classified as a medium downforce circuit it puts a massive onus on drag reduction, owing to the long straights encountered by the drivers.  This gives the teams a window of opportunity for which to concentrate their efforts on the closing rounds which are more skewed toward downforce.
With this in mind Force India who've trialled several new pieces over the last few races but abandoned them without racing them arrive with a new Front Wing.  The endplate that was previously split into two sections (above) is now a re-designed singular element, changing how and when the inner and outer flow structures meet.  Like many of its rivals the team have also invested some effort into adding a canard element (below).  These canards are all designed around the concepts of each of the teams current front wing ethos and Force India are no different.  Placed on the upper front edge, the canard's purpose is to help draw air over and around the front tyre by creating a vortice and pressure difference that entices the airflow around the endplate.
 Above: Image from AMuS
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18 September 2014
Bite Size Tech: Sauber C33 Front Wing - Singapore

Sauber made their last large upgrades at Barcelona, one of which was a change in front wing philosophy that saw the team introduce a new cascade element and a outboard endplate canard.  For the high downforce street circuit of Singapore we see that the team will once again make a change in this area (See image below, inset shows the older configuration).
The team have lengthened the canard which will change the way in which the vortex it sheds is formed but also how that affects the surrounding airflow.  This should have a marked effect on the flow around and over the front tyre, with the canard creating a pressure gradient on the outside of the endplate that encourages flow from both the cascade to flow upward and also pull the airflow through the rearward endplate slot. Of course this has a downstream effect, changing the front tyres wake and the impact this has on the floor.

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17 September 2014
Have we heard enough?

If there is one thing that is certain in Formula One it's that the FIA or FOM do the strangest things.  Unfortunately these usually revolve around them listening to all the wrong people, in an effort to spice up 'the show'.  Formula One is a sport and so obviously needs to be entertaining, but time after time I'm left questioning why certain decisions are made.  The latest of which surrounds team radio, with the FIA curtailing its use from Singapore onwards.

I get the whole driving by numbers comment from beleaguered fans unable to grasp the depth of the technology at the drivers disposal (Not the fans fault, but that of FOM, the FIA, broadcasters etc who have failed to fully explain most of the sports technicality).  What I don't get is the ferocity of the ban itself, encompassing everything from fuel maps, to brake temperatures to tyre temperatures.  Of course it can be argued that these things can be monitored by the drivers, but don't they have enough to do at a constant speed of over 100mph?

As road users (at least in the UK) you can barely fart or sneeze at the wheel without the old bill turning on their blue lights, in fear that our capacity for thinking is over stretched.  Yes F1 drivers are the pinnacle, able to multi task but I fear that the complexity of the 2014 powerunits has been forgotten.  The failure of PU components that are overstressed could lead to further grid penalties as the driver goes over his 5 component allotment. Meaning the title will now most likely be won by the driver that nurses his car over the line to take points, rather than the pretty awesome wheel to wheel battles that have been on display thus far.

As you've gathered I'm not happy with the ban, especially so close to the end of the season.  On one hand it's good that drivers won't be told they're slower than x,y or z in the apex of T6 (other corners are available) but when a driver has to flick through screens of information every other corner to check the cars parameters I think it's gone too far!  (Anyone remember the problems our friend Pastor Maldonado got into in Bahrain earlier in the season, trying to make changes whilst cornering...) 

It's also emerged that coded messages and pit board use will be monitored too, and so the cheeky HAMmertime message (seen above) that myself and Mercedes shared a joke in the other day wouldn't be viable either.

Like the FIA, my ramblings may be a knee jerk reaction to a problem that only half exists but nevertheless they are my thoughts and I wait to see how failures play into one drivers hands.

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14 September 2014
Formula-E: Is the future here?

So, Beijing provided the backdrop for the first all electric single seater race, was it all it was cracked up to be? What was it cracked up to be? No, they're the wrong questions, the question should be: What will it be?

Formula-E is a brave step forward, one that arguably needs to be made in order to retain not only the future of Motorsport, but also pave the way for our own electric transport revolution.  It's far from perfect but it's here and it's making a statement!

For those of you that have been following this blog since the early days, you may have already read my initial piece on F-E 2 years ago.  The piece centered around the release of the original regulations looking more at the technicality of what was applicable at the time.  From a commercial perspective though, it was pretty obvious that for the first year at least, it needed to be a spec series.  With Alejandro Agag at the helm they swiftly went about organising just that, and we find each of the 40 Formula-E cars supplied by a plethora of well known Motorsport entities.

Known as the Spark SRT-01E the car has a thoroughly Formula One DNA, that's because we have names like Renault, McLaren and Williams associated.  Dallara were tasked with providing the chassis' as their vast experience speaks for itself, providing chassis to the likes of Indycar, GP2/3,WSR, Formula 3, Super Formula and many many more.  The problem faced by Dallara was that the design needs to be efficient, producing the least amount of drag is critical to overcoming one of Formula E's biggest issues: battery life.
The battery pack onboard each of the SRT-01E's is supplied by Williams Racing's advanced engineering arm, positioned ahead of the MGU(s) in the fuel cell's nomal locale it must provide enough power for at least half the race distance.  Unlike F1 teams that are allowed a maximum of 5 ES (energy stores) per season before penalties, the batteries placed in each chassis must last all season (10 rounds).  Furthermore their weight is just 200kg's and they need to provide a maximum of 200kw (Free Practice & Qualifying), which can propel them toward the maximum top speed of 140mph.  Williams Advanced Engineerings initial task was made even more difficult, as they had to work within the parameters already set out for the battery pack.  It's size and cooling prescribed by the layout left by the Dallara design.
McLaren were bought onboard to provide both the electronics and the MGUs (Motor Generator Units), the latter a product of their work from their roadcar, the P1.  The MGU not only provides the method of propulsion but just as we are used to in F1 can be used for harvesting energy under braking to be stored and then used later in the race.  Coupled to this we find a Hewland 5 speed sequential gearbox, used to increase efficiency (meaning the motor can be geared beyond 1:1).

18" OZ wheels are shod in Michelin tyres, designed to provide performance in both dry and wet conditions.  Meanwhile Renault will provide support at the races passing on years of racing experience.

The SRT-01E is a good benchmark, it takes technology from different companies and transforms it into a product that will produce decent racing.  What comes next though is what excites me, this will require the big automakers to get onboard and drive the technology forward.  What is being learnt in this first year is merely a stepping stone to what can be achieved but it will require the bravery and out of the box thinking we have already seen to get the series this far.

To truly drive forward change and inspire people to drive EV's the series must be at the forefront of the technologies evolution.  Battery life is the biggest challenge to the adoption of electric vehicles and thus we must find better ways to harness it.  Electricity afterall is currently generated (mostly) be fossil fuels, the enemy at the gate we are trying to hide from.  Furthermore we have the issue of electrical conversion (AC/DC) which not only generates heat but expends energy as a consequence.  This is on of the issues of harvesting and then storing energy, with a power converter placed between the MGU and battery literally giving up energy.  Formula One has met this challenge quite well with their new Powerunit, utilsing both the MGU-H and MGU-K and allowing each to symbiotically power the other, without first storing the energy (a negligible power loss).  Another method that may have worked quite well is one that Williams looked at when KERS first arrived in 2009: Flybrid.  Williams have recently sold that arm of their business to BAE systems with the technology now being applied in buses etc around the UK.  The crux of the tech is to store the energy mechanically in a flywheel (friction isn't such an obstacle as you'd first think as a carbon flywheel is spun within a vacuum) for re-use afterward.

There are of course other ways to extend battery life, one of which Formula E can have an impact on: moveable aero.  Aero has already become more important than most people realise in modern car design, increasing performance and fuel efficiency.  The original regulations permitted moveable aero and I think it would be shrewd to allow it's introduction in future car builds, not only as it can be used to increase downforce and reduce drag (increasing performance/efficiency), but because it could also have a positive impact as it drip feeds down to the road car industry.

Frank Montagny had perhaps the stand out performance of the grid in Beijing and many of you will have noted he applied a slightly different technique to some of his collegues.  It's something I have been doing in road cars for years: Coasting.  Yes I know it's frowned upon, but you wouldn't believe the uptake in MPG I get by applying the technique (Coasting for the uninitated is taking the car out of drive, either by depressing the clutch or having the car in neutral, on declines).  Frank's approach is quite clever on several levels but mainly because it allowed him to settle the car pre harvest/re-gen whilst saving power too (an electric motor doesn't use rpm at all when the throttle isn't depressed, unlike an internal combustion engine.  Meaning you aren't using electricity).

Moving onto the sporting aspect I've often remarked on twitter that one of the downsides to Formula-E is their adoption of a mid race car switch.  As I've said before this could come across as highlighting the main issue of EV's: battery life.  However if promoted correctly it could be done as a way of re-educating people or indeed used as a way of initiating a new thought processes.  Most car journeys are done solo in cars capable of carrying 4/5 people, purely owing to peoples thought processes when purchasing vehicles and the possibilities that may entail a car journey throughout its lifespan.  Gordon Murray's thinking with his T25 is a prime example of out the box thinking but requires mass acceptance of a new way of moving.  Most of us only need a very small car to complete our day to day tasks and even then it sits unused for most of its lifespan.  To fully embrace a world where electric cars work for everyone, we need to stop owning cars and own a membership; connecting us like customers to a fleet of vehicles.  You might say that sounds like public transport, and in a way you're correct but this would allow for autonomy with a cost reflected by use.  Such a model/concept has many pitfalls/problems none more so than insurance but I believe it is the way forward, especially in the inner city; the exact place Formula-E is targeting with its races.

So is the future here? No, just like the hoverboard that Robert Zemeckis promised me would be here next year in 1989 it isn't quite here yet.  However, we must not be too quick to label Formula-E, put the petrolhead inside of you to one side and accept it is very different to what we have seen before, provides a much needed stepping stone in public acceptance of alternative motorsport/transport; and above all it actually provided some decent racing. 

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