Category Archives: F1 Systems

This F1 Systems category includes posts about how F1 works, how rules are implemented, why certain rules exist, and technical rule changes in the sport.

Eventually We’ll End Up With A One-Make Series!

It was recently confirmed that the Double-DRS system will be banned for the 2013 season. The system was pioneered by Mercedes AMG Petronas team at the onset of the 2012 season, and another Double-DRS system is currently being developed by Lotus. Lotus originally protested against the system at the Chinese Grand Prix, only to have their protest rejected. They are currently the only other team besides Mercedes who have developed a Double-DRS.

A diagram of the Mercedes Double-DRS System (F1.com)

Cost-cutting is the root cause of the ban of any Double-DRS mechanism; for several years now Formula 1 has been looking for any unnecessary expenses that can be removed from the sport. Formula 1 wants to avoid situations which may put teams in a ‘development race,’ and increase the cost of racing. For instance, the blown exhausts of 2011 were deemed a necessity up and down the pit lane, and millions of pounds were spent to find the perfect positioning of the exhaust pipes on the floor of the cars. This is the sort of engineering war that can raise the cost of racing for every team on the grid.

 

Ross Brawn disagrees with the idea that Double-DRS is too expensive (Telegraph.co.uk)

The F1 Technical Working Group has decided that the Double-DRS system is too expensive a path for Formula 1 teams to take, and the majority of teams agreed that it should be banned for the 2013 season. Ross Brawn disagreed by stating, “People talk about the huge cost, but there isn’t really a huge cost. You all know that there are a couple of carbon pipes running down the car, and the man on the street will tell you that they cost a few thousands pounds – they are not millions of pounds.” Are the majority of teams really agreeing in order to cut costs?

 

 

Mercedes and Lotus have spent an unspecified amount of time and money developing their systems, and should now have the right to use these systems throughout the season. I completely agree with the fact that F1 costs are too high, and there are solutions to solving the cost problem. However, clever and (according to Ross Brawn) relatively inexpensive technological advancements should not be put to waste so quickly.

A look at Lotus’ Double-DRS system, likely to be used in the Belgian Grand Prix

The money that Lotus and Mercedes have spent developing their systems has effectively gone down the drain, and they are now left spending more of their money on other areas of the car, without any advantage given to them. Furthermore, the “majority” of other teams who voted to ban the device from F1 in 2013 now gain a relative advantage over Mercedes and Lotus, considering that they have spent less money and will share the same benefits brought by the original DRS system. Where is the sense in that? It must be noted that this is not an FIA decision. This decision was agreed upon by the majority of F1 teams, and I get the sense that several teams vote to ban the system in order to hold Mercedes and Lotus back. It is the logical thing to do in such a competitive sport, but it ruins some of the development and innovation in F1.

 

Surely the cost of motorhomes can be reduced? (grandprix.com)

Costs in F1 can be reduced in other areas. Everywhere we look in F1, there are massive cost-cutting opportunities. In the    pits, the motor homes, the garages. By reducing several smaller factors in F1, one could significantly reduce the cost of racing all while keeping the development of the cars razor sharp. Without any room for development, eventually all F1 cars will approach identical aerodynamic designs, ruining the uniqueness of a multi-make series. F1 fans across the globe can only hope that reductions in cost are found elsewhere, and F1 engineers can be free to design new, exciting solutions.

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Mercedes Predictions

Mercedes, along with Marussia and HRT, are the last teams remaining yet to unveil their 2012 designs. Mercedes have announced that they are trying to find a balance between track time and car development in the wind tunnel. Last week in Jerez, Mercedes used their 2011 car fitted with the new 2012 Pirelli tires, in an attempt to learn as much about the tires as possible, while still developing the car in the factory.

Mercedes used their 2011 chassis at the Jerez test

Adrian Newey has announced that he has a different explanation. Newey firmly believes that there is something Mercedes is trying to keep from the other teams, most likely at the front of the car, which could give their team an advantage. Brawn GP, which would become Mercedes GP after their 2009 season, were famous for their double-diffuser technology that allowed them to dominate the first half of the season. Perhaps Ross Brawn has again found a solution that could give them an edge over the field, and would like to keep it secret. Brawn followed a similar strategy in 2009, after missing the first test and bringing the double diffuser only to the second.

 

Brawn GP designed the double diffuser in 2009, giving them a large advantage over other teams

 

Mercedes could be hiding a new innovation that would give them a similar advantage to that which team principle Ross Brawn enjoyed in 2009, or they could be simply gathering tire data before they use their 2012 chassis in order to have a controlled run for data analysis for the tires.

 

So far, the largest design controversy has been Newey’s “slot” in the step of the RB8’s nose. What looks like a mail slot in a post box has been cut into the top of the ‘step’ in the nose. Red Bull claimed that this is only for cooling the drivers’ feet, but there is a high level of speculation that this is not the only purpose. Similar to the F-duct of 2010, teams will have to figure out how the system works without seeing it, given that it is inside the car. However, the system could be for cooling purposes, there is no definite answer as of now concerning the purpose of the slot.

 

The RB8 slot: for cooling, for aero, for both?

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2012 McLaren MP4-27

On Wednesday, McLaren F1 released their 2012 MP4-27 challenger to the public. McLaren finished the 2011 season in a distant second place, but were arguably the only team that were ever able to compete with Red Bull this year. The team fought hard for six fantastic victories, and one pole position. Jenson Button had what was arguably the most impressive year of his career, with fantastic drives in Japan and Canada. Hamilton, on the other hand, had what some are calling the worst year of his career so far, with several instances where Lewis seemed to be out of sync, causing accidents with other drivers numerous times. Despite his controversial aggression this season, he still managed three victories and finished the championship in fifth place. In 2012, he will be more motivated than ever to show he can fight for the top spot in the championship.

Below are pictures of their 2012 challenger:

Front view of the MP4-27

From this frontal view of the MP4-27, we can see clearly that McLaren have changed the design of their nose, and most noticeably, their sidepods. The front nose is lower than it was last year, and seems to be more similar to the nose of the MP4-24 than the MP4-25 of 2011. This is due to the new regulations concerning the height of the nose. McLaren have chosen to design a nose that slopes gradually to the lower required height, instead of using a “stepped” wing, which has been done by Caterham F1, and is likely to be implemented on the Ferrari and Sauber 2012 racers.

The sidepods have also been redesigned from last year. The 2011 car featured unique ‘U’ shaped sidepods. This year, however, they seem to have designed sidepods that are higher than those of last year, and have a smooth, sleek top surface relative to the grooved design of 2011. Also, one can see that the bottom of the sidepod, near the floor, is dramatically narrower than the top, creating an overhand where the air ducts are located. Due to the banning of blown floors for 2012, McLaren most likely did this in an attempt to gain back some of the downforce lost at the rear.

 

Front 3/4 view of the MP4-27

Above is a 3/4 view of the 2012 car, in which we can see the gradual slope of the nose, as well as the cutaway in the sidepods below the air ducts. Just behind the Vodafone sponsorship decal, we can see a bulge at the rear of the car, which is where the exhaust exit is. The exhaust exits can no longer be on the floor of the car, and we will see that in 2012 all exhaust exits will protrude from the carbon fiber bodywork of the car. Because of the lack of piping needed for a blown exhaust, we will most likely see tighter rear packaging on the 2012 challengers.

 

One important note about this picture, McLaren have launched the car with their 2011-spec front wings, in an attempt to keep their aero strategy as secretive as possible until pre-season testing begins.

Caterham and McLaren are the only teams to have released their cars so far. Today (February 3), we will see Ferrari and Force India display their 2012 cars, with more teams unveiling their creations on Monday. Testing is only days away  Jerez on February 6. Mercedes, Marussia, Williams, and HRT are the only teams who will not have their 2012 car at the first test in Jerez.

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The 2012 Ferrari Challenger

Ferrari faced a less-than-stellar season in 2011, claiming only one victory and coming a distant third in the Constructor’s Championship. Luca di Montezemolo promised an “aggressive” approach in 2012, and it seems that he stuck to his word.  A sketch of what the car will look like has been released over the internet. It is unclear whether Ferrari revealed this sketch intentionally or not, but even this simple sketch (below) says a lot about the 2012 Ferrari Car.

Sketch of the 2012 Ferrari '663'

Although this is a relatively simple, rear three-quarters view of the chassis, there is a lot to be learned from this picture. Some obvious characteristics of the 2012 car include the exhaust pipes protruding from the body in front of the rear suspension. All teams will have a set-up similar to this, as the blown floors have been banned for the 2012 season, and the exhaust pipes can no longer blow exhaust fumes to the floor. Also, one can notice the “third wing,” located to the right and left of the steering wheel. I was surprised to see such large wings on the Ferrari, and I was reminded of the aero-aid madness of 2007-2008 when I first saw it. However, I haven’t seen any regulation changes that would allow these new wings, so I was perplexed as to why Ferrari have been able, or have chosen to fit them to the car this year. Perhaps they could be for additional safety from a side-impact, or maybe they are indeed basic aero aids. If teams are now allowed to use wings like these to create downforce, one can expect every car on the grid to have similar wings.

 

Some less noticeable, but still dramatic changes are the front wing, the sidepods, and the front suspension. Since 2009, Ferrari have typically gone with a straighter, higher nose relative to their rivals. In the sketch above, one can notice that the nose seems to dip down in front of the front axle, which may hint at a change in aero strategy by Ferrari. What most interests me about this sketch is the packaging of the radiators in the sidepods. If you look closely, you can see that the floor of the car is actually a couple of inches wider than the body work. Ferrari must have done an incredible job to package their radiators in such a way that they could have so much room on the side. The sidepods also seem to be quite high, which sparks images in my head of the Ferrari 641 from 1990, but I don’t want to get myself too excited about it. Ferrari seems to have taken inspiration from McLaren, as the sidepods seem to have been cutaway slightly on the inside, similar to what McLaren had on their MP4-26. Finally, a note on the suspension. There are rumors on the internet that the 2012 Ferrari will have pull-rod suspension for both the front and rear, meaning they would be the first to do so. Most teams on the grid run a pull-rod rear, but Ferrari could be the first team to do both front and rear if they choose to run that suspension set up this year.

 

Ferrari had promised an exciting, aggressive car for the 2012 season, and even from this simple sketch one can tell that they were serious. Ferrari need to win a championship, not only for themselves but also for the sake of the tifosi, and for Formula 1 as a whole. With their 2012 car, it certainly seems that they are taking innovative risks in order to achieve this goal.

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