Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why the 2012 development began in mid September 2011

We're in the middle of October, however, three races prior to the end of 2011 season.
This is the time of the year when we are already seeing some interesting F1 development stuff.

First I'll stop at Maranello, the home of Ferrari.

  • At Korea the Italian team has been spotted to test a new front wing, link here
  • It's visible that the wing per se resembles an RBR style, and it was tested only on Alonso's car. While it hasn't been a large performance boost, it was actually expected to be a driver for data gathering.
  • Stefano Domenicali himself said that the information collected from the actual race correlates with the preliminary wind tunnel data, so he's quite happy with that.

  • In the race it was visible that Ferrari had much better pace with the Soft tires provided by Pirelli, something that wasn't expected, or at least not to this extent. 
Things are looking pretty aggressive for the Scuderia, in their approach for championship-winning car for 2011.

My next stop is the Mercedes team.
In the last races an interesting solution seems to be developed by them, namely, a passive "F-Duct" like system, located at the nose of the car. In details:

This front hole in the nose is believed to be used for cooling purposes, like electronics and the cockpit itself, but it appears that Mercedes GP team is experimenting with actually flowing air through this holes.
There's a splitter inside that hole, which is supposed to effectively flow air down the front wing.
It has been also revealed that this hole has been spotted both opened and closed, so clearly there's development going on.

It remains to be seen whether actually some of these will be deployed, and whether such solution will be considered legal. On the other hand, it's also believed that some teams are already exploiting that area.

Update: after looking a bit more into the whole concept, I'm rather skeptical that a meaningful amount of air could be channeled through those small inlets, in terms of enough air to divert to the back (or the floor) of the car.
Also, the air that has to travel through those curved / shaped object will have to face a lot of pressure, and thus will lose its initial energy and there will be a substantial loss. The air should rather be travelling from the reverse direction and possibly destroy a flow, thus stall a part of the wing?

Further reports are appearing, again at MGP side, that some interconnection between the front and the rear suspension is possible through a clever system, but for that material I will have to contact the respective owner and get a permission to link it over here.

No big news so far from Mclaren team, it's probably worth saying, however, that the chief architect of RB7, Adrian Newey, has been away from Korea GP, and it was reported by team principle Horner that he's back at the factory at Milton Keynes to work on RB8 car.

More blog posts to follow about 2012 rules itself.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Formula 1 technical changes during the years (2006-2011)

Part two follows, trying to delve deeper into 2006-2011 technical changes in Formula 1.

2006 was the last season that featured two tire manufacturers at the same time.
While Giancarlo Fisichella won his third career race in Malaysia, many of the teams faced an accusations about illegal "flexible" wings - something we are about to cover (and probably all of you already know) in 2010.
Changes in both rules and wings per se were introduced quickly to resolve that matter.

At some point during this season, mostly dominated by Renault and Alonso, FIA decided that the "Mass Damper" system used by the French team didn't meet the technical regulations and it was subsequently banned.
This decision was very disputable, as Renault claims that FIA was contacted and consulted prior to the system's development, hence its use was authorized.
The main argument was whether this system serves as aerodynamic device, or as part of the suspension system.

  • Notable change of 2006 was the engine displacement, namely from 3.0 to 2.4L and a reduce of cylinders from 10 to 8, hence arriving at the V8 area. STR was the only team allowed to run V10 configuration, in order to avoid excessive re-engineering cost, however, with limits placed on their units.
  • Tire changes during the race have returned in 2006.
  • Michelin announced they would withdraw from the championship after the 2006 season as tire supplier.
In 2007, a season largely overshadowed by the SpyGate Espionage controversy
there were two things worth mentioning on the technical front:
  • Both tire compounds had to be used during the race - hard and soft.
  • Engine development was frozen from the 2006 Japanese Grand Prix with the intention to have these the same for 2007 and 2008. 
2008 season witnessed couple of interesting tech points:
  • Single standard ECU was provided for all teams, produced by joint venture of Mclaren and Microsoft.
  • Traction and launch control totally banned, along with some other "aids", like "engine braking reduction". Part of that was provided by the standardized ECU, as in the past it was believed that many teams have been successfully able to circumvent the rules.
  • Testing was limited to not more than 30,000 km per year.
The 2009 season was mostly dominated by the controversy of the double diffusers with the title eventually won by the Brawn GP team, however, other significant rule changes are worth mentioning, too: 
  • Changes in cars design, resulting in wider and lower front wings, taller and narrower rear wings, and a reduction on aerodynamic bodywork.
  • Introduction of slick tires and KERS system. 
  • Toyota, Williams and Brawn GP were the only teams to have unconventional rear diffuser setup, henceforth known as "Double Diffuser". An official complaint was launched by the rest of the teams, however FIA declared the solution legal. 
  • Driver-adjustable front wings were allowed, however, only two alterations per lap were possible. 
  • On the engine front only 8 engines were allowed during the season at no penalty cost, with a detune from 19,000 to 18,000 RPM due to reliability reasons.
Prior to 2010 regulations announcement, the budget cap agreement was a point of major debates. Formula 1 faced the possibility of breakaway series introduction, with teams disagreeing with the $45 million upper limit.
  • On the technical side: refueling was disallowed for the first time since 1993. 
  • Ferrari and Red Bull were both accused of having front wings that flexed at high speed, pushing them closer to the ground than is allowed. Various pictures provided by different web sites were trying to prove that, however, no scrutinizing procedure was deemed failed. As a result, though, more stringent tests for the front wings were introduced.
  • F-Duct was interesting invention by Mclaren team - it was a clever loop hole in the rules, later copied by the rest of the teams. Eventually banned for 2011 season. 
Although 2011 is still to have 5 more races (today is Oct. 5, 2011), there are couple of technical stuff worth mentioning: 
  • Return of 107% rule for qualifications. 
  • Team orders are officially allowed, as they were existent in different coded / cryptic forms. 
  • Sole tire supplier Bridgestone were announced to leave Formula 1 after 2010 season, giving place to Pirelli. Currently there are mostly positive opinions on what Pirelli have delivered. 
  • F-Duct, along with some smaller aero devices first seen at 2010 were banned for 2011.
  • KERS was decided to be an optional device for the teams, notable point is self-developed KERS by Red Bull, which appeared to be problematic during races. 
  • 2011 season announced the introduction of the Drag Reduction System (DRS), which to date appeared to be criticized by many. Its use proved to be excessive on some tracks, while it didn't make much impact on other tracks. 
  • Additional wheel tethers (twice more) were introduced in 2011, as a safety precaution following two incidents. Sadly, one of them was the death of Henry Surtees in Formula 2.

Thanks for reading. 2012 rules aren't deemed to be much different than 2011, but this is still subject of change. I will update the thread as soon as the rules are published.

FOOTNOTE: Both articles aren't pretending to be extremely precise and conclusive, I was just trying to draw the overall technical picture of F1, in a short and digestible format.
I'm open to any comments, feedback, alterations and accusations towards my bad English :) 

Without Wax, 
The Author (Kiril Varbanov)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Formula 1 technical changes during the years (1994-2005)

PREFACE: This article will try to cover the most prominent technical changes / controversies during recent F1 years. In a nice and simple human-to-human format :)

I will start with 1994 for two reasons: 
  1. This is the year when we witnessed massive changes;
  2. I can't really be precise in explanations for years prior to 1994, as I didn't understand that much, or at least not to the extend that I wanted to. 
1994: The so called "driver aids" were decided to be banned, most notably active suspension, anti-lock brakes, traction control and launch control.
That was the year that re-introduced refueling back, for the first time since 1983. 
Sadly, that was the year that we lost Roland Ratzenberger and of three-time world champion Ayrton Senna in separate accidents.

In 1995-1996 we saw different chassis and totally different solutions altogether, with some of the cars arriving at the first GP with no testing all, having been shortly assembled prior to the race.
Then, there was the introduction of the "107% rule", in the way we have it in 2011.

1997 was the year that Bridgestone entered F1 and supplied five teams with rubber.

The 1998 season had introduced the groovy tires, and on the engine front every team was running 3.0L V10 configuration.

Entering into the new decade, the 2000 season saw some controversies: all the drivers in the top six with the exception of Fisichella were excluded because of problems with their wooden floors. 
The teams appealed the decision, and later, after FIA scrutinizing the cars again, all positions were re-instated, with the exception of David Coulthard, whose front wing was deemed to be illegal.
  • To keep costs down, the V10 engine configuration was made mandatory in 2000 
Prior to 2005, most of the events have been dominated by Michael Schumacher beating various wins records.
These were mainly attributed to the availability of the unlimited testing, which was effectively banned after 2004.
In 2005, however, Ferrari had hard times with their tire supplier Bridgestone, having struggled to find the right balance between performance and reliability.
  • Besides the curious drop in performance of Ferrari, BAR-Honda were banned from two races after scrutineers in San Marino discovered a hidden fuel compartment that allowed their cars to run underweight.
  • The "Tires" rules in 2005 were very curious, namely because of prohibiting tire changes during the race.  However, during practice for the US Grand Prix it became apparent that Michelin's tyres were not capable of handling the loads put on them through Indianapolis' banked turn 13. Controversy ensued, with the end result being the seven Michelin-shod teams withdrawing from the race after the parade lap.
  • On the engine life front the units were required to last at least two race weekends, while the aerodynamics part of the rules was modified to include different positions of front and rear wings, higher noses, and other changes that were intended to reduce the downforce by nearly 25%. Different clever solutions were achieved, however, and some of the teams have reclaimed that "lost" downforce.
 FOOTNOTE: Thanks for reading all the way down here. I feared that long article may turn out to be "tl;dr", so I cut down into two pieces. 2006-2011 article will follow soon. 

Update: 2006-2011 here