Saturday, November 24, 2012

Young drivers test at Yas Marina 2012 and its importance to 2013 season

"Hello, World!"

This is one of the very first strings that young programmers are printing out on the screen when starting with software development. Here, however, we shall talk about young drivers test in Formula 1 which has taken place in Abu Dhabi, on the most expensive track facility anywhere in the world - Yas Marina. Many testing permutations, tire compounds and interesting testing tools have been used, and we have even seen one driver testing two different cars!
Overall, the feedback from the drivers was very positive, let’s take Esteban GutiĆ©rrez for example:

“The morning session was very interesting for me because we tested a lot of different things, and I hope I gave my most precise feedback to the engineers. After being in the car so recently in India, of course, I feel a lot more confident in handling all the system like KERS and DRS. In the morning session I used only hard tyres, but in the afternoon I certainly enjoyed running the medium as well as the soft compound. The last sector of the track I find a bit tricky, especially turn 20. I don’t have the confidence yet to push harder there.”

The combined time results from the three days look like this:

Later down in the article you can find more interesting stats about this event.

And although this is testing for the young drivers, all teams have used the chance to evaluate certain developments or just to gather aerodynamic data.
Let’s get down into details about the interesting stuff we have observed on the track.
Most of the teams and the drivers told us not to look too much into the times, but it was obvious that top 3 drivers were very quick and their scores were almost half a second better than the rest of the field.

A typical example of a daily session program would look like this:
  • Morning Session: Aerodynamic testing and DDRS iterations. 
  • Afternoon Session: Front Drum testing and tyre assessment Programme. 
  • Total number of laps: 86 
  • Best lap time: 1:42:677 
  • Tyres used: Two sets of hard, two sets of medium and two sets of soft compound tyres.


What can really summarize the testing efforts was the extensive usage of pipes protruding from underneath the engine cover or similar places, which were usually ending below the underside of the rear wing’s main plane. (Credit for the name goes mainly to my fellow blogger and tech analyst Matt Somerfield)

This type of the device appears to be initially tried by Lotus, and it looks like this:

While Lotus’ implementation is bit different than the rest, the principle is believed to be the same: passive blowing certain parts of the rear of the car, i.e. no human interaction is required. Note about next year regulations: DDRS implementations such as the one found in Mercedes car will be prohibited, hence the teams are looking for more efficient and legal solutions.

The next team that has tried similar approach was Mercedes, and the rest followed soon - Toro Rosso had interesting implementation as well, Red Bull and Sauber. Details:

Red Bull

It is immediately obvious that Red Bull may be looking for different approach, as the pipe is directly connected to the rear wing with no obvious open slots. Extensive flow visualization has also been added, something that RBR have demonstrated in almost any free practice so far.


The solution from the Swiss team is more closer to Mercedes’ initial implementation. Generally, those types of devices are aiming to create low-pressure area at the underside of the main plane of the rear wing, where, essentially, the downforce is “born”.

Sauber did not have the typical inlets that would feed such passive system with air, though additional pipes have been spotted around the nose cone.

Toro Rosso

From the same bull breed, the younger Reds tested a larger version of the so called “monkey seat” - relatively cheap way to add rear downforce via such device which resembles smaller, scaled down rear wing. There are variations across different teams’ implementations, but STR7 features the largest of them, as of yet. The Italian team have also tried something which looks like a DRD attempt, however, with no clear evidence of ducting at this point. Certain analysts have assumed that this is a result of James Key’s introduction to the team as Technical Director, replacing Giorgio Ascanelli.

What stands above the engine air inlet is called Pitot static tube - an instrument measuring fluid flow velocity.

On the next day, the team has tried another variation of the Monkey seat which was lot more taller than the previous installment, and it was somewhat resembling a DRD, though strict evidence of holes were not immediately obvious - perhaps the team wanted to evaluate just the amount of drag coming from such option:
Image credit: AMuS


Literally every team had his chance to run various types of test rigs, mostly known as aero rake.
The aero rake itself could be used for measuring air speed, angle flow, pressure (Pitot-Static probe) and even temperature.

What is really a Pitot tube?

It's a thin tube that has two holes - the front hole is located to face the airstream for measuring the stagnation pressure. For incompressible flow (where the material density is constant) it is a sum of the dynamic pressure and static pressure. The side hole measures the static pressure and the difference between these two is dynamic pressure, which can be used to calculate fluid flow and speed, in our case that's the air. Some of the teams are using a variation which is called “Kiel probe”.

Let’s have a look at teams’ applications:

 Red Bull have been using similar rake for some time, notably this one, used in Canada Free Practice as well:

This is what Caterham team calls “Transition Vortex Rake”. The team also had infrared camera to monitor tires.
Copyright: Caterham F1 Team

Next we have the high tech team of Mclaren:

Notice they are running two applications - one behind front right tire and one behind the Monkey seat, which has the ability to move up and down.

On the second day Mclaren ran a completely different front wing, which bears some resemblance to the one Lotus is using. Here’s a direct comparison - the new one is on top:

The new wing now features two vertical flow conditioners, a la Lotus, which effectively removes the upper R cascade elements (yellow arrow below), which tells us that Mclaren are willing to sacrifice some front downforce. Next we see that the new wing has no outer blade near to the endplate, and in general looks simpler than the old one.
The underside of the main plane (old vortex curvatures) features more nicely curved forms as opposed to the old shapes, which were rather triangular.

Curiously, this test has apparently proved successful for the new wing, which was subsequently raced in Austin and Lewis Hamilton won the race!

Mclaren also had the usual sensor bulge on the nose (inset right) plus pale purple flow-viz on the new front wing (left hand side) – this type of color is less visible on the track (to hide details from rival teams), but it is excellent displayed under ultraviolet light.

Lotus revered to their old exhaust style for the final third day:


  • Most of the teams are definitely looking at 2013 season and usage of passive devices to gain rear downforce. 
  • Teams did not lose time and various ways to collect data, such as flow viz and aero rake, have been used.
  • The test featured quite good reliability except for one minor incident (oil leak for Caterham).
  • Kevin Magnussen set the best time on the first day, before noon.


Note: The bars are interactive, hover the mouse over any of them to reveal the actual value.

All images are linked from F1 Zoom (unless otherwise noted) and are posted under the Fair Use Doctrine for purely educational and comment purposes.