Curly’s Corner: A Nerd’s Eye on Formula 1 Spanish & Monaco Grand Prix
Welcome back to our post-race breakdown of Formula 1! MotoIQ is bringing you its own particular nerdtastic take on the latest news and developments in F1. Impress your neighbors, stun your friends, and woo the ladies with your newfound F1 knowledge! Obviously we are more than a bit behind on our coverage. Not only have I been juggling my Indy 500 coverage, but there have been a number of late nights at the office with my day job. Sadly Curly’s Corner got put on the back burner, but we’re determined to catch up ASAP! We’re starting out with a double Spain/Monaco post, so read on!
Upgrades, Upgrades Everywhere
The Spanish GP is the first “local” race for the F1 teams which means teams bring their Hail Mary upgrades to this race. Teams have been upgrading since pre-season testing of course, but due to the logistic of the flyaway races, teams have to be smart with the parts they send. Anything in short supply, or anything that could be a risky upgrade, is usually left off the car until the European races where teams can send continued update parts every night if need be. Something not working the way you planned? Overnight a replacement! While some teams brought important updates to Azerbaijan (Force India for one brought a new floor to Baku), the big teams brought their first real updates to Spain.
Ferrari’s most noticeable change was their side mirrors. Ferrari has been pushing mirror development hard this season, being the first team to use a blown mirror to help direct air into the upper set of cooling intakes. For Spain, they moved the mirror mounts from the side pods to the Halo. They also added a winglet to each mirror for “support” purposes, though the FIA deemed them outside the spirit of the rules and they will be removed for Monaco. However the Halo mounted mirrors can stay and it’s safe to say Ferrari will keep working on this area of the car. Source Ferrari also brought a new upright that provided a better aerodynamic shape for the upper control arm. Mercedes and Toro Rosso pioneered a new suspension development in 2017 by moving the mounting points of both control arms higher on the upright. This allows for less turbulence in the underside of the car, improving the effectiveness of the floor and diffuser, but without further harming suspension geometry. For 2018, most teams have copied this idea. Ferrari is working to improve this concept even further, in this case looking to reduce the effect of suspension turbulence on the rear wing itself. Source McLaren brought the most eye opening update. Their Spain nose was all new, with a highly evolved and complex front wing, a clever nose, and a new cape. McLaren has made the flaps on the main plane smaller and more plentiful, likely to keep airflow better attached as it flows over the wing. The end plates and canards have also been replaced. But the big story is the new nose. The nose is now vented in multiple places, creating a blowing effect to funnel air to the floor. This coincides with the cape that does the same job. With the aero rules of 2017, teams have been looking for as many ways as possible to funnel air under the nose and directly to the floor. The cape was pioneered by Mercedes (surprise surprise), but other teams are copying the idea and incorporating it into their own cars. The whole point of capes and turning vanes under the nose is to funnel air to the floor and diffuser. Separating the Y250 vortex from the underbody airflow improves the effectiveness of the floor by separating the turbulent Y250 vortex (which is used to manipulate the wake of the front tire) from the clean air being fed to the floor. A modern F1 car makes around 60% of its downforce from the floor, so improving the airflow really makes a difference to the performance of the car. Source
Red Bull also brought major updates to its front and rear wings, its floor, and its barge boards. Mercedes continued to refine its suspension, adding winglets and deflectors to the control arms front and rear. However while Ferrari, McLaren, and Red Bull brought majors changes, Mercedes seemed to focus on refining the package it already had. This work showed as Mercedes was easily the fast team of the weekend and never seemed to be under threat from anyone else. Though to be fair, Mercedes was also the team to beat during pre-season testing in Catalunya. It wasn’t much of a surprise to see them top the charts consistently during the race weekend.