F1 Chinese Grand Prix tech Analysis as cars entered with new upgrades
The 2017 Formula One development race promises to be the most exciting in years, as the less restrictive aerodynamic regulations allow greater improvement for the same resources. Such is the speed of development that starting with a strong car, like Mercedes and Ferrari currently have, is no guarantee of the ultimate prize. Updates were on show in China from both Williams and Sauber, while the Red Bull drivers differed significantly on their rear wing designs.
On the FW40, the canard on the front wing endplate has been doubled in length, which will improve its performance in two ways. Firstly, the higher angle of attack of the new part will create a larger pressure differential either side of it, raising the strength of the vortex shed at the outer edge of the part.
This stronger vortex will work together with the outwardly shaped endplate to draw as much air outboard of the front tyre, in order to reduce drag and improve rearward aerodynamic airflows thanks to lower turbulence. It is interesting to note that the team is trading off different ways in which to reduce drag. Raising the strength of the vortex, a high energy airflow, will raise air resistance, but a reduction in the air colliding with the front tyre more than negates this.
Sauber has been one of the most active teams so far this season in terms of updates, as it feels its best chance of points will come before the European season, when power unit manufacturers update their products while the Swiss team is stuck with last year’s Ferrari unit. A detail part was added to the C36 for China.
The addition of the aeroplane wing-shaped fin before the sidepod will condition the airflow in the same way as a similar part on the Ferrari SF70H. Just like any wing, there will be a pressure differential either side of the part, which will cause the shedding of a vortex at the wing tip, as high pressure air from below the part moves towards the lower pressure upper surface. From the image above, it is clear that the vortex produced is heading towards the sidepod inlet. This rotating airflow, with a low pressure core, will draw in surrounding air as it reaches the intake, which will increase the flow of air into the sidepod for improved cooling efficiency.
Red Bull’s RB13 requires a significant chassis improvement to compete with Mercedes and Ferrari, and judging by the fact that its drivers ran different rear wing designs in competitive sessions, a degree of aerodynamic uncertainty remains, unlike on the W08 and SF70H.
Ricciardo clearly ran with a more aggressive rear wing, which features a higher angle of attack for greater downforce. This results from a larger pressure differential between the upper and lower surfaces of the mainplane/flap compared to the version run by Verstappen. However, this comes at the cost of greater vortex and skin friction drag, which probably put pay to the Australian’s chance of beating his team-mate to the podium. The difference may be due to Ricciardo in particular struggling with the car’s identified lack of rear downforce, evident during his spin in Melbourne qualifying.
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