Analysis of new F1 car upgrades after Bahrain race and testing event
Over the course of the Bahrain GP weekend and test, a variety of new parts were added across the grid, with the focus inevitably being on Ferrari’s new front wing, given its championship position. However, Force India actually arrived with the largest update package, consisting of alterations to its front wing, turning vanes, bargeboards and airflow conditioners – a selection of these are covered below.
Ferrari continued its strong form in Bahrain, especially in race trim, aided by a new front wing. The main change consisted of a slot being placed across the centre of the mainplane, and this marks a significant change in aerodynamic philosophy from the title contenders.
Previously, Ferrari had used a very large mainplane, with the lower number of slots in the wing increasing its peak downforce. Adding a slot splits the wing profile into smaller curved surfaces, increasing the certainty of airflow attachment for improved downforce consistency. This is achieved as air from above one element feeds the underside of the next element. Despite reducing the maximum downforce production of the car, the better overall car balance will raise driver confidence.
Renault once again displayed strong one lap pace in Bahrain, but their struggles in race conditions were clear to see, with both drivers dropping back from their starting positions, despite retirements. The problem appears to be related to overheating the rear tyres and suffering from excessive thermal degradation. In a bid to address this weakness, new parts were trialled during day one of the post-race test.
In addition to a new front wing flap design, the blown front axle concept was reintroduced to the R.S.17 after a brief outing during the first pre-season test. This philosophy ejects some air entering the front brake duct through an opened front axle, which directs the front tyre wake further outboard of the rear of the car. As a result, the possibility of turbulent airflow disturbing the low pressure region under the floor is reduced, improving average rear downforce. Over one lap, new tyre grip can be used to overcome rear end instability, but as the tyres wear, this becomes increasingly difficult, leading to greater sliding and a downward spiral in terms of tyre temperatures. This development should improve the performance of the R.S.17 in race trim, giving way to higher points scoring positions.
After finding the Aerodynamics of the VJM10 were performing at a lower level than expected, due to correlation issues between wind tunnel/CFD and track, Force India has introduced its first major upgrade of the season in a bid to rectify the car’s issues. However, even these updates appear not to have worked as expected, with the team’s qualifying performance its worst of the season so far. With regards to the bargeboards, Force India has raised the number of slots in them from four to nine, following a similar philosophy to Mercedes. As mentioned above, in reference to Ferrari’s front wing, this will improve the consistency of the part.
One of the main weaknesses of the VJM10 has been a lack of rear downforce, but this development should improve this area of the car. By ensuring that the bargeboards will deal with front tyre wake in a greater variety of conditions, the wake/turbulent air will be less likely to decrease the performance of the floor and diffuser by passing under the car. As a result, maximum rear downforce will be achieved more often.
Lastly, changes have been made to the leading edge slat around the sidepod intake as well as the front wing. Firstly, the slat has been halved in length, which is an update probably aimed more at drag reduction than anything else. This part improves the attachment of flow to the sidepod’s surface to prevent pressure drag rising, but clearly, reducing the profile of the slat will lower skin friction drag. In this way, Force India is trading off two drag reduction methods. Secondly, the team raced with a lower downforce front wing, originally brought to the Australian GP, for the first time this season.
Bahrain is the most drag penalizing track of those visited so far, and with Force India having been too conservative with its cooling design, drag rises in that area had to be offset to the detriment of a strong front end. The surface area and angle of attack of the new wing are lower, which will reduce skin friction and vortex drag. The lower downforce front wing may help the drivers with car balance, complementing the weak rear end on the VJM10.
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