Silverstone upgrades inspected after the most recent Formula One event
Given the proximity of Silverstone to the majority of teams’ factories, the limited development at last weekend’s race was a surprise. Force India, Renault and Red Bull were the most active in terms of updates, while the likes of Williams and Ferrari focused on optimising the array of new parts they introduced in Austria.
Force India arrived at its home race with a significant aerodynamic update, focused on the VJM10’s front wing. While the endplate, cascade and arch set-ups were unchanged, a great deal of work has taken place on the mainplane and flaps. Previously, the team had run two different front wings depending on the track layout. The difference between the two centred around the upper flap, which was reduced in size for the medium downforce version, lowering skin friction drag, while the lower AoA led to decreased vortex drag.
For Silverstone, a new high downforce wing was introduced, featuring a single slot in the mainplane, as opposed to two in previous designs – a very similar development was introduced by Ferrari in Austria. This raises the maximum downforce potential of the wing, but reduces the consistency with which this is achieved thanks to the greater probability of airflow separation from a larger chord curved surface.
Meanwhile, the number of flaps has been increased to three, with the old upper flap being slotted across its full length and split into two. This will have the opposite effect to that outlined above. With its new wing, it appears that Force India is looking at how to maximise the its consistency, while maintaining as much downforce as possible.
There are two extremes of where airflow separation may occur – at the leading and trailing edges of the wing. Given that there is not a great deal of camber (i.e. curvature) on the wing, and that the leading part is at a relatively flat angle, stall (the phenomenon of significant downforce losses and drag increases resulting from flow separation) at the leading edge is not particularly likely. This allows the use of just one slot in the mainplane without a damaging loss of load consistency.
However, with the upper part of the wing, namely the flaps, featuring a more aggressive AoA, trailing edge stall is more likely, hence why the team has shortened the chord of curved surfaces here. In this way, Force India has minimised the possibility of airflow separation and stall by attacking its most likely area, while clawing back some lost downforce in the mainplane area.
Renault made some detail changes to its R.S.17 for Silverstone, focusing on the bargeboards and underbody. Changes to the underbody were worth 0.15s per lap, a significant improvement, although no images of this have become available as yet. New bargeboards arrived on Saturday morning – an extra element was added to their base, slightly outboard of the main two parts and similar to that employed by Ferrari.
This part’s function is fairly simple to understand – to direct air outboard, into the path of the front tyre wake, dissipating it and improving rearward aerodynamic performance. Adding the part further forward of the main element allows the team to tackle the wheel turbulence earlier than before, for the same purpose as above. Unlike the main bargeboard element, there will not be a strong vortex shed by the new part to control the wake, thanks to its small profile.
Williams endured another difficult weekend at Silverstone, again struggling for qualifying performance, but with more competitive race pace. This does not appear to have been the result of the developments introduced in Austria because even when the team reverted to the old parts, the high-speed balance seemed troublesome, in Austria at least.
However, the new parts do not appear to have provided the entirety of the gain promised by the team’s simulations given that split configurations were run in Britain – Massa ran the old airflow conditioner and trio of vortex generators, whereas Stroll used the new airflow conditioner and leading edge slat across the sidepod’s front part. The merits of each design were discussed in my last post. Both drivers ran the new bargeboards, nose pillars and aeroplane-shaped wings ahead of the sidepod intakes.
Also of note was the fact that both drivers ran the lower downforce front wing first introduced in Baku, with reduced chord upper flaps. Given that the FW40 carries over the aerodynamic efficiency philosophy of previous Williams cars and benefits from the Mercedes PU, it seems surprising that the team felt the need to reduce drag at the expense of front end downforce, so critical in the high-speed corners at Silverstone.
However, the team’s experience in Austria’s high-speed corners may have been the reason for using this wing. Whenever on-board shots were shown of the Williams cornering at high-speed there, the rear end seemed very loose, resulting in significant oversteer – in order to balance the car and provide the driver with more confidence, reducing front end load is a sensible solution.
For analysis on Red Bull’s new parts and more see www.formulaone21.wordpress.com