F1 Fanatic guest writer John Beamer looks at the technical developments from the Singpaore Grand Prix.
As the end of the season draws near some teams, particularly those in the midfield, begin to turn their technical resources to 2010. Indeed Ferrari has already done so and given that the 2009 constructors’ championship is a Rubens Barrichello certainty (it is the Constructors’ that dictates how much money the FIA bestows on each team) expect every other team to be doing only rudimentary work on their 2009 cars from this point on.
Singapore is tight ‘point and squirt’ circuit with few-to-no high speed corners. Cars with strong mechanical grip and able to ride the bumps and kerbs were in order. It’s no surprise that Lewis Hamilton romped home to the victory. Generally high downforce was required, which saw teams revert to their Valencia spec after two relatively low downforce races (Spa and Monza).
As per my last technical update innovation around the endplates are important for generating downforce and managing the wheel-wing interaction. For Friday practice, McLaren trialled a radical triple endplate concept with the top lip curling over the top plate and forming two channels in the mid-region. This creates a venturi which spawns a vortex to manage wheel drag.
This vortex effectively blocks the freestream from interfering with the tyre. McLaren tested a similar design at Valencia and Spa so either the concept isn’t quite right yet or it is part of the 2010 car. To repeat-test it McLaren must believe there is mileage in this particular development path.
McLaren kept up its development across the car introducing a new symmetric diffuser (replacing its asymmetric version) and updating the sidepod vanes. These vanes with attach to the floor and sport a second element. This vane helps keep the air around the sidepod undercut attached, which also increases the sealing effect of the floor and thus improving stability of the car at the rear. The second vane allows the air to be worked a little harder at the expense of drag. Net aero efficiency will increase.
Despite being on the precipice, BMW launched what amounted to a B-spec car this weekend. The changes included a new front wing, radically undercut sidepods, a new diffuser/floor, and changes to the bargeboards in the mid-region. The car was a major improvement – okay, so BMW only scored one point, but it put in a much strong showing that at Valencia, the last high-downforce track.
The team adopted the now-required double endplate front wing. BMW’s old ‘box’ solution was the least elegant on the grid. It was the brute force approach designed to divert air around the tyres. As explained above the double endplate combines that forceful approach with the use of vortices to help manage the tyres. As a result the top-plate has been deleted to allow the vortices to be more usefully directed
The F1.09 was designed as a KERS car, which severely compromised aero. One of the consequences was the large, square sidepods that restricted airflow to the coke-bottle zone. This also compromised BMW’s development of the double diffuser as insufficient high-speed air was funnelled over the top of the diffuser hole meaning the pressure above it was high making the device less efficient. That it has taken until Singapore to rectify these issues mean the team has fallen behind in general aero tweaks.
It goes to show how one slip can wreck an entire car and, quite possibly, compromise future cars. Just look at Renault’s inability to claw back ground lost in 2006/7 despite only minor modifications (control tyres being most important) to the regulations in that time.
Red Bull reverted to its wide duck-billed nose which creates more downforce at the front at the expense of drag. The team deemed this as an unnecessary trade off for the low downforce tracks but at Singapore downforce is king. Red Bull also introduced a new end plate with a wider footplate and a larger sub-elements conjoining the endplate.
Although the wide footplate reduces the effective span of the main wing it allows the associated vortex to be larger, which seals the underside of the wing more effectively. This is the development path McLaren progressed in 2006/7 to good effect when it introduced super wide footplates. The larger sub-elements are part of an increasing trend to maximise downforce generation across the outer part of the front wing.
It was interesting to note that both Red Bulls suffered sever brake degradation – something we haven’t seen at other circuits. Part of the reason is that in an attempt to extract more speed the team compromised brake cooling, which in the case of Webber was a trade-off too far.
Many other teams brought updates to Singapore but these were mostly minor evolutions of the Valencia package. Brawn, in its own words, claimed that it had a ‘significant update’ although apart from a tweak to the front wing nothing superficially changed. Similarly other teams, such as Toyota, Williams, Renault have turned more attention to their 2010 cars and had fewer visible changes for Singapore.
From now on in expect that to be par for the course.
Read more: Technical analysis: 2009 so far
Singapore Grand Prix
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- Singapore Grand Prix in pictures
- Alonso praises Briatore after podium
- Singapore Grand Prix result
- Championship standings after Singapore
- Rate the race: Singapore Grand Prix