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F1 2015 first impressions

F1 2015 first impressions

Force India and Williams have given us our first taste of 2015 F1. William Tyson dissects the VJM08 and FW37 to find out what’s in store for tech this year.

Let’s start with the obvious place to look at: the nose. We suspected some time ago the appearance of the noses this year would again look strange to maximise the volume of air passing into the splitter region but they don’t look as bad as last year. A stub forms the nose tip whilst the main bulk of the nose is wider and narrower than previous years. This is to meet the tighter cross sectional area requirements and to increase the volume beneath the car.

These rule changes were conceived to prevent the ‘anteater’ appearance from returning. This has been problematic for the teams as the resulting increased blockage has put pressure on the aerodynamicists to find methods of feeding the centreline of the car with more air. The result is that there has been a bit of a performance loss although this is expected to be regained quite quickly as the new aerostructures are more understood.

Progress has already been made during the winter in terms of overall downforce – some say as much as three seconds per lap quicker than last year – so expect even further performance to come as the season goes on once an optimum nose solution is found for each car.

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You may note that the FW37 nose is significantly shorter than that on the VJM08. Crash tests are more stringent than ever for 2015 so Williams have done an impressive job to keep the nose as short as it is.

The longer nose on the Force India is advantageous for weight saving as the longer crash structure means that energy has a longer time to dissipate, allowing the composite engineers to use less material. In comparison to the Williams, the shorter nose solution is very good aerodynamically as its design emulates that of more recent years and is overall much higher up, so the aerostructures are more familiar to work with. However the shorter crumple zone means that as much as a few kilograms of additional material must have been added to pass the crash tests.

I see the path that Williams are taking as the optimal design but it really depends how much weight the teams can save elsewhere. The minimum weight limit has gone up to 701kg this year (up 10kg from 2014) which will have helped make a decision about which route to take. As a result of the constant weight saving – a common theme during last year – I expect the nose design to evolve as the teams get more room to play with.

There was some talk of Williams adopting the unibody front lower wishbone that Mercedes made use of last year, although this was later cast into doubt when an animation of the render spinning revealed the FW37 to have a conventional ‘A’ arm instead. I expect teams to adopt the Mercedes-style lower wishbone, though, as it provides a much cleaner surface for air to pass over around the inside of the front tyre.

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Further back on the FW37 render, we can see that the sidepod intakes are quite a lot smaller than those of the FW36 of last year. Generally the bodywork appears to be tighter, which is no surprise given that there is a much greater understanding about cooling the power unit and its related internals. We can assume that last year there was a bit of conservatism in this area, particularly from the customer outfits who had much less (or none at all) input into the powertrain. It is therefore safe to predict that we will see much tidier, tighter packaging to gain an aerodynamic advantage. An inlet has been added beneath the airbox for additional cooling although this is a more efficient solution than opening up the bodywork more.

Williams have retained gilled cooling outlets for 2015, although their position has been moved from the rollhoop region to near the cockpit side. This is more practical as it can be interchanged with either a blank panel or one with even larger gills for hotter races such as Malaysia and Singapore.

The rear wing endplates remain attached to the floor rather than using conventional pylons, as Williams used in 2014. I still believe this is the best solution aerodynamically as it provides an unobstructed path over the rear wing which not only reduces drag but also increases rear downforce. It’s heavier than a central pylon but with the weight limit going up further it should be easier to implement in 2015.

When the true cars are unveiled we can get a better understanding of the technical trends we will see this year. For now we can only speculate but it certainly looks to be another exciting year of development, especially given that the power units can be enhanced all year round.

Published courtesy of richlandf1.com



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