John Beamer’s F1 tech file: Singapore

Posted on | Author John Beamer

Renault used a revised, squarer front wing at Singapore
Renault used a revised, squarer front wing at Singapore

John Beamer, editor of F1-Pitlane, takes a look at the teams? technical developments from the Singapore Grand Prix.

The Singapore Grand Prix couldn?t have provided a more stark contrast to Monza two weeks ago. The tight, twisty street circuit snaking its way around Marina Bay called for a high downforce set-up, very different to the low downforce trim run in Italy.

The various appendages that were deleted for Monza were reattached ?ǣ indeed many teams showcased new parts even as they prepare for the radically different aerodynamic demands 2009 will bring.


Front wings were set up for maximum downforce. Large rear flaps were the order of the day, so it was no surprise to see Ferrari run its nose hole. The hole allows high pressure to bleed from underneath the nose which improves the efficiency of the front wing.

Many have pondered why other teams have yet to adopt this innovation. There are three reasons: (1) costly crash testing is required (2) slimmer nosed cars e.g., McLaren, physically cannot have holes (3) the downforce gain is, at best, minimal (as BMW?s alleged rejection attests).

Nose fins (aka Dumbo ears/wings) were back in force. Interestingly Red Bull opted to join the Dumbo club in Singapore. Ironically, for those into F1 aesthetics, the nose fins rather suited the car as it now looks more bull like. These nose fins produce next to no downforce but condition flow off the front wing to help add grip at the rear.

Front wing

Williams\' front wing at Monza (left) and Singapore (right)
Williams' front wing at Monza (left) and Singapore (right)

Generally speaking square-jawed front wings tend to produce slightly more downforce than their rounded brethren but are more susceptible to ride-height variations, which can be an important factor at a bumpy street track.

However, to prove that aerodynamics is almost more of an art than a science, Renault opted for a square-jawed rear flap while Williams moved to a more rounded version. The moral of the story is that what suits one car doesn?t necessarily suit another.

Rear wing

Singapore saw the return of high downforce rear wings. Perhaps the most dramatic innovation was from McLaren who adopted an aggressive saw-toothed gurney along the mid-section of the trailing edge of the rear wing.

A gurney flap boosts downforce by increasing the effective camber of the wing but at the cost of drag. In technical lingo a rotating separation bubble forms behind the gurney which pulls local airflow away from the rear wing. The serrated gurney sets up a series of micro-vortices ?ǣ in theory this cuts drag by imitating a full gurney but the extreme nature of the McLaren solution suggests it may aid downforce by reducing separation at the trailing flap. We?d need sight of the computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to know for sure.


McLaren\'s pod fins at Monza (left) and Singapore (right)
McLaren's pod fins at Monza (left) and Singapore (right)

McLaren brought new pod fins to Singapore. These fins extended a further 10cm forward than previously to the benefit of rear downforce and cooling. Pod wings split the flow from the front of the car preventing dirty air from polluting the rear wing. The pod wing slit was also extended to equalise pressure across the wing, which prevents vortices from harming downforce.

Other teams also enhanced their flip-ups and chimneys. BMW, for instance, added an extra flip-up behind the chimney to try to capture every ounce of extra downforce.

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