John Beamer from F1-Pitlane looks at the technical tweaks from Fuji.
In contrast to the tight corners and slow speeds of the Marina Bay circuit in Singapore, Fuji Speedway, with its 1.5km start-finish straight, puts a premium on a low drag car. Although over 80% of the corners are low speed and would typically demand a high downforce set-up, the associated drag leaves drivers extremely vulnerable to overtaking into turn 1.
To manage these trade-offs teams optimised lower efficiency, higher drag parts without switching into full low drag mode as demanded by somewhere like Monza.
Also as F1 circus enters the twilight of the 2008 season innovation is starting to tail off as teams focus their developments efforts on 2009 and the raft of new regulations that must be mastered.
So what technical innovations were on show?
Front and nose
Toro Rosso came to Fuji with nose fins. This is no surprise given the shared development resource with its sister team, Red Bull. Red Bull ran the nose fins in Singapore and the Toro Rosso implementation was remarkably similar.
To recap, these fins condition air flowing over the nose of the car and redirect it to the rear wing increasing overall mass flow, which helps downforce. Despite the need for less drag no team deleted their nose fins suggesting that they are reasonably efficient at generating downforce and also are useful in tuning the overall balance of the car.
Many wonder why Ferrari has not elected to adopt nose fins. The F2008 nose cone is more raised than others in the paddock, which makes the fitting either a bridge wing or nose fins tricky and less effective. Interestingly the trend over the last few years has been to lower the nose cone because when raised (although structurally more sound) air flowing below the nose and over the front wing is block which harms front wing efficiency.
Renault is the one team that visibly keeps on innovating and it brought a revised sidepod package to Fuji. The radiator inlet was more tapered than previously partly as the cooling requirements are lower than at other tracks.
Moreover, the narrower sidepod structure channels a higher volume air around the side of the car to the coke bottle zone, which helps pressure recovery of the diffuser. Air flows faster over the diffuser, hence is lower pressure and the adverse pressure gradient that the diffuser must work against is reduced. Downforce is increased with little increase in drag.
That Renault is aggressively developing its car while other midfield teams such as BMW are focusing efforts solely on 2009 explains the shifting fortunes of the two teams.
Toyota slightly revised its rear wing by deleting the central pillars which were mostly for structural purposes. Given the lower drag nature of the circuit the wing was run at a slightly shallower angle resulting in less loading. One big benefit of removing the pillars is that air flowing beneath the wing is less disturbed.
Similar to Renault’s solution this helps air flow faster at the rear of the car, which not only helps rear wing efficiency (blocked air reduces downforce and causes drag) but also helps pressure recovery above the diffuser.