2010 F1 cars technical analysis (Part 2)

Posted on | Author John Beamer

Red Bull surprised many by sticking with their pullrod rear suspension
Red Bull surprised many by sticking with their pullrod rear suspension

F1 Fanatic’s technical expert John Beamer continues his look at the 2010 F1 car designs.

The 2010 F1 testing schedule seems shorter than ever. With just 15 days of running across four tests it doesn’t take much to upset a team’s tightly packed schedule. Throw in heavy rain and the testing scheme goes out of the window – simulating long runs on the slicks just isn’t possible.

As a result teams will need to use the test in Barcelona to do more aero calibration and long-run simulation. Ferrari or McLaren may bring new aero parts but expect most teams to reserve their upgrades for the season opener in Bahrain.

The last tech instalment focused on the 2010 technical themes and then explored the launch car for the big teams. In this second part we’ll explore the remaining teams: Williams, Sauber, Renault, Red Bull, Lotus, Force India and Virgin. Before we begin it’s worth taking a few minutes out on the emerging trends.

Who’s in the lead?

In short it’s impossible to know, especially given the far greater fuel load variance than in past years. However, my looking at lap times across the longer runs it’s possible to work out who has a nose in front.

More so than previous years outright pace isn’t necessarily the critical performance element. Consistency is important and so is tyre wear. A car that works well on low and high fuel and is easy on its tyres is a better bet than one that can has extraordinary single lap pace.

In terms of consistency Ferrari seems out in front. The Scuderia has had more running that other teams and over long runs the lap times are impressive. McLaren isn’t too far behind the the MP4-25 seems slightly harder on its tyres than the F10. A long run comparison at Valencia showed the two cars equally matched for the first 30 laps or so but then for the last 8 or so laps of the run the Ferrari continue to improve its lap times while the McLaren fell away badly (on the same tyres).

Red Bull seems to be up there too although Mercedes is a few tenths off the pace. Ross Brawn put this down to weight distribution issues. The 2010 car requires weight distribution 1-2% back compared to the 2009 design and the Brawn engineers may have got the initial calculations wrong – although not disastrously so.

Weight distribution – a clarification

Those of you who avidly follow the comments may have noticed a debate between me and a few readers about weight distribution of the 2010 cars. It’s probably worth my clearing up the issue.

Ever since the advent of the Bridgestone control tyres in 2007 teams have had to run a more forward weight bias. The need was compounded in 2009 with the introduction of slick tyres. In essence moving to slicks gave the front tyre more grip relative to the rears. In order to avoid overworking the rear tyres weight had to move forward. The greater grip at the front was also a cause of oversteer, which is why 2009 cars were reputed to ‘suffer from’ excessive oversteer.

The 2010 regulations attempt to address the weight issue by making the front tyres narrower. Also the longer wheelbase helps. A longer wheelbase car results in weight moving back. The other issue with a long wheelbase is that a heavier structure is required so there is less scope for moving weight around.

The net effect of these changes is that teams still face a significant challenge with keeping weight distribution forward. However, the optimum weight distribution is expected to be 1-2% further back than last year.

Sauber

BMW Sauber Ferrari is quite a mouthful, isn’t it. But boy, the car looks sleek.

The 2009 BMW suffered acutely for poor aerodynamics because of the adoption of KERS. The bulky sidepods required for cooling the KERS unit prevented sufficient air getting to the diffuser. This was compounded when the double diffuser became standard issue. Allied to that was a woeful belief in how to best manage airflow around the front wheels as the team persisted with an ugly box-like endplate until the Singapore Grand Prix in September.

By contract the new C29 looks like a solid machine, albeit without any revolutionary design innovation. The vastly reduced budget will likely further hamper aero performance and on-going development.

Head-on the car looks stunning – it is a simple design with a high nose showcasing the tight sidepods with a heavy undercut. The philosophy is to ensure that as much air gets under the nose as possible to feed the floor and diffuser. The heavy undercut in conjunction with the bargeboards help channel air around the sidepods to the double diffuser. The coke bottle zone to the double diffuser is extremely tight, which again reduces drag although being too extreme in this area could lead to airflow separation.

The C29 front wing is suitably developed and is an evolution of the F1.09 from last year. At its core the team does have a very strong engineering department as confirmed by a competitive 2008 package. I wouldn’t be surprised if the 2010 car started off well but it will probably suffer in the development race.

Renault

One thing you can say about Renault is that it is good to see the car’s classic yellow and black livery back. Aerodynamically the 2010 car is as conservative as the 2009 machine was unwieldy. The nose is the most striking part of the car and not for its sleek aerodynamic look but rather for its heavy-set appearance. The R30 looks slightly more elegant than the R29 and the intent is to try to create a venturi effect below the nose that should provide downforce.

The launch front wing is interesting. Outside the FIA mandated central section the main plane is raised before tapering towards the endplates. This reduces overall downforce (the ground effect is reduced) but creates a more consistent device particularly when cornering and in turbulence.

Initial reactions post-launch were that the Renault was one of the shorter cars. As a result the bodywork doesn’t look as tight as some of the other teams – particularly Ferrari and McLaren. Although the Enstone outfit hasn’t released wheelbase dimensions if true it would account for the more bulky packaging.

The one advantage of a shorter wheelbase is that it allows better optimisation of weight distribution, which could be important as the car must operate over a wide range of fuel loads. In particular the sidepods look bulky with significant curvature at the leading edge which may induce lift.

The most innovative thing about the R30 is its rear wing. Renault has adopted an M-shaped wing. The M shape optimises for the angle of the oncoming air but could result in transverse airflow which hampers performance. No doubt other teams are running simulations at base to work out whether it is a direction worth investigating.

Williams

Strangely, Williams has decided to radically overhaul its car despite having a reasonably good offering in 2009 – particularly in the early part of the season. The question at Didcot isn’t initial pace but rather development speed of the car.

Williams has raised the chassis and now has the ubiquitous Red Bull-style v-nose to both reduce lift on the top of the car and increase airflow clearance between the tyres. In addition between the front tyres there is a snow plough device albeit different to the McLaren interpretation. The Williams version rises from the base of the car and is designed to channel air to the floor and feed the diffuser. It is hard to see and is less overt than McLaren’s.

The FW32 is a good example of how the 2009 regulation changes failed to curb the use of bargeboards and pod wings. The boards are considerably larger than they were last year and also feature a sawtooth shape to create vortices which smooth airflow around the sidepods and effectively seal the floor. The 2009 rules defined areas where bargeboards weren’t permitted. Car designers simply changed the length and configuration of the sidepods which resulted in flow conditions sprouting up in regions not covered by these black out zones.

The other big change for Williams is the switch to Cosworth engines. We won’t know until the first few races how competitive the Cosworth power unit is but given that the Toyota engine was one of the more underpowered units on the grid the Cosworth shouldn’t be a downgrade. The more pressing issue is likely to be fuel consumption given the unit has had little development for the last four years.

Red Bull

Red Bull RB6

Red Bull RB6 pictures

In 2009 Red Bull vaulted from mid-table to top of the pack based on some inspired Newey design work. The pull-rod suspension and high, slender, innovative v-nose gave the RB5 a genuine performance edge which, once integrated with the double diffuser, turned into an invincible package.

The RB6 is based on the same strong foundation which means it would is likely to be a contender at least in the early stages of the season. To the surprise of many Newey has kept faith with the pull-rod suspension systems. The advantage of the pull-rod is that it connects to the lower part of the chassis and thus allows a slimmer coke-bottle zone, which is good for rear downforce – both wing and diffuser. The disadvantage is that there is less space for the double diffuser. A closer look at the RB6 diffuser shows it to be far less intricate than the McLaren’s.

The new car has retained the v-nose – in fact the 2010 incarnation is a far more aggressive version. This allows the underside of the nose to be v-shaped which improves front wing performance and better feeds the bargeboards and floor with air that has been less disrupted by the tyres. The bargeboards are quite large helping to seal the floor beyond the sidepods as well as feed the diffuser.

At the rear of the car there is a odd shaped central exhaust structure. This will blow fumes over the rear wing and will impact the aerodynamics, often for the worse. Typically the acceleration variance means that it is hard to get consistent airflow from the exhausts over the wing so teams have shunned this solution.

The key challenge for Red Bull this year is whether it can out-develop McLaren and Ferrari. The Milton Keynes-based outfit did a great job against (an impoverished) Brawn team so going up against the big guns could be different.

Virgin Racing

The VR-01 is the first car designed entirely with Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). Nick Wirth’s track record with the technology has been nothing short of amazing but going CFD-only in F1 is a risk.

The correlation between computer, track and wind tunnel are all critical to designing and developing the car, and by relying on one technology and not having much track time the odds of success are small.

Still the car doesn’t look that bad and has a nice livery. Most noticeable is the very long v-nose, which is more U than V shaped. The purpose is the same – (1) to contain air on the top of the chassis which reduces lift and (2) to create more space between the tyres to increase front wing efficiency.

The other noticeable feature is the relative simplicity of the front wing – it’s almost BMW F1.09-basic. It has a very long chord section capped with simple endplates. There are none of the raised winglets that adorn the RB6 for instance. Given the criticality of the front wing to overall aero performance it would be a surprise not see an upgrade early in the season.

The sidepods start off with a reasonably heavy undercut but soon fill out aft. Usually the undercut continues to the coke bottle zone which helps floor efficiency. It’s one thing designing the car with CFD but optimising the ancillary components to hone the aerodynamics will take time to get right.

The first few rounds of testing suggest the VR01 has serious reliability issues – hydraulics has been a problem since day one and despite ongoing assurances from the team engineers have yet to be solved. Aero performance could be the least of Virgin’s worries – Branson’s 2010 F1 experience will be different to his 2009 experience!

Force India

The VJM02 was a good car with low drag characteristics that suited perfectly the low downforce configurations of Monza and Spa. The task for the Force India designers was add a shade more downforce so it could challenge across a broader range of circuits.

Naturally the VJM03 is an evolution of the VJM02. The look of the car is similar – nose style, pod wings with integrated mirror, front wing, shark fin, vortex generators. Like McLaren the team has shunned the v-nose preferring a lower drag flat-nose.

The integrated pod-wing-mirror, modelled on the F60, first appeared last year and has been retained. The pod wings help shape airflow around the sidepods to the floor by calming the air coming off the front wheel. Look at a raised front view of the car to see the alignment of tyre to podwing. The integrated mirror is a neat solution that reduces drag albeit at the extent of driver visibility, but who cares what is behind you when overtaking is so hard.

It’s an interesting coincidence that all the Mercedes powered cars have odd-shaped airboxes. Force India’s is mounted on four pylons, which in theory should allow air to flow out more cleanly over the engine cover. Given the dawn of a few new teams in F1 and the extension of the point system this expect the VJM03 to score a few points this year.

Lotus

It’s good to see the Lotus name and the yellow and green livery return to Formula 1 even if it is a very different team to Colin Chapman’s outfit. Still the team is well-funded and has Mike Gascoyne on board who has close to 15 years of F1 experience. Many pundits predict Lotus to be the best of new teams.

From the front the car looks a little like the launch version of the RB5 albeit without the v-nose. The high slender nose results in a wide gap between the standard section of the front wing and the lowest point of the chassis which helps funnel air under the nose to the bargeboards and floor.

The front wing also appears highly developed (far more so that the VR01) with a number of tiered winglets and some flicks on the outside of the end plates. The flicks on the endplates control the downforce consistency of the wing. Whether they add much downforce is debatable especially given the complex feedback loops between the wheel and the wing.

Going aft all similarities with the Red Bull end. The car seems extremely boxy. The pod wings are angular rather sculpted, the engine cover is flat and the sidepod undercut is shallow. The lack of undercut means that it is harder for the bargeboard to work properly – the pressure differential between the leeward and windward side is less resulting in smaller vortices rolling off the top and bottom. The flat engine cover is also more likely to induce airflow separation which means the diffuser and rear wing will work less well.

Unlike Virgin Racing at least the car seems reliable having notched up plenty of laps during testing. Scoring points any time soon looks a long shot given the level of development of the car.

Final thoughts

As you read this the final testing in Barcelona is coming to an end. The faster corners of the Spanish Grand Prix circuit mean we’ll get a better read on true aero performance.

The reality, though, is we won’t know which team is on top until Bahrain. Even then it will take a few races to properly judge performance.

Remember the dog that was the MP4-24? That car did well in Bahrain last year, struggled massively at Barcelona and Silverstone, and was winning races by the end of the championship. This is a snapshot of a development race that never stops.

Read more: 2010 F1 cars technical analysis (Part 1)