Technical review: Turkish Grand Prix

Red Bull were forced to make changes to their suspension

Red Bull were forced to make changes to their suspension

How did McLaren get on terms with Red Bull in Istanbul? F1 Fanatic guest writer John Beamer takes a look at the changes to the cars in Istanbul.

On the face of it the Turkish Grand Prix should have been an easy one-two for Red Bull.

The Milton Keynes-based outfit had almost a second a lap advantage in Spain and four-tenths on the tight streets on Monaco.

So how come there was less than two-tenths between Webber, the pole man, and Hamilton, number two?

Part of the answer is that Webber wasn’t the fastest man at Istanbul Park. Had Vettel’s roll bar not broken during qualifying, causing him to lock his left-front on both his Q3 laps, the gap would have been closer to four-tenths.

Still, this is an impressive recovery from the silver team.

How did McLaren gain four-tenths?

Part of the gain was due to Red Bull having to modify its car to satisfy the FIA scrutineers. That’s right – the suspension on the RB6 was borderline illegal and had been for three races.

At the front, the upper wishbone fairing (where it attaches to the monocoque) was heavily flared. The rules state that it should be uniform width to avoid being overtly used for aerodynamic gain. Another advantage of the flared wishbone is that it allows teams to put vanes on the floor to scavenge airflow under the nose and make the front wing more efficient. This is because the floor is allowed to shadow the suspension.

Red Bull also had problems with its rear suspension too. Any wishbone that is aerofoil shaped must be at less than a 5 degree incline to the floor. The pull rod obviously exceeds that angle so Red Bull had to revert to a traditional circular structure. Engineers in the paddock estimate that these changes cost Red Bull at least two-tenths.

OK, so how did McLaren find another two-tenths?

Over the last four years McLaren has shown that it has the fastest rate of development in the paddock. In 2007 and 2008 Ferrari started off with the better car only for McLaren to out-develop the Scuderia.

In 2009 the Woking-based outfit found two seconds in five months, turning a poodle into a greyhound. And so far this year McLaren is the only team to close the gap to Red Bull.

Again in Turkey the MP4-25 sported a raft of upgrades. The front wing saw some minor tweaks. The flared rear of the endplate was more flared and had a slot to let air bleed from the high-pressure venturi section to the outer part of the endplate. This helps push the air around the tyre as the flow under the wing has greater energy.

The rear wing also received an update as the team flew in its Canada-spec wing. The main difference was a more cambered main plane but twisting down at the endplates to reduce drag. This is ideal for the low downforce Montreal track and worked a treat in Istanbul too.

The sidepod vanes were also revised. The vane now buckles inwards at the floor to direct more air away from the undercut; it also juts out a little more towards the top. In this area there is a lot of turbulent flow from the front tyres so minute changes to the pod vanes can have a positive effect on aerodynamic performance.

They are even more important now the size of bargeboards have been restricted. Under the 2008 regulations bargeboards were used to seal the floor, but they under the new regulations they are far less effective than they used to be.

Didn’t Red Bull respond?

Yes, Red Bull also updated its front wing, adding a second inlet to the endplate, serving a similar purpose to McLaren’s slot. The pod vanes were also narrower.

However, the team has spent a lot of time trying to perfect its F-duct in anticipation of Canada, which requires a low drag configuration. Each team has its own interpretation of the F-duct which is heavily compromised by the chassis design (which is homologated).

The Red Bull implentation has an intake by the airbox which leads to three ducts – one to the cockpit ??and a Y-duct exiting between the the rear wing. When un-activated the air routes through the lower Y-duct between the rear and beam wing, where it won’t have much affect on performance.

When the driver closes the cockpit duct, more air is getting through the Y so the pressure change forces the air to take the upper route. This then exits through the sharkfin right between the main plane and flap causing the wing to sheds drag. Complicated, no?

Although the Red Bull F-duct appeared to work satisfactorily the team elected not to run partly because the drivers weren’t 100% comfortable with it.

This is a familiar theme among the teams who are trying to retrofit the device to their car. Mercedes are the latest team to publicly claim that the F-duct isn’t as effective as hoped.

For Mercedes this is partly because the team has elected to keep the razor fin on its engine cover rather than a shark fin. This means that air routes up through the rear wing endplate and then blows on to the main plane. Expect to see many constructors run the device run at Montreal come what may.

What was clear in Turkey is that in race trim there is little to choose between the Red Bulls and McLarens. However in qualifying, the lower centre of gravity of the Red Bulls, derived from the pull-rod suspension gives a significant advantage (with full fuel the CoG advantage is partly neutralised). This allows the RB6 to have better balance as well as make it easier to dial the tyres in.

And what about Ferrari?

Despite having a great car at the start of the season the Scuderia has failed to develop it quickly enough. The design team has spent a lot of time trying to perfect the F-duct, with limited success, and as a result other development has become secondary.

It was a similar picture last year when the Scuderia failed to integrate the double-diffuser as quickly as McLaren despite their vast technical resources. The team claims it has a significant upgrade in Valencia, where an extreme diffuser will be run (based on the Toyota design). Given the rate that the top two teams are developing it feel that like 2009 its going to be too little too late.

On to Canada

It’s great to have Montreal back on the calendar. Not only is it a super racing circuit which often produces races often chock-full of incidents, it also demands something different of the cars. As you’ve probably figured out from above the long straights with tight corners and hairpins suit a low drag high efficiency configuration.

Top speed is important so the Mercedes powerplant will help. Add in the F-duct and McLaren has to start as favourites. However, if Newey and team get their F-duct tuned in then we could be in for Istanbul Park II.

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52 comments on Technical review: Turkish Grand Prix

  1. sw6569 said on 6th June 2010, 12:09

    I love these articles, keep em coming!

    What I don’t really understand is why mercedes are using the razor fin. What are the advantages of this over a shark fin?

    • Sush Meerkat said on 6th June 2010, 12:15

      to improve the efficiency of the rear wing, more air slams into it that way, added downforce but I’m pretty sure it creates a load of drag at higher speeds.

      • RFB said on 6th June 2010, 23:44

        It’s probably not so much more air as much cleaner air that reaches the rear wing, improving its efficiency. It might generate more drag from the wing itself, but the reduction of drag from the roll-hoop it certainly even bigger.

  2. Sush Meerkat said on 6th June 2010, 12:12

    Wow so the Red Bull suspension was [i]illegal[/i], but not in a way everyone thought.

    Nothing in the article about Renault, I’m a sad meerkat.

    I believe Renault had some upgrades to the front wing, its starting to turn more and more into a Red Bull front wing.

  3. sheep said on 6th June 2010, 12:25

    Great article!

    The technical stuff is one of the best parts of F1 :)

  4. John H said on 6th June 2010, 12:34

    Thanks for this article John. I had no idea that RBR had to modify their suspension so much – makes you wonder why it took so long for the FIA to come down on them, especially for the elliptical pull rod being beyond 5 degrees to the floor.

    McLaren will be favourites next weekend, but I had a dream that Hamilton pulled out of the race on the warm-up lap last night – let’s see if it comes true.

  5. Tristan Rayner said on 6th June 2010, 13:00

    Hello John.

    Saw an interesting one on Twitter – I trust you’ve read the F-Duct explained in 2004 in a chemical engineering paper? http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/467/1/tesarv1.pdf

    Particularly heavy stuff :) Linked by Elliot Dason-Barber of Lotus.

  6. Ral said on 6th June 2010, 13:05

    Awesome information. Keep sharing these, good job :)

  7. JSC said on 6th June 2010, 13:16

    Guys, it’s possible that I’m missing something, but I dont understand why everybody (on all the websites) think that the McLarens will have a BIG advantage in Montreal because of the F-Duct (RW80). If I’m understanding the technology correctly then the device will function more effectively when the team is running a lot of ‘rear wing’… and so the reduction in drag initiated by the activated F-Duct becomes significant.

    But in the case of Montreal (or Monza), where all of the teams will run in low-drag configurations, shouldn’t that mean that the McLarens will enjoy less of a straight-line advantage than some of the high-drag circuits (like Istanbul)?

    Forgive me if I’m just being stupid but I really don’t get it.

    • Icthyes said on 6th June 2010, 14:17

      You have a point. But being able to kill the drag means McLaren can run higher downforce for the corners. Since the other teams will be running at lower downforce to create less drag, that’s why McLaren will have the advantage. Not only can they run relatively higher downforce for the corners and not sacrifice it for speed, the sheer efficiency of their system means they’ll have less drag on the straights than anyone as well!

    • sato113 said on 6th June 2010, 17:00

      true, but they’ll still be faster in a straight line no matter what circuit they’re on. so–> an advantage.

      • JSC said on 6th June 2010, 19:06

        And also RE Alec.
        I think I understand how the system works a bit, and I agree that the F-ducted teams should enjoy a speed advantage at Montreal, as they would on any track. My point is that I imagine this advantage should be lesser on a ‘low-drag’ circuit and not greater, which is what a lot of people are predicting. The fact that the cars are running less wing and as such are inducing less drag, by definition reduces the potential for a drag-reducing mechanism. I guess we’ll see.
        As a McLaren fan, I sincerely hope Lewis and Jens do well this weekend.

        Roll on Montreal.

  8. Mercedes lack of sharkfin is interesting. Seems it’s become nearly universal now, only them an Williams continue to be happy without it. An you have to wonder how happy. I wonder if McLaren will keep it’s shark fin next year when it’s no longer needed to store the F-Duct system. They always seemed quite against the system.

    I hope we can have Istanbul 2 next week, especially with a Redbull crash while there running 3-4, jk. McLaren would seem to have the car best suited to the track. Most powerful engine, most efficient gear box, best dialed in F-Duct. No turn 8 for the Bulls to escape. Wonder if the Bulls qualify front row then get overtaken by McLarens on the straights, Bulls failing to break away after qualifying in front might just be the story of the rest of the season.

    Ferrari’s Valencia update will be interesting, wonder if it puts them back in contention. An if it does, it seems doubtfull that they’ll hang on to their new pace, especially as they lost the advantage at the beggining of the season.

    • Icthyes said on 6th June 2010, 14:19

      The run to the first corner is pretty short, so I don;t think the Red Bulls would be beaten unless a McLaren qualifying behind it simply has a better start. They might have a stab into the hairpin or last corner, but they’ll have to stay close. That’s if Red Bull qualify on pole again!

      • Back straight is massive an the McLaren has a sharper front end, I agree about the unlikleyhood of a first corner pass, know the track quite well, but the McLaren was nearly overtaking the Redbulls after falling back massivley after turn 8 in Turkey, if they could nearly do it there, you’d have to say at least Lewis Hamilton has a good chance of it here.

  9. Icthyes said on 6th June 2010, 14:20

    Another great article John, one thing though, what are Force India’s chances of a good haul? They’re pretty good on low downforce.

    • John Beamer said on 6th June 2010, 22:42

      Will be interesting to see. Over the winter FI has tweaked its care for higher downforce but it should have good low drag characteristics. I still expect the top teams to do better. I think Ferrari might do better than they have done in recent races. I think the car is reasonably efficient and peak downforce isn’t important.

      • AK said on 7th June 2010, 3:54

        I think this could be the closest Q2/Q3 battle of the season thus far. Montreal is made up bursts of acceleration punctuated by slow corners, a bit like stretching out the Monaco circuit.

        As such, I expect the teams who were fast in qualifying there to be good here too but with the added proviso that team with a good top speed and/or a slippery car will also do well. In the first category are: RB, Renault, Ferrari, Mercedes, Williams; in the second category: McLaren, Force India.

  10. Alec said on 6th June 2010, 14:25

    JSC, the advantage McLaren have with the F-Duct on the majority of tracks is that it allows them to be more efficient ie reduce drag while increasing downforce. What they’ve done at Turkey, Barcelona etc is to crank on more rear wing than say the Red Bulls as they wont be penalised on the straights as the F-Duct reduces the drag when needed. Think of it like having an adjustable rear wing, cranked up higher for more grip in high speed corners in starting configuration then reduced for less drag on the straights.

    The advantage at Montreal is that all the cars will be on relatively low downforce/drag setups say 100kg on the rear wing, with the F-Duct they can start off with the 100kg of downforce like the rest of the field and then reduce it to say 50kg and get better straight line speed on the long straights. Ignore the accuracy of the numbers but they’ll still get less drag than a ‘low drag setup’ without. How much of an advantage remains o be seen over both those cars without a system and those with a lesser developed version.

  11. McLaren Mercedes Team extremely improved their car…fighting with the RB6′s a mile ahead of Ferrari and Mercedes GP.

  12. HounslowBusGarage said on 6th June 2010, 22:59

    Highly impressive analysis as always, John.
    Are you a racing ‘insider’?
    And do you really think that Ferrari are going to be playing catch-up for the main part of the season? Personally and if they are not more successful than they are now, I think they will abandon 2010 after Monza and work on 2011 from there.

    • John Beamer said on 7th June 2010, 0:02

      I’m certainly not an F1 insider but I’ve have done a lot of work in motorsport (on aero and vehicle dynamics – formula libre, karting, Hill climb, Formula Renault) in a few countries – but more as a hobby that seriously (not enough money in it).

      Recently I’ve started to spend more time writing while still doing occasional work in the field if something comes up that I think is interesting.

      My background is applied engineering mathematics and when I was at University I spend a lot of time doing student racing etc.

  13. wasiF1 said on 7th June 2010, 2:22

    I think it will be Mclaren in Canada as their F-duct will be very handy there, similarly they are the team at the time being seems to challenge the Red Bulls.

  14. spudw said on 7th June 2010, 4:25

    Keith, f1fanatic is epic. And insightful articles such as this (kudos to John) really set you apart from other F1 sites. Please keep them coming.

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