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 ?é?áand 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. JuanFanger said on 7th June 2010, 8:51

    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.

    John – What makes you so sure that Vettel would have been so much quicker in Q3? The finger twirler was quicker than Webber in the race after the latter was told to turned his engine down, but only marginally so in Q2.

    • John Beamer said on 7th June 2010, 10:53

      I can’t recall the exact detail but I think Vettel had 2-3 tenths on Webber going into S3 of his first qualifying run. I just extrapolated that, perhaps wrongly.

  2. Pablo said on 7th June 2010, 9:03

    Guys can anyone answer me this.

    How can there suspension be close to illegal? Either it is or it isn’t?

    Also if it was as was kind of hinted in the article then how come it took them 3 odd races to pick it up?

    Especially how come another team like mclaren or the like didn’t spot it either?

  3. Excellent article John, and continuing kudos to Keith for the site.

    No wonder I spent more time reading stuff here than on Bernie’s mouthpiece website, especially when something as commercially self-aggrandising this is considered “headline news”…

  4. shinronin said on 7th June 2010, 15:31

    hi john, thanks very much for the article. i am curious, however, about your sources for the changes RB had to make to their suspension. i didn’t see any mention of it on any other f1 website or blog. did you get this information from the scrutineers themselves?

    and i agree with Pablo: from years past, be it ferrari’s magic barge boards or movable floor or toyota’s movable rear wing, i really i don’t understand how teams are allowed to run with questionable parts for so long.

    • John Beamer said on 8th June 2010, 4:33

      I think it is widely known about the Red Bull suspension issue. I heard it from a source I have in the paddock – it was also widely reported on Autosport as well.

      • shinronin said on 8th June 2010, 18:17

        hi john, i think RB’s pull rod design is widely known, but the questionable legality of their suspension was news to me and i follow f1 news very, very closely.

        regardless, kudos for the insight and thanks for the article. it was quite a revelation. *thumbsup*

  5. KingPower said on 7th June 2010, 16:18

    Brilliant work.

    I wonder about the fuel angle, which was not addressed. I understand Turkey is high-consumption but I wonder if another upshot of the F-Duct is that it allows VMM to carry less / use more fuel in the race, providing there are long straights. The McLarens were immediately climbing all over the RBRs from the lights in Turkey, which I found very surprising, even as close as qualifying was. Combined with the better engine efficiency (rumored), this may be the proximate source of their Turkey race pace.

    This fuel advantage would not appear in qualifying obviously, and as the cars get closer in performance, I expect we will see VMM get a clear lead in race pace before they get a pole position.

  6. qazuhb said on 8th June 2010, 1:51

    When will everybody start to acknowledge that Hamilton’s Turkish win was only due to the fact that for the first time in the season I didn’t choose him as a winner in the Predictions Championship?

  7. Chaz said on 9th June 2010, 14:58

    Thanks for this update. F1 never ceases to amaze me in terms of its development wars…

  8. sato113 said on 6th June 2010, 17:01

    yeah that’s what he meant…

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