Guest writer John Beamer reviews the technical updates from Singapore and looks ahead to the next round at Suzuka.
The Marina Bay circuit is one of highest downforce tracks and the first since Hungary where cars ran in a high downforce configuration.
The next tracks all place high demands on downforce, meaning Singapore typically represents the final major upgrade point of the season as the leading teams also turn an eye to 2011.
McLaren had a new front wing, nose cone and floor. The floor wasn’t raced due to reliability concerns but should be ready for Japan.
The new wing is a work of art featuring an evolution of the split cascade introduced at Silverstone. If you recall McLaren was trying to separate the airflow either side of the tyres by placing a fence inboard of the endplate that acts like a second endplate.
This splits the airflow and allows the MP4-25 to optimise the airflow depending on downstream need – i.e. manage the wing/wheel interaction or feed the floor. The split cascade is an innovative solution and no doubt other teams are investigating it for their 2011 cars.
The latest wing takes the Silverstone concept a step further and physically separates the inner and outer cascades. Since the current round of tech regs was introduced in 2009 McLaren has eschewed the traditional cascade (imagine a miniature rear wing attached to the inside of the endplate) in favour of a wave-type element that continuously stretches further inboard.
Now the outer part reverts to a Red-Bull style cascade and a second cascade protrudes from the main plane and sweeps across to the nose cone. A closer look at the outer cascade shows quite a steep profile. This creates a lot of downforce. The inner cascade has a shallower profile and to ensure that airflow feeds the floor more effectively.
The MP4-25 nose had a small update too. The snow-plough, above the central section of the front wing, has acquired a second element to generate downforce. Watch out to see if McLaren retains this for the remaining races or if it was just to eke out maximum downforce for Singapore.
Publicly, Ferrari announced that Signapore represented its last major update and from here on in on minor changes will be bought to the car. Given Alonso is in the thick of a Championship fight that may well be bluster but the F10 only had a few minor visible changes (to the floor and front wing) for Marina Bay.
Ferrari moved back to a three-element front wing as it gives more consistent downforce – the gap between the elements allows air to work the wing harder without separation and stall.
The wing was the same as that used in Silverstone but with the outboard endplate fence moved aft. This is either to tune the wing to the lower speed Marina Bay circuit (although the Monaco endplate fence was reasonably forward) or because the CFD/wind tunnel figures suggested that moving the fence back would optimise flow to the rear of the car.
Although Ferrari announced changes to the floor any alteration was either internal or very subtle as close up photographs yielded few clues to anything new.
Interestingly, Ferrari opted not to run their F-duct – a surprise given the high downforce nature of the track – but indicative that Ferrari’s device isn’t as efficient as some of the others’ in the paddock.
Unlike the Scuderia, Red Bull pronounced that it would continue to bring updates to the RB6 at every race. So much for focusing on the 2011 car – there is definitely a ‘win now’ mentality in Milton Keynes.
Like Ferrari, Red Bull brought an updated front wing and floor in addition to a new rear wing. The slot just fore of the rear tyres has been re-profiled and enlarged. This routes air inside the rear tyres to increase flow over the diffuser. The slot draws air from above the floor and creates a vortex, in effect trying to seal the diffuser from the turbulent air created by the tyre.
Throughout the weekend we saw some great footage from the front wing camera of the splitter. The tea-tray featured a series of lumps across its length and the stay that fixes the splitter to the chassis was pointed rather than flat.
No doubt these changes were to ensure compliance with the updated load tests which can now be applied at any point across the splitter’s length, indicating that Red Bull simply strengthened the splitter for Monza and the Singapore version represents a more definitive solution.
The RB6 featured a new front wing with another slot carved into the endplate. This allows air to seep from high to low pressure areas keeping it energised and preventing separation. This new slot was more towards the front of the wing just before the multitude of cascades in an attempt to create a less pitch sensitive wing.
Finally Red Bull also brought a new blown rear wing. Two ducts have been carved into the main element that gathers air which exits from a slot carved on the underside of the main plane. This increases downforce and is similar to McLaren’s blown wing which has been run since China.
Renault, Mercedes, Williams
As is expected these days Renault arrived with another new front wing. The footplate was wider and the endplate elements were more curved.
From the comfort of your armchair it is not easy to appreciate just how much performance teams bring to the cars during the season. What seem like random tweaks here and there add up to seconds per laps. James Allison, Renault’s technical director, reckons if the R30 in its current guise would lap Bahrain 1.7s quicker if it returned there!
Although Mercedes has switched the majority of resources to its 2011 challenger it is still bringing updates to the W01. This makes sense because the regulations for 2011 aren’t dissimilar (save the double diffuser change).
The W01 now spots turning vanes just behind the nose. These vanes serve two functions: they stop dirty air from the tyres polluting the section under the nose and they help manage air to the floor and sidepods better. The vanes are obviously featuring in the minds of the 2011 design team.
Williams is also worth a quick mention as the Grove-based outfit introduced a reasonably innovative front wing, albeit a logical extension to its previous version.
The endplate vanes and cascade are more deeply integrated resulting in an endplate fence that has two horizontal elements protruding at its top on the inner part of the fence (and the original outer fence on the footplate has been deleted). There is then a second vertical fence, supported by a small stay, and another horizontal element reaching further inboard.
Next up is Suzuka in Japan. It’s a great track that features a number of challenging high-speed corners, where it is easy to make an error. It’s more like a Silverstone than a Spa – there are lots of fourth and fifth-gear corners that in theory will suit the Red Bulls down to the ground.
It goes without saying that the RB6 will be the car to beat. The battle for second-fastest should be interesting. The F10 is a consistent car and, save Turkey, has done well at all circuits (especially since the exhaust-blown diffuser has been introduced).
However, the Ferrari’s strengths are braking and traction from slow corners – and Suzuka isn’t the most demanding of tracks on brakes. McLaren has shown enough high downforce performance to be a threat. Also the Woking-based outfit will bring the second part of its Singapore upgrade which should further close the gap. All things considered Alonso should be happy with a high-points finish – Brazil and Abu Dhabi will suit his car better.
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