Ferrari’s unusual approach to F1′s new nose rules

F1 technology

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Shanghai International Circuit, 2014If nothing else, the 2014 F1 regulations have at least made it easier to distinguish one car from another.

This is chiefly thanks to the revised nose regulations, where designers have explored creative means of satisfying the FIA’s demand for lower and theoretically safer noses.

Good F1 car design starts with the front wing. This is because an F1 car works as an aerodynamic system – the rear of the car is designed with the front in mind.

The flicks, fins and vanes on the front wing manipulate the airflow in specific way to maximise air flow to the floor, around the sidepods and to the diffuser. Ferrari, who have tended to lag behind their rivals when it comes to aerodynamics, have some interesting approaches to this challenge.

What the rule book says

For 2014 the front wing width was reduced from 1,800mm to 1,650mm, chiefly to reduce the risk of carbon fibres slicing tyres open in the chase to the first corner.

Significant changes were also made to the nose, the tip of which must meet a minimum height. Further rules restrict what designers can do with the rest of this structure.

The area 50mm behind the tip must be centred at 185mm above the bottom of the stepped floor (which is known as the reference plane). This nose area must be contained between 135mm-300mm above the reference plane. In addition the cross-section must be exactly 9,000 square mm, but its shape is not restricted.

Furthermore, to prevent excessively arched noses, the FIA defined an exclusion zone which designers may not use. This zone is the area above the maximum nose tip height (300mm) and the front bulkhead height (650mm).

Finally, the length of the nose can not be shorter than front wing centre section and can extend forwards beyond the front wing.

Front wing workings

Jenson Button, McLaren, Shanghai International Circuit, 2014Ferrari and Mercedes have adopted distinctive and similar solutions to the challenges posed by these rules. The illustration above shows what the Italian team have done with their F14 T.

Besides meeting the technical regulations, designers aim for the following objectives when designing the front wing and nose: generating downforce, controlling the airflow to the rear of the car and balancing front and rear downforce.

In years past ensuring the rear of the car was properly fed with air was the main objective. As air works its way over the chassis to the diffuser the risk is that it stalls (similar to an aeroplane) because the air flow speed is too low. Raising the nose is one way to ensure that air ‘hits’ the car later and is easier to manipulate. This has been the dominant design trend in recent years.

One problem with high noses is that they don’t create downforce. But as long as the car isn’t saturated with rear downforce then it isn’t too much of a problem. Although exhaust blown diffusers previously resulted in a rapid increase in rear downforce, this was mostly in low speed corners where rear traction was limiting factor.

Ferrari’s letterbox

Ferrari nose, 2014

Many of the cars with ‘finger’ noses are trying to recreate the high nose philosophy. A look at the McLaren or Toro Rosso illustrates the concept nicely with the nose cone arched to maximise airflow underneath it.

Ferrari have gone in a different direction and have made the nose ‘downforce positive’. The nose and wing form a letter box shape (see (1) on the diagram), which expands behind the leading edge of the nose.

The nose tip is at minimum point (135mm) above the reference plane and its thickness conforms with FIA’s cross-section requirements. The area behind the nose acts as a venturi tunnel and it is this that creates downforce.

Air is forced through the letterbox nose at high speed and then expands in to the area behind it (2). It is similar to how a diffuser or ground-effect car works. Bodywork extends down from the nose section (below the Kaspersky Lab sponsorship) to enhance the diffuser effect and also to prevent air that is pushed over the top of the nose from spilling in to this area.

Given the mantra in recent years that higher noses are better, many ask what have Mercedes done to build a similar design but with a higher nose? The assumption is that Ferrari have messed up – but it isn’t necessarily the case.

Ferrari likely creates more downforce with its contraption than the W05. The W05 nose is slightly narrower and higher than Ferrari’s and is positioned at the FIA mandated 185mm above the reference plane. If you look closely you can see the shape of the front wing mounts change, which is to comply with the FIA’s cross-section requirements

Dealing with the wheels

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Shanghai International Circuit, 2014The flaps and cascade obviously produce downforce. Depending on how you count, the Ferrari front wing has up to six flaps, but many of these are slots in a continuous structure. The slots allow air to bleed through to the underside of the wing which adds energy to this flow. This energises the air and prevents it from stalling, which harms downforce. The slots actually cut overall downforce but deliver more consistent performance, which is more important from a driver’s perspective.

A big factor in front wing design is managing the wheel-wing interaction. The tyre not only presents a large surface area, which increase drag, but also rotates ‘pushing’ air towards the front wing. Again careful design is needed to ensure the wake coming off the endplates and cascades interacts with the wheel in the right way to prevent this turbulent air hurting performance.

One technique is to shape the endplates and cascades to push the air outboard of the wheel. With the narrowing of the front wing for 2014 this has meant significant changes to shape of the cascade structure. The curled structure by the ‘V-Power’ insignia on the cascade (6) of the F14 T serves precisely this purpose. Before the season some thought it may make sense to direct airflow inside the tyres as was done before 2009 when the front wing was much narrower. However, none of the teams have gone this route.

The endplate itself contains some slots and a number of curved structures around the footplate. The slots (7) serve a similar purpose to those in the front wing and help air transition from outside the endplate to underneath the wing. This creates a vortex that helps pulls air around the outside of the tyre. The footplate curves (8), which are either side of the endplate, are also designed to create an capture vortices. If one were to look at the airflow CFD traces it would likely show that all these vortices roll up in to one larger, more powerful vortex.

The Y250 vortex

The outer part of the front wing is the most aerodynamically intricate part of a modern F1 car. The various cascades and flaps produce downforce but also set up the airflow regimen along the rest of the car. This is done by creating a series of vortices and ‘squirting’ them to areas of the car that are critical for performance.

A vortex is twisting mass of fluid – think a whirlpool – and is easily created by allowing high pressure air to ‘fall’ into a zone of lower pressure. This happens naturally at any flap. Typically air on the top side of the flap is at a higher pressure and when this spills over the flap it twists and creates a vortex.

It turns out that vortices are very robust fluid structures and once formed take a while to break down. Moreover smaller vortices and eddies in the air can be absorbed by a larger vortex cleaning up the airflow profile around the car. It is these features that make the vortex structure so useful.

The Y250 vortex is so-called because it is generated by the flap 250mm from the car centreline (4). All cars will create a Y250 vortex because the front wing regulations prevent bodywork from being any closer to the car centreline. Turning vanes (5) appended to the chassis will then steer this vortex to the bargeboards where it will funnel around the sidepods.

This will seal the side of the car and under nose area from any turbulent air. On a humid day it is sometimes possible to see the vortex and its progression along the length of the car.

Nose cameras

Red Bull, Shanghai, 2014The FIA also mandates the requirement and positioning of the nose cameras (3). The trend this year is to have the camera pods to sprout from the bodywork and look like ears protruding from the chassis. They are a micro version of the ‘elephant ear’ devices that adorned the McLaren MP4-23.

Although the FIA has written the regulations to try to negate any aerodynamic benefit from camera placement, the position on the Ferrari will condition airflow over the top of the sidepods, to a small benefit.

Interesting, Red Bull has dispensed of the camera pods altogether and has cleverly integrated the camera in to the chassis bodywork (pictured).

This is an elegant solution that minimises drag. The picture quality from the camera, which points through a narrow aperture in the nose, isn’t great – but that’s not a concern for Red Bull.

Developments in 2014 and beyond

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Shanghai International Circuit, 2014As changing a nose design has such a profound effect on airflow over the rest of the car, it would be a surprise to see a team make major changes in this area before the end of the season.

But we are in the first year of a new rules package so it can’t be ruled out completely. The next race in Spain is often where such aggressive changes appear, as it marks the beginning of the ‘European season’ where teams are racing closer to their factories and can bring new parts at short notice.

Mercedes introduced a revised nose in China which sits as far back from the front wing as possible to ensure clean air over the central section. However its broad concept is unchanged.

For 2015 the FIA plans to alter the regulations again in the hopes of doing away with the unattractive designs which were produced this year. The regulations are yet to be published so it is not clear what the FIA has in mind but expect a stricter definition on the dimensions and positioning of the front cross-section.

Until then we can enjoy the variety that the the current regulations have brought, if not the aesthetic qualities of the current generation of noses.

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Images © John Beamer for F1 Fanatic, McLaren/LAT, Red Bull/Getty, Daimler/Hoch Zwei

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32 comments on Ferrari’s unusual approach to F1′s new nose rules

  1. BasCB (@bascb) said on 25th April 2014, 12:32

    Let us hope that we will see divers solutions next year too. Although its likely that by next year teams will largely converge towards 1-2 designs anyway.

  2. pastaman (@pastaman) said on 25th April 2014, 13:25

    Nice article! At first I was reading and thought, “where did you copy/paste this from Keith?” Then I saw it was a different author :)

    Thanks John

  3. evered7 (@evered7) said on 25th April 2014, 13:33

    Nice to hear something is working at Ferrari, related to Aero. I remember them having a mighty push in 2010 with the blown diffuser. After that I don’t recall a massive upgrade which worked for them in the season in the past few years.

    Hope they have good development potential with the F14T. Forget catching Mercedes. It is time to run your own race and just aim for every last improvement from the car.

  4. Breno (@austus) said on 25th April 2014, 14:38

    So the F14 T and the W05 could be the two cars with most front end downforce?

    Also, I recall Alonso changing front wings in one of the FPs in China. I figured that was a new wing.

  5. John H (@john-h) said on 25th April 2014, 15:18

    Thanks for the excellent article John. Interestingly, the Mercedes short nose I seem to remember they wanted to use in Melbourne but it failed the crash test… I guess they must have finally got it passed (or a version of it) before the Chinese GP.

    I have to admit, I do have a soft spot for the look of the Merecedes for some reason. The Red Bull is also nice, although I’m surprised about the loophole for allowing that camera – I guess its quite hard to copy without further crash tests, or not worth the aero benefit to bother?

  6. Mike (@mike) said on 25th April 2014, 15:35

    Another fantastic article. Thank you to both John and Kieth for allowing me the pleasure of reading it.

  7. Patrick (@paeschli) said on 25th April 2014, 15:44

    Interesting, Red Bull has dispensed of the camera pods altogether and has cleverly integrated the camera in to the chassis bodywork (pictured).

    This is an elegant solution that minimises drag. The picture quality from the camera, which points through a narrow aperture in the nose, isn’t great – but that’s not a concern for Red Bull.

    Am I the only one thinking this is brilliant? Pretty sure this will be forbidden next year.

    Also, I hope the nose rules doesn’t change next year. I like the different noses this year, every car is different. It would also be interesting to see how many teams would change their nose designs without change in the rules. Maybe we’ll see one solution next year instead of the many we see this year, who knows?

  8. mantresx (@mantresx) said on 25th April 2014, 16:19

    That was the best explanation I’ve read of what a vortex is and how is formed, more technical articles please!

  9. trotter said on 25th April 2014, 16:35

    And after all this amazing and brilliant creativity, science and engineering, people are unable to appreciate F1 if it’s not loud enough… Talking about inability to appreciate the true gift of F1.

  10. Jose Sammut said on 25th April 2014, 16:41

    Great article… keep posting more like this!
    I also love that the cars’ shape is different, even if it means the noses aren’t that nice. I already got used to them and hope the FIA don’t change the regulations about the front nose again. :P

  11. Rastura (@rastura) said on 25th April 2014, 17:50

    Fantastic read, txs

  12. WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 25th April 2014, 18:26

    I always find it highly amusing during testing when armchair experts try to gleam the running order through alleged aerodynamic efficiency or otherwise. Gary Anderson especially, is both amusing and religiously inaccurate, saying in 2013 that McLaren had made some excellent improvements, and by comparison the Mercedes concept looked underdeveloped, and just a few short weeks ago he gave Ferrari’s nose, in AUTOSPORT’s nose round-up, a mere 2/10. Would Ferrari have so profoundly blocked airflow to the back of the car if they didn’t feel they could gain performance by other means? Even for a team not exactly steeped in aerodynamic heritage, such a flagrant blocking of airflow when all other teams, including Caterham and Marussia were not, suggested a more detailed aerodynamic strategy, as John so eloquently explains. Oh, Gary, these new cars a bit complicated for you?

    Great article, John – a thoroughly enjoyable read.

    • Boomerang said on 25th April 2014, 22:18

      I must admit my eternal strugle in repetitive atempts to understand Gary’s explainations. Lots of engineers spend days and nights in trying to optimize their packages and Gary lands a comment of underdeveloped car. They know the idea they’re chasin’. We’re just observers, even if we are engineers. How observing we are; that’s another story.
      On the other hand, this year we’ve seen so many approaches in nose section design that it’s hard to get a grasp of the best path to optimal performance.
      Though, they’re not my favorites, I’d put my money on the Bulls. Their approach is a plain masterwork. How their front wing operates with the floor and enhances the effect of the diffuser is mind blowing ( front wing -> rake connection = stroke of a genius ). Nose design on RB10 is following in my opinion the most relevant effect of lifting body. Aerodyinamically RB10 is the best car in the field. So says GPS…
      I am glad that John has tackled the issue of vortices. My favorite subject. Although I enjoyed reading the article I cannot follow the idea of: “This is done by creating a series of vortices and ‘squirting’ them to areas of the car that are critical for performance.” The phenomena of the vortices is explained in the article and all the relevant aerodynamic research proves that ‘litle devils’ are created by wingtips, where we have the case of “high pressure air to ‘fall’ into a zone of lower pressure”. Wing tip vortices travel at approximately one third of the air speed. It makes little sense to use effect which is profoundly changable due to speed fluctuations of the car. In Monza cars travel at some point 30m/s, on the straight they hit 100m/s. If you’re happy with a vortices at 30m/s what will happen at 100m/s when it hits the bodywork who knows where…? It is very apparent that all teams are trying to reduce generation of vortices in the Y250 zone by reducing the size of the wingtips and hence vortices. They’re just trying to get the smoothest and shortest airflow towards barge boards and around the sidepods to the rear of the car. Ferrari’s nose, splits the air with upper side to achieve the same effect. The inner wingtips of the front wing pull the air spilled over the nose and direct it towards barge boards. Nice touch, I’d say.
      But, my money is still on the Bulls ;-)

    • johnny stick said on 26th April 2014, 2:18

      nice article and thank you for writing this. I still will not doubt Gary Anderson. We campaigned his Anson SA6 for 2 years in the states, I still think he is one of the top designers. I have to wonder if Ferrari is giving up too much ground effect down force to get more front end down force. The shovel nose never seemed to be too effective for us on the SA6; no mater what the wind tunnel said, we never got the same numbers in real life, maybe too much yaw??

      • Boomerang said on 29th April 2014, 15:22

        Yeah, I agree. Someone who signed the design of Jordan 191 is undoubtedly one of the best. As Pat Symonds said once: “The aerodynamics is magic.”
        In my opinoin, we’re all getting things wrong sometimes becuase of so many variables needed to be considered. That’s the beauty of it! I enjoyed reading this article ’cause it’s so technical. However when I commence to think more thoroughly about some explainations, like ” The slots (7) serve a similar purpose to those in the front wing and help air transition from outside the endplate to underneath the wing. This creates a vortex that helps pulls air around the outside of the tyre. ” Questions sprout imeediately. If you let the air trough the endplate slot you’re attempting to reduce pressure differences and hence vortex, not to create it. The nature of vortex was just explained – wingtip pressure difference. How could enyone comme to that kind of conclusion? Magic? Maybe. At the end of the day this is just a blog we enjoy to follow, not United Space Alliance preparing STS-125 ;-)
        I have to correct myself as well. I mixed up speed of vortices and precentage of drag created by wingtip vortices at airplanes saying that “Wingtip vortices travel at approximately one third of the air speed”. The correct percentage is 15% of the air speed. Their portion in averall drag varies between 30-45%. Sorry, my mistake.
        Magic, again ;-)

  13. SauberS1 (@saubers1) said on 25th April 2014, 18:54

    Cool article! :)

  14. DC (@dc) said on 26th April 2014, 7:26

    I think I have a man-crush on @john-beamer.

  15. RC (@rcrc) said on 26th April 2014, 16:03

    Probably the best article of year so far, nicely done. Nicely done team!

    The thoughtful synthesis beats even the popular f1 technical forum that I visit often.

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