Brazilian Grand Prix technical review

Posted on | Author John Beamer

Toyota used a new front wing in Brazil
Toyota used a new front wing in Brazil

F1 Fanatic guest writer John Beamer takes a look at the differing approaches of Brawn and Red Bull this year, which teams had special parts at Brazil, and what to expect at Abu Dhabi.

Although Brawn won the championships at a canter Red Bull were the better team over much of the season but made too many silly errors.

It’s no surprise that these two teams were the most technically innovative on the grid although the road each team took was vastly different.

Brawn

Rubens Barrichello, Brawn, Interlagos, 2009
Rubens Barrichello, Brawn, Interlagos, 2009

The name Brawn accurately encapsulates the team’s approach. As soon as Ross Brawn laid eyes on his 2008 challenger in pre-season testing he knew the year was a write-off. A brute force approach was demanded.

Not long after the first race of last year Ross put his best engineers to work on the 2009 car. By mid-2008 the then Honda team had over 50% of its technical resources focusing on what became the BGP001.

Another advantage the team had was that Brawn was part of the FIA’s Overtaking Working Group, which was charged with designing the 2009 regulations. From that deep knowledge and to much controversy the double-decker-diffuser (DDD) was born.

Although other teams copied the design Brawn had the advantage of designing his car around the device rather than trying to design it in. To design in a DDD requires a lot of space with alterations to the floor and suspension geometry. McLaren, renowned for its quick design-cycles, didn’t properly integrate the DDD until Singapore some six months after Brawn.

It wasn’t just the DDD that set the car apart. Coming into the season Brawn had the most evolved front wing, which was critical for downforce generation, managing tyre drag and feeding the floor. Although by the end of the year every team had replicated Brawn’s design the BGP001 had a serious head start.

Red Bull

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Interlagos, 2009
Mark Webber, Red Bull, Interlagos, 2009

Red Bull’s approach was more about technical finesse. The Adrian Newey led team didn’t start serious work on the car until late 2008 and also it was one of the last to be revealed to the public.

Common consensus in the pit lane is that Red Bull has the best chassis on the grid. That along with some innovative design choices meant that the RB05 was the most competitive of the non-DDD cars off the truck.

The two most obvious were pull-rod suspension and the raised bars on the side of the nose. In the coke bottle zone the Red Bulls has low sidepods. A push-rod system would have placed more components in the fast airflow zone (critical for creating low pressure above the diffuser) and would have raised the centre of gravity. The design team were able to slim the rear – the suspension arms are horizontal and connect at the centre of the car – very similar to the single keel designs of a few years ago at the front of the car.

The nose rims on the front of the chassis help stop airflow spilling from the top of the chassis to the underside, which would reduce underfloor downforce. The other advantage, particularly in the slim-nosed RB05, was that helped the team meat the legal minimum chassis height requirement at the front. A number of teams have run nose rims in free practice – expect them to be standard fare from 2010.

Changes at Interlagos

Nico Rosberg, Williams, Interlagos, 2009
Nico Rosberg, Williams, Interlagos, 2009

As the season draws to a close one would expect less innovation. However, a number of teams brought new components to Brazil.

Red Bull came with a new front wing that Mark Webber tested in Suzuka. Those of you who read Autosport might have noticed that Gary Andersen claims it was Red Bull’s 53rd front wing. And that’s not 53 of the same type, each is different enough to be classified as a new package! I’m not sure I believe that statistic but if true it would represent a prodigious rate of development from a mid-grid team.

The new front wing has a wide footplate which allows a larger vortex to accumulate, which seals the main plane from air spilling over the top of the wing. This is at the expense of a slightly narrower outer section, which would reduce downforce. The Japan test obviously showed that this was a good trade-off to make.

Both Toyota and Williams bought new front wings to Brazil. And both copied Renault’s upturned edge at the outer part of the footplate. Similar to the wider footplate used by Red Bull, this helps prevent high pressure air from spilling underneath the wing. Williams also added a third vane to its endplate contraption with the goal of diverting more flow around the tyres.

McLaren and Brawn ran updated bargeboards. Interestingly both were slightly shorter than their predecessors – and this is after a trend of raising the bargeboard throughout the year. Either the raised bargeboard produced inconsistent aero performance (perhaps by not getting clean enough airflow) or the characteristics of Interlagos meant that the efficiency gains of higher bargeboards disappeared.

Abu Dhabi

With about a week to the season finale who will be at the sharp end of the grid? In my mind it is a two-horse race between Red Bull and McLaren. Over the last three races the RB05 undoubtedly has the best pace – and Suzuka, Singapore and Interlagos are three quite different tracks. The major upgrade package introduced a couple of races ago worked. No question that Webber and Sebastian Vettel will be at the sharp end.

McLaren should be in the hunt too. The super-long straight combined the the point and squirt nature of the circuit will suit the MP4-24, which has good mechanical grip and KERS. At this point it is hard to separate the speed of the car from the raw pace of Lewis Hamilton – so it will be especially interesting if he gets a team mate closer to his abilities next year. Roll on 2010!

F1 technology

31 comments on “Brazilian Grand Prix technical review”

  1. Considering that the Brawn was easily the best car at the begining of the year, does the fact that Brawn hav now fallen behind to quite an extent reflect on their development capabilities for next year.

    1. Mark Hitchcock
      26th October 2009, 12:08

      Ross said in Brazil that they started developing next year’s car quite early this year so perhaps they just spent too much time concentrating on that instead of specifically developing this year’s car.

      Not sure why they’d let that happen though. So it will be interesting to see how fast they are at the beginning of next year.

    2. CovertGiblets
      26th October 2009, 14:19

      I don’t think it shows deficiencies in the development program or indeed the development team. I feel it’s more indicative of the cobbled together car they actually ended up with after they changed the engine to Mercedes.

      I’m thinking they will be very near the sharp end of the field next year now they have all the pieces in place prior to developing the car.

      Mr Brawn in a very canny individual, he’ll not be caught napping.

    3. Next year is not going to be so critical on the development than last years “clean sheet”. The aero is the same the wheelbase is slightly longer to allow room for the larger fuel tank. So any developments made to this years car will help next year. remember Lewis ran with a long wheelbase car at a recent GP while his team mate ran the norm. I always thought that was a test for next year. i think this weekend will be a live test session for developing parts for next year.

      1. I’m pretty sure that was at the European GP and Lewis was running a shorter wheelbase than Heikki, who was running the normal one.

    4. Did you forget that Red Bull dominated China and that in Bahrain they were also far ahead until their dumb race strategy brought them down?

      Red Bull was the first team behind Brawn at Australia and Malaysia too.

      So why not say that Red Bull was easily the best car at the beginning of the year? All season it has been a matter of the car suiting the track.

      1. After half a dozen races brawn looked so far ahead maybe they thought they didn’t need to develop the car much more and so focused on next years changes.

        Redbull on the other hand have been changing all sorts all over the place playing catchup on the points.

        1. True. Red Bull realised that this might be their one and only chance at a world championship so they went full out for this season. With even a major update for the last few races. Even with that they didn’t get even close though.

          Must be frustrating for the designers. They built by far the best car of the season, but it just doesn’t seem to happen for them.

      2. (Was meant to be a reply to Mark Hitchcocks post.)

  2. Brawn was never in the Overtaking working group.

    The Overtaking Working Group developed by the FIA and lead by Paddy Lowe (McLaren), Pat Symonds (Renault) and Rory Byrne (Ferrari) has been responsible for helping the FIA form the regulation changes for 2009.

    1. Indeed. He did propose to them to tighten up the rules even. Which they declined.

      1. Yes – that’s right – my bad. Through Rory though he remained very close to the OWG and almost acted as an informal advisor. As Patrickl mentioned he did propose to tighten up the rules somewhat!

  3. Great analysis as usual John.

    McLaren have really impressed me over the second half of the season. They have managed to turn a dog into a race winner, and that has to be commended.

    I am also not sure how much of the upturn in form can be attributed to the MP4-24 and how much is Hamilton’s raw pace, but no one can deny that the team really have made up a lot of ground. I’m pretty sure the car is now a solid base from which they can develop a championship contender next year.

    1. I am also not sure how much of the upturn in form can be attributed to the MP4-24 and how much is Hamilton’s raw pace

      If you go by the logic of Alonso fans who think he is worth 0.6 sec, I’d say Hamilton is far far superior.

      That Melbourne spec mp4-24 was at least 2 sec off-pace compared to Brawn. At singapore, that mclaren was consistently outpacing Brawn by 0.2 sec

      Going by Alonso fans logic

      Alonso= +0.6sec
      Hamilton=+2.2sec

      Now is that a fair logic? I dunno. You’ve got to ask people who came up with it, namely Alonso fans :P

  4. HounslowBusGarage
    26th October 2009, 12:25

    As soon as Ross Brawn laid eyes on his 2008 challenger in pre-season testing he knew the year was a write-off.

    Is that right? Did Ross Brawn have no input or oversight into the design of the last Honda?

    1. No, he was brought on board at Honda too late to have any significant input into the basic design of the RA108.

      When he saw just how bad it was he elected to focus the, not insignificant, resources of Honda onto this year’s car instead…

      Seems to me that he was right!!

  5. Great article John.

    I’m very much surprised that Adrian Newey was the only designer who fiddled around with nose cones. Other teams seem to have neglected that bit. Dunno why Newey likes meddling around with nosecone-front wing area, but some of the most aggressive,radical noses have been designed by him. He did that on numerous occasions when he was at Williams & McLaren. I feel teams have to experiment more in that area, since it has great potential.

    1. ?? I have seen BMW, Williams, Renault, Toyota and FI all have altered nose cones…

  6. I think Abu-Dabbi is Lewis’s race to lose. I would also expect a good showing from Kovalainen, in what is very likely to be his last F1 race.

    1. I would also expect a good showing from Kovalainen

      Doubt it :(

      n what is very likely to be his last F1 race.

      Doub that too.

      Kovi is a decent driver, its not very often that one gets to beam Scummy fair & square at ROC. he did it twice. I’m convinced that kovi will be retained at mclaren for 2010.

      1. I’m convinced that kovi will be retained at mclaren for 2010.

        hmm interesting thought, what makes you say that? When we look at the comments from Whitmarsh over the season, suggests otherwise.. but you could be right.. interesting

      2. You can’t be convinced if you go by Kovi’s numbers, both this year and last. They suggest quite the contrary. He has blown several podium opportunities and the gap between him and Lewis is just too big, even factoring in the fact that Lewis had a slightly better car in the first 3-4 races this year. Whitmarsh maintains that McLaren will be after the “best 2 drivers available”. There was nobody better available last year, but this year there are several good drivers available, all better than Kovi (Rubens, Nico, Trulli, Glock) … to let alone the obvious choice of one Kimi Raikkonen.

  7. Hamilton, Alonso and Raikkonen are the best drivers out there with Massa and Vettel close behind, then the rest.
    I’m not an Alonso fan but he probably just shades it from Hamilton right now. Another year or two and Vettel will be up there with Hamilton, but who knows there may well be a new boy about to be discovered??

    1. The ‘new boy’ is Kobayashi.

  8. Thanks for the article.

    Quick question… How have the teams been allowed to incorporate these barge boards? The new Brawn one really stands out.

    Before I think they were labelled as ‘part of the wingmirrors’ but lately they seem to be stand alone items.

    1. the key to these barge boards, from my understanding, is that they;
      a-are not generating downforce
      and b-withing a certain very specific size range.

      i think the slow introduction of vertical airflow directional members will pretty much come to a halt after everyone introduces their own revised barge boards.
      although creativity and cleaverness does not rule out any double shark fins we could see pop out of a williams again.

      goes to show u these new aero regs go deeper then they appear and theres lots of manipulation left to be brought up.

      1. Yes that’s right. Teams have moved the sidepods back a little to give more space for flow conditioners like bargeboards.

        They don’t create downforce directly but DO condition flow around the sidepods to the coke bottle zone, which does create downforce elsewhere.

      2. Yes that’s right. Teams have moved the sidepods back a little to give more space for flow conditioners like bargeboards.

        They don’t create downforce directly but DO condition flow around the sidepods to the coke bottle zone, which does create downforce elsewhere.

  9. Would be great to see like for like views of the different cars – especially profiles.

    Its fascinating how different some elements are when you look closely – the Redbull front is beautifully different to the rest.

  10. im supried at just how fast that brawn has fallen off the pace advantage that it had at the begining of the year! i watched the australian gp and malaysian gp yesterday and that car was so much faster! if button it would have been almost impossible for button to loose the championship because of that car!

    if the brawns continual slide in terms of car development continues as it has over the last 10 races then i fear that it will be a very long year next year for Mr. Brawn and Jenson

  11. I was interested in how much the wet factor comes into play alongside mechanical v aero tracks. RB choices on aero certainly had them a huge advantage even in straight line speed and there must be a reason for it starting at the nose and finishing at the rear suspension.

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