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22 August 2014
Bite Size Tech: Mercedes WO5 Rear Wing - Spa

Mercedes have introduced a new rear wing for Spa and will utilise the more simplistic Monkey Seat / Y100 Winglet that they tested at the post Silverstone GP test.  These changes are of course made inline with their ambition of reducing drag, on a circuit that demands both fantastic top speed whilst maintaining a good level of downforce for the tricky 2nd sector.  It's a tough balance for Spa as too much drag reduction will hinder downforce generation and visa versa.

Therefore the rear wings main change comes to the top flap, which features curved outer profiles on the trailing edge.  This alludes to how the tip vortices would form, which can be both destructive in the creation of downforce but moreover create areas of separation which in turn creates drag.

The slimmer Y100 Winglet is used in order to change how the flow structures interact with one another, Mercedes have been keen to utilise what energy is expended by the exhaust for aerodynamic gain this season.  Utilising the exhausts energy to unify the airflow structures created by the diffuser and rear wing, this is further assisted by the Y100 winglets interaction with the exhaust plume.  The more complex winglet that has been in use up until this point will of course manipulate the exhaust plume and surrounding airflow differently to the new slimline version, with the newer winglet aiming to reduce drag inline with the re-design of the rear wing.
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20 August 2014
Is it ever too early or late to get an F1 drive?


This week we've been on the end of polar opposite driver announcements, with wunderkind Max Verstappen announced as a Toro Rosso driver in 2015, whilst Andre Lotterer will replace Kamui Kobayshi at Caterham for this weekends race in Spa.
Verstappen is the son of previous F1 driver Jos and has been hugely impressive in this years Formula 3 championship with a string of victories, he lies second in the championship.  At 16 (17 by the time he starts his first F1 race) though many are questioning whether he'll be ready for Formula One and has the Red Bull junior programme skipped a generation or two? Max's fast track to Formula One comes at the expense of Antonio Felix Da Costa (now test and reserve driver for Red Bull Racing), whom many felt was overlooked when Kyvat was promoted ahead of him.  Whilst Carlos Sainz Jnr also awaits a call up to the big time too.

Max is an exception to most of the rules and although he'll become the youngest F1 driver when he takes the wheel at the start of 2015, this isn't a new experience for Toro Rosso with both Jaime Alguersuari and Danil Kyvat being promoted at 19.  In both instances the same issues were raised by the media about their demeanor, talent and exuberance as are now being raised about Max.  Max clearly has racing in the blood but also comes from a generation of drivers that has to not only mould their craft in karting but in the digital world too.  Formula One has always been at the cutting edge and is perhaps as scientific as sports get, but just as other sports look to the improvement of their athletes through scientific and medical advancements so do the younger generation of drivers aspiring to get to the pinnacle of motor racing: F1.

Talent is no longer enough as drivers surround themselves with driver trainers, personal trainers and nutritionists, as they strive to improve both body and mind.  This is not a new process by any means with the stars of the 90's adopting similar methods a little later in their careers.  But as with Formula One these processes evolve, we do not forget what has already been learnt but improve upon those foundations.  You only have to look at some of the older drivers on the grid: Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso (whom also entered F1 at 19) they openly share their exercise activities on social media with huge cycle rides taking care of their aerobic exercise regimes.

So do I think Max will be a success? Yes in all honesty, he has done well to align himself with Red Bull, who are always eager to market youth as it aligns with their brand.  They should be able to extend the tools he needs to garner success and fulfill his ambitions.  However fail to show that early promise and they'll be quick to discard him for the next big thing.

Andre Lotterer finds himself at the other end of the shark pool, looking to fulfill his potential as an F1 driver at the tail end of his career.  Successful in both WEC/Le Mans and Formula Nippon/Super Formula he's still sharp and race ready.  His connection to Colin Kolles seems the most likely route into the seat at Caterham, with him reportedly using the teams simulator over the last week or so.  The 2014 Super Formula car that Andre has become accustomed to is a 2 litre, direct injection turbocharged machine which doesn't produce the peak HP that the new generation of F1 engines do but will certainly give Andre a representative feeling.  (Furthermore the series now also uses DRS)

Is Lotterer the answer for Caterham? Only time will tell but asking him to jump in mid season, just when the team are about to assess upgrades could pose quite a challenge for both him and team.  His Super Formula experience will no doubt be of great use to him but I'd suggest the largest challenges he must overcome will be familiarization with the cars controls and poweruni, whilst understanding the tyres tends to pose a significant challenge to all the drivers, let alone one thrown in at the deep end.  I can't help but draw parallels with Lotterer's drive with the stand in performances of Heikki Koveleinen's at Lotus in 2013 and Giancarlo Fisichella at Ferrari in 2009.  Lest we forget that these were both drivers that had significant F1 experience but still needed to adapt heavily to new machinery with both failing to really make their mark.

The last question we have to ask is, will Andre complete a time within 107% of the leader?

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10 August 2014
Changes at Parabolica

Outrage has swept across social media over the last few days as fans witnessed images showing changes at Monza's Parabolica.  As usual a lack of information presented by the FIA or the circuit led to many deriding what is essentially a change made to aid safety.

Monza is one of the classic European tracks still visited by Formula One that most would say hasn't been neutered, with changes made to Spa in recent seasons bringing it inline with some of the 'Tilkedromes', providing tarmac run off area's rather than gravel.

As always the eternal optomist in me sees what is being done here, yes the purist in me still thinks that is a change really needed? but on the face of it, it won't actually change too much, providing a safer environment not only for F1 but other racing classes too.  Gravel is still retained on the periphery of the corner with only the first 20metres beyond the tracks limits resurfaced (below)

Gravel is something we are used to seeing at the more 'classic' venues but from a safety standpoint means that vehicles invariably dig in and can flip, furthermore 'beaching' means that removal of the vehicle must be done by the marshalls, prompting either a safety car or double waved yellows.  Running wide in Parabolica with the changes will not always end someones race now but on the same token it won't make for a faster lap time.  I know you all want to see drivers punished for their mistakes BUT we must consider the safety implications.

The only place that could have resulted in a lap time gain with the new layout is over stepping the track limits out of Parabolica onto the pit straight.  However take a look at the rumble strips in that area (above), that wouldn't be pleasurable to run over and would likely result in damage if done too often.  However that won't stop the drivers re-ascertaining the image in their mind of the limits throughout Free Practice though I'm sure.

I'd also suggest that the tarmac won't be left bare and a low grip paint will be applied, making a trip onto it entertaining for the drivers, slowing them down somewhat.

A selection of pictures (below) were taken by @ceredaemanuele detailing the reprofiling of Parabolica






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04 August 2014
Where's F1 heading? (geographically)

This isn't a look at the state of affairs in F1 (that's coming up in another article over the summer break instead). Instead it's a look at the ever evolving calendar that Formula One keeps.

With two new signings in recent weeks and two venues languishing on the subs bench holding current contracts, I thought it worth a look at where Formula One will be visiting for the next few seasons.

Australia - Albert Park


Having played host to Formula One since 1996, replacing Adelaide, it's promoters have often crossed swords with Bernie/FOM over hosting fees and advertising rights.  Their contract was due to expire in 2015 and although Ron Walker has crossed swords with Bernie over the noise of the new powerunits a renewal has been agreed that will see Melbourne retained on the calendar until 2020.

Malaysia - Sepang International Circuit

Sepang has played host to Formula One since 1999 and was really on the cutting edge of the sports move into new markets. Sepang was also Herman Tilke's first foray into a full Formula One designated circuit design.  The German having already redesigned the Osterreichring in 1995 (then dubbed the A1 ring) set his sights high, trying to assimilate the local topography whilst designing a striking grandstand that echoes the culture of the region.  The circuits current contract expires in 2015 but a new one should be a mere formality, Bernie recently stipulated as much, citing a lick of paint as what they needed to do.  The race fee is funded by the Malaysian government with state owned Petronas having been used as a sponsor for the event since its inception.

Bahrain - Bahrain International Circuit

Another of the Tilke designed circuits it's been part of the calendar since 2004 and often criticized for its continued placement on the calender due to civil unrest (something that stopped F1 visiting there in 2012).  Formula One and more specifically FOM has always highlighted the fact that the sport will not be used as a vehicle to push political agendas, with the safety of personnel their only concern.  It's still questionable that hosting an event under such circumstances isn't a clear signal of whom they support, however as always money is more often or not the motivator for an event to appear on the calendar.  Bahrain currently hold their contract until 2016 but a 5 year extension is already on the table should both parties wish to continue.

China - Shanghai International Circuit

Debuting in 2004 (the same year as Bahrain) the Chinese GP initially ran in tandem with the Japanese GP and was even used as the season closer in 2005.  The circuit another designed by Tilke has produced very few memorable races and now finds itself placed much earlier in the season.  A contract is in place until 2017.

Spain - Circuit de Catalunya 

Barring an absence between 1982-1985 the Spanish GP has been one of the longest serving venues for Formula One, albeit with several circuits hosting the event.  Formula One has been visiting the Circuit de Catalunya since 1991 making it a place that both the drivers and teams know well.  On top of this the teams have used the circuit to test at for some time as it offers a wide ranging topography, long straights and array of complex corners.  Racing at the circuit is therefore always a little tiresome, with the teams and drivers fully aware of every square inch of the place.  A contract is in place until 2016 and will likely be renewed as Jerez and the Valencia street circuit are currently the only real viable options to replace it, with the latter already removed from the calender when it couldn't afford its hosting fees.

Monaco

The jewel in the crown as it's often described is not perhaps as glamorous as it used to be but is still as challenging for the drivers.  The event holds a contract until 2020 but can virtually write its own, with its presence as synonymous to Formula One as Ferrari.

Canada - Montreal

Having successfully negotiated a new contract this season the Circuit du Gilles Villeneuve retains its place on the calender until 2024, firmly keeping a foothold in the North American region


Austria - Red Bull Ring

The circuit has a checkered history in F1 having previously been known as the Osterreichring (1970-1987)
and A1 ring (1997-2003) whilst the purchasing of the circuit by Red Bull clearly meant that at some point the brand would look to host it's own race.  This year saw the return to a circuit that'll remain on the calendar until 2021.

Great Britain - Silverstone

As we all know Silverstone nearly lost its place on the calendar several years ago with Donnington emerging as a candidate for its position.  Donnington never came to fruition and so Silverstone were able to negotiate a new deal, whilst spending a considerable sum on new facilities to appease Bernie.  Their contract runs until 2020 with a price escalator making it both more expensive to the circuit and fans each year.  An option to extend the contract for a further 7 years is also on the table with preferable rates pre-written into the deal.

Germany - alternating between Hockenheim and Nurburgring

With both Hockenheim and Nurburgring wanting to hold Grand Prix's they've been hosting on an alternating basis since 2007 in an agreement that currently runs until 2018. However it appears that Nurburgring has been trying to negotiate it's own contract of late which could see Hockenheim return under the guise as the European/Luxembourg GP as it has run in the past.

Hungary - Hungaroring

Having held a GP now since 1986 the Hungaroring is a firm fixture on the calendar and currently has a contract through until 2021

Belgium - Spa

A firm fan favourite, Spa's long sweeping track nestled in the Ardennes forest offers a high speed challenge enjoyed by both the drivers and teams.  The venues current contract is one on the danger list though with expiration looming in 2015.

Italy - Monza

The Italian GP is an important foothold with one of the sports most recognizable teams - Ferrari, from the European country.  Word on the street suggests Bernie is unhappy with the facilities at Monza and is requesting they make some improvements ahead any new contract negotiations, with their contract due to expire in 2016.

Singapore - Marina Bay

Formula One's night race has become the modern jewel in its crown, the backdrop for many deals much like Monaco used to be the circuit that deals were concluded in.  It's night race status obviously gives it plenty of allure which in reality it needs as the race itself is often a little bore-some.   The venue currently holds a contract through until 2017 but I so no reason why FOM won't renew it's contract.

Japan - Suzuka

The Japanese GP is a cornerstone of the calendar and although it has spent some time at the Fuji speedway the economic downturn and withdrawal of Toyota led to Suzuka (owned by Honda) retaining the slot.  Suzuka have a contract through until 2018. 

Russia - Sochi 

Formula One will race in Sochi for the first time this season finally realising plans that Russia have had to hold a race for decades.  The race has a contract through until 2020 with a 5 year extension option.


USA (Austin, Texas) - Circuit of the Americas

Perhaps the best of the Hermann Tilke designed circuits, it offers high and low speed corners, undulation and a couple of high speed straights.  Putting America back on the Formula One map was essential, especially given the way it whimpered out in Indianapolis.  Austin has a place on the calendar until 2020.

Brazil - Interlagos

Another firm fan favourite and the scene of plenty of titanic battles up and down the years now has a contract through until 2020 with a new pit complex on the agenda.

Abu Dhabi - Yas Marina

Another Tilke designed circuit often criticized due to it's lack of undulation has recently renewed its contract through until 2021.


At 19 races long the calender almost finds itself at capacity with a unanimous vote from the teams needed to elevate the calender above the 20 race threshold.  Taking this into account the inclusion of a Tilke redesigned Hermanos Rodriguez Circuit in Mexico from 2015, takes the calender to full capacity. Disturbingly though the announcement that Baku, Azerbaijan will host a GP from 2016 means either Spa or Sepang (less disturbingly) isn't being renewed, or the calendar must expand.

Meanwhile the Indian GP and New Jersey (US) still have contracts in place, with Bernie already stating that New Jersey cannot host a GP now until at least 2016, meaning both Spa and Sepang would be on the chopping block to accommodate it.  The Indian GP's contract expires in 2016, with it unlikely to see a renewal based on the governments taxation stance, saying F1 is entertainment rather than a sport.

The Formula One calendar is based squarely on the economics rather than anything else, with those willing to pay larger race hosting fees taking precedence over what could offer the sport a more rounded product. I've often wondered what a regional race split could create in terms of marketing, whilst also creating 3 additional championships (I've listed below the current contracted countries that could form these, along with some additional countries/circuits that could rotate or be added):

Asia - Australia, Malaysia, China, Bahrain, Japan, Singapore, Russia & Abu Dhabi (Turkey, India)

Europe - Spain, Monaco, Great Britain, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Italy & Azerbaijan (Germany, Spain, Portugal)

North & South America - Canada, New Jersey, Austin, Mexico & Brazil (Long Beach, Indianapolis, Argentina)

You might argue that most of those are on the calendar so why split the championship up into three, granted it would be more complex in terms of allocating race slots thinking of the weather etc but logistically it should make life much easier.  Sponsorship could then be sold on a regional basis, helping some of the smaller teams.  Meanwhile operating regionally should allow the sport to further increase it's fanbase in the area.  With the calendar effectively stagnant over the next few years (bar a unanimous agreement to increase the amount of races), regionalising the event could add fresh vigor to the sport. 

NB: Contract length for Abu Dhabi provided by Formula Money
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02 August 2014
27 July 2014
Bite Size Tech: Williams FW36 Cooling options - Hungaroring


Having utilised the louvred shark fin configuration for the first time in Germany and running the appendage for much of Free Practice you'd have thought Williams would have continued it's use throughout the weekend.  Just to throw a spanner in the works though the team returned to their usual louvre-less engine cover for Qualifying.  That's not to say that cooling isn't still an essential element that the team were looking to concentrate on though, with the team returning to their use of their leading edge sidepod vents (circled).

The idea of course is not only to cool the powerunit but to further utilize wasted airflow by energizing the sidepods top surface, increasing the airflows speed over the sidepod (Coanda effect).  The Gurney trim around the periphery of the engine covers outlet was retained in order to pull the airflow through, lowering temperatures.
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