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31 October 2014
Bite Size Tech: Ferrari F14T Rear wing endplate gradient slots - Austin

Ferrari have made it public knowledge that over the next few GP's the teams will test components that may or may not feature on their 2015 challenger.  Parts that will be tested to assess performance and if they're lucky may even be retained as they try to finish the season with a flourish.

For FP1 one of these components made it's way onto the F14T in the form of new rear wing endplates.  The design may look familiar to those of you that follow the technical side of the sport as the gradient slots initially adorned the RB10.  In the case of Red Bull three slots took the place of the leading edge louvres, making for a more efficient mainplane and top flap (the slots or louvres are used in order to allow pressure to migrate from the high pressure side into the lower, reducing drag at higher speed).  In the case of these experimental iterations from Ferrari though, only 2 gradient slots adorn the endplate, inline with the mainplane.  The leading edge louvres take care of the airflow distribution / drag reduction of the top flap, however owing to their desire to increase the AoA/Downforce being generated by the wing they've also reduced the height of the rear cutout.
The F14T's rear wing endplates are becoming insanely complex (two leading edge tyre wake slots, mainplane gradient slots, upper louvres and trailing edge strakes to manage vortices), managing all of these flow structures must be incredibly difficult.

Whether the team continue to run this wing throughout the weekend remains to be seen.

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27 October 2014
Project Brabham

Those that have been around Motorsport will know the name Brabham is part of it's history.  In 2014 it's making a comeback, in a new and exciting way with crowdfunding.  The ultimate aim is to take the Brabham name back to the top flight, initially in WEC but with an eye on returning to F1.  As with any crowdfunding project at the centre of their objective is to provide the willing fundee with access to the project.  In the case of Brabham some clear goals and objectives have been set, with their first target (£250,000) funding a digital portal.  An interesting concept that will engage fans, engineers and drivers, the lifeblood of any succesful team.
Members of Brabham-Fan will interact and contribute towards collaborative decisions in a way no racing team has attempted before, in turn tapping into the power of collective thinking. Brabham will share everything from its investor search, driver selection process and building its premises, to the first car build, test and race. On race weekends Brabham-Fan will become the gateway for live telemetry, behind-the-scenes footage, radio communications and even race strategy.
Brabham-Driver is for those who want to know what it takes, technically and professionally, to become the ultimate racing driver. Through online training, Brabham will provide the knowledge and understanding to develop car set-up, learn how to develop a winning mentality, get advice from nutritional experts and sports psychologists, and receive training regimes from specialist coaches.

Brabham-Engineer will involve the community in the development of the team’s racing technology while providing a series of e-learning modules around what it takes to reach the pinnacle of motorsport engineering. Project challenges will cover all aspects of aerodynamics, CFD, suspension geometry and gearboxes, where members can get involved in the development of specific parts or even a future Brabham prototype, with certification of their achievements.

Beyond their opening objective Brabham will need to garner further financial support in order to return to the top flight of motorsport with 8m the overall objective.  So if you are interested in not only supporting a legendary name in motorsport but actually getting involved, head over to their funding page: 
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26 October 2014
Uncertain times

Formula One heads to Austin next weekend and not for the first time American race fans won't bear witness to the product they were initially thought they were sold.  It's not on the same level as Indianapolis 2005 but the absence of Caterham & Marussia in Austin and again in Brazil will see the grid shrink to 18 cars.  Add to this that the current World Champion has stated he won't qualify in Austin owing to a full Powerunit change and we have but 17 cars qualifying on Saturday.  5 cars short doesn't sound too bad but it does have an instant effect on the qualifying format.  The Sporting Regulations regarding 'Qualifying Practice' have the following to say:

From 14.00 to 14.18 (Q1) all cars will be permitted on the track and at the end of this
period the slowest eight cars will be prohibited from taking any further part in the

Lap times achieved by the eighteen remaining cars will then be deleted.

b) From 14.25 to 14.40 (Q2) the eighteen remaining cars will be permitted on the track and at the end of this period the slowest eight cars will be prohibited from taking any further part in the session.

Lap times achieved by the ten remaining cars will then be deleted.

c) From 14.48 to 15.00 (Q3) the ten remaining cars will be permitted on the track.
The above procedure is based upon a Championship entry of 26 cars. If 24 cars are entered seven will be excluded after Q1 and Q2 and if 22 cars are entered only six cars will be excluded after Q1 and Q2.

As we can see this poses an immediate problem, owing to the number of competitive cars falling 4 below the remarks in c).  I'm quite sure the FIA have a contingency for the situation but it'll be interesting to see how they complete the session.  I'd imagine they'll scrap Q1 and extend the running time of Q2 and Q3 with 8 cars being eliminated from the revised Q1 still leaving the top 10 battle.  The other option may be to retain all three qualifying sessions and simply lose 4 from Q1 and Q2.

The immediate effect of two teams in trouble (Marussia & Caterham, with the latter in administration and the former likely to enter it, having been struggling financially for some time with Spa being a turning point) is apparent with their withdrawal from these rounds, but how about the long term effects?

Put simply Formula One is expensive, always has been, always will be, people that believe otherwise will always be found out.  The problem for Marussia and Caterham is that they were mis-sold a product in 2009. Did they go back to the bank looking for compensation? No they soldiered on believing that their fellow competitors would fall inline and cut them some slack.  5 years down the line and the gap has begun to widen once more, costs are increasing but unlike last time the teams aren't unifying in a way that will bring balance.

For those that don't know how Marussia & Caterham came into being it was off the back of the last financial crisis, when we lost manufacturers like Honda, Toyota and BMW.  The then FIA president Max Mosley proposed a two tier regulation system for 2010 onwards, where those that could compete for 40m or less were allowed more technical freedom than those that ran without budgetary restriction.  The larger teams collided with Mosley over it but the wheels had been set in motion with plenty of interested parties looking to enter under the budget cap.  In the end Mosley was forced out, 1 regulation set remained with no budget cap installed, however all the teams now unified (for their own interests) under the FOTA (Formula One Teams Association) guise set about installing what they considered a more measured 'resource restriction', not only capping personnel levels but also Wind Tunnel time & CFD usage.  These were measures that looked to hamstring the teams and reduce costs, however Formula One teams can't be contained in this manner and although they say they were running to their own rules no one truly policed the activity.  Furthermore F1 teams always find other ways, just look at how quickly they recover downforce when the FIA adjust the regulations...

The 3 new teams that emerged in 2010 came into being very, very quickly and in all fairness never really stood a chance of making a mark in their opening season.  However the Formula One they had initially signed up for was gone, and with it any real chance of competing with the rest of the field.  Eternally running at the back of the grid is not only bad for team morale but it's bad for business.  It makes you less interesting to sponsors as you rarely feature on the TV feeds, (unless being lapped) meaning if you can get sponsors they won't be paying as much for their exposure.  It's an infinite loop that requires sacrifice and/or massive financial input from the owner.  Which ever way you cut it whether your budget is 40m or 150m it will all get spent, being in Formula One to make a profit is not an option and can only be used a vehicle to race or get exposure for your own brand.

Some would therefore say that Gene Haas is going the right way about it, even if some of what he says at times seem to contradict that.  In short a much longer gestation period for the team to be established and the recognition that he is using F1 as a platform to further his outside business interests.  But can Haas deliver? He comes from Nascar, where teams can actually be profitible a luxury that cannot be afforded in Formula One.

To add further credence to this, figures recently revealed show that Mercedes spent 190.7m on their F1 team in 2013 (Just the Works team not the Powerunit manufacturers spend at Brixworth).  This is the most Mercedes has spent since taking over from BrawnGP but as results have shown it has paid dividends.  This recent pattern of spending has escalated since the disbandment of the aforementioned FOTA, the FIA have introduced measures to limit the teams, including Wind Tunnel & CFD restrictions added to the regulations but without an actual budgetary limit the teams will find a way to spend money, which in turn ends up costing more money.

One such example is the teams demands to 'un-freeze' the powerunits for next season which would inevitably increase costs.  As always the teams that will benefit most from what they term an un-freezing have done well to manipulate the media to further their aims.  The powerunits aren't actually frozen in the same way as the previous V8 era, with a new powerunit presented to the FIA at the start of each season.  The issue is scale of change, with the regulations only permitting a certain quantity of changes from the previous iteration.  In 2015 the manufacturers may amend upto 48% of their previous design, whilst this reduces year on year until 2019 when the design change is as low as 5%.
The idea of the scaling was to prevent a run away manufacturer, allowing others to catch up through development whilst also improving the efficiency of the powerunits, with the aim of also reducing the fuel weight (currently 100kg's per race).  Renault and moreover Red Bull realise that this means that still gives Mercedes the same opportunity to improve, perhaps not to the same level as they have for this year but nonetheless it could still extend its margin.  Therefore along with Ferrari they're pushing for in-season development too, the scope of which hasn't really been talked about but whichever way you cut it, it will increase costs.  These costs have to be accounted for with the manufacturers unable to carrry the full burden, they'd have to increase the cost to their customers too, which as the powerunits are around 3-4 times the cost of the V8's already presents yet further financial issues to the none 'works' teams.  All of the troubled teams (Lotus, Sauber, Marussia & Caterham) have all at one time or another been seemingly defaulting on their payments to PU suppliers, perhaps owing to the vast cost differential from the V8's.  I can see things from both sides, Mercedes don't want to give up their advantage and raise costs and Renault/RBR / Ferrari want to narrow the performance gap.  It's a difficult issue to broach and calls for some clever regulation tinkering, perhaps giving with one hand, giving some staged in-season development (every 5th race) but taking away some of the out of season development, equalizing the basis of the original formula.
Bernie Ecclestone is often seen as the scapegoat for everything bad about the sport, and in fairness doesn't seem concerned about playing the pantomime villian.  However the loss of teams from the sport perhaps has the most impact on him and CVC he works for.  Bernie is the man in the middle, trying to fence deals that give the teams some prize money and of course make CVC (himself) rich.

But do you know how this came about?  Bernie bought and then ran Brabham Racing but could see that making money from a team would be nigh on impossible, as from a commercial aspect the sport had no leadership.  The FIA was (and still is) the regulator, their role is to provide the construct for the race series.  In those days there was no prize money on the table come the end of the season and TV coverage was sparse, only deals brokered by the team bosses would see sporadic coverage and therefore revenue generated.  Bernie saw an opportunity in which he would broker the TV deals, keep a proportion of the revenue, provide some to the teams, (via prize money - GP) whilst the FIA also took a cut too.  This culminated in the 100 year commercial deal that still stands today, whereby Bernie/CVC control the commerical interests of the sport and provide both the teams and the FIA a financial return.
Most recently (circa 2012) the FIA made amendments to their treatment of the teams with the entrance fee being raised and a price escalator installed based on their previous years result (essentially reducing the amount the teams get for winning in the previous season).  This will of course have an impact on the teams, with the those that fill the bottom half of the grid most affected.

Has Bernie made a fortune from F1? Yes

Is he ruthless? Yes - his remit is to maximise the revenue commercially available to the sport, be that from broadcasters, race promoters or large sponsors (Rolex etc).  Formula One is built on the principle fact that it is the pinnacle, if you want the pinnacle of anything it comes at a cost...

Is he the reason that teams struggle to exist? No - I'm not saying he is an innocent party, however when you know the rules to the game when you start it, you either have to be prepared to play by them or live in the margins.  Unfortunately for the smaller teams those margins mean being financially unstable.  Teams know when they start how much it takes to run, whether they can afford it or not they aspire to be there and some inevitably pay the price for that.

The Concorde Agreement as it is known is a private agreement that binds the teams, CVC and the FIA to provide certain criteria in which the sport can flourish.  The loss of teams is therefore an issue that Bernie/CVC can do without as it is believed that the agreement calls for at least 20 cars to feature at each race.  In reality this number is more likely a grid of at least 16 cars...

Race promoters, Broadcasters etc are also sold the promise of much the same and so financial penalties would be imposed should this not come to fruition.  Extenuating circumstances can always result in a default for the good of all parties but inevitably at some point Bernie/CVC would have to pay the penalties of not providing a full grid.  It is also purported that the agreement to not having 20 cars fielded could be the catalyst for the 100 year lease to be revoked by the FIA, placing the commercial rights back in their hands, something that F1 can ill afford to happen.

The FIA have no desire to run the commercial element of the sport, we only have to look at their new Championship: Formala E as an example.  The electric racing series may be diminutive in comparison to Formula One but the commercial and presentational aspect is one they didn't want to deal with.  Instead Agag is at the helm, negotiating the same sort of broadcast, race rights and sponsorship deals that Bernie/CVC do for F1.  Taking the commercial rights back from Bernie/CVC would be a mistake, not only would it trigger a cascade of contract re-negotiations but it would bring further instability to the sport and likely result in many more teams moving closer to the margins.  The larger teams have already begun to assimilate a level of control beyond the best interest of the sport, with CVC providing them with some shares.  This has led to the Strategy Group which in reality is the bigger teams forcing through regulation change that suits their own selfish demands.  This has weakened the position of the FIA with the once regulator now forced to listen to the very entities they should be regulating.

Talk of 3 car teams has resurfaced of late, much to the dismay of the teams who know they'll be the ones carrying the brunt of the costs.  Not only do I believe 3 car teams is not the way forward it would completely reshape the sport. Just how would we score the Championships? Can the likes of Sauber, Force India and Lotus even support 3 cars?
Even If we only lost Marussia & Caterham and 3 cars did come into existence, the Sporting Regulations would need changing.  According to the regs a maximum of 26 cars can take to the grid, 9 teams would mean 27 and for me that's far too many.  Perhaps even meaning we'd have to think about pre-qualifying again, imagine 6 Red Bull cars vieing for points, whilst tactically denying others positions on the circuit etc. I'm not saying it wouldn't add some spice but come on...

Perhaps trying to soften the loss of two teams from the current grid, the Audi to F1 rumor once again poked its head out the water this week too.  Audi have swiftly moved to deny the rumors, which cited a departure from both DTM and WEC to concentrate all their efforts on an F1 assault.

As nice as it would be to see Audi or indeed any of the VW Groups brands (Lamborghini would be the better fit IMO) enter F1, in terms of cost it doesn't add up.  The only viable option for their emergence in the sport would be as another Powerunit supplier with close allies Red Bull the likely recipient.  As we know though Red Bull have set about rescuing their current ailing supplier Renault, with not only staff and resources from Red Bull being focused at the Viry plant but a Red Bull led restructuring of the company that started with Cyril Abiteboul's re-installation.

The problem for Formula One is often its shortsightedness, it resolves problems when on the brink rather than addressing issues as they arise.  However it is in a constant state of flux making it difficult for those involved to finance and many fans to follow.
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24 October 2014
Caterham: A (not so) brief history

Lets take a look at the chequered history of the team we now know as Caterham and try to read between the lines of the current issues and its haunting past.

Cast your mind back to 2009 if you will and the genesis of Fernandes' dream to take on the might of Formula One and win.  The landscape of the sport was a little different from the one we have now but just as unstable, having lost manufacturers like Toyota, Honda and BMW in the wake of the financial crisis.  The latter two were saved by figureheads of their respective teams but another ripple was about to be set in motion.  Max Mosley was in charge of the FIA and had seen the writing on the wall, in an effort to save Formula One as we knew it he decided that a two tier set of regulations were to be drafted and implemented for 2010.  This was an attempt to lure in new teams, with the incentive of more open regulations should they be able to stick to a £40m budget cap.  This left a bad taste in the mouth of the remaining teams who joined together to re-nounce Mosley from his presidential position and install their own (hidden behind a firewall) resource restriction.

Having already elected to submit applications to the FIA under the proviso of a Budget Cap 3 teams were granted additional entry to the 2010 Championship: Campos META, Virgin Racing and USF1, the latter failing to make the mark and was replaced by the Fernandes entry on 14/09/09.

Fernandes entered the Formula One stage (2010) under the guise of Lotus Racing a moniker he had on license from Group Lotus (more on this later).  Heralded as a return of the 'classic' Team Lotus, Fernandes had ambitions of rapidly ascending to the top.  With Mike Gascoyne previously of Force India employment at the helm it was remarkable the team made it to the season opener, but from there it was pretty clear that being competitive was going to take some serious effort.  At this point it may be worth pointing out that Gascoyne's involvement in the project had come after a bid worked on by Gascoyne for Litespeed had failed.  This also led to a lengthy court entanglement in which Gascoyne/1Malaysia Racing/Aerolab etc were implicated in the infringement of Force India IP.  The case was overturned but it did damage the teams credibility in the interim.

Although the team raced as Lotus they actually traded as '1MALAYSIA F1 TEAM (UK) LIMITED (Company No. 07042086)' with the team changing their UK company registry as such on 04/11/2009.   At this stage it became apparent to me that Fernandes was using the Formula One team as a Trojan horse, a means to leverage Lotus cars away from Malaysian government that owned Group Lotus, with which he had dealings with when he acquired Air Asia.  Unfortunately for Fernandes, at the time Dany Bahar was at the helm of Group Lotus, trying to shape the Lotus brand in a way that it could surmount a challenge of the company he'd just left: Ferrari.

In 2011 the 'Lotus' war began with Fernandes having acquired 'Team Lotus Ventures Ltd' as he tried to not only renege on the licensing agreement he'd had with Group Lotus but also claim to be the true 'classic' Lotus team.  Group Lotus' reaction and moreover Bahar's was one of disdain and subsequently led to both a protracted court battle over the naming of Fernandes team but also a sponsorship deal that entangled the Enstone based team: 'Lotus Renault GP'.  The fallout is still visible today as Lotus F1 Team are merely racing with the moniker, whilst Group Lotus retain the exposure without investing in the team. (a situation caused by the loss of revenue if you change names midway through a Championship, whilst Lotus remain resolute even without their support it brings extra prestige to their team)  In fairness to Fernandes he had found a way in which to run in isolation from the current Lotus and retain some of the original Colin Chapman teams heritage, something which the judge supported, allowing the continued use of the Team Lotus moniker as long as the use of 'Lotus' wasn't used in isolation, as this in turn would compromise Group Lotus.

After a protracted battle and clearly with no chance that Fernandes was now going to take charge of Lotus cars he decided to re-visit another of Chapmans associations, purchasing Caterham.  This offered a springboard for Caterham cars to make use of the worldwide appeal and exposure that Formula One grants with the team renamed Caterham F1 Team in 2012.  Meanwhile the wheels had been set in motion for Caterham to be entered into other series with another name change: '1MALAYSIA RACING TEAM (UK) LIMITED' (note the loss of F1 within the name).  On 02/12/13 the companies house register was amended once more with the company to trade as: 'Caterham Sports Limited'.

2014 offered up another opportunity for teams to make gains on their competitors owing to the biggest regulation shake up the sport has ever seen.  This for Fernandes was the last hurrah, having ploughed millions into the team his reward thus far had been to trundle around at the back of the field, essentially making up the numbers.  As he addressed the staff at Leafield before the 2014 campaign commenced he had this to say:

“My message to the 250 people here is we have to go for it this year. This is it – the final chance,” he said. “We’ve given you the best infrastructure, the best potential drivers, but it is now down to all of you to go and do it.” . . . “If we’re at the back I don’t think I’m going to carry on. Nothing is set in stone, but after five years with no points there is a limit to one’s patience, money and motivation so it’s an important year.”

The writing was on the wall, to find somewhere in the order of 2-4 seconds (which is what they'd have needed to do from the previous car) would be a monumental feat and one that was indeed too far for the Caterham team.  This led to any further interest in the team wavering, supported by his purchase of QPR and making it altogether easier for Fernandes to jettison the struggling outfit when the opportunity presented itself.  This came in the supposed shape of a rescue package from 'Swiss/Arab investors' (Engavest SA), spearheading the takeover were none other than Dr Kolles & Mr Ravetto, previously of HRT (the last F1 team to fold) and Mr Willmer.

The new team registered with Companies House on 23/09/2014 as 'CF1 Motorsport LTD' whilst the current company 'Caterham Sports Limited' had the termination of its current directors and installation of new ones completed as early as 02/07/2014 (see below), not the June 29th date that Engavest SA stipulated yesterday (although a couple of days to make the paperwork changes could be seen as permissible)
As we can see Ravetto terminated his directorship almost immediately (10/07/14) whilst it took Kolles and Willmer a significantly longer period (08/10/14) to terminate their involvement, meanwhile installing their fall guy Constantin Cojocar who now remains the sole director of Caterham Sports Limited.

Having paid and downloaded a copy of the last accounts processed by Caterham Sports Limited (Year ending 2012) it's pretty obvious that any assets (ie equipment, cars etc) were owned by Caterham Sports Limited.

The thing that really muddies the waters in the whole debacle is that although the company has traded under various names (changes with Companies House) in the UK, the Malaysian company 1Malaysia Racing Team sdn bhd owns the license to race in Formula One.  The administrator that locked the staff out of Leafield yesterday (23/10/14) was doing so in order to resolve the issues surrounding 'Caterham Sports Limited' who own the assets including the cars that the team wanted to ship to Austin.  What isn't clear is what Engavest SA (the ones who supposedly have the Swiss/Arab money) have actually purchased, in its statement yesterday (below) they claim to have signed a sale and purchase agreement for the shares in 1Malaysia Racing Team/Caterham F1.  This raises the question, did they simply think they were buying the license to race?
In a statement by Fernandes he contradicts this information citing that Engavest would pay all existing and future creditors including the staff. 
The creation of 'CF1 Motorsport LTD' by the new owners is something that nags at me, as only a change of name from the original company 'Caterham Sports Limited' with companies house was really necessary.  Was their desire to sell some of the assets to the newly formed company on paper?  The problem for the administrator in this case would have been assessing market value of what had been sold.  As we know the production of parts for a team can cost considerable sums, however when purchased in isolation they could be seen as having far less value.  (Recently sold assets must be done so at fair market value otherwise the administrator can lay claim to them)

The crux of the problem is that the whole affair has now become a public spectacle with one party blaming the other and nobody taking responsibility for either the debts accrued or the impact the companies loss could have on 250+ staff.  The administrator looks like the bad guy having stopped staff from entering the building, however his remit is to look after the interests of the creditors and with little to no money coming into the company and the ownership dispute it makes his position impossible.  With debts thought to be in the region of 20m, a rescue package to save the team is going to need a good structure and some substantial financial clout, all of which the new owners were supposed to provide.  Now it seems its only savior could be a wealthy investor or control being fully handed to the administrator, with the former propping up some of the initial debt and allow the team passage to Austin resolving the debt and restructuring the team over the coming months.  The biggest problem is that with tomorrow (25/10/14) being the shipping deadline for Austin and staff not allowed on site, getting there will be nigh on impossible.  One would hope that Mr Ecclestone could make some concessions in terms of the shipping but inevitably time still remains the largest factor in play.

The biggest losers in the debacle are the staff at Leafield, for whom I hope a resolution can be found.

UPDATE 24/10/14:

Having just concluded this post a statement has been issued via the Caterham F1 team clarifying that Fernandes / Exim bank have agreed to hand-over management of the team in the higher interest of the team, allowing continued operation and time to prepare for the forthcoming events.
Great news in the short term as it allows time for the team to prepare the cars and race at Austin etc, however in the long term a financial rescue package and new owners still need to be installed.

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11 October 2014
Bite Size Tech: Mercedes WO5 Rear Wing & Y100 Winglet - Sochi

Firstly I'll point out that the rear wing and Y100 winglet used by Mercedes (above) during qualifying and will be used for the race are not new, having previously been used the configuration at Spa (Click the link for an explanation of the differences in these wings).
As we can see from FP1 & 2 (above) the team initially setup with a much higher downforce configuration, likely anticipating a higher level of degradation of the tyres for the race.  With tyre wear significantly lower at Sochi than expected and with Williams clearly being able to match them for pace the team opted to run with less downforce, which also means less drag.
Sochi has been branded as a street circuit but in reality it's a purpose built 'Autodrome' around the ex-Olympic park, meaning its design allowed for two extensive straights (rather than being confined to an existing road layout).  These straights of course present the teams with a trade off, requiring good downforce elsewhere, whilst as little drag as possible to attain top speed.  In that respect Spa represents a similar challenge and so it is no surprise that the team decided to utilise that setup.  One thing that does differ though is that in Spa the team removed the Gurney trim from the top flap in order to further reduce drag, whilst in Sochi this remains in place.

It's interesting that the team had the forethought to plan for this and means that, that specification of wing was likely available in Suzuka too, owing to the strict customs in place at Sochi making it difficult to bring updates or fly parts in overnight.
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Bite Size Tech: McLaren MP4-29 Front Wing - Sochi

Updates are particularly thin on the ground in Sochi this weekend, owing to strict customs.  Most teams have openly admitted that they needed to have parts with them in Suzuka for them to make it across to Russia, meaning they may aswell have run them in Suzuka too.
Above: Image courtesy of @McLarenF1

A new front wing has materialized at McLaren (lower wing in the image above) though which outwardly appears very similar to their old design, infact the largest change comes to the mainplanes connection point at Y250 (250mm from the front wings centreline, with the mandated neutral section occupying that area).  The 500mm neutral section of wing has been a playground for teams since its introduction as although it's design is the same for each team, how it interacts with other areas can improve performance.  In previous seasons the teams have also used the camera housings to influence the flow over the neutral section but for 2014 this was eradicated by the introduction of their mandated positioning further upstream on the side of the nosecone.

You'll note that in the case of McLaren's new wing two metal inserts sit either side of the neutral section and are likely being used as a way of controlling how much flex occurs, as the wing deforms under load.  The horseshoe metal inserts are shaped in order to retain how the mainplanes connection with the neutral section creates an elongated vortex.
The team were investigating this in Singapore (above) when they installed a camera on the nose of the MP4-29.  The camera looks across at dots installed in the front wing endplate and measures the amount of movement, indicating where the team are/were losing/gaining performance.

Outbound of the Y250 connection we can also see that the mainplane and how it splits to form the two part flap is also more convex, adjusting how that section of the wing performs with less deformation.  It seems that the team are trying to retain a more stable Y250 vortex assisting the central rearward flow, rather than taking advantage from pivoting/flexing outer elements.
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