Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

All up in the air // An evaluation of the 2010 launches completed so far

Published by KerbRider

2010 has promised to be a great year for F1 since Sebby V took the chequered flag in Abu Dhabi. The off season has now ensured this will be the case.

A lot of people have gotten excited over the game of musical chairs the drivers like to play every few years. Some even more so because a certain driver, I like to call Voldemort, decided he wanted to play again.

Although all these changes have been great to see, and have whet my appetite for what is promising to be a great season, the real excitement for me is launch season.

I love the smell of Duco in the morning!

The reason I love launch season is because I'm a 'details' man. I will study photos of the new cars for hours on end to see their subtleties and nuances, and speculate as to why they did this, or that, and then formulate how I think a particular design philosophy might work.

Different strokes for different folk I guess.

I'll start with the fundamentals of design philosophy, and I'll thank Mr Codling for his insightful article in this months F1 Racing. Cant wait to get the book.

The way I see it, the fundamental concept of designing a quick car is to have the air under the car moving a lot quicker than the air on top. This is basic aeronautics. What an F1 designer must try to achieve is to have four separate airflows to make a car work effectively. Underneath, above, and the two sides of the car.

The idea is to keep these "chunks" of air as independent of each other as possible. So in other words, we don’t want air flowing from the side of the car bleeding into the air flowing over or under the car. As there are four big black squares on a car, the philosophy is to minimise this "bleeding" as much as possible.

It all about compromise.

So on to the cars that have been launched to date.

Ferrari

Ferrari seem to have a simple and sleek design. Quite an attractive car I think, and it hurts me to say that. Love the lighter red colour, and the white wings are bearable for sponsorship purposes. Not a bad deal for Ferrari to get Alonso basically for free, when Santander are obviously footing the bill for him. So can we now class Fernando as a pay driver!

Average height for the nose. Not as high as others and about even with Mercedes. The all important front wing is clearly not as detailed as Mclaren, Red Bull and Sauber, but maybe it doesn’t need to be because the rest of the car deflects the air where needed. Fat, and weighty sidepods are well streamlined, and have the bulk purely for side impact crash testing. A feature most cars have this season.

Where I think Ferrari have excelled is the rear end. Although they haven't chosen to go the "sharkfin" path, there is so much free space at the back for clear airflow over the rear wing. Of course the "sharkfin" is subject to crosswind buffeting that can affect pitch and yaw mid-corner, and more importantly, under braking. What might let them down is the lack of cover over the rear suspension. This may cause turbulent air affecting the air that exits above the diffuser.

McLaren

For one, I am glad McLaren kept their silver and red livery. Its effective, sexy, and unique. Even if the Mercedes has tried to replicate without copying.

McLaren have boldly copied the splitter/divider underneath the nose that Williams had last year but strangely decided to opt against this year.

If we look at a front on view on the MP4-25, it is clear that this device will divide the air to flow more cleanly through the suspension arms and steering column, and swiftly into the sidepods. It will have the effect of forcing more air faster into the sidepods, which explains in a fashion as to why they are so small compared to other teams.

The front wing is, in layman's terms, off its face!

The front wing is, in layman's terms, off its face! Incredibly detailed, and obviously Mclarens' philosophy this year was to not be caught out by last year's mistakes. They learned a lot last year as a design team. Although they seemingly have "borrowed" ideas from RBR and Brawn, they have made them uniquely Mclaren. The Sharkfin is high, and long, and a bit fatter at the bottom. This is to accommodate the exhaust exits that, again unique to Mclaren, exit horizontally, rather than vertically like the rest of the grid. It will be interesting to see what benefit this has. The MP4-25 is vastly different in appearance to anything else this year which means that this year Mclaren will go either one of two ways - that is poor, or win the lot.

Mercedes

My overall view is that I'm largely unimpressed by Mercedes. I was expecting big changes in this year's car. The Mercedes livery is average, and hopefully will be updated next year.

They have gone with a higher nose than the Brawn, and the design remains largely unchanged. Of course as Ross alluded to last year, the nose has the air channelling veins. This seems to be a large talking point, although I think its effectiveness is overrated. I can only assume the concept was born out of a need to direct airflow away from the drivers helmet, which is a rather large obstacle.

The most noticeable change is the air box. Low and broad with a splitter. There is a semi-sharkfin, and I expected tighter packaging at the rear considering they have had a year with the engine and drive train. All this being said, I still believe they will be a top four team.

Sauber

This one gets me excited. BMW obviously did a lot of work before the withdrawal. A great looking front wing that should be successful in diverting airflow around the front wheels and into the rear sculpted body work. A high nose to increase the amount of air flowing underneath the car, and unique sidepods that have the idea of moulding airflow back inward toward the rear wing.

A large and bulky sharkfin as per Mclaren, but inspiringly sculpted sidepods and tight rear packaging. All in the name of rear stability and front end grip. I believe the Sauber should have great traction with the low sitting rear, and as F1 is mainly made up of slow to medium speed corners, this will be a great advantage over the course of 19 races. I think they will be the surprise of the year. Kubica left too early. Which leads me to...

Renault

U-G-L-Y they aint got no alibi, its ugly!! For a team that pulled out as late as they did officially, I think they must have pulled out mentally beforehand as this year's car will be the joke of 2010. My heart sinks for Kubica, it really does. Ugly cars rarely do well in F1, and I don’t think this year will be any exception.

Of course I'm saying this under the impression that this is the car that will actually race.

It looks quite uninspiring, and a bit too bulky at the sides. Like a driver, the car needs to be fit, and trim the fat. It looks shorter than the rest, as does the RBR at first glance. Go Renault engine efficiency!!

I expect design changes early on in the year

The rear wing is left of field, and might suit their own philosophy, but I expect design changes early on in the year, if not before Bahrain. The front wing endplates are also a tad bland, and are the least detailed of the already established teams.

Let's not expect much unfortunately.

Williams

I always hold high hopes for Williams. Shouldn't everyone? Real racers, battlers and sadly of late, the perennial underachievers. This all stems from their brief encounter with a walrus, and they have never recovered fully from that.

I'm a bit befuddled as to why they went with a clean sheet, as last year's car was quite decent, and an evolution of that may have pushed them up the grid. I hope it works for them, but as strange as it sounds, the car seem too clean to be a top performer.

It seems as of late, to find real performance and aero gains, a car needs to look messy. But I guess the 2009 Brawn put that to rest too. Nose is high, which in the past meant high centre of gravity, but with the double diffuser malarkey, this is necessary to maximise air flow underneath the car. I suspect that with this year's cars most performance will be found from the floor, and suspension geometry.

Interesting to note the Williams front wing sits backward from the mounting pillars, whereas the other teams have their mounting pillars attached closer to the front of the front wing main plane. There are some interesting components on the end fences that look successful in dispersing airflow around the tyres.

Toro Rosso

Nothing to see here folks! Keep moving. Seriously, not much change from last years RBR. Not expecting great feats from the driver pairing, although Buemi has some potential. I expect them to be toughing it out with Williams and or Renault at best, Virgin and Lotus at worst.

Virgin Racing

There will be some bad headlines printed about this team this year. My impressions of the car are that it might surprise. Well packaged at the rear, and sidepods of a Mclaren nature. The real sticking point will be suspension geometry and heating the tyres in unison. The front wing looks large, and dual channel end plates look as though they will get the desired result there. Except for one fine point. Sure the CFD would have calculated big downforce levels, but as our friend Mr Saward mentioned in a podcast last year, how will it go in turbulent air? There are no intricate details that suggest it will cope well in traffic, and there is a massive space behind the front wing that has no details to direct air straight toward the floor splitter and onward and downward toward the diffuser.

The car itself looks fantastic. I love the livery, the addition of the Yorkshire rose is just brilliant. I'm Australian, and it means nothing to me, but it’s a beautiful design. For me it harks back to the first Jordan in '91. Clean and unpretentious (even though it is a Branson baby). I think they will score points for sure, but not more than 10 unless they get lucky in the wet.

Red Bull

The one we were all waiting for. The thread for the launch was full of negative comments which surprised me. Sure it looks like last year's car, but they were the quickest last year, so the only thing they had to concentrate on was the rear end because they missed the double diffuser boat. Additionally if RBR can get Total to incorporate into blue, why did Renault insist on that hideous red?

The rear end is even more tightly packaged than last year

Firstly the front wing. Equal in development man hours of the Mclaren I would imagine, and running in turbulence was an issue for them last year until they introduced the stepped top wing. The nose is almost round once we get past the yellow tip, and the airflow channels on top are more pronounced and sharper at the front than other teams who have copied the idea. The rear end is even more tightly packaged than last year and it looks low thanks to the pull rod suspension geometry. This will assist with traction out of the slower corners, as last year, the RBR was an oversteer car compared to the understeering Brawn.

The sharkfin has now been filled in underneath the rear wing, and comprises the rear wing support post. It should be quick, but will it be the quickest?

Force India

With the Mclaren association, I am expecting big things from this team this year. The front wing is nicely detailed and there is plenty of space under the high nose to get lots of under the car and into that diffuser. High chunky sidepods like the Ferrari, and the rear packaging looks too high. First impressions are that it has a higher centre of gravity than the others as the exhaust exits sit high in the bodywork.

No change in livery, which is fine by me. Its effective, if not attractive. I'm also expecting over the course of the season for Liuzzi to beat Sutil resoundingly.

It really is all up in the air this year, and anyone who thinks they know who will win at this stage is kidding themselves. There will be some good guesses only in prediction land, and I for one am predicting a Lewis WDC and a Red Bull WCC.