Archive for the ‘Launches’ Category

It appears that HRT have published a 3D computer generated model of their 2012 car in their website. The car has already failed some of its crash tests, which means that HRT face a race against time to have it ready for the 2nd (and final) Barcelona tests.

3D model of the HRT F112

 Edit (a few hours later): Andrew Benson is reporting that he contacted HRT and this is the old car (2011). It appears that HRT amuse themselves by building pages for the new car, naming it F112, and then putting pictures of the old one (since, apparently, very few people are actually busy with building a new car for the 2012 season). Unless they are planning to race the old car, in which case this is both the F111 and the F112, all rolled into one. Seriously, what are these guys thinking?

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Mercedes officially revealed today their 2012 challenger, the W03. We now have the time to take a slightly closer look at it, and some of its detailing.

W03 in Barcelona, 2012 pre-season testing

The front wing is a complete redesign (1). Mercedes have produced this three-element front wing (which is the first time they are adopting the concept), which has all these intricate and elaborate details, with very pronounced cascades and turning vanes under the nose. The nose itself (2) represents a slightly extreme interpretation of the rules, with the side bulges rising very high in comparison to the height of the nose. The smoothed 3-D surfaces between the bulges look very well thought-out and designed. It definitely looks to be more efficient and less draggy than, say, Ferrari’s or Sauber’s solutions. Behind the air intake for the engine (which, as we have already said, has 2 exposed structural members) we can see an additional air intake (3) for gearbox / hydraulics cooling. The front suspension (4) utilises pushrod architecture. Finally, if rumours about their front F-duct are correct, this (5) is the entrance of the air going into the air valve that we described in our previous blog posts.

W03 - Barcelona launch 2012 - overhead view

The exhausts (6), as we have already explained, are situated quite far forward, but this is not expected to be the final solution. As you can see in the picture below, the car was running yesterday (20/02) during filming with additional gills right next to the exhaust outlets, so we expect to see similar solutions from Mercedes during testing. The rear beam wing is supported by a swan-neck mount (7), similar to other solutions already seen this year. The rear suspension (8) features a pullrod (like all other 2012 contenders) and heat shields. Finally, as you can see (9), the DRS mechanism is not apparent. It seems that all hydraulics are directed via the endplates and they will be using a step motor to operate the rear wing upper element.

Cooling exits by the exhausts during W03 filming, yesterday

All in all, this seems to be a very contemporary and elegant interpretation of the rules, with a lot of scope for development. Provided that the basics of the car are OK, then Mercedes should be able to take the next step and challenge the top 3 teams with a bit more credibility and consistency.

Another spy shot of the Mercedes W03 was revealed today, from their private testing in Barcelona. The car, which is due to be “officially” launched tomorrow @ 8:20CET, features extremely slim sidepods, as you can see in the photo below, just like we had noticed in the 1st spy shot revealed late last week. It seems that the W03 is extremely tightly packaged at the back – tighter than any other 2012 car we have seen so far, including Red Bull, and by quite a margin. Apparently Mercedes have used their packaging knowledge from 2011, when they had to work with the shorter wheelbase of all 2011 cars, and put it to good use in 2012. It all bonds well for the season ahead, provided the car is reliable…

Mercedes W03 in Barcelona - Extremely slim and low sidepods

….and a few hours later, even more photos prop up – better ones…

Mercedes W03 spy shot - During filming (a)

Mercedes W03 spy shot - During filming (b)

The sidepods are amazing. Not only they are non-existant at the back, they also feature a heavy undercut under the air inlets, making them, arguably, the tiniest and slimest sidepods I’ve ever seen in a modern F1 car. Some say that it’s aerodynamicists who rule the game in F1, but I’m ready to argue that it’s still mechanical engineers. Without them, this tight packaging (and all the nice aero benefit that comes with it) wouldn’t have been possible.

Thanks to F1 fanatic, we now have our first serious glimpse of the Mercedes W03 car, from the shake down that took place yesterday at Silverstone, and we can make our first few, brief observations. The nose (2) is very rounded both on the vertical and horizontal planes. The famous platypus step (1) is more pronounced arguably than in any other car we’ve witnessed so far, although from that photo I am inclined to believe that what we are seeing are 2 huge vertical bulges (channels running left and right of the nose), and the “inside” part is void (unlike Ferrari which is completely solid). The front suspension (3) is typically pushrod, so Ferrari will officially be the only team on the 2012 grid to feature a pullrod arragenement at the front (we can safely predict that neither Marussia nor HRT will have a pullrod). The sidepods (4) seem to be surprisingly slim (actually ridiculously thin and tiny at the back of the coke bottle shape), with a heavy undercut; also the air intakes seem to be lower than usual. There is an additional cooling inlet (5) for gearbox and (possibly) KERS cooling. The roll hoop construction (6) follows the trend of having the pillars exposed (it’s not the carbon mono-blade design anymore). The exhausts (7) seem to be situated very far forward and we cannot judge the angle from that photograph (more will come, I’m sure, as the days go by…). The rear suspension (8), although it’s not clear in this photograph, will have a pullrod suspension, as per every other car so far and, finally, we cannot see any cooling outlets so I presume the main one will be that over the gearbox (9).

Roll on Barcelona, 21st of February…….

Mercedes W03 - first decent spy shot from Silverstone shake down

Pre-season testing has commenced at Jerez with 11 teams in attendance (everybody bar Marussia). As always, these early tests are not about performance. The teams are trying to establish the baseline performance and set-up for their cars. This is a very important procedure in order to understand (a) how the wind tunnel and CFD data correlate to the real world and (b) if there is any fundamental flaw embedded in the basic design concept of the car. This is why this week we haven’t seen anything extremely interesting, technical-wise. Teams have been trying different exhaust outlets and positions; it turns out that the most difficult aspect to fine-tune is the airflow management of the exhausts and to understand how it interacts with the clean airflow working the rear wing, the beam wing and the diffuser. We have seen burnt bodywork in the Ferrari exhaust outlets on the first day and also reports of overheating suspension members in the Toro Rosso, again on the first day. Both teams appear to have corrected these issues; Ferrari, however, hasn’t been able to complete as many laps as other teams have. F1 fans, therefore, been treated to a vast selection of thermo-strips, sensors, vis-flow and periscope columns; all used to understand what’s going on with the car and how accurate the design office has been with the calculations.

Ferrari, in particular, seem to be in a bit of a situation. It appears that their concept is so radical that they have some initial problems in understanding it. Felipe Massa has confessed that the work required is more than anticipated. As we explained, these early tests are not about the pursuit of performance, but are meant to establish the baseline. Ferrari seem to have a problem doing that. They have so many parameters to play with (this being a completely new design philosophy) and apparently they are still far from where they want to be (or, from where they thought they were going to be). It remains to be seen if the reason is that they simply need more time to understand the design and find the sweet spot for their baseline setup, or that there is a fundamental flaw in their basic design concept. From what I understand, Ferrari are not ruling out any possibility. If it’s the former, then Ferrari should be in good condition, because apparently such a radical design offers more scope and opportunity for development. If they have managed to create a solid baseline design, then they can follow development paths that other teams will not be able to, because they don’t have them hard-coded in their original design.

If, however, it’s the latter (i.e. basic fundamental flaw), then Ferrari will have to introduce a B-version of their car by mid-season, which means that 2012 will be a write-off. It’s too early to even hypothesize at this moment. However, you know that things are bad and the atmosphere is “heavy” within the team when Pat Fry claims that the snow in Maranello prevented them from doing their installation runs and this hurt them and they are playing catch up ever since. They’ll have to come up with much better excuses than that, if things turn out to be as bad as feared.

It goes without saying that we can’t (and shouldn’t) read anything in laptimes. In any case, we can make a few early remarks: Red Bull have been running consistently heavy (half to full fuel loads) and they look good. The car has suffered a bit in terms of downforce loss (due to the regs) and is sliding about a bit more, but their pace looks very good and consistent and all signs are that they will be contenders in 2012 as well. McLaren have adopted a low-key approach to testing so far, but there are positive vibes coming from within their camp. They should definitely be in better shape than they were during the 2011 pre-season tests. Force India looks fast and consistent, but the most impressive package out there, at the moment, seems to be Toro Rosso. I wouldn’t read too much into Lotus’ headline grabbing times. Romain Grosjean has admitted that their pace was due to quali-style laps with low fuel loads (potential sponsors hanging around the Lotus motorhomes add another piece to the puzzle). More encouraging is the fact that both drivers liked the handling and found it predictable and easy to take to the limit. This means that the overall aero balance is good and there are no ugly surprises. Williams and Caterham have been focusing in long runs with heavy fuel loads, so there’s not much we can deduct at the moment. Sauber’s car also looks promising and they have been able to register a lot of laps so far, which is encouraging. Of course it’s needless to say that we shouldn’t read anything into the Mercedes’ times; they were all done using a fully 2011 spec car, with exhaust blown floors, to get a direct comparison between 2011 and 2012 tyres. A 2011 Red Bull would probably lap Jerez in the 1:15’s, in quali trim.

As I said, there’s no point in comparing lap times. In 2011, the fastest laptime in Jerez was recorded by none other than Rubens Barrichello, in his FW33 Williams, and we all know how accurate that turned out to be. We should get a better picture in the next test in Barcelona (21st of February), when the teams will start pushing for performance. Mercedes are expected to unveil their car there and go testing; we have already hypothesized here about their hydraulically interlinked front-to-rear suspension to prevent anti-dive, and it appears that Mercedes have taken their time to maximize development time. Michael Schumacher was quick to rule out the possibility of them producing a title-winning car, but they desperately need to take the next step and become regular podium visitors.

This could be the year that Mercedes slot into the top 3 and the year that Ferrari slide out of it….

Ferrari have clearly chosen to go their own way in 2012. Their design marks a departure from the 2012 “common wisdom”, as displayed in the cars that we have seen so far (CT01, MP4-27 and VJM05). It also marks a departure from previous years and design philosophies, adopting a more explorative and anti-conventional path. The Ferrari F2012 really is an interesting car, so let’s dig our technical teeth into it:

Ok, the most striking feature is the nose. This, by itself, is a strange decision. I can see what Ferrari are trying to do, i.e. maximize the airflow travelling underneath the tub and towards the rear of the car. This is why they have adopted a completely vertical underside (matched with a completely vertical upper side), pushing the nose dimension to the limits allowed by the rules. In my opinion, however, a flat underside is less effective than a curved one (which is the solution that Force India and Caterham have adopted). Furthermore, the gap at the upper part between the two “bulges” is now completely filled (and this was necessary because the upper contour follows the lower, which is also flat). I imagine that this surface that meets the air straight-on is not ideal either for drag or for the airflow trying to go to the back. A case of what were they thinking? Time will tell.

Ferrari F2012 - front view

Staying at the front, the major surprise is the pullrod arrangement. With the nose sitting so high, I was very surprised to see Ferrari adopt this (although rumours were going about) and I even went on record that such an arrangement would not be adopted. I was wrong. The question is, though: were Ferrari right? As you can see in the photo above, the pullrod is nearly parallel to the ground – I calculate the angle to no more than 10-12 degrees. It’s going to be a complete nightmare for Ferrari to restore the suspension dynamics of a pushrod arrangement at such angles (even normal pullrods at increased angles suffer a small disadvantage in that area in comparison to pushrod arrangements).

One of the advantages of a pullrod arrangement is a slightly better CoG, but frankly, in that case, I don’t see it, due to the parallel orientation of the pullrod. You can see that clearly in the picture below, where I have marked where a pushrod would have been. The pullrod definitely sits higher. The other advantage is that a pullrod allows for more and clearer air to travel from the front wing to the back. I have to say that I fail to see how this is necessary and I highly doubt it can balance out the negatives of the substantially altered suspension dynamic characteristics. It may be a strange car to drive.

Ferrari F2012 Pullrod Vs Pushrod

The last car to feature pullrod suspension at the front was the European Minardi PS01 (and PS01 B), which was driven in 2001 by none other than Fernando Alonso himself. It’s a bit ironic, and he will definitely be hoping that his Ferrari’s handling characteristics don’t match those of his old Minardi. Check out the picture below, and you can see for yourself how much more radical Ferrari’s solution is in comparison with a normal pullrod, due to the increased nose of the F2012.

European Minardi PS01 - pullrod suspension

Moving on, the sidepods are very slim and the inlets are small. Another prediction that we made was that Ferrari would be sporting crash structures separate from the sidepods in the shape of wings, in front of the sidepod inlets (rumours which were encouraged by the news that Ferrari had failed early side-impact crash tests). We were wrong too. The sidepods are highly sculpted and undercut, but conventional. The interesting bit comes if we move a bit further to the back…

…and examine the exhaust and cooling outlets. Apparently Ferrari are not adopting the central cooling outlet, a la Red Bull, that has been common in all 2012-spec cars so far. The cooling outlets are merged with the exhaust in the fairings shown in the photograph below. The exhaust outlets are positioned as low and as outboard as possible – Ferrari clearly intend to blow the rear brake ducts (we again have to thank ScarbsF1 for that, who was the first to suggest it a long while back). How the exhaust-flow will combine with the cooling outlet air-flow is a mystery at this point, but I presume both will be directed at the brake duct fins. This fact, combined with the very weird front suspension geometry, could give unwanted handling characteristics to the car. It has long been argued that downforce applied straight to the wheels is very effective, but sudden loss of it (in off-throttle mode) can cause severe unbalance. Have Ferrari, in their quest for ultimate downforce, forsaken mechanical grip and driveability?

Ferrari F2012 - exhaust and sidepod cooling outlets

At the back, the bodywork is very tight around the gearbox which has been redesigned. It is now narrower and sits lower – you can also see the driveshafts which are ever so slightly angled upwards, a la Williams FW33 but nowhere near that radical. Another feature that is different in Ferrari F2012 is the air intakes at the top and the roll hoop. Ferrari are the only team thus far to retain the mono-blade carbon-fibre construction, and they have added an additional cooling inlet, apparently dedicated for the gearbox and hydraulics.

Ferrari F2012 - Rear view

All in all, and with the benefit of hindsight (having seen the other 2012 cars so far), it seems that Ferrari were trying to do something radically different to all the rest in 2012, and have accomplished it. A check list would look like that:

Nose shape different? Check.

Cooling and exhaust different? Check.

Front suspension different? Check.

Roll hoop and air intakes different? Check.

Ferrari fans can only hope that Ferrari will be justified for going radical and against the grain. It’s a make-or-break year for several people within the Ferrari organization (from the technical to the management side) and the sheer amount of change from last year’s car to the F2012 could be an indication of a very slight panic building within the team, under the pressure for immediate results.

Force India revealed their 2012 car (coded VJM05); in fact, in the hands of Paul di Resta, it became the 2nd 2012-spec machinery to turn its wheels in anger (ok, mild annoyment) for one installation lap today, at Jerez (Williams already shook their car down yesterday, away from the eyes of the press). Allegedly the team was encouraged by di Resta’s feedback (wow, guys, cool new LED’s on the steering wheel!).

Ok, joking aside the new Force India car looks to be a well-thought out and accomplished design, which manages to incorporate some pretty impressive details. I was mostly impressed by the amount of free air allowed to travel to the back and the way the bottle-neck shape at the back is really tight around the gearbox – arguably tighter than whatever we’ve seen so far. This is clear in the picture below (please also mark the opening for the motor starter, marked with yellow).

Force India VJM05 - tight packaging at the back

The exhausts’ angle is at the lower allowable range (as you can see in the photo below, I calculate it to about 13 degrees). The exhausts are mounted quite close to the car’s centerline (as opposed to McLaren’s, as we’ve seen before), and it seems that Force India are planning to blow the lower part of the rear wing. Nevertheless, it is clear that the exhaust outlets have a scope for experimentation, and we expect to see a varying degrees of angles during pre-season testing. There is a winglet mounted atop of the beam wing, which will probably be using the air coming from the central cooling outlet that the team has adopted. With all those exhausts and cooling outlets blowing in the wings, the ducts and around suspension members in 2012 cars, I expect to see all the cars run thermo-strips in their suspensions and wings (at the back) for the first tests. This may be an issue during the year.

Force India VJM05 - exhausts location

The nose, which clearly follows the rules literally, is more refined than Caterham’s version, and definitely more refined than Ferrari’s (the technical analysis of the F2012 will follow soon). As several F1 journalists have already remarked, VJM05 will not be a platypus but a hammerhead shark; check out the onboard cameras mounting at the front. Although I find their nose design quite pretty and streamlined in fact, this black monstrous tip ruins it for me.

Force India VJM05 - aka The HammerHead

Other than the above, the overall designed looks very accomplished and contemporary. The sidepods are slim and heavily undercut, increasing the quality and quantity of the air travelling at the back. The roll hoop structure is substituted with the typical-for-2012 design (with 2 extra mounting pillars, just like Sauber in 2011) that we’ve seen so far (as ScarbsF1 has predicted way in advance, this solution is actually lighter than the full carbon-fibre mono-blade type). The front wing is one which we haven’t seen in the past as well. The suspension solution is typical for 2012 (so far), with pullrod at the back and pushrod at the front. Tried and tested.

The team have set their goals high for 2012, hoping to secure 5th place (i.e. go one better than their best ever finishing position, which was 6th in 2011). This, practically, means that there will be a lot of pressure on the shoulders of Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg, two young and relatively inexperienced drivers. It means that the drivers will have to display maturity and work together towards securing constant points finishes. A good example to follow would be the way Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi operated last year.

Join me in wishing them good luck….

McLaren took the covers off their 2012 machinery today, the long anticipated MP4-27. The car carries their hopes of winning their first Constructors World Championship since 1998.

McLaren MP4-27

At first look, the car looks more like an evolution of the MP4-25 that was used during the 2010 campaign than last year’s car. It has a shorter wheelbase and gone are some of the striking features of last year’s car. McLaren also have a history of presenting fairly “bog standard” show cars in their car launches, and it’s no different in 2012. I expect several things to “grow” in the car, as they go about their pre-season testing. Nevertheless, several conclusions can be drawn.

First, the packaging at the rear is very slim. The mechanical arrangement (gearbox, drive shafts, etc) is situated a little bit lower than MP4-26, but it’s not as low as the arrangement of Williams FW33 with the extreme angles adopted for their drive shafts (you can see the comparison below). The cooling outlet is now unique (unless some more spring out during testing), it’s much smaller in comparison to last year and is situated directly above the diffuser. The diffuser itself is blanked, so we will get to see it for the first time in testing only. Also gone are the L-shaped sidepod cooling inlets – we have a more conventional arrangement now. Interestingly, there is an additional cooling inlet inside the sidepod inlets, which will probably be dedicated for KERS cooling. The sidepods themselves are heavily undercut and sculpted.

MP4-27 - view from the rear

Williams FW33 - view from the rear

The most interesting feature of the new McLaren is the exhaust outlets location. Situated at this position, so far out from the car’s centerline (the exhaust outlets protrude from the back of the sidepods like cracked bones in a footballer’s foot), it points to the conclusion that McLaren will be exhaust-blowing their rear brake ducts. I therefore expect some heavily finned ducts to appear for the first pre-season tests – stay tuned for that. It will be interesting to read what the drivers have to say about that. Popular wisdom has it that, although the downforce produced directly at the wheels is more efficient, it is expected to affect the handling of the car in off-the-throttle mode. Considering that extreme engine mapping to blow the exhausts is no longer allowed by the FIA, the jury is out on whether the drivers can live with it or not. A tail-happy car in high speeds will definitely suit Lewis but not Jenson. The car is expected to be planted to the ground in corner exits, which is another plus for Lewis, because Jenson is slightly better than Lewis in getting the power down, so that’s another advantage that Jenson will have to give up.

The nose is much smoother than Caterham’s solution, and nothing indicates that the engineers were forced to extreme measures to deal with the 625 mm Vs 550 mm rule. Apparently McLaren feel there’s more to be gained from streamlined bodywork at the front and who are we to argue with their windtunnel calculations.

McLaren MP4-27 - front view

All in all, this appears to be a concept bordering in the conservative, with a few interesting ideas thrown in. We will have to wait of course for their first tests to make a final judgement, seeing as a lot of features on the car have been either blanked or not presented at all. The history of F1 is riddled with winning cars that have been evolved from less successful predecessors – Red Bull being a prime example of that. McLaren seem to have decided that their basic concept is not that bad and all it needs is some innovation in key areas.

The jury is out…

Caterham has released photos of their 2012 contender (nothing new, just better quality), so we have a first chance to take a look at the back of the car:

Caterham CT01 - Rear view

As we can see, the similarities with RB7 are very obvious: The team are using a pullrod arrangement at the back. The sidepods are very sculpted and tight, “hugging” the gearbox. There is one main cooling outlet, which is situated at the fin tale, while there are no other cooling outlets that we can see. From this photograph we cannot determine the angle that the exhausts have been installed with regards to the reference plane, so we cannot tell if Caterham have decided to blow the rear wing or not. It remains to be seen whether this is the final exhaust solution. Overall, the rear of the car is very tightly packaged, leaving a lot of the floor exposed. It’s a very neat design, and definitely the most modern and contemporary that Caterham (ex Team Lotus) have ever produced. It bodes well in their efforts to bridge the gap to the midfield. It certainly looks the part. It’s also clear that their technical collaboration with Red Bull and Renault will continue to bear fruit in the future. With the rules remaining relatively stable in 2013, Caterham need to throw all they’ve got in developing this car, which can make or break their entire F1 participation project.

The first pictures of the Caterham 2012 car have been leaked today and we present them to you here. The team was supposed to launch the car via the upcoming issue of F1 Racing. One would presume F1 Racing is not thrilled to bits about it. Oh, well, here goes:

Caterham 2012 car - side view

3/4 view

Caterham 2012 car

Caterham 2012 car - front view

Our first observation has to do with the nose. It has been raised to reach the maximum allowed height of 550 mm, in order to maximize the airflow travelling underneath and towards the rear of the car. Behind it, we find these 2 “bulges” that are used to raise the car up to 625 mm, in order to conform with the rules. The bulges are also used as housing hard points for the upper front wishbones and the push rod. The result is this “platypus” styled nose, which is a trend most F1 teams are expected to follow. It will be interesting to see which teams will go for a slightly lower or slightly more rounded nose, and what kind of benefits / drawbacks such a choice may present.

In terms of suspension, Caterham have gone for pushrod at the front and, although I can’t see what’s going on at the back, I presume it will be a pullrod. Rumours that have Ferrari going for a pullrod at both ends are probably unfounded.

The sidepods is a big departure from the past. They are heavily sculpted, with an undercut, to increase airflow to the back, which will be critical in 2012 (ok, arguably it’s always critical, but with the ban on EBD’s that’s where all the loss in downforce has to be regained). The roll hoop is of conventional design (gone is the blade) with parts of the supporting members showing. The exhausts are not shown and just like the front wing (which is nothing new, we’ve seen it before and it’s there for presentation purposes only) the final solution may not appear until the first pre-season tests.

Although we don’t have a clear view of the back, we can surmise that it will have a lot of 2011 Red Bull features, since Renault is supplying the Engine and the KERS, whereas Red Bull themselves will be supplying the gearbox and the hydraulics.