More downforce, massive amounts of G-force and apex speeds that have catapulted this year’s lap times back amongst the fastest ever recorded; Formula 1 fans this season are witnessing the results of a major regulations shake-up with aerodynamics at its heart. In this article we focus on how the bodywork and tyre regulation changes to the grid of 2017 have affected performance?

Need for speed

The latest generation of turbo hybrid cars in Formula 1 have been under increasing scrutiny in recent years for their slower lap pace and ease of handling, sparking much debate as to whether F1 had lost its air of excitement. In what has been dubbed by many as one of the biggest regulation shake-ups of the decade, organisers have looked to inject some speed back into the sport as a result. Their options? More power or more grip, and with new power units out of the question, this left one thing – downforce. And lots of it.

There are two options when it comes to increasing vehicle grip – more mechanical grip (from the tyres), or more aerodynamic grip – and the F1 cars of 2017 include a combination of both. We take a look, from front to rear, at how the 2017 car compares to its 2016 counterpart, and illustrate exactly how ‘more aero’ means faster cars.

Front wing and tyres

This year’s cars are equipped with a wider front wing capable of producing more efficient front downforce and of accommodating tyres that are around 25% bigger than in 2016. The front tyres, which have grown in width from 245mm to 305mm can achieve more mechanical grip, and the overall width of the car has increased from 1800mm to 2000mm as a result.

Wheel hubs and barge boards

While there’s a clear advantage to larger tyres, the drawback is larger wakes, which if not treated properly, can be sucked under the floor and into the diffuser, reducing downforce.

The increased wheel width is therefore encouraging teams to look to counteract this by investing in the development of hi-tech blown wheel hubs, which reduce the size of the front wheel wake by improving airflow around the front tyres. As the season progresses, the larger front wheel wakes will encourage teams to put more development time into better channelling air through the wheel hub via the brake duct, as there is more lap time to be gained from doing so in 2017 than there was in 2016.

Working in tandem with the wheel hubs, the bargeboards are much longer, pushing the front wheel wakes away from the underfloor of the car, and further improving the generation of downforce.

20162017car

Wheel hubs and barge boards

While there’s a clear advantage to larger tyres, the drawback is larger wakes, which if not treated properly, can be sucked under the floor and into the diffuser, reducing downforce.

20162017detail

The increased wheel width is therefore encouraging teams to look to counteract this by investing in the development of hi-tech blown wheel hubs, which reduce the size of the front wheel wake by improving airflow around the front tyres. As the season progresses, the larger front wheel wakes will encourage teams to put more development time into better channelling air through the wheel hub via the brake duct, as there is more lap time to be gained from doing so in 2017 than there was in 2016.

Working in tandem with the wheel hubs, the bargeboards are much longer, pushing the front wheel wakes away from the underfloor of the car, and further improving the generation of downforce.

Aero Article

Aero Article 2

Diffuser and floor

Further downforce gains have been made from the bigger diffuser (which is both wider and taller) and larger floor of the 2017 car. Diffusers produce downforce efficiently and are fairly neutral in terms of aero balance which, coupled with the extra 200mm width of the floor, has resulted in much more aerodynamic grip. Aero balance is defined as the percentage of total downforce that is applied through the front wheels.

Aero Article 3

Rear wing

The rear wing of the 2017 car is also wider, with a lower profile that has a reduced max height of 800mm, compared to 950mm in 2016.

 20162017

The altered position of the 2017 rear wing helps to pull air through the diffuser and provides the car with more rear downforce. This allows for more aggressive front wings, while maintaining aerodynamic balance.

Aero Article4

An unexpected addition

As a result of the rear wing being lowered, widened and moved rearwards from its old location, F1 teams have jumped on the opportunity to modify a small zone behind the roll hoop that is no longer covered by the rear wing rule box due to its new rearward position. Known as the t-wing, teams have exploited the zone to add in a small ‘winglet’ to create downforce directly – though there are already plans to ban it for 2018.

More ‘aero’

Given all of the regulations changes, the table below compares forces for the PERRIN 2016 and 2017 F1 cars tested at the same single straight line attitude and speed to demonstrate ‘aero’ gains.

Table

This demonstration car probably shows a larger drag rise than would be seen on a real car, with 10% more likely, along with an actual efficiency of around 4. This is because this car is relatively under developed compared to a real car on the grid.

Through the additional grip, officials were looking to shave off 2 to 3 seconds a lap, and already we have seen lap times significantly quicker than last season.

Though not an official lap record (Lap records must be posted during the race), Hamilton’s pole time of 1:31.678 in Shanghai is the quickest ever lap at the Shanghai track*. Sergio Perez set a new lap record on the new track layout at Monaco last month, and with development on-going throughout the season, something tells us another lap record might be on the cards soon!

Which track do you think it will be? Tweet us your thoughts or questions @TotalSimLtd or contact us on +44 (0)1280 840316 / info@totalsim.co.uk

* http://www.aol.co.uk/sport/2017/04/08/hamilton-smashes-shanghai-record-to-take-pole/

The two F1 cars used in this article have been drawn by PERRINN. PERRINN is an organization with no physical head-quarters that designs, develops and distributes innovative services and products. They have produced Open Source race cars for LMP1 and Formula 1. The cars used in this article have been drawn to both the 2016 and 2017 regulations respectively.  www.perrinn.com

 

 

 

 

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