Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis
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Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

Russian GP tech round-up: Ferrari's push to hunt Mercedes down

In part two of the Russian GP technical round-up, Giorgio Piola and Matt Somerfield look at the changes introduced by Ferrari, Williams and Red Bull.

Russian GP tech round-up: Ferrari's push to hunt Mercedes down

Ferrari

Ferrari continues to pursue Mercedes, pushing through both aerodynamic and power unit upgrades ahead of schedule.

The Italian team has already made significant gains through changes made to its power unit but in Russia it implemented another three development tokens, focussed on combustion elements.

Ferrari SF16H front wing, Shanghai-Sochi comparison
Ferrari SF16H front wing, Shanghai-Sochi comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The front wing is a high-downforce iteration of its wing concept, with numerous changes made to improve the performance envelope.

The mainplane and flap shapes and chord lengths have been amended, not only to allow room for an a much taller upper flap with an almost full-length slot, but also to affect the shape of the Y250 vortex.

The serrations used on the penultimate flap's tip (inset) have been removed from the new specification, with the shape of the Y250 vortex already changed.

Meanwhile, the notch placed in the 'r' cascade had also been dismissed, affecting the shape of the airflow passing over and around the tyre's surface.

Ferrari SF16-H wing detail
Ferrari SF16-H wing detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The secondary flap now has another slot in the outer section, which remains unpainted (highlighted in green), making up for the increased angle of attack. Whilst the under wing strakes (highlighted in light blue) have been increased in number too, which can be seen below.

The damaged nosecone of race retiree Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF16-H
The damaged nosecone of race retiree Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF16-H

Photo by: XPB Images

The damage inflicted on Vettel's SF16-H at the start of the race led to this image being captured, giving us a rare glimpse at the underside of a Formula One car's front wing.

Ferrari SF16-H front brake comparison
Ferrari SF16-H front brake comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Changes were made to the SF16-H's front brake drums, which will not only have a direct consequence to the heat inside the drum but also how heat radiates into the wheel and then the tyre. That has a significant effect on the performance of the car throughout a race stint.

The drum used in Russia is not new but shows the lengths the teams go to micro-manage heat so as to improve the performance of the brakes and tyres.

Williams

Williams rushed through a new front wing and nose design for Bahrain in the hopes of providing an uplift in performance.

However, given that it was a development that was bought forward, only one was made in time, which Felipe Massa ran.

For the Chinese GP the new parts were supposed to be run by Valtteri Bottas but, as the team conducted back-to-back testing on Massa's car during free practice, it sustained damage, ruling out either driver using it for the race.

For Russia, the nose and wing was made available to both drivers and raced by both for the first time but not without its own risks, as they only had two available, meaning if either driver were involved in an accident during the weekend, they'd have to switch back to the old specification.

At this stage, it is difficult to discern a direct performance correlation for the upgrade as the Williams is always much better suited to circuits where the softer Pirelli compounds are used, however, it is safe to say it has had a net effect.

The 3D animation goes through the changes that Williams made to the FW38's nose and front wing but let's drill down into the detail...

Williams FW38 nose detail
Williams FW38 nose detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The thumb-style nose tip is around 50mm shorter than its predecessor, changing the slope height of the nose rearwards and changing how the air flows around it.

More importantly though, this has a different effect on the neutral section of the mainplane it sits above - something everyone, including Williams, is looking to harness to suit their own objectives downstream.

Williams FW38 front wing detail
Williams FW38 front wing detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The front wing has several key changes, starting with the 'r' cascade, which now has a slot in the leading edge to improve efficiency (see inset for previous specification).

Williams FW38 wing detail
Williams FW38 wing detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The neutral section of the mainplane's juncture with the flapped section has also been amended, changing the shape of the vortex it sheds.

The upper flaps have also been changed at their tip, rolling over to create a funnel shape, rather than just terminating at the tip. The changes can be noted from the old specification of wing in the inset.

Williams FW38 front wing detail with a deflection tester
Williams FW38 front wing detail with a deflection tester

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Whilst the wing is clearly capable of passing the FIA's deflection test, having already raced, Williams was keen to establish that the wing was doing as predicted whilst on circuit too.

As such, the team placed checkered stickers on the endplate and 'r' cascade while a high speed camera, mounted on the mainplane, monitored the wing's vertical and horizontal deflection while under aerodynamic load.

Williams FW38 detail
Williams FW38 detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

A new set of bargeboards could be found on the FW38, too, making the most of the airflow that has been changed by the introduction of the new nose and front wing.

The new bargeboards feature a much taller leading edge, which terminates in a tip rather than a simple curvature.

Each section behind this has been shaped to accommodate this, but they appear to be staggered to match the surface geometry, which is more curved than its predecessor.

Red Bull

Red Bull Racing RB12 front detail
Red Bull Racing RB12 front detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull continued to assess the serrated front wing first tested in China, knowing that it gives a direct improvement but will require changes downstream to maximise the car's overall performance.

In Russia, the team fitted Kvyat's car with Kiel probe arrays behind the front wing (above) to further understand how the airflow is displaced by the surrounding aerodynamic structures.

Red Bull RB12 rear wing, Sochi
Red Bull RB12 rear wing, Sochi

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

At the rear of the car, the rear wing endplates were treated to several new strakes, which help disrupt the airflow while upwashing it, improving the performance of other surrounding airflow structures as it does so.

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