Tech analysis: Mercedes rivals' early push to catch up in 2018

With both Formula 1 drivers' and teams' titles going to the Mercedes camp, closest rivals Ferrari and Red Bull have ramped up 2018 development, aiming to prevent the same outcome next year.

Tech analysis: Mercedes rivals' early push to catch up in 2018

The curtain has come down on another F1 season, in which a relentless rate of development has helped swing the balance of power from race to race.

In the final few grands prix of the season, with the pecking order largely settled, crews up and down the paddock have set about understanding concepts for their 2018 challengers, sacrificing time during free practice sessions in order to get feedback from their drivers and get full-scale, real-world data.

Red Bull

Red Bull RB13 push rod suspension
Red Bull RB13 push rod suspension

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull has been evaluating a new suspension set-up since Austin (above), in an effort to improve the ride and handling characteristics of next year's car but also to optimise the car's pitch characteristics, allowing the team to refine the aerodynamic concept.

Red Bull RB13, front wing comparison
Red Bull RB13, front wing comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

In Abu Dhabi, Red Bull accelerated preparations for 2018, trialling a totally revamped front wing that was tested in tandem with the suspension layout.

The changes centred on a more conventional wrap-over-flap arrangement (blue arrows), while the primary flap (red arrow) was also turned down and connected to the mainplane and neutral central section juncture - as is commonplace up and down the grid.

This also required the shape of the adjoining mainplane sections to be altered, all of which adds up to a revised vortex being shed from the region (Y250).

The revised wing also deals differently with the outer portion of the wing, as it was increased in width (yellow highlight). This section of the wing is usually reserved for shaping the airflow around the front tyre, improving the shape of the wake being generated, pulling it away from the floor to improve downforce and reduce drag.

Lastly, and connected to these changes, was a different approach to the inner endplate canards, as the twin, twisted configuration used throughout 2017 was replaced with a simpler version.

Ferrari

F1’s development cycle is as much about recognising your opponents' strengths and weaknesses as your own.

More often than not, we see design trends appear up and down the grid as one team finds a solution that becomes of interest of all their competitors.

This season, one such area has been the diffuser, a focus for designers given the much larger volume made available to them with the revised regulations. As such, we have seen teams treating the periphery of the diffuser in a different way.

2017 diffuser edges
2017 diffuser edges

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren, Renault and Toro Rosso have all chosen to reduce the overall width of the actual diffuser, utilising a series of extra vertical surfaces formed by multiple Gurney trims to form a more complex outer wall that sees high pressure from the upper surface injected into the edge vortex.

The idea is to change the vortex's properties, improving downforce and reducing its susceptibility to ingress from air squirted laterally into its path by the tyres as they deform under load.

Williams FW40, Ferrari SF70H and Ferrari SF15-T diffuser upstands
Williams FW40, Ferrari SF70H and Ferrari SF15-T diffuser upstands

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

It’s something that has been worked on extensively by Ferrari already over the last few years, albeit in a different way, as the Italian team loaded the upper surface of the diffuser's upper corner with an array of different flaps in order to affect the pressure gradient, consequently pulling airflow through the diffuser at a different rate while having an effect on the edge vortex.

Ferrari SF70H new diffuser, Abu Dhabi
Ferrari SF70H new diffuser, Abu Dhabi

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

However, having noted the move toward this trend by its competitors, Ferrari trialled its own version during free practice in Abu Dhabi.

In an ironic turnaround, considering Sebastian Vettel’s comments in Singapore about Red Bull’s deflectors - which are essentially a carbon copy of Ferrari's design - it is Red Bull’s design that the Scuderia’s diffuser bears the most significant resemblance to.

shares
comments
Santander ends F1 deals in favour of Champions League tie-in

Previous article

Santander ends F1 deals in favour of Champions League tie-in

Next article

Old F1 logo not "iconic or memorable" - Brawn

Old F1 logo not "iconic or memorable" - Brawn
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Event Abu Dhabi GP
Location Yas Marina Circuit
Teams Ferrari , Red Bull Racing
Author Matt Somerfield
The changes Barcelona needs to provide a modern-day F1 spectacle Prime

The changes Barcelona needs to provide a modern-day F1 spectacle

Formula 1’s visits to Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya over recent years have been met with familiar criticisms despite tweaks here and there to the track to improve racing. With the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix largely going the same way, proper solutions need to be followed to achieve F1’s wider targets

Spanish Grand Prix Driver Ratings Prime

Spanish Grand Prix Driver Ratings

Often described as Formula 1's laboratory, the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona gave the clearest demonstration yet of the pecking order in 2021. And it's the key discrepancies from that order which illuminate who is excelling, and who needs to hit the reset button.

How Red Bull's deja vu set Hamilton on the winning path in Spain Prime

How Red Bull's deja vu set Hamilton on the winning path in Spain

An aggressive first corner move from Max Verstappen appeared to have set the Red Bull driver on course for victory in the Spanish Grand Prix. But canny strategy from Mercedes - combined with the absence of Red Bull's number two from the lead group - allowed Lewis Hamilton to pull off a demoralising reversal

The Barcelona practice times that prove Red Bull has hidden pace Prime

The Barcelona practice times that prove Red Bull has hidden pace

Lewis Hamilton led the way in Friday practice for the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix, but there was one major encouraging sign for Red Bull. However, making good on that gain will require Max Verstappen to avoid repeating a mistake that left him well down the FP2 order...

Formula 1
May 7, 2021
Why McLaren doesn’t doubt Ricciardo can escape his ‘dark’ place Prime

Why McLaren doesn’t doubt Ricciardo can escape his ‘dark’ place

Three points finishes from as many starts represents a decent opening innings on paper, but Daniel Ricciardo has endured a tough start to his McLaren career - only magnified his teammate's excellent form. Yet both he and the team have good reason to expect a turnaround soon.

Formula 1
May 6, 2021
What needs to “change” for Red Bull is ending Verstappen’s errors Prime

What needs to “change” for Red Bull is ending Verstappen’s errors

OPINION: Going up against the dominant force of Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton was always going to demand the best from Red Bull and Max Verstappen. But after making a couple more errors during the Portuguese Grand Prix, the Dutch driver showed there's a small gap he still needs to close in the 2021 Formula 1 title fight.

Formula 1
May 5, 2021
The "subtle" Red Bull upgrades that kept it in the Portugal F1 mix Prime

The "subtle" Red Bull upgrades that kept it in the Portugal F1 mix

Red Bull's Portuguese Grand Prix fortunes were decidedly second best to Mercedes', but the result skews the potential that the team had at Portimao. With a new set of updates, the team looks good going forward into the rest of 2021's spicy F1 competition

Formula 1
May 3, 2021
Portuguese Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

Portuguese Grand Prix driver ratings

The 2021 Portuguese GP will for several drivers go down as a weekend of missed opportunities amid imperfect track conditions that caused struggles with tyre warm-up. But the performances of a select few stood out from the crowd

Formula 1
May 3, 2021