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F1 | Australian Grand Prix | Tech Updates

Australian Grand Prix Tech Updates

With only two weeks between pre-season testing and the Australian Grand Prix, the teams had a monumental challenge to not only get their new 2019 machinery to Australia, but turn around any updates from testing. This didn’t stop them though….

Starting at the front, the majority of front wing designs were very similar to what was revealed during pre-season testing. With such a tight turnaround, modifying the front wing can be risky as any change can completely change the behaviour of the airflow, affecting the performance of all the other aerodynamic devices downstream. Despite this, Red Bull made a very minor alteration to the RB15’s front wing endplates as highlighted in blue below.

Red_Bull_RB15_Front_Wing
Front wing endplate comparison of the Red Bull RB15 at the Australian GP (left) and pre-season testing (right)

As was discussed at pre-season testing, the 2019 regulations heavily restrict the front brake duct design, which is why this will be a significant area of development as teams attempt to extract the maximum performance out of this area. An iteration of designs can already be seen on Red Bull’s RB15. During the 1st pre-season test, the area below the front brake duct was flush with the wheel rim and had no inlets or additional elements (below right). However, at the 2nd pre-season test, one vertical inlet near the centreline of the wheel was added. By the time the car arrived in Australia, an additional, smaller inlet was also integrated directly below the front brake duct, with both inlets highlighted in blue below. 

Red_Bull_R01MEL_front_brake_duct_2
Brake duct comparison on the Red Bull RB15 between the Australian GP (left) and pre-season testing (right)

The teams are always pushing to flow air through the wheel, from the inboard to the outboard side because this is a very powerful mechanism to help steer the front wing wake wider and therefore further away from the car. In doing this, the wake of the front wing has minimal interaction with the wake from the front wheel and overall the aim is to minimise the amount of turbulent airflow that goes onto the rear wing and diffuser, which reduces the performance of these aerodynamic devices. Air through the wheel assembly is also used to cool the brakes and this hot air can then be manipulated to heat the rim and therefore help with tyre warm up. 

According to Racing Point’s Technical Director Andrew Green, the RP19 revealed at pre-season testing was very much a ‘vanilla’ car, with lots of tech updates expected for the Australian GP. One of those updates was the front brake duct, which has been an area that Racing Point, like most teams, have been particularly focusing on throughout the beginning of the year. The iteration ran at the Australian GP for car number 11 featured an additional element towards the inside of the wheel.

Racing_Point_R01MEL_front_brake_duct
Front brake duct comparison on the Racing Point RP19 between the Australian GP (left) and pre-season testing (right)

This element could be used to try and turn more airflow into a particular part of the wheel assembly to extract heat from the brakes and potentially use this to heat the rim and therefore the tyres. However, it is difficult to conclude on the exact inner workings of the wheel assembly as each design varies dramatically from left to right, front to rear and from team to team. 

Racing_Point_T01BCN_front_brake_duct
Flowviz on the Racing Point RP19 front brake duct at the Australian GP

Mirrors were a topic of discussion last year and it looks like the same will be true for 2019. This ‘vanilla’ RP19 at pre-season testing featured a simplified mirror design that was mounted on the extended bodywork above the sidepod inlet. In Australia however, the RP19 arrived with a much more extravagant and aerodynamic design which was mounted on both the extended bodywork and the main chassis.

Racing_Point_T02BCN_mirrors
Mirror comparison between the Racing Point RP19 at the Australian GP (top) and pre-season testing (bottom)

Another aerodynamic change was the additional winglets added to the Halo of the Mercedes W10 for the Australian GP. Interestingly, last year despite the majority of other teams running with these type of winglets, Mercedes never did. At pre-season testing this remained the case, however at the Australian GP the W10 featured a two-tier set of winglets, located on top of the main structure of the Halo, as shown below. 

Mercedes_W10_Halo
Halo comparison of the Mercedes W10 at the Australian GP (left) and pre-season testing (right)

It may not be shocking to know that the Australian summer is warmer than the Spanish winter. With track temperature reaching ~42degC at Albert Park compared to ~28degC at Circuit De Catalunya, the teams opened up the various vents and openings on their 2019 contenders. The Mercedes W10 carried over the unique S-shaped opening, behind the rear of the Halo, from last year. This was blanked off during testing and was opened up at the Australian GP as highlighted in blue below. The vents alongside the Halo have also been opened up. 

Comparison of the cooling vents on the Mercedes W10 at the Australian GP (left) and pre-season testing (right)

The Racing Point RP19 arrived in Australia with an additional winglet on the side of the engine air intake.  

Racing_Point_R01MEL_airbox_winglet
An additional winglet was added to the Racing Point RP19 at the Australian GP (left) compared to pre-season testing (right)

Another modification to Racing Point’s RP19 was a dramatically modified bargeboard area as highlighted in blue below. A simpler one-piece turning vane replaced the complex array of elements from pre-season testing and a horizontal element had also been added. 

Racing_Point_Bargeboards
Bargeboard comparison of the Racing Point RP19 at the Australian GP (left) and pre-season testing (right)

Another team that updated their bargeboard design for Australia was Red Bull Racing. The RB15 featured an additional element with two vertical slots as opposed to the one piece solution seen at pre-season testing, highlighted in blue below. 

Red_Bull_R01MEL_bargeboards_2
Red Bull RB15 bargeboard comparison between the Australian GP (top) and pre-season testing (bottom)
Red_Bull_R01MEL_bargeboards_3
Aerial shot of Red Bull RB15 bargeboard comparison between the Australian GP (top) and pre-season testing (bottom)

It is rare to see the inner workings of the engine air intake, but here we have a detailed shot of the layout on the RB15. It’s interesting to note that there are two inlets that are mounted on top of one another. The top inlet provides air to the main radiator above the power unit, while the bottom inlet feeds more air into the depths of the PU.

Red_Bull_R01MEL_air_intake
A detailed shot of the inner workings of the RB15’s engine air intake

Another element that was spotted at the Australian GP, was an additional feature within the sidepod inlet of the Racing Point RP19, which could be for additional support or aerodynamic gain. Interestingly, this was only spotted on the Saturday of the Australian GP, whereas the photos taken on Friday show the sidepod without this member. 

Racing_Point_R01MEL_sidepod_inlet
Sidepod inlet comparison of the Racing Point RP19 between Saturday (top) and Friday (bottom) at the Australian GP

After closer inspection, we find that the number 11 car (Sergio Perez) has this element, whereas the number 18 car (Lance Stroll) does not. It is not unusual for teams to experiment with an upgrade on one car. With each car’s setup tuned to the specific preferences of each driver’s driving style, the best way to test an upgrade is to run an ABA programme on one car. This is where measurements are taken during a baseline run (A), then with the upgrade (B) and then back to the baseline setup (A) to account for any changes in track or ambient conditions. The question is, which version (with or without the additional element) is the upgrade package? Could it be that Lance Stroll is now the favoured driver due to the huge investment him and his father have now put into the team, or do the pink panther’s loyalties lie with Sergio Perez who helped the Silverstone-based team out of administration?

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