How Alfa, Mercedes and Haas have innovated

Finding aerodynamic performance in Formula 1 is as much about following the examples set by your rivals as it is about finding new design avenues. However, when all of the major design solutions have been widely adopted there must come a point at which new design avenues become apparent. Here are just three examples of such innovation that have emerged in recent races…

Alfa’s front wing endplate

Alfa Romeo C38 endplate design, German Grand Prix

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Alfa Romeo introduced a revised front wing footplate design at the British GP that was further adapted for the German GP. As the footplate is not as rigorously governed by the new regulations as other areas of the front wing, it allows the design engineers to find pockets of performance, albeit still reined in by a dimensional bounding box.

Alfa Romeo C38 endplate design, Austrian Grand Prix

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Up until the Austrian GP the team had sported the more conventional footplate design – a singular arc used to maximise the available surface area and shaped to induce a vortex. This vortex is critical in the performance of the outboard section of the wing and facilitates the outwash effect that draws airflow across and around the front tyre, minimizing the impact that the turbulent wheel wake has on the rest of the car.

Alfa Romeo C38, front wing detail, German Grand Prix

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The new footplate design, which has also seen the shape of the arc altered, features a vertical fin that will refine the vortex that’s created and subsequently affect the cars overall aerodynamic performance in a range of conditions. Crucially, you’ll note that the team have already developed different versions of the solution too, a choice that’s likely governed by each circuit’s characteristics.

Mercedes looks for bold new frontiers

Mercedes AMG F1 W10 front wing detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Development at Mercedes has been in overdrive this season, as it looks to extend its lead over rivals. The package of parts that arrived at the German GP to coincide with its 125 years of motorsport celebrations was a significant one, with a revised front wing, brake duct, a new winglet behind the suspension leg, revised bargeboards, sidepod deflectors, new sidepod and engine cover bodywork, revised floor slots, diffuser and lastly – and perhaps most importantly – a new rear wing.

Mercedes AMG F1 W10 rear wing detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The rear wing endplate design used in Germany is a new development path for Mercedes and surely one that their rivals will look to develop too. This new sawtooth style cutout behind the wing planes is in response to the regulatory upheaval for 2019. The rear wing assembly not only became taller and wider, which resulted in a proportionate drag increase, the louvres in the forward upper corner were no longer allowed either. The louvres, a design that began to populate the grid in the mid 2000’s were used to alter the pressure gradient at the tip juncture and alter the vortex that’s created.

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF90

Photo by: Andrew Hone / LAT Images

This turbulent flow structure has been easier to see this year (here on Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari), as the swirl of chaotic air manifests at the rear wing’s tip. Previously, due to the work done by the louvres and rear cutouts, this vortex could only really be seen in the right climatic conditions and goes to show just how much harder the air is now being worked.

Mercedes AMG F1 W10 technical detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

In an effort to dampen this tip vortex, improve downforce and reduce drag, Mercedes added two additional tips in an enlarged cutout. This creates two smaller vortices that will merge with the core vortex, altering its properties. In an effort to increase downforce and reduce drag all of the teams utilise strakes that hang down on the outer edge of the of the bounding box. Several teams also use upwash strakes that coerce the trajectory of the localised airflow. As part of this redesign Mercedes have deliberately added an additional row of staggered strikes, improving its aerodynamic relationship with the sawtooth cutouts, especially in yaw.

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG W10

Photo by: Jerry Andre / Sutton Images

Mercedes’ never-ending pursuit of performance must be unnerving to the rest of the grid, as the introduction of this package signals the fourth distinct total iteration from the silver arrows since the start of the year, a D-Spec if you will. However, whilst visually impressive the performance ramifications of Mercedes update package are yet unknown, but information from the team suggests they expect a 0.5s second gain.

Haas seek answers for troubles

Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, Haas VF-19

Photo by: Zak Mauger / LAT Images

Drama continues to surround Haas this season, not only due to the close proximity with which their drivers constantly seem to find themselves in, but also the performance of their car relative to the rest of the field. For the last few grands prix it has opted to run the drivers in different aerodynamic configurations, as it looks for answers in back-to-back tests. Grosjean has found himself with the day-one specification, used in Australia, while Magnussen has pressed on with the updated car.

Haas F1 Team VF-19 rear wing detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

As part of this test, Magnussen’s car has continued to be outfitted with the latest parts, one of which was an interesting new rear wing endplate concept. The design features a very different approach to the hanging strake design we’ve seen elsewhere on the grid so far and will likely be investigated by the teams in CFD to see if it yields a performance increase for them too. Featuring three sinuous horizontal elements these strakes will manage the airflow and work with the surrounding airflow devices in a different manner to the conventional horizontal strakes seen elsewhere.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas F1 Team VF-19 sidepod detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Magnussen’s VF-19 was also treated to a new bargeboard and deflector array in Germany, with Haas opting to unify the deflector panel with a new boomerang winglet, which will undoubtedly help to deter any stray wheel wake from impeding flow around the floor and sidepods.

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