Sunday, November 29, 2009

Analysis of F1 engine performance in 2009

There is a great piece of work on Auto Motor und Sport’s website with an analysis of the engines in this year’s world championship. The analysis is based on collating the information each engine builder has about each other.

I’ve checked it out with some of the F1 engineers and it seems that the data is a pretty accurate reflection of the numbers they are working with.

The result is that Mercedes comes out top, with Toyota at the bottom.

Throughout the year one kept hearing stories about how much the Renault in the back of the Red Bull car was down on power compared to the Mercedes in the Brawn, Force India and the McLaren. In fact Renault were allowed to improve their engine quite a lot from 2008 to 2009 and it ended up not far off the performance of the Mercedes.

Most teams reached the conclusion, based on acoustic analysis and GPS, that the spread of engine power from the best to the worst engines was less than 2.5% this year. This means that, if the Mercedes is believed to have had 755hp, the least powerful engine was 18hp down, which is worth just under 3/10ths of a second per lap.

The BMW and Mercedes were at the top, with the Ferrari just behind, then the Renault and the Toyota. On this basis, given how close the lap times were between teams this year, the Toyota and Williams chassis must have been pretty good to withstand losing 3/10ths of a second through engine performance alone. Both teams had the double diffuser from the start of the year, of course.

Responding to rumours in the paddock about the performance of the Mercedes, the FIA took a Mercedes’ engine apart and tested it after Monza, giving it a clean bill of health.

The Renault won out this year on fuel efficiency, however, which was pretty important this year and will be much more important next year with no refuellling. Compared to the Mercedes, the Renault would go four laps longer on a full tank of fuel, which is worth about 3/10ths of a second per lap next year. The Ferrari was less efficient than the Mercedes, as we saw on several occasions this year.

As for next year, Cosworth is believed to be quoting a figure of 770hp, which is up on the Mercedes, but the fuel efficiency is still an issue and the unit is well short of the reliability testing of its peers.

Mercedes was given clearance by the FIA to supply a fourth team next year, but is not able to do so, due to the terms of its agreement with McLaren. Mercedes now owns the Brawn team, while McLaren has a technology partnership with Force India. So it is not in McLaren’s interests to add another competitor.

Red Bull is in limbo at the moment, waiting to see whether Renault, on whose engine its 2010 car is designed, will continue in F1. A decision is expected at the end of the year.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Williams to use Cosworth engines in 2010

Williams confirmed on Friday that they have signed a long-term engine partnership with Cosworth Limited. The team announced earlier this month that they would be ending their current arrangement with Toyota at the end of this season.
“Cosworth have impressed us with the quality of their technical team and convinced us that their programme will deliver a competitive Formula One engine,” said Frank Williams, whose team last used Cosworth power in 2006.
“In addition, like Williams, Cosworth is an independent company whose owners share our passion for racing and engineering. We believe that, working together, we will develop not only a competitive racing car for 2010 but also a long-term partnership that can take on the best in Formula One.”
Mark Gallagher, Cosworth's general manager for Formula One, added: “Cosworth is delighted to be renewing our partnership with Williams. We look forward to forging a long-standing relationship, not only for the supply of competitive Formula One engines, but also in the joint development of new technologies that have wider application outside of Formula One.”
Cosworth powered both Williams and Toro Rosso in 2006, after which they departed the sport. Next year their engines will also be used by the four new Formula One entrants, Campos Meta, Lotus, Manor and the US F1 Team

Friday, October 30, 2009

Red Bull design new diffuser for RB5

Red Bull Racing have brought another aerodynamic step to its car at Singapore, and most notably that includes a new diffuser. The new design has changed mostly in the centre part of the car, around the double decked area. Where the older version focused on speeding up air on the lower channel, the new iteration has a bigger central channel around the crash structure to profit more of the DDD design. The central part is now very similar to the Renault or Brawn diffusers.
One detail marked in the image however are two small pointy extensions on both sides of the diffuser. Red Bull carefully copied that from McLaren and clearly found the additions efficient enough to use them.

Red Bull design new diffuser for RB5

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Nurburgring - a Formula One set-up guide

The Nurburgring has a reputation for being a 'complete' circuit in the sense that it includes a wide variety of corners. There are high-speed sections, medium-speed chicanes, and some very slow corners with high traction demands. The cars will have to meet all of these challenges this weekend. Overtaking is difficult but possible into the first corner and the chicane at Turns 13 and 14. However, the weather is a constant concern and no matter what the season, rain and cool conditions are an ever-present threat in the Eifel mountains. Renault explain how they plan to tweak their R29 for the German Grand Prix…

The Nurburgring demands some of the highest downforce levels of the season, not only for the numerous high and medium-speed corners, but also to maintain good stability under heavy braking for the first corner and the slow chicane of Turns 13 and 14.
As Renault driver Fernando Alonso explains: "The left-right chicane of Turns 13 and 14 is probably the best overtaking opportunity as it's one of the biggest braking zones of the lap. If you are following another car closely, you can pick up a good slipstream on the approach and make a lunge down the inside. We take it at about 100 km/h in second gear and you need to be aggressive with the curbs to straight-line the chicane as much as possible and carry speed through the corner."

Chassis balance
Corners such as Turns Five/Six, Eight/Nine and 10/11 in particular demand a neutral handling balance to avoid compromising the optimum line through the second corner in the sequence, and the engineers will often work through the weekend to dial out understeer in the medium-speed corners.
A quick, responsive change of direction is required in both the slow-speed section at the start of the lap, and through the quicker corners. Mechanical grip is particularly important through Turns One to Four, but cannot be achieved at the expense of aerodynamic performance around the rest of the lap.
Alonso explains: "The run through Turns One to Four is not very exciting for the drivers, but we spend a lot of time in them and that means that any mistake is likely to be very costly, especially in qualifying. We need to be precise with our braking and keep the car under control all the time as too much understeer, oversteer or a missed apex will put you out of shape for the following corners. The car balance is never perfect at such low speeds either, so we are always fighting understeer in the very slow corners, and a nervous rear end when we accelerate away."

Tyre performance will, as always, be a critical performance parameter for all teams this weekend with Bridgestone providing the super-soft and medium compounds from its 2009 range. Ambient conditions will play a role in determining which compound is the preferred tyre for the race as we often experience cool temperatures at the Nurburgring.

Wear on the brakes is not a major concern. None of the braking zones are particularly severe and there is no reason to think that wear levels on the discs and pads should be abnormally high as a result.

The Nurburgring is not a circuit that presents the engines with any extreme challenges, and its overall impact is further reduced by the fact that the circuit is situated at altitude, some 500m above sea level. This has the effect of reducing engine power by approximately five percent, while also reducing loads on certain engine components such as the pistons.
The engine is at full throttle for just over 64 percent of the lap - a value slightly above the season average of approximately 62 percent. The longest single period at full throttle barely exceeds ten seconds, so the main challenge for the engine team is ensuring strong performance from low revs so the engine launches well out of the slow corners, particularly Turn Seven which leads onto the uphill drag to Turn 10.
As Nelson Piquet explains: "We approach Turn Seven downhill in seventh gear at almost 300km/h before braking and downshifting to third for the hairpin. It's really important to stay online and hit the apex through this corner so that you can apply the throttle early on the exit to carry as much speed on the long drag back up the hill towards the high-speed chicane of Turns Eight and Nine."
The circuit includes a number of elevation changes, but none are sudden enough to cause the engine systems any concern. The only note of caution is finding the best line through some of the bumpier corners, and particularly the chicane, to avoid spending too much time on the rev limiter, which is potentially damaging for the engine.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Tyre disparity to be reduced at four GPs


Bridgestone has announced that there will be a smaller than usual gap between its tyre compounds in the Hungarian, European, Belgian and Italian Grands Prix.

Normally this year Bridgestone has tried to make the two compounds that must be used in each grand prix 'two steps' apart - for instance super soft and medium tyres rather than super soft and soft. This system, which was requested by the Formula 1 teams, was designed to create greater variation between cars' performances at different stages, and to encourage better racing.

But the company's motorsport boss Hirohide Hamashima said Bridgestone had decided it would not be practical to have a big tyre disparity at the Hungaroring, Valencia, Spa or Monza, so would use compounds just one step apart at those four tracks.

"Hungary is a circuit where the characteristics demand our softest tyres," he explained. "This is also true for street courses, and we used the softest allocation earlier in the year at Monaco, and will again in Valencia.

"In Spa the weather temperatures can be quite cool, so the hard compound could have caused difficulties, and the super soft would have been too soft for this track, so that means the allocation of medium and soft is obvious.

"In Monza the hard compound would have given too big a difference between it and the soft, so we will bring the soft and the medium."

The only time Bridgestone had previously used two similar tyre compounds so far this year was in the Monaco GP.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New front wing for Brawn BGP001

The Brawn GP design team have been looking carefully at Ferrari's front wing compared to their own. Previously that resembled a lot to BMW Sauber's design as it features two upper flaps with the actuator mechanism in the middle of these flaps. The new wing however is completely different and sports only one flap. The most important advantage of this will be the adjustability for the drivers. Previously they only has control of a small panel of which they could change the angle of attack, but adjusting the new single flap by 6° will greatly change downforce at the front end.

BMW introduce their own Double Diffuser

BMW Sauber have taken a long time to design and manufacture a double decker diffuser to replace the more conventional one that followed 'the spirit of the rules'. The new version immediately proved effective as Robert Kubica was there within the points, while in Bahrain they were no where near the midfield.
The new diffuser resembles much that of Brawn with an empty keel structure in the middle and an early exit above it for additional downforce. It also pick up an idea of Toyota by creating a small extension to the diffuser under the rear crash structure - with the safety light, the only area where the diffuser is allowed to extend further behind the rear wheels.