Welcome to the first in what will likely become a running item here on The Racing Blog: Wing Watch. Actually I'm joking about that, but there's been plenty of talk about wings this season and particularly since the British Grand Prix. I wrote previously about the new rule that has been introduced for the Canadian Grand Prix onwards concerning the support of the rear wing flap. The FIA has not yet released to the public the exact wording of the rule change so all I have to go on so far is a quote from Sam Michael (Williams Tech chief) in that original Autosport article. I'd assumed before that the new rule meant that teams had to use a single central support bracket on the wings, but on re-reading it today I realised that teams running with two brackets at fine also. The wording of the rule apparently says that no part of the wing may be more than 250mm away laterally from a support (that includes the brackets in the centre and the end-plates at either side). I've corrected my original post to reflect this.
Reviewing photographs from the British Grand Prix I note that 8 teams used a single central support bracket on their rear wings: Red Bull, STR, Toyota, Williams, BMW, Super Aguri, Midland and McLaren; A further two teams used two brackets placed about 100mm apart: Renault and Honda. Of course the only team without such a bracket on their wing was Ferrari.
Some of the first photos to come through from Montreal (sorry, I don't have the rights to post any here) were those showing the modified Ferrari rear wing as well as some other team's wings. Ferrari have added a bracket that is actually pretty similar to the design Red Bull have been running all season. Interesting they've stuck with their mainplane and flap designs even though their unusual shape is no longer needed given the (one assumes to be rigid) bracket between them. That could just be due to the time constraints of designing and manufacturing a new wing at short notice had they assumed that this loophole would not be closed mid-season.
There was a somewhat predictable outcry on the forums that these brackets don't stop wing flexing. Because the crescent shape is not the simplest shape that would satisfy the rules, people have asumed that these brackets are designed in some way to circumvent even the new rule. A lot of this suspicion is based on a misunderstanding of wing design and also, I suspect, that people who don't often look closely at the detail design of the cars won't realise that these crescent shaped brackets have been standard practice for years in Formula 1.
Firstly lets talk about the design of the support bracket itself. The root of this where it attaches to the mainplane will be as far forward as possible. The reason is to allow the airflow to recombine behind the support as much as possible before it enters the slot-gap. The FIA could have ruled that teams had to place a solid support actually in the slot-gap, but that would cause a significant disturbance to the flow on the underside of the flap. Additionally, the brackets on a lot of the wings don't attach to the flap any more than half way down. That is so that give the flap enough stiffness in the fore-aft axis to pass the FIA load-test (mentioned previous) without the flap itself having to be very stiff. That's the clever thing about Ferrari's wing - the flap was stiff enough in one axis to pass the FIA load test, but flexible enough in another axis to bend and close the gap to the mainplane. Anyway, with the two ends of the support bracket located where they are, the only logical shape is that crescent design you now see on the Ferrari.
The other point of discussion is: does this design of bracket still allow the wing to flex in a beneficial manner. It's possible there is still some flex in the wings, but I seriously doubt it's sufficient to be have the effect the Ferrari design previously had. The wing element had to bend by 50mm along a 500mm span whereas a vertical support bracket would have to buckle in order to allow the same 50mm of movement. That is far less likely to happen. Also unlikely to happen are any of the other suggestions from the imaginative users of the Atlas-f1 BBS: that the lower half of the flap could twist downwards to close the gap, or that bracket attaches only to the top skin of the mainplane such that the bracket and flap twist backwards to close the gap. The first just isn't mechanically feasible. The second would be very difficult to achieve without placing a question mark over the structural integrity of the mainplane - and we all know how dangerous rear-wing failures are. I don't see Ferrari trying any of those ideas.
As far as I'm concerned, when the speed-traps in Montreal show that the Ferrari isn't the fastest car in a straight line any more, the controversy will be over.
One last thing... It had been widely reported that BMW had developed a flexi-wing approach similar to Ferrari's and that they'd run it at the British Grand Prix. Well, not only did the wing they used at Silverstone have a central support (it could have been fake of course, but why put it there at all if you don't need it, especially since the ruling hadn't been made at that point), but also BMW have come out and publically declared that they didn't have to modify their wing to comply with the new rule.
Scarborough’s tech summary from Montreal (autosport.com) suggests that the BMW wing flexes at the rear of the mainplane. They suggest that the central support/divider holds the front of the top flap at a fixed height from the centre of the main plane, but that the rear of the main plane flexes.
Richard () (URL) - 29 06 06 - 07:07
This radical-looking aero solution was used in the last test at Jerez and then adopted for France. Their purpose is to improve stability and efficiently direct airflow towards the central and rear sections of the car. Atleast, that’s what’s reported. Any more insight as to how exactly these “fins” work ?
[uahprc] () - 17 07 06 - 11:12
Boy am I late with this…. To Richard’s comment, yes, I saw the article on Autosport.com after I posted that. I must say I didn’t expect yet another strategy for cheating to appear so soon. I’m glad to say the stewards took the sensible approach of attaching a breakable seal between the mainplane and flap of the wing in question. When the seal returned broken after practice, BMW were asked to modify their wings. No need for knee-jerk new rules (or the radical freeing up of rules that some have proposed).
As for the BMW nose fins. As you’ll know by now these have been outlawed on the basis that they interfere with the driver’s vision. As for what they do/did, only the vaguest explanation have come forward. There’s no need for me to add to any of that when I can just point to this thread on the Atlas-F1 board (which I contributed to as ‘rhm’). http://forums.autosport.com/showthread.p..
rich () (URL) - 07 08 06 - 16:07