Toro Rossos to get a little less ugly (we hope)
Yes McLaren and Honda tested some wacky front-wing solutions in Barcelona this week, but it's taken some surprising news from Toro Rosso to get me blogging again. Toro Rosso have announced that they are getting rid of the stickers that give their Red Bull knock-off the ugliest livery on the grid. Interestingly it isn't because they've suddenly seen sense about the looks - it's actually because they've found that they cause too much aerodynamic drag. To put a fancy design like the one on the Toro Rosso requires stickers to be used - in fact all the sponsor logos you see on racing cars are stickers, but usually the logos only take up a small amount of space each and are quite thin. To cover a large area like the engine cover they have to use large injet-printed sheets of film that can stretch over the curves.
Due to the inkjet printing of the imagery on these stickers, they have a pretty rough surface, both physically and visually close-up. It's this roughtness that must be causing Toro Rosso their problems. Roughness on a surface will cause the boundary layer to build up more rapidly (meaning that the car is dragging more stationary air around with it) and can also tip the attached airflow into turbulence where it would otherwise be laminar. That's why you see the mechanics polishing the car's bodywork every time it comes into the garage from the track - it does make it look better of course, but it also avoids a situation where dirt on the surface of the bodywork affects the boundary layer.
Toro Rosso will replace the stickers with paint. One assumes it's not practical to paint such a complex design on the bodywork (there are artists that can airbrush like that but it would take too long for all the parts F1 teams get through) so they will hopefuly come up with a simplified and more tasteful design - although you never know.
By the way, Honda are supposedly using the same sticker technology on their RA107 'earth car' (as discussed on this Atlas-f1 forum thread). I wonder if that has anything to do with their aero problems this season?