#F1 Forensics: Aero wars behind Mercedes domination

Brought to you by TheJudge13 Technical Analyst Lorenzo De Luca

It was no surprise when Mercedes won in China. Not even a poor qualification for Rosberg prevented the three-pointed star taking the first two steps of the podium once again. Mercedes has won the first four races of the season easily and it looks very unlikely they will be stopped.

For anybody hoping that the smaller gap between Mercedes and their opponents showed progress in the chase – don’t be deceived; out of the first four track on the calendar the Chinese track was the one, which puts less emphasis on power units and fuel consumption.

Indeed, for the first time this season, we have returned to a race being decided by tire wear and aerodynamic efficiency and it’s not a coincidence that we saw the top teams dominate the top positions ( apart from Mclaren and Raikkonen ) .

Average lap times chart

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If the Mercedes domination is no longer a surprise, behind Hamilton and Rosberg we saw an interesting fight between Red Bull and Ferrari. As I said before, it was decided by tire wear and aero efficiency and the pace shown by Alonso and Ricciardo was very similar. Only the wrong strategy and the internal fight with Vettel prevented Ricciardo from scoring his first podium.

Sector times\fastest lap\top speed chart

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The chart above clearly shows that Mercedes domination is not only due to the simplified design of their power unit and their special turbo arrangement, but the W05 has also proven a very good downforce level as they set the fastest times in each sector of the track. The biggest gaps to their competition are evident in sectors two and three where the requirement of downforce and power delivery is more crucial.

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Mercedes W05 helped by their new nosecone which though similar in design differs in height and length, in order to improve the airflows quality and speed under the chassis.

Thanks to the lower temperatures in China, Mercedes revised the coke bottle design, “closing” the exhaust outlet by giving them a more tapered design

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Also changed are the “ears” behind the airbox, now bigger to improve the cooling of the power unit elements

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Red Bull confirmed they are the second best team on the grid as they were the only team to set comparable times in the first and second sectors to those of the Mercedes drivers. The difference in speed at the end of the long straight differed by as much as 15km/h between Mercedes and Red Bull – this highlighting the power difference between the two power units.

There were no significant aero updates for Red Bull – apart from some little changes to better adapt the car to the track layout – but Renault introduced some big improvements to their power unit. A new lubrication circuit of the turbo, the MGU-K shaft and the exhaust manifolds which are now smaller and more compacts.

Ferrari, after the Bahrain debacle, seems to have returned where the F14-T belongs, behind Mercedes and Red Bull. In similar fashion to Renault, Ferrari introduced just small improvements – a new fuel and electronic mapping helped improve the performance of the power unit espcially during the traction phase.

A few little detail changes were seen with aero upgrades such as a larger new brake duct that has been designed to channel the airflow around the outside of the wheel and works in conjunction as a new blown front axle.

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Force India and Williams, confirmed their positions behind the top teams, even if the aero efficiency is not as good (look at the gap in the second sector), but the low aerodynamic drag will help them throughout the season and make them an insidious enemy for everyone aiming at the podium.

In China, Force India brought many new updates, the most important but also not visible was undoubtedly the interlinked suspension system ( or as Mercedes called it FRIC ) which for sure helped the VJM07 in the corners.

We also saw a new deflector on the side pods, now directly anchored to the bottom of the side pods, and a new rear wing end plate, with many slots to increase the downforce

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Even on the FW36 we saw some changes, the first and most evident was on the rear bodywork as it was more tapered due to the lower temperatures traditionally seen in Shanghai, and with a big fin .

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Interesting also the work done on the duct over the side pods. It’s now bigger and this helps prevent the detachment of the airflow.

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The Lotus E22 showed good pace in what proved to be giant steps. It is still some way behind the top teams but Lotus received the updates from Renault which allowed both Grosjean and Maldonado to have a more normal race week-end. China was also the first time we had the opportunity to see the cars new tapered bodywork in similar fashion to the Williams.

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And also a new Red Bull inspired rear diffuser with some vortex generators in the central section.

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The Mclaren crisis continues, if we can call it so and after the good performance shown in Australia, the Woking team seems to have lost a lot of performance despite the steady updates introduced on the car. In China there was a new front wing end plate which carried two spoon shaped profiles to increase the upwash of the air-flow

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Now teams have three weeks to study a lot of data and try to correct what has been wrong on their cars. Spain, as always, will be a crossroads for the whole season, most of the teams will introduce a completely revised aero package for the car which could affect the rest of the season .

Don’t expect to see a change in the first two positions – Mercedes will continue its triumphant ride to the championship. The fastest lap recorded by Rosberg in China was 1 second faster than everyone and clearly indicates that they still have the margin to be able to go faster. For competition it will only be a mixing up of the positions behind them…

21 responses to “#F1 Forensics: Aero wars behind Mercedes domination

  1. apart from the updates on the car, has anybody looked at the date and figured out why, if it wasn’t for the bahrain safety car, hamilton would have beaten rosberg by more than ten seconds in every race he finished this year? the first time it was said rosberg hat a problem with his car, but three times in a row is kind of devastating. is it that lewis is that much quicker than him? is it that the leader has that much of an advantage because there is nobody in front of him? or is it that rosberg for some reason had issues in all three of these races?

    • Rosberg lost all telemetry from the start of the formation lap guaranteeing poor start and over cautious fuel use. Despite this still came 2nd worryingly!

    • We have also take into account that these new tires helps hi a lot, unlike in the previous season in which he struggled a lot with Pirelli tires. And yes, starting from the front always gives you an advantage, look at the past season, when Vettel dominated, the first couple of laps were crucial to build a gap

  2. I thought Ricciardo was on 2 stop from the beginning as his tire degradation looked much better than Vettel’s in P2. Aside from his appalling start what different strategy should he have been on? OPP seemed to be the flavor of the day, did he run something different?

  3. Well done. I’d love to see the average lap time graphic posted for each race.

    • +1
      How is the ave lap time calculated, a simple average or wirh pitstops removed?

          • Then you can look just at race fastest lap for each as the yardstick. Better to keep it simple, I would have thought.

          • The trouble is knowing how many variables to take into or out of consideration. I was originally after the method used – was it race pace or do we consider pitstops etc

          • slow lap times (due to traffic) are not taken into account during FP2 long runs, but not in the race, as there is no traffic, duels maybe, but they give us an idea on what really is the perfomance of a car.

            Pit-stops are not so relevant because they are influenced by mechanics, just look at Massa 1st stop..

  4. We <3 you LorenzoDL83!

    Question: how does the sidepod duct on Williams fight airflow detatchment? To me, a aerodynamic newbie, It seem that an extra opening on the top of the sidepod would disconnect the airflow…

    • At certain speeds there is a detachment of the airflow (this happen both on the side pods and on the wings) to prevent this, the duct “blow” hot air , taken from the side pods intakes, to prevent the thickening of the boundary layer and thus the detachment of the airflow

      • Interesting idea. I have another theory. Perhaps, by making this opening, the defacto increase surface area of the sidepod. The air entering the main sidepod opening exits immediately through this opening, exerting downward pressure on the car. So in essence you have two aero elements on one sidepod: one bulge at the edge, another bulge further back. What do you think? Plausible? 😀

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