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GP Week : Issue 110
takes months to develop. “ The main target was to clear all the area to the rear lower wing because it is a performance differentiator now,” said technical director Sam Michael. “ You’ve got to have the underside of the rear lower wing completely free, so we took the decision to lift the top wishbone and the track rod and go to a Z-bone layout – which was commonly used in the early 90’s – to get that all above the underside (see pic top left). “It means that all the weight is in line with the trailing edge of the legality box, so you are nowhere near the underside of the rear lower wing, and it’s completely free airflow.” Red Bull Having pioneered the exhaust- blown diffuser last year, Red Bull are back for more in 2011 with another version of a blown exhaust. While the rules don’t allow for an extreme design as we saw last year where the exhaust exited directly into the diffuser, Red Bull now have their exhaust exiting at the trailing edge of the floor just before the rear tyres to effectively operate as a blown diffuser (see pic above right). The new regulations don’t allow holes in the diffuser any more, but Red Bull have circumvented that rule by having the gas exit at the edge of the floor just forward of the diffuser. McLaren The MP4-26 is definitely the most radically-looking car on the 2011 grid, with U-shaped sidepods being a brand new addition to Formula One. The strange-looking sidepods allow the least turbulent air between the wheels to enjoy an unhindered route to the rear of the car where the cleaner flow helps create more downforce at the diffuser, while the turbulent flow around the wheels is fed into the radiators to cool the engine. Packaging constraints would limit other teams in adopting the design, as would cooling requirements. Another innovation on the launch specification McLaren was its radical exhaust. While most exhausts exit through two large outlets, McLaren’s exhaust was believed to have comprised a multitude of outlets, allowing them to more finely tune the exhaust flow into the diffuser, thereby making more efficient use of the gases. The radical design would have caused problems with engine tuning among other things, and McLaren had to ditch it before the first race due to reliability problems. The team would have completed a risk study on the radical exhaust, weighing up the potential of it failing versus the advantage it would deliver when working properly. As the probability of it not working was considerably high, the lap time advantage would have been exceptional. It’s possible that they will return to the idea later in the season. Prior to jetting off to Melbourne, McLaren removed the radical exhaust system in favour of a more conventional design. The design is very similar to Red Bull’s, with the gases exiting at the end of the floor in front of the rear tyres. Team principal Martin Whitmarsh explained that their radical exhaust hadn’t delivered sufficient benefit, likely pointing to as yet unrealised potential: “I think the exhaust systems have become quite extreme on quite a lot of the cars. I think we in particular had very extreme solutions. But I think that they were not delivering, in my opinion, sufficient benefits for their complexity,” said Whitmarsh. “I believe that the car isn’t fundamentally a bad car. I believe that we need to unlock the exhaust-blowing potential.” Elsewhere Most other teams have gone down more conventional routes in designing their cars, with no other stand-out features of note. Teams will have taken note of the latest innovations on their rivals’ cars though, and development work will have shifted into high gear to ensure a raft of car updates and upgrades in time for the first European Grand Prix of 2011 at the Spanish Grand Prix in mid- May. As one of the few areas of free development remaining in the current regulations, exhaust design is sure to be pushed further to the limit, as the unrelenting search for added hundredths of a second continues at a staggering pace. 33 F1 FEATURE >>