For while many opted to show off only early development parts during their official launches, it is clear that teams are pushing hard to keep adding more downforce before the season gets underway.
McLaren presented us with two versions of its front wing when launching the MCL36: the one in the renders and the one on the physical car that was revealed at the factory.
However, it was fairly obvious that the one on the physical car was the one that would feature, given it was trying to hide some of the details with carbon fiber tape.
Whilst the wings do share the dipped central section to help feed airflow to the underside of the nose, the shape and connection of the second element and the body of the nose are slightly different.
Meanwhile, rather than having a relatively similar chord length on each of the elements (as depicted in Giorgio Piola’s illustration), the wing consists of two short chord upper flaps and a larger chord mainplane and secondary flap.
The outboard section of the wing also doesn’t have the abrupt surface discontinuation as was shown on the render (inset on the illustration). Instead, the flaps are angled abruptly to promote more outwash.
This is an area where we will see all of the teams push back against the intent of the new regulations, as they can’t unlearn what they already know, which is that driving flow outboard will improve downstream performance.
McLaren MCL36 floor edge detail
Photo by: Giorgio Piola
The team also shied away from revealing the tricks it might have up its sleeve on the edge of the floor as there was little point offering too much information to its rivals.
The floor used by McLaren during testing takes what it has learned over the course of the last set of regulations and applies it to the new ones. That means it has to be even smarter if it wants to deploy slots, flaps and scrolls in combination in order to defeat the more restrictive regulations.
The team utilized the opportunity afforded to it within the regulations to use a flapped section that’s detached from the floor itself, with a series of metal stays used to connect it to the floor. This is also oriented in a way that will have an influence on the airflow’s passage.
Meanwhile, the permitted cutout in the floor’s edge has been made in such a way that it allows the L-shaped flap to intersect with it.
There’s various surface geometries at play too, in order that the two surfaces can pass off and improve the surrounding flow structures to artificially seal the floor’s edge from the outboard flow that’s attempting to ingress.
Ferrari threw its hat into the ring in this regard on day three of the test when the F1-75 was seen with a new floor edge solution.
Ferrari F1-75 floor detail
Photo by: Giorgio Piola
It was a different approach from the Scuderia, as its solution also featured the cutout permitted in the regulations. However, rather than the elongated flap that’s disconnected from the floor’s edge, it favored a tongue-like flap mounted on the underside instead.
Haas also cut out a section of its floor’s edge and, whilst it won’t be considered as aggressive as some of the other solutions, it’s good to see it has been busy utilizing the additional CFD and wind tunnel time it is allowed to use as a compensation for its lack of results.
We already knew of the wavy section at the front of Mercedes’ floor, as the W13 that was presented to us at the launch also featured the design.
However, whilst the rest of the teams introduced more complex floor edge designs thereafter, introducing discontinuity and flaps to help artificially seal the edge of the floor and reduce rear tire squirt into the diffuser, Mercedes did not.
The team will undoubtedly bring a fresh batch of parts to Bahrain, some of which will focus more heavily on this region of the car and should alleviate another ill effect of the new regulations that its rivals have also been suffering from: porpoising.
To help manage the situation, teams have all been working on car set-up. But on the last day of the test, Mercedes added a metal stay in front of the rear tire to help stabilize the floor.
It needed this extra stability as teams are seeing substantially more load on the floor’s edge due to the cars running much lower to the ground than in previous years to exploit ground effect. This in-turn results in the edge of the floor being pulled too close to the track’s surface.
F1 designers have a few more tools at their disposal this year when it comes to cooling. And whilst some teams have taken to baking them into their designs, with large cooling gills part of the recipe, Mercedes and Red Bull are two of the teams that have resisted the temptation.
Their designs rely on the sidepod and engine cover working without these cooling gills when temperatures are at their lowest, with interchangeable panels with gills and / or louvres favored instead.
Mercedes had several designs it wanted to try out during the first test in this respect, with a couple variations of the more conventional louvered panel beside the cockpit tested, plus a more expansive panel with gills (illustration, inset) around the powerunit also being put through its paces on day two.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18
Photo by: Giorgio Piola
Red Bull, meanwhile, opted for a longer series of cooling louvres in the panel beside the cockpit to assist with cooling. It’s clear though that a similar panel exchange could be made with less louvres in order to provide the cooling requirement.
Putting the brakes on
Sticking with Red Bull, we were afforded the opportunity to see its front brake assembly without the brake drum attached, which threw up some interesting details given the teams have different parameters to consider this season.
Unable to use the larger front brake assembly as a way of dumping airflow out the wheel face under the new regulations, teams are focused more on heat management.
Red Bull is now not only feeding ducting in and away from the caliper, but the set-up seen here in testing suggests the team intends to encapsulate the brake disc for a similar purpose.