Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

Giorgio Piola's Bahrain GP tech wrap-up

Giorgio Piola and Matt Somerfield look at all the updates introduced by F1 teams in the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Mercedes

Mercedes AMG F1 Team W07, front view
Mercedes AMG F1 Team W07, front view

Photo by: XPB Images

Mercedes had very few changes for the Bahrain GP but did focus some of its attention on the brakes, given the issues Nico Rosberg struggled with in Australia and the demands of the Sakhir circuit.

It ran an asymmetric set-up in Bahrain with the right hand (left as you look at it) brake drum furnished with some holes in its surface, allowing some of the hot air, already used by the brakes, to escape.

Mercedes AMG F1 Team W07, brake duct
Mercedes AMG F1 Team W07, brake duct

Photo by: XPB Images

Furthermore, it is now using Teflon spray on the leading edge of the brake duct, just ahead of the inlet, to try and prevent discarded rubber from building up and limiting brake performance.

This is something it's been doing on the front wing for some time now, with the Teflon spray applied just before going to the grid.

Ferrari

Ferrari arrived in Bahrain with a few small revisions in order to boost performance.

Ferrari SF16-H detail
Ferrari SF16-H detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The Sakhir circuit puts a significant demand on the brakes and, as such, it placed some of its focus on dissipating the heat. The front right brake drum featured tear drop-shaped holes, alongside the usual strip that allows the hot air to escape. This will also have an effect on tyre temperatures, with the heat radiating into the wheel rim.

Ferrari SF16-H, bargeboards
Ferrari SF16-H, bargeboards

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The bargeboards on the SF16-H are already fairly complex, with a curvature to their surface allowing more air to flow around the sidepods undercut. However, in Bahrain, the secondary element, which is mounted to the floor, was refined (circled), with a similar curved profile applied to its leading edge, allowing more air to flow between the two surfaces.

Ferrari SF15T ans Red Bull RB9 T trays
Ferrari SF15T ans Red Bull RB9 T trays

Illustration by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari followed in Red Bull's footsteps in 2015, applying its own version of the device which mounts above the splitter and helps to control its height. Whilst the 2015 version was predominantly made of carbon, it has come to our attention that it is now being constructed from metal.

Ferrari SF16H new diffuser
Ferrari SF16H new diffuser

Illustration by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari also had a new diffuser for Bahrain, with the changes focused on the outermost section, changing how the wake created by the rear tyre impinges on its performance.

The footplate, highlighted in green, was increased in width for Bahrain, whilst another control winglet, marked in yellow, has been added for 2016 and was increased in width to match the footplate changes in Bahrain.

The comparison from 2015 also shows how aggressively the gurney flaps and winglets ahead of them have been twisted and their angle of attack increased to further assist in dealing with the rear tyres' wake.

Ferrari SF16-H rear detail
Ferrari SF16-H rear detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Whilst efforts were made to open up things at the front of the car, Ferrari ran with a completely closed rear brake drum, retaining the heat within.

Williams

Williams has identified low-speed corners as an issue with the FW38 and has set about developing parts to rectify these issues.

The FW38 featured a new splitter design for Bahrain, with the winglets that sit astride the front corner increased in height and turned a little further outward.

Williams FW38, detail
Williams FW38, detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

This is an area of the car that was identified by many of the teams last season as being able to improve performance downstream. As such, we are seeing a progressive movement toward more complex designs, as it is quite a sensitive area of the car.

Williams chose to fly out a new front wing and nose, which arrived just in time for Felipe Massa to use in FP3. Valtteri Bottas will receive the update in time for China but it does seem a little strange that they'd push this through with so little testing or set-up time, having missed FP1 and FP2.

Williams FW38 winglets
Williams FW38 winglets

Illustration by: Giorgio Piola

The nose, whilst similar in philosophy to its predecessor, has numerous key differences.  The 'thumb' is now around 5cm shorter but a little more bulbous at the tip and quickly tapers rearward, which should help to improve how the airflow moves under the nose.

The shortening of the nose tip means the wing pillars have been reshaped and lent back to meet with the steeper inclination of the nose itself. This also means that there is more space for air to flow under the nose, hopefully improving performance downstream.

The juncture where the flapped section of the mainplane meets with the neutral section has also been revised, whilst the flaps now roll over rather than simply terminating in a point, changing how the Y250 vortex forms.

The 'r' cascade now features a slot, which lets high pressure bleed into the low pressure, improving its efficiency.

Williams FW38 rear axle, airflow details
Williams FW38 rear axle, airflow details

Illustration by: Giorgio Piola

Contrary to the rest of the field, Williams has chosen to vent the hot air already used by the brakes straight out of its rear brake drums this season. The shape of the vents means the airflow is ejected out the rear wheel face, changing the shape of the wake being generated by the tyre.

Williams seem to be searching for an aerodynamic advantage by doing this, so it's interesting that the other teams are doing their utmost to retain heat within the drum, which then radiates into the rear wheel, heating the rear tyres.

As we know, the Pirelli tyres are extremely temperature-sensitive and only give their optimum under the right conditions. It remains to be seen then if this is part of the reason why Williams seem to be struggling for pace in the early part of the season.

Force India

Force India VJM09 blown axle, airflow details
Force India VJM09 blown axle, airflow details

Illustration by: Giorgio Piola

The blown axle is not a new concept but one reimagined under the current regulations. In Bahrain, Force India joined Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren, Toro Rosso & Haas in its use, as they all try to control the wake shed by the front wheel.

Airflow is collected by an enlarged brake duct, which is then either used to cool the brake disc and caliper or passed through the hollowed axle.

2015 and 2011 Force India brake calipers
2015 and 2011 Force India brake calipers

Illustration by: Giorgio Piola

It's worth noting that Force India only moved to the underslung caliper position last season, having run with them mounted at the front of the assembly since 2010 (above). This improves the way they're cooled and allows other aerodynamic pipework to be run across the front face of the brake assembly.

McLaren

McLaren continues to pursue more performance from the MP4-31 as it made several changes to its front wing design in Bahrain.

Williams FW38 front wing,  Bahrain GP
McLaren MP4-31 front wing, Bahrain GP

Illustration by: Giorgio Piola

The mainplane has been altered at the juncture with the neutral section, which will change the way in which the Y250 vortex forms, reshaping the airflow along the centreline of the car.

The strakes which define the flow under the wing have been reduced in number, from four to three, increasing the space between them.

The main cascade has been revised, with the flap curved even more than its predecessor, whilst the canard on the inside of the endplate has been revised, too (see arrows in the inset).

The upper flap has been changed with the trailing edge shape amended, whilst the flap adjuster has been moved from just behind the cascade to the centre of the flaps.

These changes aren't revolutionary, rather a refinement of what has gone before, as the teams continue on their neverending search for maximum performance and efficiency.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Event Bahrain GP
Track Bahrain International Circuit
Article type Analysis
Topic Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis