Although there’s not been much time for teams to deliver radical changes to their cars since the end of testing, Giorgio Piola and Matt Somerfield investigate a number of interesting detail changes among the frontrunners.
Ferrari introduced a new front wing flap during the last pre-season test and it is now being used in Melbourne.
The penultimate flap (bottom part of the Santander logo) features three small serrations, changing how the inboard flap edges shape the Y250 vortex, shed by the neutral mainplane section below.
The performance of this vortex is critical, as it has a huge bearing on other flow structures downstream, such as (but not exclusive to) the splitter, floor, sidepod undercut and diffuser.
It is still noteworthy that Ferrari's 2016 front wing 'R' cascade now features a notch to improve its operating window, whilst a canard has been placed on the outside of the endplate, both of which will alter the shape of the wake shed by the front tyre.
This image above captured by Giorgio exposes the front end of the SF16-H, which shows the detail changes made to switch back to push-rod suspension, with Ferrari having utilised pull-rod for the last four years.
This means the third element is returned to the upper surface of the bulkhead, improving access for set-up changes.
While the change back to push-rod has consequences in terms of centre of gravity, the switch means the SF16-H doesn't require the level of installation stiffness that its predecessor did, saving some weight for distribution elsewhere.
The changes made should encourage better tyre life, putting an onus on recovering performance from the front tyres to improve it both front and rear.
Mercedes mounted a totally revised rear wing assembly on day one of the second test, which looks like it will feature over the remainder of the Australian Grand Prix weekend.
The rear wing endplates featured two much taller leading-edge tyre wake slots, rather than the short singular slot ordinarily used.
It has carefully shaped the endplate just under the flapped section to define the flow structures. The cutout behind the flapped region has also been revised as the team explores ways of changing how the tip vortex forms, as this can be damaging to performance.
The slots used by Mercedes, rather than vertical strakes used by other teams, to entice upwash have been increased in frequency from two to three.
The flaps have also undergone some changes from the first test specification, with the upper flaps trailing edge now featuring a straight outer edge, whilst the centreline V groove has been shrunk.
This new mainplane flap is a physical representation of the tests that had already been conducted by the team at the end of 2015 and, at the first test, using a removable serrated sticker 'trip strip'.
As you can see above, midway from either side of the centreline slot gap separator is an adjoining serration (highlighted in yellow), which is not an anomaly but done in order to meet the regulations and allow the team to design the serrations so that they traverse the wing in opposing directions between the outer slot gap separator and the centreline one.
The serrations are used to disturb the airflow over both the mainplane and top flap, delaying separation and improving performance.
Red Bull has revised its suspension layout at the front of the RB12, raising the rocker arms and third element.
The new suspension geometry will have numerous aerodynamic and kinematic implications.
The suspension components now take up the space previously occupied by the 'S' duct on the RB11, meaning the team won't utilize one, at least not in the same configuration.
The third element, which we have already noted has been raised, features Belleville springs, a continuation of a trend of Red Bull cars over the last few years.
The change will clearly have an effect on the cars kinematics, as the team tries to further improve both tyre life and performance.
These modifications come as part of a wider sweeping change to the front suspension. We've already seen how the team has employed the conjoined lower wishbone solution, first used by Mercedes in 2014.
The steering arms have been offset vertically to the lower wishbone, challenging the airflow before it comes into contact with the wishbone's surface, changing the angle of attack of both, which is opposed to some other teams' thinking.
While the team hasn't retained the 'S' duct, we can see that it has retained the inlets on the underside of the chassis which provide airflow a passage rearward, likely serving to cool the driver as the nose doesn't feature a cooling hole at the top.
The inlets are placed in an area that would otherwise be underutilised and potentially impinge on the performance of the turning vanes below.
Red Bull's power unit may be branded as a TAG Heuer, but as we know it is actually provided by Renault. While the core elements of the power unit must be retained, as they fall under the homologation process, the ancillaries can be amended.
Red Bull has opted to run a twin wastegate exhaust solution, while the Renault works team has opted to run a singular exit.
Red Bull's wastegate exhausts (highlighted in green, left image) terminate either side of the main exhaust, in the inverted Mickey Mouse configuration. Renault (right image) has opted to combine their wastegates (again highlighted in green) at the turbine end and utilize a singular wastegate exhaust just above the main exhaust.
This may seem like a small detail but it can have an aerodynamic benefit and/or provide an uplift in performance from the power unit, depending on how it's used.
Packaging will have also been a call that led to its decisions, with both solutions changing how other components could be positioned.
Manor has introduced an all-new front wing for the Australian GP. There are several changes we need to look at:
1. The mainplane has now been split into two full sections, which will change the way in which the Y250 vortex forms, having been shed from its juncture with the neutral centre section. Furthermore, the additional flapped section will allow a wider operating window.
2. The main cascade has been amended and now features three elements rather than two. The cascades are used to shape how the airflow moves up and around the front tyre. Making changes in this area could have an effect downstream, too, with the shape of the front tyres wake having an effect on the floor and so on.
3. You can't see it clearly in these images, but the team has also revised the endplate shape. This has an effect on how the wing works, be it the generation of downforce from the flapped section or how airflow is turned around the front tyre.
4. The team has changed the outboard section of the flaps, starting with the arc on the leading edge of the mainplane and funneling rearwards. This compartmentalises the outboard section of the flaps, in order that they deal with shaping the tyre wake, improving performance downstream.