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Formula 1 Austrian GP

How the latest Mercedes tweak played its part in Austria F1 win

Mercedes was one of the few teams to introduce a car update in Spielberg. Here's a look at some of the tech innovations from last weekend's Austria round

Mercedes W15 beam wing comparison

Mercedes W15 beam wing comparison

Photo by: Uncredited

Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

Giorgio Piola is the preeminent Formula 1 technical journalist. View our full selection of Giorgio's technical illustrative content

Formula 1’s Austrian Grand Prix was never likely to produce a huge list of updates as being a sprint in the middle of a triple header made it far from ideal to bring new parts.

Nonetheless, some teams bucked the trend as they continue to try to eke out the tiny performance gains that are proving so critical in the fights up and down the grid.

Interestingly, Mercedes has continued its policy of bringing updates to nearly every race, as it added a new beam wing arrangement to its arsenal on a weekend that George Russell came out on top.

As can be seen in the main picture, the lower element of their bi-plane arrangement reduced in chord when compared with the specification used since it introduced the arrangement at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

The team was targeting a reduction in downforce and drag from the new element, with the trailing edge cut back when compared with the previous specification. The outer perimeter, near the endplate, is also decidedly shorter than before. 

Sauber C44 beam wing comparison

Sauber C44 beam wing comparison

Photo by: Uncredited

Another team that has been chasing more flexibility in its aerodynamic set up over the course of the last few races is Sauber, with the Swiss-based outfit preparing a number of different rear wing options to cater for the various venues being visited.

For the Austrian Grand Prix, it added a new beam wing arrangement to its suite of options, with just a single element favoured to help reduce downforce and drag and complement the rear wing it had chosen at the Red Bull Ring.

And, whilst it might be tempting to assume that it’s simply a case of the team having removed the upper element, this is not the case.

There’s slightly more chord on the single element, as can be seen in the comparison from FP1, above, with Bottas sporting the single element variant, whilst Zhou Guanyu ran the low downforce double element arrangement.

Neither Sauber driver raced the new beam wing in the end, with it likely being saved for a venue that requires less downforce and drag than the team needed at the Red Bull Ring.
 

McLaren MCL38 end plate comparison

McLaren MCL38 end plate comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

McLaren has delivered a comprehensive round of updates for its car during the season which has catapulted it towards the front of the pack.

But it is not resting on its laurels. Instead it continues to target its weaknesses and arrived with another batch of parts in Austria.

The facet of performance where the team felt the MCL38 lacked the most was at low speed, with the team making changes to the front wing and suspension fairings in Austria to help this.

But, it’s a tough balancing act with the current regulations though, as described by Andrea Stella.

“With this generation of cars, and this generation of front wing regulations, the geometries are very restricted and therefore it is difficult to achieve what you want in low speed, or at high steering angles for instance, and what you want in a straight line, or what we want in high speed,” he said.

“This is a challenge that I'm sure all teams are facing. And that's also why it's quite difficult to bring development on the front wing. So the compromise we are working on is capable of delivering some low-speed benefit, but without affecting the high-speed or straight line too negatively”.

The changes made by the team are an evolution of what we’ve seen from it already, with the designers looking to alter the distribution ratio between downforce generation and flow conditioning.

It has achieved this in a number of ways, including the revisions made to the flaps, which now have a revised chord and trailing edge geometry.

The larger changes have occurred in the outboard section of the wing, which also encompasses the endplate’s design features.

The wing still features the semi-detached flap tip architecture that it introduced at Silverstone last season, which saw the team quickly following-up on its extremely successful large scale update package that had arrived at the Austrian Grand Prix.

However, whilst the general design DNA remains, the team has ramped up its application, as the flap tips are now more acutely rolled back upon themselves, likely resulting in a stronger vortex cluster, which will aid in the production of outwash.

This also results in more separation in the flap and endplate juncture, which will result in a change of behaviour from an airflow and pressure distribution point of view.

In order to take advantage of this and optimize the characteristics already in play, McLaren has also modified the endplate’s camber and shape, whilst also subtly moving the diveplane.

McLaren MCL38 end plate comparison

McLaren MCL38 end plate comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

In this respect, the leading and upper edge of the endplate is now more rounded, whilst the open lower rear quarter window has been moved back owing to the addition of a small triangular wedge of material on the back edge of the endplate (red arrow).

You can also clearly see how much more the flaps are angled relative to the endplate in the lowermost corner of the juncture. 

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