Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis
F1's first test has offered a decent look at the 2018 cars – and a proper chance to get close up to some of the more interesting innovations that had not been so obvious in the carefully-manipulated launch images.
One of the best examples of this is McLaren's aggressive rear suspension design, which features a bold repositioning on the inboard connecting points of the upper wishbone.
Considering the team had to revise its suspension so late in the car design process – because of the switch to the Renault engine – the change shows how clear it was for McLaren's designers that there are good aerodynamic benefits to be had.
Its work has resulted in it reshaping and co-joining the wishbone elements to deliver the most aerodynamically efficient shape possible.
McLaren is no stranger to going the extra mile with its suspension to help benefit aerodynamics, which has often mean integrating it with diffusers or rearward aerodynamic devices to help airflow at the back of the car.
It was the first team to introduce a bracket on the top of the wishbone back in 2013, which was introduced to help clean up airflow that was being channelled inside the rear wheels.
In 2014, it went further by repositioning the location of the wishbones so they were more streamlined – with the lower one shaped in a way that it could act as an aerofoil as had been used in 2007.
One of the most extreme suspension solutions that we have seen in F1 was adopted by McLaren that year too, with the butterfly shaped rear suspension to help channel airflow and increase the effectiveness of the diffuser.
The following year, McLaren changed the angle of the wishbones dramatically – with the top one much further forward than the bottom one. Again this was about helping the diffuser be able to extract more air than would otherwise have been the case.
Attention more recently has shifted to making big aero-brackets from the wishbone elements, with Toro Rosso in 2015 experimenting with this at the rear of the car.
Photo by: Giorgio Piola
Now McLaren has gone a step further, with the whole upper elements forged into a near single unit to help deliver an aerodynamic boost.
It is also important to note how (compared to the Toro Rosso), the pick-up point of the pushrod link has been moved as far away from the rear wheel as possible to help free up airflow.
Teams are constantly battling the effects of airflow inside the rear wheels and a little help here in avoiding external interference will be welcomed by the aerodynamicists.
However, such a move does not come without potential compromises in terms of weight and stiffness from the suspension point of view. But McLaren will almost certainly have concluded that the aero benefits of its approach outstrip these negatives.
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