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Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

Gallery: How F1 teams made their front wings legal

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Gallery: How F1 teams made their front wings legal
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Co-author: Matt Somerfield
Apr 21, 2019, 1:31 PM

As the FIA continues to refine its vision of the 2019 aero regulations, three Formula 1 teams have been forced to alter their front wing designs.

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Mercedes W10 front wing, Chinese GP

Mercedes W10 front wing, Chinese GP
1/12

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

This latest front wing redesign from Mercedes centres around the endplate, with a more contoured trailing edge used to alter the airflow's behavior as it tracks across and around the front tyre, creating the outwash that the governing body was trying to limit with the new regulations.

Having removed the upper cascades, winglets and canards from the front wings, the teams are all looking for other ways to achieve similar results.

Alfa Romeo Racing C38 front wing detail

Alfa Romeo Racing C38 front wing detail
2/12

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Two schools of thought have arisen, with Mercedes and Red Bull at one end of the spectrum and Ferrari and Alfa Romeo (above) at the other.

The visually more aggressive version presented by Ferrari and Alfa Romeo deals bluntly with a common issue posed by the new regulations - the front wing tip vortex. The strength of this vortex is considered problematic as it weakens the designers' attempts to harness the outwash effect. As such, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo have sacrificed some of the wing's real estate to soften the pressure gradient as the flaps meet the endplate.

Mercedes-AMG F1 W10 front wing detail

Mercedes-AMG F1 W10 front wing detail
3/12

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

It appears that Mercedes originally intended to counteract this with an inwardly angled endplate, as the wing shown here from testing utilised.

The Silver Arrows' hope was that the flow direction along the endplate's surface could be used to fight the vortex, altering its rotation and direction.

Mercedes W10 front wing endplate

Mercedes W10 front wing endplate
4/12

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

When Mercedes arrived at the second test, its ‘B-spec' update included a revised front wing though, with what is deemed a more conventional outwash-style endplate supplanting the inwardly angled one.

On top of this the upper rear corner of the endplate had been cut away, which undoubtedly altered the formation, shape and direction of the tip vortex.

Mercedes W10 front wing close-up

Mercedes W10 front wing close-up
5/12

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

As we can see from this illustration of the flap and endplate's mating point, the Mercedes designers didn’t use the full height available for the flaps with their old design.

Mercedes W10 front wing endplate comparison

Mercedes W10 front wing endplate comparison
6/12

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The new design saw more of the endplate taken away, exposing the flap in side view (red arrow), which contravened article 3.3.6 of the technical regulations.

Mercedes AMG F1 W10 front wing with team members

Mercedes AMG F1 W10 front wing with team members
7/12

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Nikolas Tombazis inspected the new front wing design before free practice got underway and explained the FIA’s stance, allowing the team to make the necessary adjustments to comply with his interpretation of the regulations.

Mercedes W10 front wing flap

Mercedes W10 front wing flap
8/12

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Rather than revert to the older-specification wing, the team's response was to make ad-hoc alterations to the new design.

After all, the endplate was only one change in part of a larger overall redesign that included a shorter and reprofiled outer footplate and a revised shape to the outer portion of the flaps.

In order to comply with the FIA’s ruling, Mercedes cut down the upper flap at the outer edge and created a fillet radius on the endplate to both cover the flap tip, comply with the radius rules and also lessen the aerodynamic implications of the change.

Mercedes AMG F1 W10 front wing detail

Mercedes AMG F1 W10 front wing detail
9/12

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The small fillet added to the endplate can be seen more easily in the side-on image and covered the flap sufficiently to placate the rule maker.

Red Bull RB15 front wing, Chinese GP

Red Bull RB15 front wing, Chinese GP
10/12

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Mercedes was not the only team hit by the FIA’s tidying up of what the governing body had seen from the teams in the first two races.

Red Bull arrived at the Chinese GP with a new front wing too, as the team had prepared themselves for the technical directive issued by Tombazis ahead of the grand prix. Red Bull’s front wing endplate used in the opening rounds, like Mercedes' new one, exposed the flaps and so the new design returned to a full endplate shape.

Front wing endplate of the Red Bull Racing RB15

Front wing endplate of the Red Bull Racing RB15
11/12

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Sutton Images

In this image, we can see how the notch cut out of the endplate's rear corner exposes the flap, a design that the FIA has deemed to be in breach of the regulations.

Williams Racing FW42 front wing detail

Williams Racing FW42 front wing detail
12/12

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Williams was the other team forced to make a change to its front wing endplate design, as the corner radii in its cutout did not comply with the regulations. The design seen here was used in China and now features the 50mm radius required in the regulations to prevent tyre damage should it come into contact with another car.

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