Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis
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Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

F1 tech review: How Alfa tie-up allowed Sauber to thrive

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F1 tech review: How Alfa tie-up allowed Sauber to thrive
By: Giorgio Piola
Co-author: Matthew Somerfield
Dec 22, 2018, 6:35 PM

Sauber’s C37 could have been a very different animal, as the team originally signed a deal to take the Honda power unit in 2018, before a dramatic u-turn meant a closer technical partnership with Ferrari and it became the flag bearer for the Alfa Romeo brand.

This meant an enlarged budget, the arrival of Ferrari starlet Charles Leclerc, a slew of new technical personnel and a current power unit – rather than the year old one they’d been using in 2017.

Even with all of this in tow you could forgive a team like Sauber for creating something a little beige, given its recent record. However, the C37 was anything but – it had many interesting design concepts that we’ll unpack on our deep dive through its pictorial technical timeline.

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Sauber C37 fins

Sauber C37 fins
1/21

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Sauber converged on the raised upper front suspension wishbone pickup that we’d seen Mercedes and Toro Rosso pioneer in 2017. However, it cooked up something more aggressive at Hinwil, installing vertical fences atop the wishbone shroud to further help guide the airflow (arrows). Enamoured with the design concept, Mercedes later followed suit too.

Sauber C37 cooling inlets

Sauber C37 cooling inlets
2/21

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

No doubt about it, the sidepod design used by Ferrari in 2017 had an impact on design teams up and down the paddock, with no less than three other teams fielding a similar solution in 2018. However, whilst the remaining teams ponderously continued with their more conventional designs, Sauber went as aggressive as its budget would allow, splitting their sidepod inlet into two, one in the more conventional position and the other mounted atop.

Sauber C37 with flo-viz paint

Sauber C37 with flo-viz paint
3/21

Photo by: Mark Sutton

Correlation work being conducted by the team during the pre-season test, as it slathers one side of the car in flo-viz and the other had a kiel probe array mounted on it.

Marcus Ericsson, Sauber C37

Marcus Ericsson, Sauber C37
4/21

Photo by: Andrew Hone / LAT Images

More correlation work, this time more focused on the rear of the car.

Sauber C37 front wing detail

Sauber C37 front wing detail
5/21

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The team used these dots on the different elements of the front wing, in combination with a hi-speed camera, to assess how much deflection was taking place.

Antonio Giovinazzi, Sauber C37

Antonio Giovinazzi, Sauber C37
6/21

Photo by: Joe Portlock / LAT Images

Flo-viz is applied to the front brake duct at the in-season test at Barcelona as the team looked for improvements.

Sauber C37 detail

Sauber C37 detail
7/21

Photo by: Franco Nugnes

A view inside the C37’s nosecone shows us how airflow is transported from the underside of the nose to the upper surface.

Sauber C37 axle detail

Sauber C37 axle detail
8/21

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

A close up of the front wheel shows how the team has deployed a blown axle, likely owing to the newfound technical collaboration with Alfa Romeo and Ferrari.

Sauber C37 diffuser

Sauber C37 diffuser
9/21

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The C37 featured a complex stack of winglets in the outboard section (inset), much like previous Ferrari designs, up until Monaco when it was overshadowed by these C-shaped replacements.

Sauber C37 floor detail

Sauber C37 floor detail
10/21

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

A look at the floor area ahead of the rear tyre on the C37, which features this angled strake (red arrow) to help drive flow across the face of the tyre.

Sauber C37 additional fins at French GP

Sauber C37 additional fins at French GP
11/21

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The team added some additional winglets to the front upper corner of the front brake duct at the French GP (inset).

Sauber C37 detail side

Sauber C37 detail side
12/21

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

A close up of the revised sidepod configuration, which saw the lower bodywork tightened and the upper inlet drawn forward.

Sauber C37 floor

Sauber C37 floor
13/21

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

As part of this sweeping update package the team revised not only the sidepods but also the aerodynamic surfaces ahead and around them. A new boomerang winglet (blue arrow) was hung from the side of the chassis, in order to better guide the flow around the sidepods, while a new splitter extension, complete with five slots in the leading edge was installed. This complimented the strakes that were mounted on the floors edge, as the designers look to quell the tyre wake received by them and improve flow to the diffuser downstream.

Sauber C37 rear detail

Sauber C37 rear detail
14/21

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

A close up of the high downforce rear wing utilised at the Hungarian GP, note the six open-end style louvres in the endplate which help to disperse the vortex created when running such a configuration.

Sauber C37 rear winglets detail

Sauber C37 rear winglets detail
15/21

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

This image from the Belgian GP shows the rather neat crash structure winglets that appeared on the side of the C37.

Sauber C37 diffuser detail

Sauber C37 diffuser detail
16/21

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Sauber kind of went its own way when it came to the outer section of the diffuser, opting for these upwardly turned flaps that look to alter the pressure gradient, improving the outboard sections yield. It’s similar to a design that we saw Ferrari use in years gone by and is perhaps down to the influence of Simone Resta who now heads the technical department, having switched from Ferrari. You’ll note the detail changes that were made (inset), with the introduction of the slot to the inner flap.

Sauber C37 diffuser detail

Sauber C37 diffuser detail
17/21

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The latest iteration diffuser was first tested at Sochi, where the team also utilised a non-stick coating on the upper surface of the diffuser, reducing the chance of tyre debris getting caught up on it and influencing the flow over the surface.

Sauber C37 floor

Sauber C37 floor
18/21

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The non-stick coating was applied to the floor ahead of the rear tyre too, as flow consistency in this area is particularly sensitive.

Sauber C39 bargeboads comparison

Sauber C39 bargeboads comparison
19/21

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Continuing a push late into the season, the team introduced new parts in Russia, as it looked to improve flow around the sidepods. The boomerang winglet was bonded to the top surface of the bargeboard, framing the flow that passes by, making better use of the recent update that saw three downwash winglets being hung from the side of the chassis, rather than one (blue arrow).

Charles Leclerc, Alfa Romeo Sauber C37

Charles Leclerc, Alfa Romeo Sauber C37
20/21

Photo by: Jerry Andre / Sutton Images

A fantastic top-down overview of the C37 shows off how the team has both drawn on inspiration from the rest of the field whilst also displaying plenty of design flair of their own.

Sauber C37 in pit lane

Sauber C37 in pit lane
21/21

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Sutton Images

A look at the expansive cooling outlet used at the rear of the C37 in Mexico that helped to keep temperatures in check at the high altitude circuit.

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About this article

Series Formula 1
Teams Sauber
Author Giorgio Piola