Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis
Tech analysis: How tyre pressures are impacting downforce levels
Looking at the aerodynamic configurations of teams at the traditional ultra-low-downforce Monza circuit, it is patently obvious that a trend has started to appear.
For teams seem to be responding to the impact of low tyre pressures by actually increasing wing levels.
It is something that started to become apparent at Spa, where the combination of high pressures and temperatures forced the teams to reconsider their setups.
As part of Motorsport.com's technical debrief from Spa, we reviewed how Mercedes had changed the monkey seat and Ferrari had switched to a higher-downforce rear wing assembly to deal with the trickier second sector.
Meanwhile, Red Bull, which was committed to a lower-downforce configuration to marginalise its power unit deficiencies, put itself in the mix over one lap even if it sacrificed a little race pace.
Moving to Monza, it is much the same story with Mercedes, which has designed and manufactured a low-downforce ‘Monza Special’ rear wing – utilising the spoon rear wing used at Spa, albeit without the monkey seat.
At the other end of the spectrum, Red Bull continues to trim the car out, with an even skinnier rear wing than the one used in Spa, which itself was very low-downforce.
This new wing has an extremely flat mainplane and top flap, with chord lengths to match, whilst the louvres usually placed in the endplate to displace and control the vortices that are generated at the wing tips are nowhere to be found.
So flat is the mainplane that the centre-mounting pylon no longer has a swan-neck style appendage that sweeps in front of it to join with the DRS actuator.
Instead, a much thinner profile mounts to the underside of the mainplane to decrease the chance of airflow separation that might otherwise be caused by a larger appendage.
It’s not the first time Red Bull has run this configuration though, with the last few years dominated by Red Bull’s ‘ironing board’ design as we can see it ran a similar design back in 2014 too.
Towards the end of FP2, Red Bull did toy with some more wing on Max Verstappen’s car though, as it went in search of a better balance.
Cause and effect
As always each team will focus its efforts in different ways, but watching the cars around Parabolica it is clear to see that those that are running the lower-downforce configurations are giving up laptime lap-on-lap as the tyre temperature increases and the compound degrades.
The reason we are seeing a change in philosophy at these low-downforce circuits is not because of changes to the tracks or even a specific aerodynamic regulation change, but rather the increase in tyre pressures mandated by Pirelli.
Last year, Pirelli announced an increase in minimum pressures for Monza to solve a two-stage issue - that the tyre manufacturer hadn’t accounted for the vast increase in downforce that the 2015 cars were generating, given the slower development pace during 2014, and that drivers experienced tyre failures at the preceding round in Belgium.
Teams subsequently devoted a lot of effort to try to optimise the tyre pressures to eke out better performance.
A technical directive issued in Austria was supposed to put pay to many of the tricks being employed and the pressures that had been ramped up by Pirelli were set to recede, in an effort to improve performance again.
However, Pirelli hasn'’t relented and the pressures have remained higher than the teams would desire – although they have been lowered slightly after Friday practice at Monza.
The situation going forward could be further complicated if Pirelli pushes through the introduction of a new construction tyre aimed at minimising the risk of damage from objects like kerbs.
A change in the tyre construction at this point in the season could have a dramatic effect on the championship standings in the coming months, with the battle for second between Red Bull and Ferrari and the battle for 4th place between Force India and Williams reaching fever pitch.
Throwing another spanner in the works could see some, if not all of those teams having to rethink their strategies going forward.
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