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Tech analysis: McLaren's plan to increase rear downforce

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Tech analysis: McLaren's plan to increase rear downforce
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Co-author: Giorgio Piola
Apr 22, 2017, 8:15 AM

Having failed to use its new rear wing in China due to a lack of free practice time, McLaren fit it on Fernando Alonso's MCL32 in Bahrain.

The rear wing builds on the concept already put forward by the team since the start of the season, making use of the box area within the regulations that asks for a curvature to the endplate, allowing a narrower section above the floor but a wider wing at the top.

This box area, while requiring the curvature, also leaves open the possibility for strakes like the ones exclusively used by McLaren, something it has exploited even further with this update.

Four strakes previously hung adrift from the endplate's main surface with the trailing element reforming a connection to the main assembly (right hand illustration).

The revised endplate (left hand illustration) now features an additional pair of much longer slots (right arrow), in a similar fashion to the wing that had a solo outing at the Austrian GP during free practice last season (below), while a small metal stay is used to maintain their integrity.

Meanwhile, a leading edge slat, detached from the upper edge of the endplate has also been added (left arrow).

 

McLaren MP4-31 rear wing (trialed but not raced)
McLaren MP4-31 rear wing (trialed but not raced)

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

It seems that McLaren is pursuing a way to extract more downforce from the rear wing by artificially increasing its aspect ratio, as airflow is introduced into the outer portion of the wing that would ordinarily be blocked by the endplate - thus changing the shape and vorticity of the wing tip vortices too.

 

McLaren MCL32 T wing and rear endplate details
McLaren MCL32 T wing and rear endplate details

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

This is further improved by the introduction of the T-wing (above), which also has an impact on the tip vortices, as it creates a new airflow structure ahead of the main wing.

While these changes should improve the downforce being generated by the rear wing, it's worth noting that the team will also make geometrical changes to the wing elements in order that the drag being created is balanced.

Testing times

Oliver Turvey, McLaren MCL32
Oliver Turvey, McLaren MCL32

Photo by: LAT Images

The uphill struggle that McLaren faces due to Honda's inadequacies is well-documented, but that isn't stopping the Woking-based outfit from attempting to make gains through better understanding of its aerodynamic package and Pirelli's tyres.

The MCL32 was fitted with numerous kiel and pitot tube arrays at the post-race test in Bahrain.

This is done in order to measure both the impact of their aerodynamic surfaces and monitor how the deformation of the tyres changes the various aerodynamic structures being generated.

Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32

Photo by: Sutton Motorsport Images / sutton-images.com

The team also mounted another sensor in the diffuser, which monitors the rear tyres deformation under load. This is likely an infra-red camera, as that will help the team to establish how temperature within the tyre changes the tyre's behaviour - including changes to the construction and the impact that has on the compound.

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Series Formula 1
Teams McLaren Shop Now
Author Matt Somerfield
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