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

Tech insight: The caped crusaders of the F1 paddock

The under-nose ‘cape’ is now less of a trend and more of a staple of Formula 1 car design in 2019. With Alfa Romeo recently joining the growing stable of teams to run the aerodynamic appendage – that takes the tally to over half of the grid.

Tech insight: The caped crusaders of the F1 paddock
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It’s not exactly a new idea, just a reimagining of a device we’ve seen before, with the previous incarnation rising to prominence with Williams in 2009 and McLaren in 2010 (illustrated below, click on the arrows to scroll between them).

The then-named ‘snowplough’ device looked to maximise flow performance from the high nose solution that the prevailing regulations permitted.

Williams FW32 nose (right) compared with FW31 (left)
Williams FW32 nose (right) compared with FW31 (left)
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Williams first used this design in 2009 (left)...

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

McLaren MP4-25 nose
McLaren MP4-25 nose
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...and this was McLaren’s solution for 2010.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola


Mercedes takes the "Super Ted" route

It was Mercedes, in 2017, that then reimagined this solution, with members of the team reportedly naming it “Super Ted’s cape” given its similarity to the childhood TV character when viewed from beneath.

With the narrowest nose on the grid, the team has been able to stretch the device out and utilise an airflow defining profile either side of the main structure in order to capture and nurture the airflow that passes by.

Here's how the concept was revisited and refined by Mercedes in 2017...

Mercedes W08 nose duct, Russian GP
Mercedes W08 nose duct, Russian GP
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The Mercedes W08 was first outfitted with turning vanes under the nose and chassis.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Mercedes W08 nose duct, Spanish GP
Mercedes W08 nose duct, Spanish GP
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Introduced in Spain, the W08 was fitted with a narrower nose and cape – that did away with the turning vanes in this region.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Mercedes W08 narrow nose, Spanish GP
Mercedes W08 narrow nose, Spanish GP
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Mercedes opted to use the cape as a means of moving the airflow ahead of the point on the car normally associated with such a task.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Evolution of the Mercedes W08 nose in 2017
Evolution of the Mercedes W08 nose in 2017
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The solution underwent alterations throughout that season, as the team continued to hone the solution to maximise performance. This resulted in changes made at both the front and rear of the cape's design, improving how airflow was captured and how it was repurposed downstream. 

Photo by: Giorgio Piola


Williams and McLaren join the club in 2018

Williams FW41 layout
Williams FW41 layout
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Williams made some bold design decisions in 2018, mixing some of the key aerodynamic ideas seen from both Mercedes and Ferrari in the hope it could improve performance. Top-right inset is the under-nose cape addition.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Williams FW42
Williams FW42
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The under-nose cape design can clearly be seen here on the 2019 car.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

McLaren MCL33 front wing Monaco GP
McLaren MCL33 front wing Monaco GP
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McLaren was next to make the move, introducing a new design at the 2018 Spanish GP...

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

McLaren MCL33 front wing Spanish GP
McLaren MCL33 front wing Spanish GP
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...This was the first time a team had looked to use the cape in conjunction with the nose-tip air ducts, and while alterations had to be made the solution showed great promise.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola


The 2019 bandwagon jumpers

Racing Point RP19 nose
Racing Point RP19 nose
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We then have to fast-forward to 2019 before another adoption of the solution came through, with Racing Point testing its version in Canada before its first race proper in France. Much like McLaren, the solution tied in with the teams use of through flow ducting, which was also modified to accommodate the cape.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Renault F1 Team R.S.19 front nose
Renault F1 Team R.S.19 front nose
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Renault also leapt on the bandwagon in France, adopting its version of the cape, although its version outwardly seems less complex due to the lack of aerodynamic furniture around the nose tip.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Alfa Romeo Racing C38, front wing and nose
Alfa Romeo Racing C38, front wing and nose
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Alfa Romeo’s introduction of the cape solution came as part of its package of updates for Silverstone. Much like McLaren and Racing Point, the solution is tied into its use of inlets around the nose tip which were also adapted as the wing pillars were reshaped. 

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo Racing C38
Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo Racing C38
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The other front-end change made by Alfa Romeo for Silverstone was a change to the outboard section of the front wing, which now features an upturned mainplane, whilst the subsequent flaps have also been adjusted to suit, improving the wing's ability to draw airflow across and around the front tyre.

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

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