The first race at the newly-built track, which has already hosted a Formula E event in 2018, is due to start on April 25. The Bahrain Grand Prix will be held for the next five years under a new contract with Bernie Ecclestone that includes an extension of his role until 2024.
On 5 Live and the Sport website, the Bahrain Grand Prix will be broadcast live.
The Formula 1 vehicles that will debut in Bahrain this weekend represent the most significant year-over-year change in 40 years, if not ever.
Aerodynamicists at F1 teams, including me, have been working on our designs on and off since 2019, and this weekend will be a time of great anxiety and excitement as we learn for the first time how successfully we have understood the new rules.
The vehicles may not seem to be that different from those that finished the 2021 season to the unaided eye. In reality, the rule book was thrown away and the rules were rewritten from the ground up.
Almost every aspect of the automobile has changed form. Not only that, but the cosmetic differences between the vehicles of the different teams are greater than they have been in a long time.
I work as a senior aerodynamicist for an F1 team, and this post will walk you through what has changed and why, as well as the major areas that will determine who is fastest and who isn’t.
What are the reasons for the changes?
The regulations have been in the works for five years and are the first to be based on substantial study from inside Formula One, with the goal of altering the way vehicles interact with one another.
The major issue with the previous generation of vehicles, according to F1, was that they couldn’t keep up with each other, making overtaking incredibly difficult.
There were many reasons for this, but the fundamental problem in terms of automobile design was the way the aerodynamics functioned.
The goal of the new regulations is to drive us to go in a path that the regulators find appealing aesthetically and that they feel will result in better racing.
What was the issue previously?
When an F1 vehicle goes around the track, it leaves a wake behind it.
This is similar to the water left behind by a boat as it goes, but it is invisible since it is in the air.
The air is whirling and tumultuous in the wake. However, for an F1 car’s aerodynamics to operate at their best and produce the massive levels of downforce that enable it to perform so well, it requires clear airflow.
When two cars came close together in the past, the lead vehicle’s wake lowered the amount of downforce the following car could create, making it difficult to maintain speed through the turns. Close racing and overtaking became very difficult as a result.
The fundamental explanation for this was a phenomenon known as outwash. To make their automobiles perform as effectively as possible, designers attempted to push the wake formed by the front wheels outside so that it did not pass over their own vehicle and reduce performance.
However, it returned right behind their automobile and swept over any cars following closely behind.
The front and rear wings of the vehicles have been modified to improve airflow.
How will the new regulations address this issue?
The new laws are intended to prevent us from outwashing the airflow. Instead, the new regulations aim to promote greater upwashing airflow.
They’re attempting to throw all of the wake up in the air so that it falls over the top of the automobile behind them.
The F1 team and the FIA have conducted research that indicate a significant decrease in the quantity of wake experienced by the following vehicle.
The theoretical numbers seem to be encouraging. When a 2019 automobile was one car length behind another car, it lost 43 percent of its downforce. A automobile in 2022, on the other hand, should lose just 15% of its value. It should lose just 8% of its length at two vehicle lengths, compared to 24% for a 2019 automobile.
How has this been accomplished?
This is without a doubt the most significant regulation change I’ve ever worked on, and many feel it may well be the most significant in Formula One history.
To discover a transformation as profound as this, you must travel back 40 years, to the winter of 1982-83. And, strangely, the adjustments that have been made are in some ways the polar opposite of what occurred before.
Because the vehicles were growing too fast, rule authorities disallowed an aerodynamic design method known as ‘ground effect’ that winter.
Ground effect accelerates the air underneath the automobile using curved tunnels that resemble an inverted flying wing. It is forced into the space between the track and the vehicle, taking use of the’venturi effect.’ This generates a low-pressure zone, sucking the automobile closer to the track.
F1 vehicles featured flat undersides between the front and rear wheels from 1983 until last year. However, rulemakers have returned to ground effect because they think it would enable automobiles to retain a far bigger amount of their downforce while following another vehicle.
As a result, underbodies have been reshaped for this year, as part of a broader shift in thinking that has lessened the significance of the front wing in producing the airflow patterns that characterize the car’s performance.
The following are the most noticeable changes between a 2021 automobile and a 2022 car:
- Venturi tunnels are under-floors that are designed like a wing and have substantially bigger inlets and outputs.
- Front wings that blend into the side of new, considerably lower noses are simpler.
- Wrap-around rear wings with more sculpted end-plates
- 18-inch wheels with pre-defined deflectors installed around them
- The intricate components in front of the floor and the side-pods were removed.
Will it be successful?
Theoretical work is one thing. Reality may be a different story. We won’t know how well the new cars perform in comparison to the theory until they race together, and it’ll be a few races before we get a clear image.
Furthermore, it remains to be seen how well Pirelli has achieved in developing tyres that are less susceptible to overheating, which was a big issue with the previous generation of tyres and contributed significantly to the difficulties in overtaking.
In terms of the automobiles, one issue I have is that all of the additional upwash that the cars now create behind them may ‘unload’ the front wing of the following car, causing it to cease operating as well.
Losing front downforce in this way would make it more difficult for drivers to turn their vehicles into bends, perhaps undoing some of the gains made by these restrictions.
The most important performance differentiators
Diffusers and beam wings are two types of diffusers.
Because the underfloors now account for so much of the car’s total downforce, this will naturally be a focus of development and where a lot of performance may be discovered.
If you can fully use the venturi effect beneath the whole body of your vehicle, you will have a significant amount of downforce.
Much bigger diffusers dominate the floors of these vehicles. These pull all of the air required for the venturi effect to function from the rear of the automobile.
Last year, teams were permitted to deploy vanes in the diffuser to steer the air in performance-enhancing directions. This is no longer permitted. Instead, a considerably larger ‘beam wing,’ the aerodynamic feature at the bottom of the rear wing, now supports the diffusers.
Instead of the little flaps permitted last year, you may now utilize two significant beam wing pieces.
Both of these adjustments will reduce our capacity to outwash air from under the automobile, but they will encourage upward expansion, allowing the diffuser to accomplish its function of pushing air under the floor.
the floor’s edges
To assist seal the tunnels from outside air, the sides of the floor drop significantly throughout the length of the vehicle.
This is important for the venturi effect because any air flowing in from the side slows down the air coming in from the front – imagine someone cutting in front of you in line. To maximize downforce on a ground-effect automobile, we want to seal the floor’s edges as much as possible.
One method is to physically reduce the distance by driving the automobiles as low as possible to the ground. However, this may cause issues, such as “porpoising,” which has been a hot topic since pre-season testing began.
On long straights, this is when the vehicles bounce up and down at high speeds. It’s usually the consequence of a car’s downforce sucking it down onto the road.
The vehicles go lower and lower until the air can no longer be worked and part of the floor’stalls.’ The automobile rises again as a result of the abrupt lack of downforce, at which time the aerodynamics kick in and the cycle starts all over again.
We may also attempt to aerodynamically seal the floor by employing airflow to close the gap between the edge of the floor and the track.
This is accomplished by employing vortices, which are little tornado-like spinning tubes of air that occur when air passes a sharp edge as it moves from a high-pressure region to a low-pressure area, much like the sides of the floor.
If you look at the the floor’s edges of these new F1 cars, you will see a lot of detailing – waves, cuts, lumps and so on.
It’s all about generating powerful enough vortices to seal the floor, and forming them as far upstream as possible – the sooner they start, the stronger the seal.
To perform effectively, strong vortices need to be fed lovely, clean air, and this is driving a lot of the choices on the sidepods, an area where we see a variety of approaches from one team to the next.
Where you can feed clean airflow and where you can draw it from depends on how you design the bodywork.
Some teams, including as Mercedes and McLaren, seem to be using their sidepods to accomplish something called downwashing. In side view, their bodywork sweeps sharply downwards from the sidepod intake to their floor.
This indicates that they are attempting to pull clean air from above and guide it down to the floor edge as soon as possible.
With the super-slim design they presented to the second test, Mercedes pushed this to the next level.
The winglet in front of the bodywork, which features a sequence of smaller winglets on the upper surface and also supports the mirror, looks to be crucial to their design. These components all work together to create a large-scale air rotation that travels downward from the car’s center, then outwards down low to the floor edge.
The Mercedes bodywork is receptive to this air moving down towards the edge of the floor, as can be seen by the slope of the bodywork.
The bodywork is also kept as far away from the front tire wake as feasible because to the exceptionally limited width. This should assist prevent the wheel wake from adhering to the bodywork and then following it all the way down the vehicle, obstructing the flow to our thoughtfully built floor and rear corner.
One issue with downwashing aggressively early on is that you tend to draw the top wheel wake in from above, which then goes towards the car’s rear corner. As a result, you feed clean flow to the front to some degree, but at the price of the back.
Red Bull, on the other hand, has gone for a fairly aggressive undercut on wider at the upper sidepods. This will first provide air to the floor edge from under the sidepod. Later on, they sweep down, delivering additional clean air from above to the back corner.
Ferrari has come up with yet another solution in the form of a scalloped cutout in the top of the sidepods, dubbed the “baby bath” design by some.
In this design, the interaction with the front tire wake will have been a major factor. Before the air over the concave, top surface is supplied to the back of the automobile, the high pressure from the extremely flat sides will drive the wheel wake out, away from the floor, as well as creating powerful floor-edge vortices.
Floor wings in miniature
There is also lots of variation in the the floor’s edges themselves. What each team has ended up with will, to a large extent, be a result of the decisions they have already made on their sidepods. On the whole, they are all trying to achieve the same thing – strong coherent vortices.
However, there is an intriguing variation in approach when it comes to a component known as the ‘floor-edge wing.’ The regulations were designed to allow for components like the winglets seen on the floor edge of last year’s vehicles, and some of the teams have embraced that route.
However, there’s no rule that these wings have to be higher than the ground. In fact, other teams, like Mercedes, Red Bull, and Ferrari, have chosen to put theirs under the floor. They may then create powerful, floor-sealing vortices from there.
This is what the larger bulbous lumps and bumps at the rear of their flooring are concealing.
They may not be simple to notice, but I’ve seen spy images from long lens cameras that show them to be there!
There’s a lot of variety.
These are just a handful of the issues we’re attempting to address while creating an F1 vehicle. In actuality, there are other more factors to consider, and no one option may result in a successful racing vehicle.
Last year, there was worry that the new standards would be so strict that all of the vehicles would end up looking the same. That, however, is not what has occurred.
I was astounded by how much variance there was around the field.
We looked at most of the designs you can now see up and down the pit lane, done our research, and came to our view on the best course to pursue, even in areas where there is some flexibility, like as the bodywork.
I expected that everyone else would have reached similar conclusions: obviously, this isn’t the case! It remains to be known who was correct and who was incorrect.
It won’t be evident which design philosophy, as a whole, creates the quickest racing vehicle until we race this weekend. Right now, the only thing I’m certain of is that we’re in for an interesting season.
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