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German Grand Prix tech- Ferrari updates in focus
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German Grand Prix tech- Ferrari updates in focus
Posted By: James Allen  |  26 Jul 2010   |  12:11 pm GMT  |  44 comments

The German Grand Prix at Hockenheim will be remembered for the team orders row which blew up after Ferrari ordered Felipe Massa to let Fernando Alonso through, but it was also notable as a confirmation that Ferrari has made great progress with its car after a period in the first third of the season where it fell behind in development.

Unlike Red Bull and McLaren, Ferrari has been obliged to copy both of the key technical innovations of the 2010 season; the F Duct rear wing and the blown diffuser. McLaren invented the former and Red Bull the latter so both have had half the work to do compared to Ferrari in overall incorporation of new tech.

Ferrari worked first on the F Duct and got bogged down with it, then the blown diffuser was introduced later. The signs were clear in Montreal that Ferrari had taken a step forward and then in Valencia they introduced the blown diffuser. In Silverstone the step in performance was confirmed with Alonso being barely a tenth off the Red Bulls through practice and the early part of qualifying, but at Hockenheim it all came together and Fernando Alonso qualified on the front row, with Massa just behind. In the race, Ferrari had better race pace than Red Bull, indicating that they are contenders for the second half of the season.


Ferrari updates get them in the game
Hockenheim was the third outing of the blown diffuser introduced in Valencia and detailed changes to the exhausts and floor optimised the solution together with a refinement of the F-duct system. Ferrari have modified the side channels of their diffuser. This one now sports a wider and diagonal opening compared to the standard perpendicular one seen in Valencia when the solution was introduced the first time.

Ferrari also had a step on the front wing, which improved the overall downforce and stablity of the car, leading both drivers to talk of greatly improved grip and driveability. Another big step from Ferrari is due at the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of August, where heavily revised back end aerodynamics will be brought out.


Mercedes rear wing
Mercedes, for its home race brought an array of small developments, the main one being to the rear wing main profile, now featuring two big slits in its central section, to increase the efficiency of this element producing a slightly increased downforce load. The main feature is a double large opening, placed in the middle section of the main profile, mimicking the effect of an additional flap. This solution helps in terms of increasing the downforce load generated by the wing. Mercedes do not have the full active F Duct system operated by the drivers, as used by its rivals, they have a more passive system. It was useful in Germany, although the car is still short of the pace of its rivals and will be even more useful in Hungary.


McLaren blown diffuser
McLaren ran the blown diffuser all weekend in Germany, although their deficit to Ferrari and Red Bull in qualifying and at the end of the race indicates that there is still work to be done to optimise it. In Silverstone they removed it after Friday practice because it was overheating components in the rear suspension and the on-off nature of the exhaust gas pressure, combined with the bumps in the Silverstone track was causing instability.

In Germany they introduced modifications to reduce the overheating problems and now the exhaust pipes are in a more external position , sporting a diagonal cut instead of the perpendicular one adopted previously. This is still a work in progress and McLaren now need to add the next step in performance to stay with the Red Bulls and Ferraris.

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44 Comments
  1. Nando says:

    Any confirmation on whether Ferrari ran the engine retardation in quali?

    1. Christos Pallis says:

      I’ll second that request. I was under the impression that Renault and Ferrari were not considering the retardation of the engine in their concept of blown diffuser but that McLaren were. I would imagine that Retaining exhaust pressure is a fairly simple concept to copy!

      Also can we talk front wings? Can anyone elaborate on this idea of passing FIA flex testing but still having a wing that flexes. Don’t tell me tha FIA is returning to it’s previous nick name of Ferrari International Assistance.

      1. Kenny says:

        I believe according to the BBC gossip column a while ago, they were indeed running the exhaust gas retardation.

        However, in terms of the front wing tests, DC mentioned about how they go through load settings i.e. the FIA officials put a set mass load onto the wings and measure the deflection the wing goes through.
        Deflection being how much the wing changes shape and/or bends.
        Given those wings can actually withstand the mass of an average human standing on top of them, even the toughest of materials will deflect a bit. It’s just a question of how much the material deflects.

        Obviously also the thickness of the same material will have a factor in how much the wings will deflect. If Red Bull have constructed a wing that is strong enough to take the loadings that a Formula 1 car goes through, but flexible enough to open up the airways.

        However, I believe that actually a previous Mclaren (2008 one I think) with it’s interesting “double deck” front wing where the second deck also ran over the front wing was shown to be deflecting a fair amount at high speeds.
        However, I believe the level of deflection was still within regulations.

        So basically what they are really checking is, if the Red Bull’s front wing’s deflection is within regulations.

      2. Will says:

        There’s always the possibility that they’ve found a way round the deflection tests.

        For example, the tests generally only consider loading in one direction at a time. If deflection in one direction caused parts which were touching but not connected to slide out of line, it’s conceivable that the wing would then become more flexible in another direction.

        Or if a stiffener in the wing only worked properly when it was warm, and hence slightly longer through thermal expansion. Plenty of warm air in a hot garage, perhaps, but after a bit of breeze in the installation lap, such a stiffener might cease to do its job.

        Of course Red Bull (or anyone else for that matter) would have to not only get one of these or an equally outlandish scheme of their own to work as described, but also for the resulting flexibility to help them aerodynamically, all at the risk that the door be closed with the addition of a new deflection test, which would probably be joined by penalisation for breaking the spirit of the “no deformable bodywork” rule itself.

      3. Kenny says:

        Will, the only problem with your theory about the different direction to deflect, it doesn’t work that way.
        Since if you bend (or otherwise deflect) a beam or in this case a wing one direction, it will be able to withstand the same load in the exact opposite direction.
        Admittedly the shape will obviously alter this somewhat, but by Young’s Modulus if you have a beam, as long as you are bending the beam in the same manner with the same amount of loading then it will deflect that amount each time.
        Albeit, after several tests it will probably start deflecting even more due to usage and the old “wear and tear” phrase.
        In addition, you’d hardly find a wing deflecting upwards when the car is travelling at high speed. (As far as I know anyways)

        The only other load direction they could test the wings would be in fact the direction of pointing parallel with the car and we already know the testing for that is in fact for crashing and that the structure holds up to a certain degree of force for it to be safe for the driver and they don’t absorb the impact instead of the car’s nose and monocoque. Again also Young’s Modulus stuff.

        As for the “stiffener” on the wing, you’d have to find some strange material that did that to put into the carbon fibre. I know as much as carbon fibre is significantly stronger in one direction than the other i.e. it can take loadings better in one direction than the other and that heat does have a factor in the amount of deflection occuring in a material, but you’d have to be looking at massive temperature differences for that to occur.

        I think ultimately if the wings are flexing too much then it’s a case of the wings are just a bit thin, but obviously still strong enough to take the load settings the car goes through. Alternatively wherever the wing elements are held, it’s held somewhat more loosely and therefore is a bit free to move about to the air flow.

      4. Will says:

        Kenny, there’s a lot of ambiguous explanation going on there, but so far as I can see, you seem to be suggesting that flexural response is dependent only on material properties.

        This is quite clearly not the case, and perhaps this is why such a design seems less feasible to you than it does to me. Both my suggestions (and they’re just guesses at what might be possible) are based on the premise of miniscule deflections changing the effective structure of the wing by changing the alignment of normally-load-bearing members. In terms of your simple beam theory example, this is a change in effective beam cross-section, not elastic modulus.

        In the case of the first suggestion, I’m not talking about loading upwards rather than downwards, or loading in an untested direction, but loading in a combination of modes already tested. The most likely example would be when experiencing drag and/or pitching moment, the wing being more flexible under downforce. I hope that clears things up…

      5. Kenny says:

        Will, yeah it does clear things up. I can see what you are meaning now so now I can see it could very well be possible.

  2. I don’t know if anyone else spotted by Button said that McLaren was running lower downforce on there Cars. This plus the f duck gave them the top speed advantage. I think the went too low on downforce because they was over half a sec off Ferrari and red bull during the race. They didn’t have the apex speed Ferrari and red bull had even tho I think Vettel and Webber was on fuel saving for a lot of the race. I hate the fuel saving the teams have to do because they underfill the cars. The FIA should calculate a average consumption maybe then say all cars have to have a min amount of fuel onboard? Thats a idea maybe other people have other better idea?

    1. dan says:

      I too hate the fuel saving mode. There must be some other solution. I want to see cars and drivers going all out at the maximum pace they can, conserving tyre wear but not fuel. If an expected safety car or a change in the weather doesnt appear, and the calculations are out, you have drivers backing off, not racing, and being unable to catch someone because they are worried about the fuel.If we must have no re fueling, then there must be a solution for this like you suggest of a calculated minimum amount etc that must be carried.

  3. Azlas says:

    “McLaren now need to add the next step in performance to stay with the Red Bulls and Ferraris” You seem to be indicating a specific part here…

    Anyway in my opinion the McLaren diffuser isn’t as bad as the results made it out to be – I think perhaps that they had little time to run it on Friday and Saturday (so that the drives can get usesd to the new setup) and on Sunday seemed to have a very low downforce package compared to everyone else (7-10kph advantage on the straights was perhaps a bit too excessive)

  4. Chris says:

    One thing you seem to have missed James is the flexible or movable front wing on the Red Bull that could be clearly seen moving in the TV pictures from the cockpit. Martin Whitmarsh is on record as saying that Ferrari are doing the same although he’s not saying that it’s the wing itself that’s flexing…..

    Can they have found a way to make the nose flex/move?

    Over to you….

    1. Tomas James says:

      The FIA have declared both Ferrari and Red Bull’s front wings legal. Martin Whitmarsh has also said that “If it is [achieved] by some clever and legitimate way, then we need to learn it very quickly.”

      It seems be a similar scenario as to when Mclaren introduced the F Duct. As soon as it was declared legal and it’s effectiveness had been seen, most other teams began developing a similar system.

      I believe Germany was the first time this flexibility controversy was highlighted in both Ferrari and Red Bull’s cars. Both these teams were faster than Mclaren, however Mclaren did race for the first time with the Blown Diffuser which may still have teething problems, resulting in the lack of front-runner pace.

  5. Robert Lujan says:

    Thanks again for a great tech review. I have two questions though, what was McLaren angry about with Ferrari and Red Bulls front wings? They said it flexed, but I don’t see anything in the pictures or in video from all the practices, qualy and race ( i record them all to watch later). Also, was the McLaren Blown Diffuser really that bad of a design or is it just the fine tuning of it? It didn’t seem to help them in qualy nor the race.

    1. JR says:

      With regards to the supposed deflection of the front wings, your failure to detect any deflection in footage of the cars at high speed means either 1) there was no significant deflection, or 2) the deflection was too small to be seen by eye.

      If we assume McLaren is right and the answer is 2), the deflection will probably be highly-controlled. Given the way seemly small tweaks to the aerodynamics make significant changes to performance, I doubt whether you’d pick it up on TV.

      If the other teams know the scrutineers load up the wing with weights in a certain way to check for deflection, then my guess is that they’ve produced a wing that deflects slightly under aerodynamic load in a way which the current test doesn’t reveal — say by deflecting in another plane other than downwards, to spill air in an unexpected way.

      Lets face it, under load everything moves — it’s just a matter of degree and whether that degree is useful.

      1. Will says:

        The maximum deflections allowed are a centimetre, and this is under loads equivalent to around a tenth of the total maximum downforce on the car. I think we ought to be able to see from the onboard camera footage whether or not the front wing deflects a few centimetres or not…

  6. Rungs says:

    Really impressed with the way Ferrari has come back. I thought they were down and out a few weeks ago – I have to say i always smile a bit inside when they do badly because I prefer to support the underdogs.

    It’s going to be a really exciting second half of the season though for sure, hopefully with 6 drivers competing for wins throughout – how great would that be?!

    The two things that have the potential to spoil this – team orders and all this fuel saving that goes on. I’d like to see some of the teams running more fuel and pushing further into the race, but I’m guessing that with tyre degradation etc, the simulations don’t suggest that strategy would work. A second mandatory pitstop would change this massively though wouldn’t it? – fingers crossed that will happen at some point, it would be good for the spectators.

    All eyes on McLaren now to see if they can be more competitive next week…

  7. Iain says:

    An addendum to my above comment would be that the permitting of team orders to specific teams would also be announced to the public, so we would know what to expect. This would stop such anger arising when it actually happens.

  8. tom baker says:

    I didn’t realize there was a fresh wing controversy until after the race was finished. However I did notice from the onboard camera that Vettle’s front wing appeared to be bouncing around on both sides. It seemed unusual and I recall wondering if it might have become damaged.

  9. Mr G says:

    Ferrari overall package is now working in certain type of circuits but Red Bull will be still faster than anybodyelse in medium / high downforce circuits where there will be some long sweeping corners.
    I think Hungary will have a similar outcome as Germany but Spa will definately give an advantage to Red Bull.
    McLaren needs to get the front grip sorted and they will be there with Ferrari and Red Bull.
    Mercedes looks a bit lost and Renault might have peaked already, the rumours about asking monay in advance from CVC will ring some bells in the paddock.
    I think Ferrari and McLaren could have an advantage at the end of the season due to the Renault engine, it looks to me to be the weakest between the 3 teams in terms of power/ consumption/torque.
    Mercedes has the upper hand against Ferrari on torque but Ferrari has maybe 10-15 Hp more at the top end.
    It will be interesting to see which car will have the upper hand in the next 2 races.

    1. Irish con says:

      I agree with most of what your saying but last year everybody sayed it was nailed on for a redbull spa win but the Renault engine and high drag car meant that they simple didn’t have the straight line speeds to win that race. Ferrari was nowhere in sector 2 but made up for it with kers and straight lone speed plus the king of spa. Maybe the redbulls are on pole but passes up at the end of the first main straight by a ferrari or mclaren

      1. Johnny says:

        king of spa…LOL!! I doubt the king of spa would’ve needed the run off area in order to gain enough speed to pass a force india

  10. mtb says:

    James Allen

    Was a formal protest made about the Ferrari and Red Bull front wings? The information that I have read is not clear on this front.

    Additionally, do you have any idea how much of the potential that Ferrari and McLaren have achieved with their respective blown diffusers?

  11. stoikee says:

    I’m always looking forward on your tech report James. Thos race result confirms your earlier report of the very high importance of the front wings. I would like to know more about the engine retardation though. Anyways, I really envy your job. More power to your site.

  12. tharris19 says:

    I think McLaren are way behind in the development race and the drivers know it. MW is trying to put a good face on it but I think they are in serious trouble. The question now is, do they have the where with all to position Lewis and Jenson to compete before it’s too late.

  13. Luke A says:

    James,

    Could you clarify what you mean by this:

    “Another big step from Ferrari is due at the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of August, where heavily revised back end aerodynamics will be brought out.”

    What are back end aerodynamics and therefore what will they be looking to modify?

    I thought the back end would include things like the diffuser, exhaust system, and rear wing.

    1. James Allen says:

      Exactly. It’s a tip off, we’ll see the details in Spa

  14. Luke A says:

    James,

    Do you have anymore information on the controversy caused over Red Bull’s and Ferrari’s wings? I think it is worth an article in itself, im intrigued.

    Do you know if Red Bull have been doing this for some time and Ferarri have just copied them at Hockenheim, or what?

    1. James Allen says:

      I’ll do one on this, it’s to do with the outer tips of the wings lowering to the ground

  15. Irish con says:

    I think the low downforce set off mclaren were running was because they knew they would be slower than red bull Ferrari and hoped to take advantage of the straight line advantage on the first lap the only time they would be close or after a safety car period

  16. malcolm.strachan says:

    Watching some on-board cameras lately, it seems like the cars have more suspension travel these days. James, do you know if the 2010 cars are more softly sprung?

    This might also explain why the Ferrari and Red Bull cars seem to have lower wings at high speed.

    1. James Allen says:

      Not that I’m aware of but good observation

      1. malcolm.strachan says:

        http://motorsport.com/photos/f1/2010/ger/f1-2010-ger-xp-0296.jpg

        http://motorsport.com/photos/f1/2010/ger/f1-2010-ger-xp-0793.jpg

        http://motorsport.com/photos/f1/2010/ger/f1-2010-ger-xp-0797.jpg

        Just some examples of body-roll… and unless they have anti-dive built into the geometry, it would stand to reason that the cars would also dive and squat if they roll that much.

  17. monktonnik says:

    Ferrari must have been delighted with their progress pasticularly this weekend.

    I think Mclaren have had 2 poor races from a technical point of view. 7 tenths is a big deficit to make up again.

  18. azac21 says:

    It looks that McL’s diffuser is a similar headache to them as F-duct was to Ferrari…

    At what point in the championship will they have to re-allocate resources to next year’s cars?

  19. Stiart Llewellyn says:

    Hi James,

    Both Lewis and Jenson mentioned at Silverstone that part of the problem with the blown diffuser is that in corners, where the most downforce is required, as the throttle isn’t down the lack of exhaust gas entering the diffuser lessens the effect. I have read that both Red Bull and Ferrari have some kind of constant pressure system to overcome this problem and Red Bull can turn theirs up for qualifying which would explain their crazy qualifying pace. The McLaren boys also said the front wing has to be redesigned to work in tandem with the blown rear so which is the most important aspect here? I read that Red Bull have a special setting on the engine to achieve their constant exhaust gas pressure but as engines cannot be modified is this really true? None of the teams seem to be openly talking about this subject so are they just playing their cards close to their chest?

    Keep up the good work!

    Stu Llewellyn

  20. Tim B says:

    I think McLaren may still be having problems with the ride height/stiffness stiffness compromise necessary to get the blown diffuser working.

    I noticed a couple of times during the race that Button’s car seemed to be “porpoising” on some kinds of the track.

    James – there’s been talk that McLaren’s blown diffuser problem stems from having a bigger diffuser that is more ride-height sensitive than their rivals’. Do you know whether they have scope to reduce the diffuser size, or would that involve changes to the homologated chassis/tub?

  21. krampa says:

    James, is it possible to give us an update on how many engines the top drivers have used thus far?

    Can Alonso and Vettel ride out the rest of the season without taking an engine penalty? Will Button’s engine failure at Monaco come back to haunt him?

    Great blog as usual!

  22. Legend2 says:

    Thank you for the LG tech update. It seems both the Ferrari and Red Bull front wings were flexing but both have been deemed legal. Were Red Bull running the Mark Webber spec front wing or the Vettel spec front wing I wonder?

    One observation I had of the race is just how in control Jenson Button seems to be about where he is in relation to the other cars. This is where Red Bull MASSIVELY failed Mark Webber on. Seb Vettel pitted on Lap 12 and just emerged in front of the pack with Kubica and Rosberg etc. Now Webber is a further 5 or 6 seconds behind Vettel prior to the pitstop, so why on Earth would Red Bull pit Webber the next lap just because he is stuck behind Hamilton??

    The only outcome was that Webber ends up stuck right in the pack, and indeed, almost lost a further position to Kamui as his tyres got up to temperature. At this stage, Hamilton was going faster than Kubica, Rosberg and co. What is the possible point of pitting Webber to be stuck behind cars slower than Hamilton? It made zero sense at the time, and it still makes no sense now.

    The only possible outcome of this ridiculous strategy was that Webber would lose any chance of overtaking Hamilton and would risk losing out to Button. James, I’m doing my best to think of a rational explanation for the ludicrous strategy for Webber. The best I can come up with, is that Red Bull were hoping Kubica, Rosberg, Kobayashi, Schumacher and co. were going to pit the next lap – but what were the chances of that? Not very much. Webber had to fight to get past Rosberg and risked a collision. If he did not find a way past Rosberg, he would have ended up 10 seconds behind Hamilton! When proper strategy meant he should have been able to jump Hamilton as he was faster. The strategy made no sense whatsoever. So if someone can give a rational explanation for the strategy please do so. Otherwise, we have to conclude it was yet another subtle Red Bull plan to help Vettel in their inter-team rivalry.

    Not impressed Red Bull.

  23. Stuart Moore says:

    James – a minor request. The drawings to illustrate these posts are great, but sometimes I think they’re a bit too ‘zoomed in’, making it hard to work out exactly where the illustrated part is. The Ferrari one above is one of these (the other two are just right).

  24. Obster says:

    Perhaps Alonso has helped Ferrari get quickly on the pace with these updates to the car. He seems pretty adept at car development-mass dampers and so forth.
    Nice suprise on Sunday from the red team.

  25. David Smith says:

    This is interesting something i found on the net.
    http://a.imageshack.us/img638/7134/rb6germany.gif

    Not sure if the link will work if not copy and paste. James any thoughts?

    1. James Allen says:

      Very interesting. I have something particularly interesting for tomorrow..

  26. Nando says:

    How effective is the static scrutineering? Is there any facility for the FIA to do on track testing independently of the teams?

  27. Pigloo says:

    Watch the RB front wing flex for yourself here. Its fairly obvious to me when comparing the position to the chasis. Just put your cursor on the top of the wing before the straight and watch it drop.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4Wro6SYjRA&feature=player_embedded

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