With the Hungarian Grand Prix falling just one week after the German race, there wasn’t much time for the teams to add major updates to the car, however there were some scheduled updates, such as the blown diffuser on the Force India car, which was used only in the practice sessions and some interesting solutions for getting maximum downforce.
And as the weekend’s action revealed, downforce was everything at the Hungaroring.
The two main talking points were the Red Bull flexi front wing and the Renault rear wing, which gave the team a good performance boost and yielded a best ever F1 finish for Vitaly Petrov.
Red Bull front wing
The anaylsis of the Red Bull front wing is in two parts this week. There is a separate post on the FIA’s decision to apply a more stringent test to front wings at the next race and what this means for Red Bull. Here we will look at the wing itself.
The concept of applying aero elasticity to F1 wings is not new, in fact it goes back over 30 years. Wings which flex at speed have appeared at various times over that period, when new technology allows the rules to be circumvented and new rules the performance gain is attractive enough. This is such a time, due to the new wide front wing rules.
There are two points of view on front wing flex; one is that a rigid front wing will give you exactly the same results on the track as you get in the wind tunnel and in the Computational Fluid Dynamics programmes. The other is that the lower you can get the wing tips to the ground, the more downforce you will generate and this will be faster.
A flexi wing can bring gains of 2/10ths of a second or more in the wing tips alone, but there are risks to this approach.
It is easy to end up with a wing which makes the car loose in high speed corners, which spooks the driver. It can upset the balance of the car with some strange results. The reason for this is that it is not possible to do wind tunnel tests and CFD programmes with deformed shapes, which replicate the full flexing of the wing with the car at various angles in cornering. It’s just far too complex to model. So having a flexing front wing is a bit of an unknown.
Another problem is that by definition, if it is flexing and thus creating more downforce as you go fast down the straights, it is therefore also creating more drag. And then when the driver lifts off the throttle and the wing rises up it drops downforce and can make the car unstable in a slow corner.
However it is very good on medium and fast corners, such as are found in Sector 2 in Budapest, where the Red Bull was untouchable last weekend.
Renault rear wing
The aerodynamics department at Renault has been very busy with updates this season, particularly front wings, with countless iterations, which have made the car steadily faster. The car was competitive in Monaco and again at the high downforce circuit in Budapest, Renault was on the pace, vying with McLaren for third fastest car last weekend behind the Red Bull and Ferrari.
In Hungary Renault introduced a new rear wing especially designed for high downforce. The wing features a deep V shape in the middle, main profile and the flap is divided in two sections by means of a large hole.
As with the McLaren and the Mercedes, the elements of the wing work as if it was constructed of three separate elements.