Thursday, April 07, 2011

To lobby or to imitate?

In the official Thursday press conference for this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix, Julien Febreau of L'Equipe asked the five drivers present for their opinion on Red Bull's flexible front wings: "I have nothing interesting to say, unfortunately," replied Nico Rosberg; "Not much to say," remarked Sebastien Buemi; "No, nothing to say," answered Jarno Trulli; "No," said Felipe Massa flatly.

Jenson Button, however, was a little more loquacious: "I know a few people that I have spoken to say it flexes more than what they expect is correct." Elsewhere, Button's McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton was quoted as saying, "When I asked what the rules are about how much the wing is allowed to flex they said 20mm. If I you show you a picture that is probably not what is happening."

In an exasperated response, Christian Horner protested that the Red Bull is simply running with greater rake than the McLaren. Which would constitute a rather disappointing return on all that investment in Fluid-Structure Interaction (FSI), one would have thought.

No, Red Bull have clearly stolen a march on the opposition here. This first became apparent at the Hungarian Grand Prix last August, yet McLaren have so far displayed no inclination to imitate the technology. Rather, their strategy has been to lobby the governing body, often via the media, in an attempt to limit the extent to which Red Bull can utilise their advantage. This strategy appeared to be successful last year, with the introduction of more stringent front-wing load-tests at Spa, and a change in the permissible articulation of the under-body plank at Monza. Despite this, Red Bull still appear to be deriving a significant performance benefit from their investment in FSI, so McLaren and the other teams have a choice: lobby or imitate.

One presumes that if McLaren were intending to introduce similar technology in the near future, then their drivers would not be making statements challenging the very legality of such developments. But why would McLaren not be seeking to imitate Red Bull? It may be that a flexible front-wing would simply not work well with the other elements of their package; alternatively, given McLaren's relatively recent troubled relationship with the governing body, they might still be reluctant to develop a technology of dubious legality. Or, more ominously, perhaps McLaren have taken a close look at this, and concluded that they're at least two years behind Red Bull in terms of developing the relevant simulation or carbon-fibre capability. If such is the case, it would certainly explain why McLaren have decided that the best strategy is to continue with the lobbying...


Unknown said...

A work colleage of mine who is a CFD Engineer in F1 had previously been employed by CD Adapco which is the manufacturer of the Star CCM+ CFD Software package. He said he was working with McLaren two years to combine Star CCM+ with Abaqus for the purpose of FSI with good results so I assume they already undertake simulation analysis in this area. I would also imagine the load cell arrangement used on the McLaren front wing at T04 Barcelona was intended to gather data for correlation?

Gordon McCabe said...

Ah, very interesting Stuart.

Gordon McCabe said...

May 25, 2010

CD-adapco is pleased to announce that, CD-adapco’s industry leading simulation tool, STAR-CCM+, now includes a direct link to Abaqus FEA from SIMULIA, delivering fully coupled, two-way, fluid-structure interaction (FSI).

corner1 said...

mutually exclusive: KERS and flexible front wing?

Gordon McCabe said...

Granted, there didn't seem to be any flexi-business going on in Malaysia, when Red Bull were using KERS. I wonder, however, if this was to reduce rear tyre wear? Perhaps the extra front-wing downforce makes the Red Bull tend towards oversteer, which would exacerbate rear tyre wear. On those circuits where the rate of wear is greater, Red Bull might forego their flexi front-wing.

But yes, there's still the possibility that the front wing flexibility is induced by some form of electrical or magnetic stimulus.