Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis
Topic

Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

The tech war fuelling the Mercedes/Ferrari battle

The fight for the 2018 Formula 1 championship, which resumes in Belgium this weekend, is perhaps one of the most intense we have had for a decade.

The tech war fuelling the Mercedes/Ferrari battle

There has been little to separate Mercedes and Ferrari as each has seized the initiative at various points of the campaign, with neither able to pull itself clear at the front.

What has perhaps been really fascinating is that the teams, with very different car philosophies, have been split by such small margins each weekend.

Here, ahead of the title battle getting going again, we look back with the help of Giorgio Piola's exclusive illustrations to reflect on their development progress and look at what could be the key factors that make the difference in the end.

Taming the diva

The Mercedes W08 was dogged by tricky characteristics during 2017, so much so that Toto Wolff had even coined the term 'diva' for it.

As such, some began to question the validity of retaining a long wheel base for its successor, with the car's length being viewed as a contributory factor to its weakness at certain tracks.

But technical director James Allison remarked its retention was a "no-brainer", with more to be lost than gained by following a new development trajectory, especially as Ferrari was in such close quarters throughout 2017.

Ferrari's aero gains

Many were shocked then, when Ferrari's 2018 challenger was unveiled and featured a similarly long wheelbase. The SF71H grew by over 700mm compared with its predecessor.

This was a decision driven by Ferrari's quest to improve upon its own weaknesses though, as Mattia Binotto explained.

"If we take stock of what we did last year, in low-speed tracks we always did well, while in circuits where the speed was higher we were suffering a little bit more [relative to Mercedes]," he said.

It would be unfair to attribute the W08's 'diva' moniker to just one factor though, as before the season even got underway a technical directive regarding suspension systems was believed to have wiped away an area where the team (and Red Bull) had an advantage over Ferrari.

The systems which carried some of the DNA of the previously outlawed FRIC system helped to improve the aerodynamic output of the cars. This new ruling appeared to hobble Mercedes, which had perhaps the most advanced system and was forced to carry that penalty throughout the season.

Adapting to change

For 2018, the team made some changes in this regard, as it slightly offset and interlinked the front suspension rockers, in order that the suspension could be more accurately controlled.

At the rear of the car, the team, like it did at the front in 2017, decided to raise the position of the upper wishbone. This resulted in an extension sprouting out of the upright (red arrow) and a raised inner connecting point (blue arrow).

Meanwhile, Ferrari took advantage of its extra wheelbase to make some changes around the rear of the car for aerodynamic purposes. This included a floor channel, used in previous Ferrari iterations down the years (SF16-H, left inset), improving flow around the cars coke bottle region.

Ferrari SF71H and Ferrari SF70H bargeboard comparison

Ferrari SF71H and Ferrari SF70H bargeboard comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

However, it was around the car's midriff where Ferrari planned on taking the biggest leap forward, perhaps even taking some cues from its closest rival, as it upped the complexity level of its bargeboards and the leading edge of the floor.

Ferrari SF70H side detail
Ferrari SF70H side detail
1/4

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari SF71H side pods
Ferrari SF71H side pods
2/4

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Mercedes AMG F1 W08 sidepod detail
Mercedes AMG F1 W08 sidepod detail
3/4

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Mercedes F1 W09 turning vanes
Mercedes F1 W09 turning vanes
4/4

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Its sidepod solution, which had wowed the paddock in 2017 due to the lateral thinking required to achieve its overall design, was also able to be improved upon due to their new dimensional freedom.

Meanwhile, Mercedes pressed on with its more conventional sidepod layout, although in a video teasing the introduction of the W09, James Allison did wax lyrical about the improvements made by the team in this area of the car since last season.

Ferrari SF71H and SF70H front wing comparison
Ferrari SF71H and SF70H front wing comparison
1/2

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Mercedes F1 W09 detail front wing
Mercedes F1 W09 detail front wing
2/2

Photo by: Mark Sutton

Ferrari began the season with a new front wing philosophy, discarding the arched section next to the neutral section (arrowed, inset) and replacing it with slots in the same area (highlighted in yellow).

The shape of the outboard tunnel section was also revised, as the designers sought to alter the shape of the wake generated by the front tyre (comparison, left inset).

Mercedes revised its front wing endplate too, adopting a draped section at the rear (highlighted in green), altering how the airflow outwashes around the front tyre.

The development race

The manner in which a team introduces updates to its car during a campaign can be pivotal to the team’s overall success. This is even more crucial when two teams are fighting it out as part of a championship battle.

The following illustrations depict the development timeline undertaken by both Mercedes and Ferrari so far this season and, whilst not exhaustive, do offer an insight into the mindset of both teams.

Ferrari SF71H rear wing
Ferrari SF71H rear wing
1/11

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Mercedes F1 W09 rear wing Azerbaijan GP and Spanish GP
Mercedes F1 W09 rear wing Azerbaijan GP and Spanish GP
2/11

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari SF71H mirrors comparsion
Ferrari SF71H mirrors comparsion
3/11

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari SF71H mirros Monaco GP
Ferrari SF71H mirros Monaco GP
4/11

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Mercedes F1 W09 Fronz suspension wing compare to Sauber C37
Mercedes F1 W09 Fronz suspension wing compare to Sauber C37
5/11

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari SF71H rear suspension comparsion
Ferrari SF71H rear suspension comparsion
6/11

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari SF71H bargeboard, Canadian GP
Ferrari SF71H bargeboard, Canadian GP
7/11

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari SF71H front wing comparison
Ferrari SF71H front wing comparison
8/11

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Mercedes W09 front brake fins, French GP
Mercedes W09 front brake fins, French GP
9/11

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari SF71H floor and brake duct comparsion
Ferrari SF71H floor and brake duct comparsion
10/11

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari SF71H floor
Ferrari SF71H floor
11/11

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Both teams made their first major aerodynamic change in Azerbaijan, when the teams discarded their conventional shaped rear wings in favour of ‘spoon’ shaped variants - designed to reduce drag.

At the Spanish GP, a development waypoint for all teams given its a return to Europe, both reverted to their high downforce rear wing designs.

Ferrari, however, pushed the design envelope as it used some controversial halo mounted mirror supports.

Having already drawn intrigue with its unique two-piece mirror design that it had already been forced to make adjustments to in Azerbaijan in order to comply with the regulations, the new supplementary mirror supports were even more divisive, leading to them being banned from the next race onwards.

Mercedes added another small aero trinket to the upper arm of its front suspension, having seen the idea emerge on the Sauber (inset), which had itself converged on the Mercedes/Toro Rosso style high mounted wishbone arrangement introduced in 2017.

Ferrari had removed the upper winglet style mirror supports in Monaco, but they remained affixed to the halo, rather than the chassis.

More importantly though, Ferrari introduced a new rear suspension setup, which saw the upright arch made more pronounced for increased mechanical and aerodynamic performance.

Meanwhile, Mercedes added a cluster of vortex generators to the top surface of its sidepods in order to make it work harder at the lower speeds it would encounter around the principality.

Ferrari upped the ante in Canada, when it introduced a more aggressive bargeboard package and reorganised the slots in its splitter extension - an update that was even more potent than even the Scuderia first envisaged.

It followed this up with another long-lead item in France introducing a new front wing, featuring a full length slot in the mainplane. This altered the wing’s pitch sensitivity.

There was also a revised outer arched section and a new endplate canard configuration - both of which alter how the airflow moves across and around the front face of the tyre.

In comparison, Mercedes chose to stave off the introduction of any serious aerodynamic development parts, with only a small change made to one of the front brake duct winglets.

This was in-part due to the arrival of its second generation power unit, which had originally been planned for Canada but was delayed due to reliability concerns.

In Austria, Mercedes unveiled its largest update of the season, altering the shape of the sidepods in order that the inlet be pushed back. This helped lessen the impact that the front tyre wake can have on the flow around that area of the car.

The mirrors and their mounting stalks were also adjusted in order to suit the new bodywork and take advantage of any secondary aerodynamic effects that were on offer.

It also introduced a new rear wing, which featured an endplate design reminiscent of the one used by McLaren since 2017, increasing the wing's yield at higher downforce circuits.

Ferrari responded at Silverstone, as it introduced a new floor, featuring another full-length slot on the floor’s edge that blended into the angled ‘tyre squirt’ holes ahead of the rear tyre.

The intent was to ‘seal’ the edge of the floor, creating a sort of air skirt that encloses the airflow under the floor and diffuser. It also amended its rear brake duct winglet, fully separating it into three sections, rather than just having slots in the end fence.

Nine to go…

As we can see, both teams have chosen very different development paths in the opening part of the season, with Mercedes opting to plow resources into a larger update in Austria, whilst Ferrari has constantly thrown down with fairly sizeable updates of its own throughout.

This begs the question: who has the most left in the tank for development in the latter part of the season?

The situation will be even more intriguing as the glidepath for work on the 2019 car will need to be extended more than last year because of the impending change in regulations aimed at helping boost overtaking.

shares
comments
From refugee to Formula 1, via McDonald’s

Previous article

From refugee to Formula 1, via McDonald’s

Next article

Perez close to extending Force India stay

Perez close to extending Force India stay
Load comments
The final throes of Brazil's fleetingly successful F1 team Prime

The final throes of Brazil's fleetingly successful F1 team

Emerson Fittipaldi is better remembered for his Formula 1 world championships and Indianapolis 500 successes than for the spell running his eponymous F1 team. Despite a hugely talented roll call of staff, it was a period of internal strife, limited funding and few results - as remembered by Tim Wright.

Why McLaren's expanding agenda will benefit its F1 resurgence Prime

Why McLaren's expanding agenda will benefit its F1 resurgence

In the 1960s and 1970s, McLaren juggled works entries in F1, sportscars and the Indy 500 while building cars for F3 and F2. Now it’s returning to its roots, expanding into IndyCars and Extreme E while continuing its F1 renaissance. There’s talk of Formula E and WEC entries too. But is this all too much, too soon? Stuart Codling talks to the man in charge.

Formula 1
Oct 17, 2021
How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential Prime

How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential

Yuki Tsunoda arrived in grand prix racing amid a whirlwind of hype, which only increased after his first race impressed the biggest wigs in Formula 1. His road since has been rocky and crash-filled, and OLEG KARPOV asks why Red Bull maintains faith in a driver who admits he isn’t really that big a fan of F1?

Formula 1
Oct 15, 2021
The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages Prime

The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages

OPINION: After Lewis Hamilton responded to reports labelling him 'furious' with Mercedes following his heated exchanges over team radio during the Russian Grand Prix, it provided a snapshot on how Formula 1 broadcasting radio snippets can both illuminate and misrepresent the true situation

Formula 1
Oct 14, 2021
How F1’s pole winner approach undermines drivers Prime

How F1’s pole winner approach undermines drivers

OPINION: Valtteri Bottas is credited with pole position for the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix, despite being beaten in qualifying. This is another example of Formula 1 and the FIA scoring an own goal by forgetting what makes motorsport magic, with the Istanbul race winner also a victim of this in the championship’s recent history

Formula 1
Oct 13, 2021
Turkish Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

Turkish Grand Prix driver ratings

On a day that the number two Mercedes enjoyed a rare day in the sun, the Turkish Grand Prix produced several standout drives - not least from a driver who has hit a purple patch of late

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021
The hidden factors that thwarted Hamilton's bid for Turkey glory Prime

The hidden factors that thwarted Hamilton's bid for Turkey glory

Starting 11th after his engine change grid penalty, Lewis Hamilton faced a tough task to repeat his Turkish Grand Prix heroics of 2020 - despite making strong early progress in the wet. Instead, his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas broke through for a first win of the year to mitigate Max Verstappen re-taking the points lead

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021
How pitstops evolved into an F1 art form Prime

How pitstops evolved into an F1 art form

A Formula 1 pitstop is a rapid-fire blend of high technology and human performance. PAT SYMONDS describes how the science of margin gains makes stops so quick

Formula 1
Oct 10, 2021