Singapore Grand Prix technical review

Posted on

| Written by

BMW scored a point with their updated F1.09

F1 Fanatic guest writer John Beamer looks at the technical developments from the Singpaore Grand Prix.

As the end of the season draws near some teams, particularly those in the midfield, begin to turn their technical resources to 2010. Indeed Ferrari has already done so and given that the 2009 constructors’ championship is a Rubens Barrichello certainty (it is the Constructors’ that dictates how much money the FIA bestows on each team) expect every other team to be doing only rudimentary work on their 2009 cars from this point on.

Against that backdrop Singapore was featured the final major updates from many teams including BMW, McLaren and Brawn.

Singapore is tight ‘point and squirt’ circuit with few-to-no high speed corners. Cars with strong mechanical grip and able to ride the bumps and kerbs were in order. It’s no surprise that Lewis Hamilton romped home to the victory. Generally high downforce was required, which saw teams revert to their Valencia spec after two relatively low downforce races (Spa and Monza).


Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren, Singapore Grand Prix, 2009

As per my last technical update innovation around the endplates are important for generating downforce and managing the wheel-wing interaction. For Friday practice, McLaren trialled a radical triple endplate concept with the top lip curling over the top plate and forming two channels in the mid-region. This creates a venturi which spawns a vortex to manage wheel drag.

This vortex effectively blocks the freestream from interfering with the tyre. McLaren tested a similar design at Valencia and Spa so either the concept isn’t quite right yet or it is part of the 2010 car. To repeat-test it McLaren must believe there is mileage in this particular development path.

McLaren kept up its development across the car introducing a new symmetric diffuser (replacing its asymmetric version) and updating the sidepod vanes. These vanes with attach to the floor and sport a second element. This vane helps keep the air around the sidepod undercut attached, which also increases the sealing effect of the floor and thus improving stability of the car at the rear. The second vane allows the air to be worked a little harder at the expense of drag. Net aero efficiency will increase.


Robert Kubica, BMW, Singapore Grand Prix, 2009

Despite being on the precipice, BMW launched what amounted to a B-spec car this weekend. The changes included a new front wing, radically undercut sidepods, a new diffuser/floor, and changes to the bargeboards in the mid-region. The car was a major improvement – okay, so BMW only scored one point, but it put in a much strong showing that at Valencia, the last high-downforce track.

The team adopted the now-required double endplate front wing. BMW’s old ‘box’ solution was the least elegant on the grid. It was the brute force approach designed to divert air around the tyres. As explained above the double endplate combines that forceful approach with the use of vortices to help manage the tyres. As a result the top-plate has been deleted to allow the vortices to be more usefully directed

The F1.09 was designed as a KERS car, which severely compromised aero. One of the consequences was the large, square sidepods that restricted airflow to the coke-bottle zone. This also compromised BMW’s development of the double diffuser as insufficient high-speed air was funnelled over the top of the diffuser hole meaning the pressure above it was high making the device less efficient. That it has taken until Singapore to rectify these issues mean the team has fallen behind in general aero tweaks.

It goes to show how one slip can wreck an entire car and, quite possibly, compromise future cars. Just look at Renault’s inability to claw back ground lost in 2006/7 despite only minor modifications (control tyres being most important) to the regulations in that time.

Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Singapore, 2009

Red Bull reverted to its wide duck-billed nose which creates more downforce at the front at the expense of drag. The team deemed this as an unnecessary trade off for the low downforce tracks but at Singapore downforce is king. Red Bull also introduced a new end plate with a wider footplate and a larger sub-elements conjoining the endplate.

Although the wide footplate reduces the effective span of the main wing it allows the associated vortex to be larger, which seals the underside of the wing more effectively. This is the development path McLaren progressed in 2006/7 to good effect when it introduced super wide footplates. The larger sub-elements are part of an increasing trend to maximise downforce generation across the outer part of the front wing.

It was interesting to note that both Red Bulls suffered sever brake degradation – something we haven’t seen at other circuits. Part of the reason is that in an attempt to extract more speed the team compromised brake cooling, which in the case of Webber was a trade-off too far.

Other teams

Many other teams brought updates to Singapore but these were mostly minor evolutions of the Valencia package. Brawn, in its own words, claimed that it had a ‘significant update’ although apart from a tweak to the front wing nothing superficially changed. Similarly other teams, such as Toyota, Williams, Renault have turned more attention to their 2010 cars and had fewer visible changes for Singapore.

From now on in expect that to be par for the course.

Read more: Technical analysis: 2009 so far

Singapore Grand Prix

30 comments on “Singapore Grand Prix technical review”

  1. Would love to hear some discussion of the merits and uses of shark fins. Presumably they condition the air flowing over the rear wing and remove some turbulence? If so, is it only certain shapes of upper bodywork that create enough turbulence to need them? Brawn tried one on Friday at Spa but never went back to it, and I don’t think McLaren, Williams, Force India or Ferrari have used them at all.

    They look ghastly — no accident that the three prettiest cars on the grid are in the non-shark club (Brawn, Williams and McLaren, since you’re asking). And no accident either that the Toyota, Renault and (ugh) BMW are on the other side.

    Still, I am aware that these cars were not designed primarily to please my aesthetic sense. What do the fins do?

    1. I think McLaren had already tested a shark fin last season but never run it on qualifying or race.

    2. Ferrari briefly played with the shark fin last year too.

      1. I never got around understanding the usefulness of shark-fins. Only major benefit of shark fins are that they provide extra advertising space.

        1. How the teams have exploited the shark fin thus far:-

          Red Bull – When looking at the fin it looks like they designed the shape to make the bull or the bull’s tail fit the car better. Who knows perhaps that was the real reason behind this fin design and everybody else got fooled and followed suit without really knowing why :-) .

          Force India – Part of the extra space is taken by the kingfisher bird image.

          Ferrari – They haven’t made any use of the additional area, the only benefit is that their tobacco barcode now is almost pefect rectangle.

          Honda – Simply said, waste of space, but that can be said about their entire livery.

          McLaren – They only used it at the test at Hockenheim last year and obviously did not bother about maximizing the ad space use.

          Renault – Thanks to the fin they could enlarge the ING logo so perhaps it has been good for them. The lion has more room. But since ING have dumped them, Renault can do away with shark fins for japan.

          Toro Rosso – The way they filled up the space on the fin is quite natural but it is more about design than advertising. There are no logos on their car anyway (except small Red Bull and Bridgestone ones). Even if there were, no one would able to see them on that massive red colour bull background.

          Toyota – All that the creative minds in Toyota could come up with is leaving that space empty. It goes well with the overall boring design of their car but hardly brings them any added commercial benefit.

          So, so much for the extra advertising space. Red Bull fits the bull’s tail better, Force India has more room for the bird and Renault for the lion, Ferrari to get their marlboro right. That is about it.

          1. *rolls eyes*

          2. As I understand it the Shark fin is useful for controlling the airflow over the rear wing, as well as acting as a sort of ‘keel’ to improve straight line stability. It was interesting to see in 2008 that some teams (e.g. Ferrari) would switch back and forth with the shark fin between races, and it seemed to be favored mostly on bumpier circuits. I also find it interesting that nearly all of the teams debuted their cars to the media this year WITHOUT shark fins, and since then many have added them on at various points, I suspect to counter-act the imbalanced aero regulations.

  2. 2009 constructors’ championship is a Rubens Barrichello certainty

    don’t you mean a Brawn certainty ?…….

    1. The only “Rubens Barichello certainty” is that if someone goes into “anti-stall” on the grid, it’ll be him…

    2. I was thinking its wonderful that Rubens gets the constructors championship.

      1. Let’s face it, he does make great racing cars.

    3. I was thinking really hard, trying to understand some kind of joke or irony or past event that could explain “Rubens Barrichello certainty”…

      1. Me too! :(

        1. Crying or dancing (or both) after a victory?

      2. Same here. Thought it had to be a joke. Maybe a “Rubens Barichello certainty” is like a “Nelson Piquet strategy”

        1. Glad I’m not alone :P
          Took me a few minutes to realise it was probably a typo.

  3. That McLaren looks amazing.

  4. I am not a fan of the outboard wing mirrors that many of the teams are using, and I have serious doubts as to their legality. Do you have any information as to why they have not seemed to get any attention from the FIA John?

    Does anyone know why Vettel’s wing mirror fell off during the course of the race? Did he make contact with someone during the race?

    1. As I understand it, (and I may be mistaken here so feel free to keep me honest) the technical regulations simply define areas in which it is acceptable to place bodywork. Teams have therefore simply pared back their sidepod bodywork to accomodate placing the turning vanes/barge boards into these areas.

  5. Vettel probably has a secret switch in the cockpit to “auto-release” the wing mirror into the path of a following car. Hopefully some super sleuth photo journo will get a shot of it before the end of the season and we can have “wing-gate” to follow on from all the other gates. It’s all an FOM conspiracy of course to keep F1 on the front page of the newspapers…

  6. Good article, some diagrams would be nice.

    1. +1.
      You do a good job explaining everything but for someone like me, who knows nothing about aerodynamics, it’s a little bit technical and difficult to know exactly which bits of the car you’re talking about.

  7. May be this is not the right plact to post this, but Ferrari confirmed Alonso for a 3 year deal

Comments are closed.