Technical review: 2011 Canadian Grand Prix

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Guest writer John Beamer reviews the technical changes on the cars at the Canadian Grand Prix.

Rear wings

Before the new 2009 regulations we tech spotters used to see much more variation in aerodynamics at the different races – especially at high-downforce Monaco, and low-downforce Montreal and Monza.

But these race-to-race changes have more or less disappeared.

Take Monaco, for example. In the past teams would turn up with an impressive array of aerodynamic appendages to try to maximise downforce around the principality. Here top speeds are not a factor so teams are willing to add downforce at the cost of drag, a trade-off that wouldn’t be made at, say, Barcelona.

However, this year at Monaco teams didn’t bring any new high downforce components – all they did was ratchet up the wing angles.

So what about Canada? The track favours a low downforce set-up, similar to Monza, but not as extreme. The Gilles Villeneueve circuit consists of a series of lengthy straights, a few chicanes and an slow hairpin with no high-speed corners to speak of.

Naturally all teams came with low-profile rear wings but most were simply existing wings with modified angle. Williams and Renault were among the few to use new, low-downforce concepts, both of which featured twisted spans.


Nick Heidfeld, Renault, Montreal, 2011

Renault had an M-shaped wing which eagle-eyed readers will recall was an approach used on the car for the Canadian Grand Prix last year. The idea is to try to optimise load distribution across the length on the wing.

The curvature either side of the centreline aligns better with the incident airflow so presents a reduced angle wing. The theory is that this increases the aerodynamic efficiency (defined as the downforce-to-drag ratio) of the wing by better reflecting the shape of the incoming airflow.


Pastor Maldonado, Williams, Montreal, 2011

The Williams concept was a little different. It is shovel-shaped to try to increase downforce over the middle part of the wing where the airflow is cleaner.

By making the mid-wing do the work the pressure gradient is reduced at the endplates, which produces smaller vortices and less drag.

Designers are investing substantial resources in optimizing the DRS system and this is also evident in the Williams design.

The flap has a short chord and its job is to keep the airflow attached to the underside of the main plane. The flap extends the low pressure area behind the rear wing which in turn increases downforce of the device. When the DRS is activated this low pressure area drops away and the lee-side of the main plane stalls, causing a large drop in drag (and downforce).

Neither Renault nor Williams ran their new front wings in the race because of the threat of rain.

There were also fears that the super-soft tyres would last only a few laps. Under this scenario more rear downforce would help preserve the tyres.

This also explains why McLaren opted to run its cars with more rear downforce and was one of the reasons why Jenson Button was so much faster than Sebastian Vettel on the drying race track at the end of the race.

Front wings

One reason why we don’t see vastly different car configurations on a low downforce circuit like Montreal is because of the extreme aerodynamic sensitivity of the cars. Following the 2009 regulations changes, teams achieve optimal downforce by treating the car as a system.

Ostensibly this means tailoring the intricate front wing design to optimise airflow to the sidepods and floor. However, given the sensitivity of the aerodynamics, teams don’t have a lot of latitude to radically change the front wing because all their aero optimisation work will be undone – this is 18 months-worth of intensive CFD and wind tunnel analysis.

As a result teams rarely produce radical new front wing designs – the last such example was probably McLaren which introduced the split cascade to manage airflow around the tyres in the middle of 2010.

Interestingly for Canada Williams introduced an endplate-less front wing. The endplates were merged into the cascades and a horizontal vane is attached to the integrated endplate to manage air to the tyres.

In addition a fence was placed underneath the outer part of the cascade in order to control the vortices below the front wing. This will aim a vortex outside the tyre to try to reduce wheel drag.

Ferrari’s suspension

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Montreal, 2011

One of the surprises when the 2011 cars were launched was Ferrari’s decision to stick with pushrod rear suspension at a time when many other teams were following Red Bull’s lead in switching to a pullroad configuration.

The Scuderia was very aggressive with its placement of the suspension pick-up points to try to create as narrow a back-end as possible. The intention is to enable as much air as possible to channel to the coke-bottle zone and over the diffuser. One consequence of this set-up is that Ferrari is quite harsh on its rear tyres, particularly the harder compound.

In recent races the team has subtly altered the suspension pick-ups to try to better manage the rear tyres. By fine tuning suspension pick-ups it is possible to control the weight transfer under breaking, accelerating and cornering. The team is no doubt attempting to get a more consistent weight distribution to the rear tyres under dynamic conditions.

Another suspension innovation that Ferrari has adopted is a dual-rate anti-roll bar. As its name implies the anti-roll bar resists roll – in a road car you can feel the car rolling when cornering. The stiffer the bar the greater the resistance to roll. A stiff bar will keep the car at a consistent attitude, which is beneficial for aerodynamics. A softer bar will give more mechanical grip when cornering.

Dual-rate anti-roll bars give the best of both worlds. Typically a stiff bar is attached to the suspension with a soft-sprung coil. The coil gives compliance when cornering but quickly becomes fully compressed allowing the stiffer anti-roll bar to resist rolling motion.

Changing regulations

The debate over the future technical direction of F1 continues. After the Canadian Grand Prix it was confirmed that from Silverstone teams would be limited in their application of hot-blowing diffusers.

When off the pedal the throttle is only allowed to be up to 10% open – many teams maintain full throttle opening, especially in qualifying. To restrict this the FIA has also mandated that, from this weekend, engine maps must not be changed after qualifying (unless a driver starts from the pitlane). This means that teams will have to run less aggressive maps in qualifying.

The impact is likely to be significant, especially for Renault and Red Bull, the two teams that first developed the technology.

The most intriguing dynamic is whether Red Bull’s qualifying advantage is reduced – given the RB7 has almost a second on its rivals in the hands of Vettel I suspect the Milton Keynes-based outfit won’t be too concerned. However, we will need to wait a couple of weeks before we know exactly what the regulation change has done to the running order.

The bigger change affects the 2012 regulations where exhaust-blown diffusers have been banned.

An early proposal was for the exhausts to extend a minimum of 330mm behind the rear wheel centre line, which is at the trailing edge of the diffuser. This would have prevented the use of blown diffusers but would have incurred significant costs as teams produced longer exhaust pipes.

There was also a strong likelihood that teams could still take advantage of the blown effect to reduce the pressure gradient aft of the diffuser or underneath the beam wing, both of which would yield a performance advantage.

A compromise has since been reached whereby the periscope exhausts of years gone by will be mandated. It is unclear how the regulations will be written to ensure this happens but it will mean that there is very low chance of the exhaust gasses being put to aerodynamic use.

This is a guest article by John Beamer. If you want to write a guest article for F1 Fanatic you can find all the information you need here.

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28 comments on “Technical review: 2011 Canadian Grand Prix”

  1. Kiril Varbanov
    22nd June 2011, 9:24

    Excellent article, very nice read. Valencia seems to be a promising race this year.

  2. Does this mean that drivers can’t alter the Engine Mappings mid race? I was under the impression that they can currently do this as they change the mappings for wet conditions, fuel saving and safety car conditions, is this not the case? If so how do they turn their engines down when they are told to on the radio?

    1. I believ this is allowed, only the radical changes between qualifying and race are banned, but I can’t give any more details :(

      1. But in red bulls case it seems as though there is no change between qualifying and the race start. So how does this rule change anything?

    2. They can change between engine maps uploaded. But these are limited in amount, so not being able to change what set of maps is in the ECU between Q and race means that in effect the team will rather not use something extreme, as it would limit their options for the race.

      1. If a team (say red bull) already carry the qualifying mapping in the race, does this rule change anything? They clearly have some radical mapping that they use at the start, safety car restarts and when a driver catches them.

        1. This just proves my point that the car is faster in race than they show. It’s easier to chase because you have nothing to loose. When you’re leading you’re more controlling and you also have to be the first to learn the tires and what will happen during the race.

          So far we haven’t seen what Webber would do if leading. Maybe he would pull away and not try and be conservative and manage the lead as smartly as Vettel has done.

          1. I disagree. I think they are running a qualifying map at the start and at other strategic times. In Canada Vettels car seemed like it was powered by rockets at the start and at safety car restarts. However nearer the end (when they would have had less fuel to play with) Button was able to catch Vettel rapidly and Vettels restart speed was nowhere to be seen. We saw this too when hamilton caught him earlier in the season. Vettel had flew away at the start for a couple of laps and also had done similar speed ups for a couple of laps when people were too close earlier in the race but the near the end no longer had that capability.

        2. I don’t think they carry the qualifying map into the race, just that at full wick the Red Bull race map retains some of the advantages of the qualifying map.

          1. Well that would be impossible if the qualifying map uses so much fuel as they would would run out before the end of the race.

  3. Great stuff!!! You should do more articles like this. A definate winner for me.

  4. Excellent read, thank you. Just one thing – the fourth paragraph of the ‘Changing Regulations’ has ‘has done the the running order’, which you might want to fix.

    1. Thanks, have fixed it.

  5. Great article, really interesting.

    John, do you think the banning of hot-blowing will upset the aero balance of the RBR’s? Obviously they still maintain an aero advantage in the races, as seen in Barcelona, but both Red Bull’s seemed to struggle for traction in and out of the apex in Canada.

    It would be great to find out what reasons RBR and Renault put forward to the FIA for them to hold back on implementing the hot-blowing ban until now.

  6. Right on time when we can start to see how teams will cope with these changes. Very nice article John.

    I think that RBR will be calm under it, as you say they had a very big advantage and they have now had a month to work on new bits to reoptimize their package.

    Ferrari might be more worried as they seem to have improved on this aspect recently. But lets wait and see what the teams make out of it now.

    1. I suppose it depends on how much each car is specifically designed around the hot blown concept.

      1. McLarenFanJamm
        22nd June 2011, 12:03

        Exactly Lee, it’s impossible to predict who it is going to affect most.

        You could maybe try and guess by listening to the different engine notes through corners (based on loudest being used most, quietest being used least) but that may not give the whole picture.

        Red Bull have a very, very good overall package and I don’t think they’ll be as affected by the changes as I am hoping. I’m more worried that the rest of the field will fall further away from them.

        1. I was under the impression that the Red Bull car was designed around the blown diffusers (along with the cheat wing)? According to Renault although their car is heavily designed around the concept the design creates the down force near the middle of the car so at least for them the balance will not be affected too much although it remains to be seen how much performance they loose.

          Brundle and Coulthard (I think or it could well have been Five Lives commentry during practice) were commenting at Canada that the Maclarens seem to be quiet off throttle compared to the RB, Renault and Ferrari.

          1. McLarenFanJamm
            22nd June 2011, 12:41

            The EBD only affects the rear of the car though, not sure how the whole package is built around it. I’d suggest the main source of their speed is the flexi-front wing, that is what intially controls the airflow to the rest of the car so it makes sense that the rest of the car would be built around that.

            The RBR is a complex machine all over though. I still don’t think the EBD ban is going to be as much of a hindrance to red bull as is being made-out.

            I do hope I’m proven wrong though

          2. I would say the front wing is built around the the rear of the car rather than the other way around!

          3. McLarenFanJamm
            22nd June 2011, 12:54

            as you can guess, I’m not an engineer ;-)

          4. Haha, neither am I. But as we’ve seen from the past three years, the rear of the car is where the money’s at. The front wing has sprouted all these stupid additions because of that.

          5. @Icthyes

            I think you are correct. The front wing is designed to feed air to the rear of the car and to minimise drag at the front as well as creating downforce at the front. Creating the downforce on the front wing is relatively simple, all the complex parts of the front wing are designed to shape the flow to the rear of the car and to push air around the front wheels to prevent wheel drag.

  7. great article as usual john!

    on the Valencia thread, i posted (mostly) the following re regs & EBD’s….

    if they’re trying to stop EBD’s, surely change the regs so that “exhaust gases must be routed without interruption and may not interact with any part of the car except the exhaust pipe(s). the exhaust pipe(s) must be aerodynamically neutral.”
    “exhaust exits to be enclosed and remain uninterrupted to an exit point that is level with the rearmost body part of the vehicle”?

    this way, you cannot have the gases interacting with anything, be it a diffuser, a spoiler, the underside, suspension components etc.

  8. Another good article, thanks Keith and John. I’ll read this again later to make sure it’s all sunk in!

  9. Good article, but I’m uncharacteristically confused by some of the technical aspects. For once it seems to me that others are as well, but I’ll lay out my concerns anyway.

    First of all, while I unterstand the Silverstone rule change in engine mappings, the same doesn’t apply to the Valencia one. Does that mean that only the level of hot-blowing stays the same in Q and in the race, or the complete pattern of the engine performance remains unchanged? Like you mentioned the situations in which the engine is ‘turned up’, using more fuel – not necessarily more hot-blowing – etc. Does the rule freeze that as well besides the level of hot-blowing? Again do not misunderstand my question: I know the level is going to be limited to 10% from Silverstone on, I’m just asking if this rule means it’ll be frozen on a certain level, 10%, 40% or 70% etc., in Q and in race.

    Then there’s the Ferrari suspension. As far as I know the anti-roll bar behaves in exactly the same way since its inception in F1 cars in the 1960s. You can either enjoy the advantages of the soft or the stiff anti-roll bar, because physics simply does not permit the two in the same time. It seems to simplified to me that all of a sudden Ferrari brought about a ground-breaking new technology which changes this theory.

    Dual-rate anti-roll bars give the best of both worlds. Typically a stiff bar is attached to the suspension with a soft-sprung coil. The coil gives compliance when cornering but quickly becomes fully compressed allowing the stiffer anti-roll bar to resist rolling motion.

    It just seems like a good (stiff) bump setting which ‘quickly becomes fully compressed’ so that the car does not bounce after hitting full compression.

  10. UKfanatic (@)
    23rd June 2011, 2:15

    Ferrari is too soft on the rear and front, they simply dont have the downforce they cant get temperature,

  11. This also explains why McLaren opted to run its cars with more rear downforce and was one of the reasons why Jenson Button was so much faster than Sebastian Vettel on the drying race track at the end of the race.

    I thought this was nullified by the red flag, as it doesn’t place the teams under parc-ferme conditions? Or does it?

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