Ross Brawn explains how F1’s ugly noses could have been avoided

2012 F1 season

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Mercedes W03 nose, 2012

Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn says F1 could have been spared the awkward look of 2012-style noses.

Brawn said the ‘step’ – which features on all of the 2012 cars launched so far apart from the McLaren MP4-27 – is due to a compromise made to allow teams to continue using 2011 chassis this year.

Speaking after the launch of the Mercedes W03, Brawn said: “The high chassis and high noses evolved to get the air under the car, and to improve the flow in what we call the keel are and out into the sidepods and under the car.

“We don’t want to put the chassis higher because obviously that’s weight up higher and there’s no advantage to that. But we put it up high for aerodynamic reasons.

“So when the noses were brought down low we wanted to see how we could retain some of the advantage that we had with the high chassis. And that’s why you see these stepped noses – because the height of the nose is constrained up to a certain point, the chassis is constrained after that and the dimensions are different.

“This extra height of the chassis was retained because there were a few teams who said ‘we want to continue with our 2011 chassis, and we want to be able to match the new nose up to it’. So the FIA agreed, at least for now, to let that pass.”

Brawn added he is sceptical whether the compromise was needed: “I doubt, quite frankly, whether there’s going to be many people who are going to carry over their new chassis from last year.

“So I think it may well be a detail which will improve in the future.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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40 comments on “Ross Brawn explains how F1’s ugly noses could have been avoided”

  1. OmarR-Pepper (@)
    21st February 2012, 13:05

    FIA should decide this kind of rules in a meeting with team bosses, technichians, engineers, even drivers, because it sounds awful to moan now the things are done. If there WAS a wat to avoid the “ugly nose”, why didn’t all the people who may concern about it made a statement about it? despite tht fact I don’t like the stepped noses, these are the rules and everyone should adapt to it. McLaren turned out to be the most beautiful car after all… well it didn’t really have another beach pageant to challenge it!

    1. FIA should decide this kind of rules in a meeting with team bosses, technichians, engineers, even drivers

      The higher nose regulation was actually something put forward by the teams via the TWG (Technical working group).

      Actually most of the technical rule changes since 2009 have been things proposed by the teams via FOTA rather than the FIA.
      F-Duct ban, Double diffuser ban, DRS, high exhaust, high noses were all things put forward by fota rather than the fia.

  2. Sounds like it the decision was taken in favour of the small teams (particularly Marussia & HRT) as they probably couldn’t afford to develop new chassis. If so then the compromise is fully justified.

    1. I was thinking about who has a car that’s most like last year’s. Marussia, HRT… but also maybe Williams? Toro Rosso’s is very similar too: I’m not sure how much of the ‘bodywork’ counts as ‘chassis’.

      1. @topdowntoedown

        I believe the “chassis” is only the survival cell, side crash structures, roll structures and fuel tank housing.

    2. If HRT were reusing last years chassis, how did they fail the crash test?

      1. LOL @ HRT failed crash comment

      2. @matt90 I think the crash test is a new requirement for the 2012 season.

      3. Well, there are about 16 crash tests that have to be absolved. Its quite possible, that the bits carried over had no trouble, but for example a new nose, or sidepod construction, did get a bit over limits.

        Or they tried to reduce weight in something that is otherwise carried over and found out they overdid it.

  3. This is just ridiculous.
    The FIA created a stepped nose to achieve nothing. If teams could run their old chassis, why not delay the regulation by a year or two.
    All the teams have new chassis so what is the point.

    1. The stepped nose was introduced on safety grounds, which pretty much required it be implemented asap.

      1. But in fact, the noses are about the same height as they were last year, and some a bit higher (at least Ferrari).

        The rule was devised to stop the noses getting so high they nearly got above the cockpit sides (and thus would be dangerous in a side-on collision).

        Since this year’s regulation compromise keeps them as high as they were, presumably that level is deemed still acceptable to the rule-makers.

        Then, delaying a new “low-nose” rule for an extra year so that it can involve a new tub for everyone, accompanied by a directive that the noses aren’t allowed to be raised to 625mm this year but should aim to be at 550mm (or what is the number), would have accomplished an equally safe, and less compromised, nose.

        Oh, well, I’m nearly used to them, and see them as way to distinguish them from all the different ways you can step a nose. Or not, as McLaren.

        1. Since this year’s regulation compromise keeps them as high as they were

          the actual nose is lower, Its the tub which has remained the same height as last year.

          the tub height wasnt the problem, it was the actual nose been so high which was the concern & its this which has been fixed.

          as i said above the lower nose reg was something proposed by fota & not the fia.

    2. The FIA created a stepped nose to achieve nothing

      No, it was introduced to improve safety, as it says in the article and has already been explained here several times previously:

      F1′s generation of ugly cars should be a temporary sight

      How the 2012 rules will influence F1 car design

  4. The FIA believed the teams when they said they were carrying chassis over from 2011? That wasn’t very bright of them. Has anyone even used the same chassis over two years in the last decade?

    1. Apart from HRT last year? Not Virgin, they couldn’t even keep it to one a year in 2010!

    2. Super Aguri ran a V10 in the first year of the V8 formula, if I remember rightly. :)

      1. That was STR and the year was 2006. Super Aguri was powered by Honda v8 engines in 2006

        1. Correct. STR ran a rev limited V10 in 2006.

      2. I don’t see why they couldn’t have just made the rule, but then turned a blind eye for the teams, presumably HRT and/or Marussia who needed it.

        I’d rather they did things right and then helped out the smallest teams, like they did several times for Minardi, than compromise the rules as a whole.

    3. @damonsmedley Hard to tell for sure but from this first picture HRT’s 2012 car looks a lot like last year’s:

      HRT F112 – first picture of HRT’s 2012 F1 car

      1. the front camera pod has moved forward slightly, and the barge boards look a slightly different shape, apart from that its practically the same car.

        Old car new nose?

        1. Probably, and some changed bodywork. Making it the same old 2010 Dallarra with changes made to make it a bit faster (last year) and meet regulation changes this year.

    4. Hispania is almost certainly going to end up using the same chassis as last year, given the massive disruption it’s had up to this point. While it’s likely none of the other teams had to do so, it’s possible some of them might.

      The FIA can’t “turn a blind eye” to its regulations or it weakens itself. There are enough problems with ambiguous or peculiarly-written regulations without ignored regulations being added to the list.

      1. Wasn’t HRTs nose already complaint? Certainly near than most.

        1. *Compliant * Doh

  5. So Brawn is skeptical about the stepped nose-high chassis combination, but he uses it himself in MGP?

    1. He has too, cause than the car will break a safety rule.
      It was something about lessening the risk in a crash, I think.

      1. Obviously he doesn’t have to, otherwise McLaren wouldn’t look how it looks. And that’s what Brawn said, cars didn’t have to look like this. But still he said that high noses are a result of “a few teams wanting to retain 2011 chassis”, it’s implied that MGP wasn’t among them, so there still a question: why MGP uses the stepped nose when they really don’t need to and they weren’t in favor of having it allowed from the beginning and as implied, MGP didn’t want to continue on their 2011 chassis (quite understandable when you remember the performance gap between MGP and Red Bull or McLaren). That’s what puzzles me. It seems to me that he’s trying to blame somebody else for the sheer ugliness of his car while in fact it was a deliberate and desired move to make it look like this.

        1. No. The had no realistic choice but to follow suite

          The point is that this is makes the best of the current regulations for everyone except Mclaren that have to totally different design philosophy. I t remains to be seen if it work for Mclaren.

          All the other teams maximised their design around the concepts they understood (high bulkhead) which resulted in fugly noses. It easy to understand why they did it, why disadvantage themselves trying to copy a Mclaren they don’t understand and isn’t yet a proven winner under the current regulations.

    2. @Cyclops_PL As I understand, he supports changing the rules in order to make the cars sexier but obviously has designed as good car as he could under the current rules.

    3. Brawn is using it because underbody airflow is far more important than either looks or overbody airflow. As much as i agree with most f1fanatics that the MP4-27 is the looker of this year’s cars I’m afraid they will not be fastest, except at circuits like monaco or monza where high downforce is not necessary for fast laps. RBR showed in the last two years that high top speeds from low drag are not the fastest concept for F1 – max downforce for minimal drag is the way forward. And the fact that everyone except McLaren have gone the high chassis route to improve underbody aero makes me believe that the ugly noses are going to be fast…

      1. But as people keep pointing out, McLaren had a low nose last year, and were faster than 9 teams with higher noses, and sometimes on pace with Red Bull.

      2. Matt Thompson
        17th March 2012, 21:34

        Mclaren 1-2 lockout in Australia – eat your words.

  6. 2012 low nose will be mandatory right? I think interim like this year is quite waste…

  7. There is something rather strange about the approach to this issue. FOTA may have proposed the fix, but I doubt that the FIA used outside engineering sources to review the fix. Had they maybe someone would have pointed out that the lower nose, at least where it meets the chassis, makes it a stronger and more dangerous configuration than the previous design with an arch or radius to meet the chassis. Also, the step may provide a point by which objects can be deflected through the air. It seems tha teams could have come up with a nicer transition as Mclaren did while still maintaining a nice transition if FIA had specified that the transition not have the step. Of course it is easy to make assertions without seeing the spec, but these are the best designers and engineers in the world.

    1. Stronger? No. Sharper? Yes. Allow me to repeat my comment from a couple of days ago:

      “I personally don’t mind the high noses, but if a regulation is introduced on the grounds of safety, then it must achieve its intended objective.”

      Not only must it achieve its intended objective, but more fundamentally a safety regulation must not make the cars more dangerous. As an engineer, I believe it makes them significantly more dangerous, which alarms me.

      I recently found out that the static ‘crash’ testing that checks to see whether the nose can be pushed off the chassis applies only to horizontal loading. With no vertical test to pass, the majority of the new designs of noses will inevitably be weaker than the old ones if they ever get pushed downwards, and particularly, upwards. This weakness applies to the nose’s overall discontinuous structural shape and in particular to the 4 connections to the chassis.

      With such an abrupt step so close to the rear face of the nose structure, it would be unwise to maintain the positions of the 4 connections at the outermost corners of the face, as the loads on the upper 2 connections would not be transmitted smoothly into the nose’s main structure without a major stress concentration, resulting in a localised failure near these connections when loaded.

      Therefore the (wiser) designers will have been forced to bring the upper 2 connections down, closer to the lower connections. I believe I’ve seen this decision in some of the designs. But bringing the upper and lower connections closer together reduces their leverage distance, which will mean that to resist a given upward (or downward) load on the nose, these connections will have to bear a greater tensile or compressive load than they would have with the designs from the previous regs, where it was a no-brainer to position the 4 connections at the outer corners. But with the push off crash test only being in the horizontal axis, and the horizontal spacing remaining unchanged, there is no design incentive for these connections to be increased in strength (and weight).

      Upwards loads on noses are by no means unheard of, particularly when one considers the primary danger of open wheel racing, whereby the car behind hits the upward spinning rear face of the tyres on the car ahead. If the nose is lost, the primary ‘crumple zone’ has gone, and in this scenario, the car is still traveling (through the air) at relatively unabated speed. A frontal impact with no nose would produce prodigious decelerative g-forces upon impact, owing to the massive strength and stiffness of the chassis itself, as well as its now flat front face.

      I don’t know what the rule makers were thinking when they introduced this rule. I appreciate it is hard to specify rules in an entirely watertight way, but how much more difficult would it to have been to define a triangular ‘no-go’ volume instead of a rectangular one. This could have also gone further in lowering the nose tip, thereby achieving the rule’s intention, which has now been shown to have failed, with news that the Ferrari nose tip is now higher than in 2012.

      The new rule has also failed in that the noses tips are far sharper and slender than ever before, such that they will be more adept at piercing another car in a T-bone shunt. I believe that they are so much sharper because of the reduced height from top to bottom of the rear part of the nose following the step. So even in the exact scenario for which the nose rule was introduced to make safer, it has instead made the cars more dangerous.

      Those hoping that the Mclaren will beat everyone and therefore force all the teams to adopt their prettier, stepless low nose, well, could have to wait a long time, as it would require a completely new, lower chassis design, which is a big step to take for any team.

      No, it is up to the FIA to realise their mistake and alter the rule so that it defines a triangular rather than a rectangular section. Everyone designs new noses, all the above problems solved with relatively minimal outlay. It would probably disadvantage Mclaren a bit, but, well, safety is important.

      Sorry, I am posting this comment here and also in the most relevant F1F news story specific to noses (, as I want to raise awareness of this issue. I am really surprised nobody has piped up on this – it’s not rocket science. I think the rule has been in the public domain since last summer.

      To add to my comment, it seems that Mercedes has the most extreme design, with a very shallow cross section. Just like with the structurally unsound roll blade design a couple of years ago, they seem OK with making the cars more dangerous as long as they pass the regs. I guess it’s their job, but the regulations should be better. It’s weird that Ross Brawn doesn’t see how if they made the no-go volume triangular in shape rather than rectangular (as I strongly recommend), then they’d have also avoided the ugly and dangerous noses.

      1. Agreed %100. Especially with the spear part. It’s a no brainer. FIA isn’t being run by smart men…

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