Design trends on the first new cars of 2014

F1 technology

Posted on

| Written by

The first test in Jerez starts tomorrow and already we have seen renderings or photos of the cars from half the teams on the grid.

The splashy launches of yesteryear have given way to online reveals and renderings, but these still give us insight into some of the major changes to car design that this year will bring.

The noses

Ever since the 2014 technical regulations were released last year there, there has been much speculation about the look of the noses. In recent years aerodynamicists have been trying to get the nose of the car as far from the ground as possible. This maximises airflow under the car, which is then used to feed the floor and channel round the sidepods – both which help the diffuser.

The reason why the FIA has mandated lower noses is safety – the belief is that higher nose cars may flip more often (recall Webber in Valencia a couple of years ago) and if they ‘jump’ after contact then the nose may spear a fellow driver in the ensuring melee.

So for 2014 the FIA as ruled that noses much now conform to a minimum height and cross-section area. The final 50mm of the nose must be lower than 185mm from the car’s floor (this is called the reference plane). Also the tip of the nose must have a (single) cross-section areas of 9000 square mm. In addition the nose section must stay below a diagonal line drawn from 625mm at the front bulkhead (where the driver’s feet are) to 300mm at the nose tip. There are no further restrictions on nose design, which has allowed designers to be reasonably creative.

So far we’ve seen three different solutions and there may be more to come.

McLaren and Williams have gone with the finger nose. This is a skinny, protruding proboscis then ends in an oval tip. The McLaren implementation is quite clever in that the front wing pylons are integrated into the nose cone, and then the whole structure swoops neatly to the cockpit. The intent of this is to reduce the amount of air blockage at the front to try to get as much flow as possible under the car.

Lotus’ E22 sports an innovative double-tusk nose. Two tusks, around 15cm apart, protrude from the chassis and form the front wing pylons and crash structure. The area between the tusks up to the front bulkhead is missing. The rules are very clear in that the tip of the nose must have a single cross-section and the canny folk at Lotus have made one of the tusks slightly longer than the other to comply with the rules. By removing most of the nose cone and integrating the structure directly in to the front wing pylons then there are fewer blockages to airflow under the car.

Ferrari has gone with an altogether different concept on it F14 T. The nose of the car swoops down from the bulkhead and splays out to form a shallow letterbox against the front wing. There is no ‘nose tip’ to speak of. However, there is a single cross section area than complies with the regulations. By forcing airflow through the letter box low pressure will be created under the front nose section, which should add a little downforce. The issue is that compared to Lotus and McLaren the nose appears to present more of an obstruction to the airflow, which may make it harder to feed the floor and diffuser.

Front suspension

One benefit of lowering the noses is that the suspension geometry is more favourable. The high chassis cars mean that front wishbones need to be sloped up to the car, which compromises weight transfer. This is a classic example of aerodynamics trumping mechanical grip. Now with the low nose rules many teams will be able to lower the front suspension mountings and run a more typical geometry.

Look at the new McLaren head on and you’ll see the suspension arms are parallel to the ground – this is possible because of the lower chassis. McLaren has also switched back to push-rod front suspension after expermenting with a pull-rod configuration last year. Clearly the pull-rod suspension was identified with some of the team’s handling issues.

A pull rod suspension is (very marginally) the aerodynamically superior solution. The arms slope down to the chassis, presenting a (slightly) better angle to condition airflow, and the centre of gravity of the rocker and torsion bars is lower. The difference is marginal though given the pull rod itself needs to be stiffer (i.e., heavier) and the benefit from conditioning airflow is slight.

Interestingly the lower nose means that it is easier than it was last year to implement a pull rod set-up – if you look at the 2013 McLaren you’ll notice that the pull-rod itself was almost parallel to the ground. Ferrari, unsurprisingly, has chosen to run a pull-rod front suspension for the third year running. Many teams don’t appear to see the benefit. The rendering of the new Williams shows a push-rod set-up as does a obscure photo released by Mercedes of the front wishbone of the W05.

Front wing

For 2014 the width of the front wing has been reduced by 75mm each side. This is to an attempt to reduce the number of accidents involving the front wing. What seems a minor change is reasonably significant. The shape and structure of the front wing defines the airflow for the rest of the car, which isn’t surprising given this is the first point where air comes in contact with the car. The key factor in front wing design is the wheel-wing interaction as the rubber creates a ton of drag.

In the 2009 regulation change the front wing was widened substantially – prior to this the wing endplates were sloped towards the chassis directing air inside the wheels. In this era the endplates themselves were not particularly sophisticated. From 2009 the flow regime changed and the front wing was designed to direct air outside the wheels. Over time front wings became ever more complex, partly because the outer part of the wing was one of the few areas of the car where there were few regulations restricting design.

The wing is only narrowing a fraction so the design ethos of directing flow outside of the tyres is unlikely to change. However, a lot of time and effort will be required to optimise the front wing to best feed airflow to the rest of the car.

Constructors normally launch their car with a dummy front wing – usually a version from the previous year. However, the McLaren design, which was always a little on the simplistic side, looks a lot more detailed for 2014 with at least six elements apparent from the launch photos. The F14 T, on the other hand, has a simple three-element wing with a cascade protruding from the end plate. This will certainly be updated prior to Melbourne.

Sidepods and cooling

With the introduction of the 1.6 litre turbos and Energy Recovery Systems (ERS) the cooling requirements have increased. This means either bigger sidepods inlets or additional cooling solutions. However, teams are keen to minimise the size of the sidepod opening to allow them to maximise the undercut as this helps channel airflow around the car to the diffuser. The faster air gets to the diffuser the lower the pressure above it so airflow is less likely to detach at the rear of the car – this is the primary cause or rear end instability.

McLaren has opted for triangular sidepods to maintain a steep undercut. In addition a duct inside the airbox cools the gearbox, and there are openings around the gearbox to vent hot air from the engine and sidepods.

Ferrari by contrast appears to have much slimmer sidepods than the McLaren – maximising the undercut was one of the central philosophies of the 2014 car design. From the launch photos it is unclear how the F14 T will meet the new cooling objectives although there has been some suggestion that the turbo engine could use air-to-water inter-cooling.

Both the Ferrari and McLaren have a number of turning vanes around the front edge of the sidepod to condition flow to the diffuser. These are similar in structure and purpose the vanes on the 2013 cars.

Diffuser, gearbox and rear wing

One of the most significant changes for 2014 is the placement of the exhaust outlet. The tailpipe must exit behind the diffuser on the car centreline. This eliminates any possibility of using the exhaust to blow the diffuser.

The changes to the rear wing are more substantial as the beam wing has been eliminated. The main purpose of the beam wing was to create low pressure above the diffuser, which helps keep air in the diffuser attached. Now the wing has gone the risk of rear-end instability has risen.

To compensate for this McLaren has re-profiled the gearbox (made it much lower – akin to the Williams’ solution) and is using the rear suspension elements to help recreate the beam wing. The rear wishbones are positioned as far back as possible so they are close to the diffuser. In addition the rear wing is attached to the bodywork with a hoop, again to try to divert airflow over the diffuser. Expect to see a lot of innovation and development in this region to claw back some of the lost downforce from the beam wing.

The F14 T appears considerably less developed at the rear than the McLaren does, but expect this to change before start of the season. One obvious difference is that the Ferrari rear wing is connected to car the with a double strut, rather than the single strut on the McLaren. The rear wing itself is fairly standard although the endplates have gained a couple of vertical slots towards the front.

The Jerez test

As the build up to the Jerez test continues teams we’ll continue to get a glimpse of how other constructors have interpreted the regulations Mercedes and Red Bull are the two big teams that are still keeping their car under wraps but as mentioned Mercedes has tweeted a few discreet shots of its challenger.

Keep an eye out for how the other teams design the nose area as the rules give designers quite a bit of leeway here. And we may also see some innovation at the back of the car with the disappearance of the beam wing.

Given the new regulations this year, the Jerez test is much less about honing the aero set-up and more about understanding and optimising the engine. That’s not to say aero won’t be important – it will be. A few folk are predicting that reliability will determine the destination of the title. Yes, reliability will be an issue – more precisely it will be fuel efficiency and usage – but as we get further into the season aero will likely reassert its dominance.

F1 technology

Browse all F1 technology articles

51 comments on “Design trends on the first new cars of 2014”

  1. McLaren surely want to come first :)

  2. I think these are better the stepped noses for sure. Even if it is a little disappointing that livery changes could make them look a lot better – like the McLaren mock-up that’s been flying about.

    a skinny, protruding proboscis

    I enjoyed this immensely.

    1. The livery on the MP4-29 is a launch and testing livery. McLaren are expected to have a full livery for Melbourne. The interim test livery is sort of an advertisement to potential sponsors, since they are still looking for a title sponsor.

    2. Disagree totally with this comment. The step noses were workmanlike. The step noses were slim noses, they were high and to me the whole high nose look has been one I reckon looks great, from the first really high nose car I saw, the 2002 Arrows A23, which is still one of my all time favourite looking f1 cars. Low noses can look great too, and I for one expected the 2014 cars to look a little like the cars at the end of the last generation which ended in 2008 – slim, low noses which faired well into the body. Instead we have F1 sausage fest 2014…

      But the step noses had a certain charm about them. These noses are just plain ugly! I really hope that someone, anyone amongst the teams will come up with a solution that looks fast, cool and like a race car if would want to use as my desktop background. Please!

      1. That I would want as my background… Keith we need an edit button!

      2. I like high noses too, they can look nice, but the ugliness of the stepped nose was not height-related, it was because of the step alone. The 2012 stepped noses were the most hideous noses I’ve seen and so far, like electrolite said, the 2014 noses haven’t been as bad as them. It’s all a matter of opinion, of course…

    1. I can imagine this going around at full chat, the downshifts will be even more epic and evil, can not wait to see and hear some hot laps!

      The new sound has much more texture and character. According to my girlfriend’s mom, the old v8s sounded like howling cows, I found it hard to disagree.

    2. @william-brierty the downshift was the area I was expecting these engines to not sound as good in, but I concur – they sound epic!

      I can’t see why everyone was providing doomsday proficies over how the engines would sound weak and ailing – maybe they made the mistake of listening to the old tyrant…ehm, Mr. Ecclestone.

      1. @vettel1 – Being old enough to have been around in the old turbo days, I knew just how fabulous a turbo engine can still sound, so I was not one of those banging the doomsday drum.

    3. No reason to be sorry. I had a feeling they would sound great and sure enough, they do. Too many people are afraid of change it seems and find a way to discredit anything out of the “norm”.

    4. That car sounds absolutely epic…..

  3. I just hate that Ferrari with a passion. Even the F2012 looks prettier than this. Why can’t teams create a nose like the 2012’s McLaren? Yes I know there will be no innovation whatsoever, but the cars at least would look decent.

    1. Because the cars would be illegal.

      1. I’m talking about the nose of the first four races of the season. Would that be illegal as well?

        1. yes, it was lower than what the others had, but still far higher a nose than what is in the rules for this year @nickf12013 – not that a similar form couldn’t be done (but sloping down far more) for this year, but it would most likely make the car a backmarker for lack of downforce and/or balance

        2. Even if it would be legal, you’re still missing the point: teams want their cars to be fast, not pretty.

          Yes, the MP4-27 was fast, but the development direction it took was finished. There wasn’t much more in it.

          High chassis has been king for the rules up until now, and teams are still thinking it will be king for the rules of 2014 and onwards. That’s why they can’t do a “MP4-27” themselves: they need a high chassis, and a low nose. Fitting the MP4-27 nose on a high chassis would simply not be good – it wouldn’t direct the air where they want it, which is under the nose and chassis.

    2. The F2012 was worse. The F14T does not look bad. The McLaren MP4-29 is a million times worse than the Ferrari and Lotus. Only the Toro Rosso or Suaber are almost as bad as the McLaren. The McLaren is disgraceful and unbelievably bad. I will have to close my eyes when I see it on TV.

  4. Thanks @john-beamer for starting off the technical analyses overview season at F1Fanatic!

    I also like that sound @william-brierty, something quite different, futuristic almost and certainly interesting to listen to.

  5. I dont care how ugly they are, function should trump form, just as long as they are not all the same.

    Viva la difference.

    1. Exactly that @hohum, its refreshing to again be able to tell cars apart without the livery on them.

    2. You’re right @hohum, but I expect the cars will probably look more like each other at the end of the season, I think there will be some nose copying pretty soon probably already for Melbourne.

      1. @alexanderfin mmm I don’t think teams will be changing their basic nose designs this season, its something that affects the airflow significantly plus it would need to repass the crash tests, the priority will be understanding the engine and make it reliable.

    3. Yeah, I really like the different approaches teams are taking to the new rules. The old formula was getting pretty flat, so hopefully this formula can maintain variety for a few seasons.

  6. Hatham Al-Shabibi (@)
    27th January 2014, 13:10

    I know this is just aesthetics, but I’ve noticed lots and lots of the color black so far in the cars.

  7. From the Mercedes teaser shots, its well possible that the Mercedes has a vacuumcleaner nose just like the Tomcat (F14 T)

    1. At Least it does not have a McLaren,Sauber,Toro Rosso and Williams type horrible, disgraceful nose.

  8. Great article @john-beamer. One of the nice features of the McLaren which you didn’t mention is that the left sidepod on the McLaren (the rights as you look at it in the image in the article) is slightly larger than the right. Craig Scarborough things that could be the sidepod housing the turbo intercooler, with the other housing the engine radiator

    1. Yup that is correct. Thanks for mentioning it.

  9. A boys (McLaren) has pen*s and girls (Lotus) has vag*na….

    1. Arun Jeyaprakassam
      27th January 2014, 15:10

      haha! the best observation and comment so far! :)

    2. that would start a big debate here as to what will happen if the collide head-on ? what will be the baby called ?? a baby mclaren or baby lotus ?? :P

  10. Without RBR, analysis would only hoax.

  11. Red Bull and Mercedes are the particularly interesting ones for me – I’m fully expecting them (with the depth they have in seasoned aerodynamicists) off the basis of last season to be the main contenders for the title and quite possibly a McLaren resurgence, so I am very interested in seeing the RB10 and the W05 tomorrow!

  12. Maybe the teams are failing in the livery design. I’m sure a pretty car must be worth quite a lot in terms of marketing and stuff. So maybe they could’ve masked the noses a bit, and it’d not be so terrible. McLaren just needed to paint the pylons black and that’d be it.

  13. I’m no expert in studying airflow, but I would have to agree with some of Keith’s statements on the front wing solutions of Lotus and Mclaren vs Ferrari.

    Both the Mclaren and Lotus have a front wing that can direct a whole lot more airflow under the nose than the Ferrari.

    Also, just looking at the Ferrari and Mclaren head on, there seems like a massive difference in suspension and wishbone arrangement. Mclaren have a clean setup with enough air being directed towards the sidepods, while Ferrari seems to have made a mess at the front despite having a pull rod suspension.

    Obviously I’m just shooting in the dark… but if you asked me to put my money on either the Mclaren or Ferrari… I would go with the Mclaren

    1. @todfod I tend to agree. I was wondering weather the McLaren boys have got it right or the red crew has found a genius way of cooling the engine without making the sidepods large enough. Then I thought about the name of the 2014 Ferrari and that nailed it: it must be McLaren, who have got it right.
      Of course the season can prove me wrong, I know:-)

  14. Anyone else wondering how they are going to get the front-jack under these things during pit-stops?

    1. Well now I am.

  15. Not to sound too philospohical, the looks are purely subjective and a matter of getting use to.

    Remember up until 2008, the rear wings were looking wider/shorter and the front wings were looking very complex. In 2009 when the regulations changed, the new cars emerged with substantial changes. Back then we all said how ugly it looks ( I too felt the same !!!). Now when I go back and take a look at the cars of 2008, I feel that the post 2008 cars are much better looking. Especially with cleaner front wings. The front wings of 2008 McLaren was so complex with so many cris-crossing parts .

    I believe it is just a matter of getting used to the looks.

    Meanwhile from a safety perspective to fix the problem of the Nose spearing into a fellow driver, I believe Ferrari has the Safest Nose. Again any object hurling down at the speed of >300KMPH is just a missile irrespective of its shape.

  16. Looks like the Ferrari will be right at the front or no where based off of what seems to be a pretty radical design. Can’t wait for Jerez and the start if the season. (Except of course for the super-mega-fabulous-race-to-end-all-races in Abu Dhabi)

  17. Were the Sauber’s pods also smaller than Mclaren’s? If so, the Ferrari engine might be easier to cool.

  18. The difference is marginal though given the pull rod itself needs to be stiffer (i.e., heavier) and the benefit from conditioning airflow is slight.

    Might be wrong, but I think this is slightly incorrect. Materials are typically stronger in tension than in compression, so the pullrod can be lighter. The upper wishbone, however, must be stronger and heavier to cope with additional forces acting through it, thus mostly negating the CofG benefit of having springs and bellcranks lower down. The same if the pullrod is mounted directly to the upright: the weight of the knuckle.

  19. I’m eager to see what Mr. Newey has come up with… Although some of the cars look……interesting….It’s at least nice to see some obvious differences between the teams. In the last few years you could have switched the liveries and would have difficulties telling the difference.

  20. There seems to be a trend developing here and it leads me to only one conclusion. Has FOM signed a big sponsorship agreement with Durex?

  21. Encouraging words for Mclaren fans, not so much for Ferrari fans. Button for 2014 World Champion. I’m a believer.

  22. Will be seen together if the F1 construction, same with go-karts

  23. Hello John,

    I have the question. In the early issues of Race Tech and Race Car Engineering Ian Bamsey writes
    and also Harvey Postlewaithe states that putting a funnel shaped intake at the front of on F1 car would not get more air to flow under the car. They stated that the air has to be pulled through by the diffuser. My understanding is that they were implying a high nose is of little use unless the diffuser configuration is somehow
    “matched” to the high nose ? Do you know anything about this ? What do you think ? In an issue of F1 Race Technology magazine (highpowermedia with Ian Bamsey as the editor) Bamsey stated/wrote that
    the higher or more arched the nose of an F1 car the higher the rear downforce potential at the expense of front downforce (presumably the high nose can cause lift ? ). How does the arching of the nose help ?

    Many thanks in advance and keep these fantastic blog posts coming.

    All the best,


  24. The noses are ugly really ugly at least slope the nose ferrari by far once again the ugliest why can’t we go back to 2008-09 mp4-24. Best looking nose of the 21st century.

  25. Sauber nose isn’t bad looking I like the continuous arch sloping downward I like it

Comments are closed.