Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Jerez, 2014

The first technical innovations of 2014 in detail

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The first test of the new season at Jerez was a bonanza for F1 technology aficionados. Every team bar Lotus turned up with new cars built to drastically changed regulations.

A few of the cars had already broken cover though naturally some of the teams were shy about revealing too many of their secrets in these online launches. A notable example was Force India, who issued only a side-on shot of the VJM07, postponing the full horror of its front appendage until it poked out from beneath a sheet in the Jerez pit lane.

Some of those early cars were examined in a previous article ?ǣ here?s a look at what their rivals turned up with in Spain.

Red Bull RB10

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Jerez, 2014One feature of F1 in 2014 is the differing treatments F1 designers have found for the noses. The regulations state that the nose must meet a minimum tip height – 50mm behind the actual time the nose height must be exactly 185mm above the car’s reference plane. The nose must form a cross section, which must be between 135mm and 300mm above the reference plane.

The new Red Bull featured a different take on the anteater proboscis. Adrian Newey has given his car a nose which ends in a keel shape, allows the top to sit 300mm above the reference plane. The keel shape allows the nose to tape to the highest point of the chassis, which allows a greater volume of air to flow under the nose. The regulations state that the nose tip has to be part of the crash structure but it is the RB10 nose that likely caused the FIA clarification on nose design in the middle of the Jerez test.

If you look closely at the tip of the nose you’ll see that it has a U-shaped inlet. This is to reduce the pressure at the tip of the nose where there will be substantial airflow blockage. The RB10 has also retained its chassis-duct – this is a S-shaped slot that bleeds air from under the nose to above the chassis. This increases the odds that the airflow under the nose remains attached, which helps downforce.

The rest of the car is relatively straightforward – the front wing ostensibly pushes airflow round the outside of the tyres, like every other 2014 design we’ve seen. The sidepods are reasonably narrow and heavily undercut in classic Adrian Newey style. Perhaps the most interesting feature is that the rear wing is mounted to the top of the engine cover by a single pillar rather than to the diffuser/gearbox.

Red Bull have always been extra-secretive about their new cars but they seemed to be taking it to extremes in Jerez by only allowing it out of the garage very rarely, covering just 21 laps. Of course the real reason for this was chronic overheating and other problems associated with the installation of Renault’s Energy F1 power unit.

After the Jerez debacle, the Milton Keynes based outfit has plenty of work to do. In the later tests expect significant aerodynamic updates to the rear wing and the bodywork allowed around the exhaust.

Mercedes W05

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Jerez, 2014The new Mercedes is definitely one of the less unattractive of the 2014 cars. Nose-wise it is similar in style to the Ferrari, but if you look head on at the two cars you’ll see that the Mercedes nose is higher than the Ferrari’s by around 65mm – this is a result of some clever design work by the Brackley-based team.

The Mercedes design has as much in common with the Lotus as it does the Ferrari, with one side of the nose strut acting as the primary crash structure and the other covered with a vanity panel to look symmetrical. This then allows Mercedes to raise the rest the rest of the nose structure to the top of the 250mm box within which the nose area must be contained. Maximising the volume of airflow under the car has been a critical part of modern F1 success and seeing the Mercedes design is no doubt causing some head scratching at Maranello.

The new front wing is one of the more detailed launch examples. Compared to the 2013 wing there are a bevy of flicks on the cascades and winglets that aggressively steer airflow outboard of the tyres. The front wing is probably the most frequently upgraded component on a car. This is because it defines the air flow over the rest of the car. Given the changes in regulations (narrowing by 75mm each side) it makes sense for teams to test with a close-to-launch specification front wing to gain rapid understanding of the front airflow characteristics.

Mercedes rear illustration, 2014Another feature of the W05 is the placement of the cameras, which sprout from the top of the nose by the front forward wishbone. They are reminiscent of the ‘Dumbo’ ears design that the Honda and McLaren used to sport in 2008. The camera housing will act as a flow conditioner channelling more air to the sidepods.

Perhaps the most impressive characteristic of the Mercedes W05 is how tightly packaged it is at the rear. Out of all the launch cars the engine cover is more visibly shrink wrapped over the back of the car to minimise blockage to the rear wing.

A few of the teams use splay the engine cover towards the rear of the car to exit the hot air from the radiators. The W05 opts to have cooling vents towards the side of the radiators, which allows for much tighter packaging at the back of the car. Yet there was little outward indication of cooling problems and the team completed more running than any of their rivals.

The 2014 regulations allow for quite a bit of freedom to place aerodynamic structures around the exhaust exit. We’ve already seen a couple of teams deploy monkey seats above the exhaust pipe in an attempt to extract a smidgen of performance from exhaust blowing. The W05 is relatively free of such bodywork so expect Mercedes to start delivering performance here in the run up to Melbourne.


The majority of the midfield cars have a derivative of the anteater nose. They all look different and none of them are particularly attractive – cue lots of phallic references over the coming 12 months.

Perhaps the only stand-out is the new Caterham, which has a more radical take on the concept. The chassis ends in a wedge and then the nose extends from the underside of the wedge and seemingly connects directly with the front wing. On closer inspection there are two small pillars extending from the nose to the front wing to meet the regulations.

It isn’t a pretty design but the design philosophy is to remove as many obstructions to airflow at the front of the car as possible. The philosophy is logical but there is an opportunity to use the front of the car to shape the airflow to the sidepods and floor. By having zero bodywork to do this the Caterham may have missed a trick.

Interestingly Caterham joins Ferrari with front pull rod suspension. The angle of the pull rod improves the flow of air to the sidepods for a marginal aerodynamic gain albeit at the expense of additional weight in the pull rod arm.

McLaren’s ‘fat’ suspension

McLaren MP4-29 rear illustration, 2014

McLaren suspension side view, 2014The first Jerez test was more about engine mileage and less about aerodynamic innovation but there were a few things that caught the eye. Perhaps the most interesting concept was rear suspension set-up of the new McLaren.

This illustration shows the ‘fat’ suspension from behind the car. The suspension arms aren’t designed to create downforce by themselves, rather replace the beam wing to make the diffuser work better. The beam wing would create a low pressure zone below its surface which would mean the pressure gradient across the diffuser would be lower. This helps the diffuser work better by increasing the odds of the airflow remaining attached under the car.

McLaren’s suspension generates the same effect but gets there in a very different way. In short the fat arms block the airflow, which create a blockage (low pressure area) behind the diffuser. It is this that reduces the pressure gradient over the length of the diffuser.

The details of exactly what is going on is complicated. When the MP4-29 was launched it was apparent that the rear wishbones were connected to the gearbox as far back as possible. It looked strange but the reason was to accommodate the fat suspension arms. A consequence of this is that the drive shaft was not enclosed in the suspension arms. Teams like to do this to reduce the blockage at the rear of the car.

For rivals to copy this set-up it it is likely they’ll need to fully redesign the suspension, which is a significant undertaking. The regulations require the arms to be structural and not a fairing – so the fat suspension will be load bearing. Further the suspension arms must have a diameter less than 100mm and the longest axis must be no more than five degrees from the horizontal.

The illustration shows how this works. The cross section of the arm is teat-shaped – with the teat tip facing forward. The length and width of the ‘teat’ will be around about 100mm each, with the length being fractionally longer to adhere to the regulations. The centre line of the teat is at a five degree angle to the horizontal. This ensure that the airflow above the arms is faster which helps create a stagnation point behind the suspension. This is the low pressure zone that will help pump the diffuser – it is doing the same job as a beam wing albeit a lot less efficiently.

Other innovations

Felipe Massa, Williams, Jerez, 2014Other innovations were few and far between given the objective of the Jerez test was to put miles on the engine. What is apparent is that the area around the rear wing and diffuser can be exploited with aerodynamic appendages. In Jerez, the most interesting innovations came from Williams and Toro Rosso.

Williams has exploited the area just above the diffuser to recreate the beam wing. If you look closely at the rear of the car, you see two flaps extend from the endplate a few inches above the diffuser. There are no bodywork restrictions in this zone so this solution is legal. The intent, like for the MP4-29 fat suspension’ is to help the diffuser.

We’ve already seen a few constructors launch their 2014 challengers with a monkey seat above the exhaust exit. Toro Rosso took this one step further with a double monkey-seat. The intent is to harness the fast exhaust gasses to reduce pressure behind the car and again, help the diffuser.

For the Mercedes and Ferrari-powered teams the next two tests before the start of the season should see them turn their attention from reliability to performance. But for Red Bull and their fellow Renault users, priority number one is to get some decent mileage on their new cars.

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Images ?? John Beamer, F1 Fanatic, Red Bull/Getty, Daimler/Hoch Zwei

26 comments on “The first technical innovations of 2014 in detail”

  1. I think the Force India VJM07’s stepped chassis is also another new innovation for this year.

    From the Formula 1 website, “The rules dictate the height of the underside at the front of the monocoque but closer to the cockpit it is possible to raise that height. Simultaneously raising the upper surface ensures that rules on the inner dimensions of the cockpit are respected and results in a distinctive hump on top of the chassis which in turn allows for the potential inclusion of a 2012 Red Bull-style ‘letter box’that can feed air to the bottom of the car.”

  2. My head is spinning! Mamamia guys! I don’t know what I’m doing!

    1. @mashiat Come on it’s not that hard to understand is it? Once you have a (very) rough idea of how the aerodynamics work in F1 cars is actually quite interesting to see the different solutions the teams come up with.
      Mercedes seems to be the one ahead in that aspect, the Red Bull was better but it didn’t work so let’s see what they bring to Bahrain.

  3. The more and more technical analysis i see of the W05, the more i feel it will be the car to beat

    1. Indeed. There didn’t seem to be much talk about it in terms of technical aspects early on, but there is much more talk now of all the small details where they really seem to have stole a march on some of their competitors.

    2. @mclaren – Yes, but Ferrari also appear to have a number of interesting attributes. Ferrari have, in essence, done the best job of all of the engine manufacturers on cooling, hence the minimal cooling provision of the F14 T and the C33. Also the Ferrari sounds like they have somehow created a seamless downshift system, which would be an innovation comparable in utility to the McLaren suspension “blockers”, and is a frankly surprising innovation for an engine and gearbox team that were allegedly running behind schedule. The merits of the F14 T have been masked by an apparently simplistic and conservative design and the resultant leary moments on track, but with such a tightly packaged car I would guess that they brought a skeletal form of the car to Jerez to ensure that it was fundamentally viable. Ferrari are looking good, and I’m somewhat surprised @john-beamer didn’t mention the F14 T in his round-up…

      1. Yes – I didn’t mention. Mostly because I focused this piece on aero — but you are right, Ferrari has some interesting innovations in the engine and gearbox. I’ll write about that in a future article.

        1. @john-beamer – You have a point, and you wouldn’t have had much in the way of aerodynamic innovation to talk about with regards to the F14 T in its Jerez spec anyway. However I would imagine that is set to change with Ferrari certainly set to fully exploit the aerodynamic advantage of greater air flow to the rear of car brought about by narrower sidepods to improve the marque’s now signature traction and entry oversteer issues.

  4. Great summary, thanks!

  5. Thanks John, nice update.

  6. I like Williams’s innovation!

  7. the fat suspension wings on mclaren that top one must cause turbulence on the lower plane as it rebounds, I understand this is to create the low pressure at the rear by reducing the airspeed but surely a small channel through the suspension arm would help reduce turbulent air and could also be directed to increase the low pressure zone?

    1. here’s a nice explanation of what it does, the channel between the 2 elements helps doing just that

  8. Interesting article I didn’t know how much higher the Mercedes nose tip was in relation to the Ferraris vs Ferrari nose but unlike the suspension fat arms it’s much easier to replicate, if they are getting copied than it’s all good news for the top 3 Mercedes teams. How daring it is for McLaren not to enclose the drive-shaft, these signs of confidence are a sign of what is to come, and I’m having 2009 deja-vu.

  9. Hmmm, I’m thinking that overheating might be to simplystic an excuse for RBR/Renaults troubles, in the cold conditions at Jerez they hardly put in enough consecutive laps, let alone fast consecutive laps to overheat the components sufficiently to cause such obvious problems especially when you take into account that Adrian is well aware that cooling can be critical, at least that’s how I see it. Certainly Danny Rs inability to get completely out of the garage is unlikely to have been due to heat builup.
    Good article, thanks John.

  10. The part on Mercedes is really interesting, but article is lacking a bit, when there’s no mention of Ferrari’s integrated turbo shield. For the year where the change to 1.6 turbo is the biggest in a while, you’d assume some of the analysis would go into that, but sadly non of it in here.

  11. I think the explanation of McLaren’s suspension is very poor. While I understand the concepts behind are per nature quite complicated, the few lines do very little to make it more understandable.

  12. The McLaren is surely very clearly in breach of 3.15
    3.15 Aerodynamic influence :
    With the exception of the driver adjustable bodywork described in Article 3.18 (in addition to minimal parts solely associated with its actuation) and the ducts described in Article 11.4, any specific part of the car influencing its aerodynamic performance :
    a) Must comply with the rules relating to bodywork. [It does not]
    b) Must be rigidly secured to the entirely sprung part of the car (rigidly secured means not having any degree of freedom). [It is not]
    c) Must remain immobile in relation to the sprung part of the car. [it moves]
    Thus whilst it abides with 10.3.1 b) c) and d) it does not comply with a) since the dogleg clearly creates a position where the right section falls outside the line between the the suspension attachment points.

    It also appears to contain a redundant part (x2) which must be treated as bodywork according to 10.3.4
    Furthermore the “teats” as you have called them are clearly riveted on and thus not part of the suspension “structure”.
    As normally a McLaren fan myself, I am not amused, but extremely surprised that Charlie has not slung this out.

    1. All of the above rules do not apply to the suspension as it has been deemed for some years that the arms of the suspension have always had an aero effect, thus the rules regarding the suspension have been relaxed. What McLaren is doing is stretching the limits of this relaxation if you like…

  13. Great article. It’s this analysis of exactly what’s producing the performance that gets me really excited about F1. Looking forward to the next analysis :-)

  14. but its not bodywork, its the rear wishbones and perfectly legal. FIA has already approved it. an excellent analysis can be found here

  15. Chris (@tophercheese21)
    13th February 2014, 3:09

    Personally I think the Red Bull looks great. It’s a very smooth progression to the tip of the nose, and they’ve done well by painting the unattractive part black so it’s covered up, or harder to see.

  16. “…the front wing ostensibly pushes airflow round the outside of the tyres…”
    Ostensibly, I do not think that word means what you think it means.

  17. @john-beamer,
    Why did you think that one of the nose struts is crash structure, and the other is vanity panel?
    There seems to be no need to put on a vanity panel, doesn’t it?
    Since the nose tip connects the nose struts, it has “a single external cross-section” at the point of 50 mm from the forward-most point of the crash structure.
    I think both struts are crash structure, and make Π-shape cross-section.

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