F1 may have finally got its nose rules right

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It’s 25 years since Tyrrell designer Harvey Postlethwaite hit on the idea of raising the nose of an F1 car in order to improve the airflow around the front of it.

By the early 2010s this concept had been taken so far that FIA was becoming concerned about the damage high noses would do to a cockpit in a side-to-side impact with another F1 car. This concerns has been dealt with in two ways: by increasing the use of anti-intrusion panels around the cockpit, and reducing the height of car’s noses to reduce the risk of an impact occurring close to a driver’s head.

However the means by which designers satisfied this rule produced some unattractive results. The first examples, seen in 2012, mostly featured an inelegant ‘step’ in the middle of the nose. This was alleviated in 2013 by allowing designers to add a vanity panel although some, such as Lotus, eschewed this route to save a few grams in weight.

For 2014 the height of the nose was lowered even further, and the solutions became yet more outlandish.

Force India’s was just one of several unfortunately phallic designs on display – the Lotus E22 doubly so. Although several different solutions appeared most had one thing in common: they were far from aesthetically pleasing.

This was not the outcome the FIA had envisaged, and it was a result of ambiguities in the rules which led to some unforeseen and creative interpretations. The nose was required to be between 135mm and 300mm above the reference plane and 9,000 sq. mm in cross-section. On top of this, crash test requirements enforced a further limit on nose length.

The Force India solution – also favoured by McLaren, Toro Rosso and others – created substantial space below the nose to ensure maximum airflow, yet still allowed teams to comfortably pass the crash test.

F1’s wealthier teams such as Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes choose more innovative solutions which in all likelihood produced only small lap time gains. If you were a small team it made much more sense to plough your scare aero resources in to the front wing innovation.

For this year the FIA responded with further changes for 2015 in an attempt to push designers away from creating cars which invite ridicule. The regulations are now far more detailed, and the limitations can be summarised as follows:

  • The nose tip cross section remains the same at 9,000 sq mm
  • The nose will be lowered further and must sit 135mm to 220mm above the floor
  • The tip must be no wider than 140mm
  • The nose must widen to a second cross section 150mm behind its tip, which must be no less than 20,000 sq mm
  • Again a maximum width is stated of 330mm at this second cross-section
  • Both cross sections have to be symmetrical about the centre line
  • Remaining length of the nose going back towards the chassis must have a tapering cross section
  • The nose tip will have to start about mid-way along the front wing

What does this mean in practice? The rules specify two cross-sections, supplemented by a tapering requirement to avoid any odd shapes as the nose merges with the front bulkhead. The tip also has a maximum width requirement of 14cm. In addition there are a series of conditions around symmetry so as to avoid the uneven Lotus “fork” nose from last year.

Based on these rules two broad concepts have emerged. The first is the short, snout-style nose which Williams has used since the start of the season. Red Bull, after extensive crash testing, introduced a similar nose in Spain and McLaren has had one since the Austrian Grand Prix:

The intention is to maximise airflow under the car, which helps feed the floor and seal the region around the sidepods. To achieve this designers put the nose bodywork as far back and as high as possible, but in order for to comply with the nose regulations and front crash test the result is a protruding snout-like structure.

Others have opted for a different route. Force India’s new nose, with freshly carved nostrils help duct the airflow underneath the car. This is a compromise solution, which makes it easier to pass the crash test without have to do a full structural redesign of the nose.

Mercedes opted against a snout but have followed a similar concept but have chosen a different shape with which to meet the cross-section area requirement. However, it is still running a short nose, which will yield aero gain.

Meanwhile Ferrari have opened for an extended nose and use the underside to help shape the airflow below the car. Ferrari have the resources to move to a shorter nose if they wish but feel the benefit, if any, is small.

The changes to the 2015 regulations have largely succeeded in eradicating the most offensively unattractive noses and improving the safety of the cars while also leaving designers enough freedom to pursue different solutions.

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57 comments on “F1 may have finally got its nose rules right”

  1. nice nostrils.

  2. Let’s be honest. Only Mercedes’ and Lotus’ look remotely decent. Force India is not looking bad either, but is also quite interesting and original. All others look horrible. Maybe we’ve forgotten how these cars can look, so these don’t seem to bad, but when you think about 2008 noses, these cars looks pathetic.

    1. Mostly I agree, but I think that next to the 2015 Force India we can add the RB10 (from 2014), SF-15T (from 2015), the 1st design of the 2015 McLaren-Honda and the 2015 Sauber. These cars have a decent looking nose too.

      1. McLaren Honda nose wasn’t good, but this one is outright ugly. Like a botched nose job. Force India looks interesting, and nice. But Red Bull doesn’t look good either. Too thick. Inelegant.

        1. I might be the only one, but I think the new McLaren nose looks a lot better, I really like how it looks (I might go as far as saying it looks elegant). Maybe its also to do with the new paint job but I think it looks among the best on the grid.

          1. @williamstuart me too I find it gorgeous. Such a beauty!

    2. @brace @corrado-dub I personally think the pre-2008 cars were overall far more hideous than what we have now with all those stupid looking winglets, flaps, dumbo wings, horns & bridge wings.

      The front wings themselfs also looked stupid when they were as high as they were for 2001 & when they were raised further in 2005.

      I also always hated the high noses, I think the cars with low noses have always looked ascetically better than those with the high ones. Its why most of my favorite looking cars are from the early/mid 90s or before when the noses were really low.

      There are exceptions like the lower noses on the 2000 Arrows, 2000s McLarens & the 2000/2001 Prost’s, But I always found the higher/really high noses hideous.

      1. there are some mixes with hight and low noses. I can think of the MP4/13, the B194, or even the Brawn. Those cars have high noses and low noses at the same time, and they look beautiful!

    3. When you think about the weird, droopy double front wings in 2008 (never mind all the twiddly rubbish along the sides of the car) I think today’s cars look a lot better. And the great thing is they’re different from each other.

      Yes, the ugly stick’s been well used this year – the McLaren looks about as good as it goes, and the Williams is redeemed by its livery – but I really like the Mercedes, it’s an elegant design that’ll look even better in years to come when the familiarity has worn off. The Ferrari’s a nice shape, and the Force India’s good too – a car you can recognise by its shape when the sun’s low (which we’ll get more of later in the season).

    4. @brace Completely disagree. If you’d brought the early 90’s noses as an example of a beautiful one I’d agree. But 2008? Some of the ugliest F1 cars ever were produced that year. with all the ugly appendages, including on the nose

  3. Ha, only a few months ago people were freaking out over the Williams nose and banging on about how we were in for another year of ugly noses.

    1. @ciaran I think the key thing to take from this is the new lower, safer nose are a good idea/do work, but once again, F1 raced into the breach without anyone taking a step back and applying engineers logic to the rules.

  4. I still feel the sorts of noses from RBR, STR, McL and Williams are looking horrible. The STR looked so good with a long nose…

  5. I’ve been watching Formula 1 since 2000 and over this time have witnessed multiple beautiful cars. The thing that appealed me in the sport was the natural development of aerodynamics. Right now, on the other hand, it’s the question of finding loopholes in the regulations and achieving needed airflow at all cost. It’s a little bit sad to see how today’s cars look in comparison to Prost from 2001, McLaren from 2004, Renault from 2006, etc.

    1. F1 has always been about finding loopholes in the regulations, I’m not sure what you mean. What about the ’73 or 76′ Ferrari f1 cars, you could say its a little bit sad how ugly they look when compared to the W06… Either way it looks like in 2017 we should have some prettier cars than the past few years.

    2. Some say loopholes, I say competitve edge

  6. The change in nose-rules has made it more difficult to follow another car than it was last year, and thus can´t be considered good. I was very surprised by this headline, but then the article is only about aesthetics, , not about aerodynamic consequences.

    1. Michael Brown
      14th July 2015, 14:58

      Agreed. I hope the FIA focuses on the stupidly wide and complex front wings next

    2. ColdFly F1 (@)
      14th July 2015, 17:36

      Agree: I care less about the aesthetics of the nose than the ability to closely follow.

    3. @crammond If the past few years/decades have taught is anything it’s that seizing on a single cause for the ‘lack of overtaking’ in F1 is dangerously simplistic.

      1. What’s “simplistic” or “dangerous” is that Formula 1 rule makers are not capable of looking ahead while they are putting together the regulations. There are hundreds? thousands? of engineers working in Formula 1, but they still manage to be deserving of the harsh criticism they get from fans whose knowledge on engineering, aerodynamics etc are dubious at best for most of the time.

      2. @keithcollantine

        Yes, that´s correct. The noses surely aren´t the main reason following other cars is difficult, but they are one of the few things that have changed from last to this year, and there is a difference in how much they follow each other compared to what they did last year.

        Also, when they are talking about going back to ground-effect cars with far less wings as a vision for the future for the sake of overtaking, it doesn´t make much sense to introduce a rule that causes more wing-dependancy and less air under the car at the same time, for aesthetic reasons. And “lower-noses = less air under the car” may also be simplistic, but it´s just true.

        1. @Crammond I watched a few races from 2010 today and it surprised me how close the cars could follow each other and some of the racing was fantastic, even without DRS. (Yes i know some of the teams were running f-ducts) Anyway, it will come as no surprise that all the cars had extremely high noses. I also think double diffusers were still legal in 2010 so that is clearly the way to go.

      3. @keithcollantine, but you have to start somewhere, just like looking for weight savings there is rarely a single answer, results come from the sum of myriad small efforts.

      4. Are noses the single cause? No. A definite contributing factor? Yes.

  7. John what is the purpose of diffuser strakes ? I saw one web site the said the vortices at the bottom of the fences help seal to the ground ?

    I read literature from the 50’s onwards suggesting diffuser splitters make mi I diffuser channels that operate closer to optimum conditions on the diffuser performance graphs. Interestingly full length splitters often worked less effectively than shorter ones?

    Some guy on YouTube says vortices at the bottom ofvanes seasl to the ground? Vortices result from Inwash across the stakes, wouldn’t you want opposite vortex spin to get outwash to seal diffuser especially from tires? One guy said the curvey strakes pre-2008 F1 cars let the vortex roll down lower on the strake closer to the ground for better sealing. So what do strakes do and why were they so “s” curved like before 2008 ? :)

  8. For seven years now it really has been a matter of the palatable, the bad and the ugly when it comes to noses. We have had the weird, like the Ferrari F2012, the obscene, like the Toro Rosso STR9 and the plain ridiculous, as in the case of the most flagrant offender during this period, the Lotus E22. The very fact that many thought the nose on the 2005 McLaren MP4-20 was ugly does rather illustrate just how spoilt we had become in terms of car aesthetics. The Ferrari 248 F1 of 2006 was, at the time, pretty but thoroughly conventional. I would reflect on it now as the best looking F1 car of the modern era.

    It is nice to see there might be some hope on horizon.

    1. @countrygent at least we got the F135 which I consider as one of the most beautiful Ferrari ever produced. Shame it was a dog.

      1. Of course F138, not 135, typo :-)

      2. @spoutnik Yes, the F138 was probably the best looking car we have had since 2009. I loved the white line along the flank, and the serrated rear wing endplate. I still think the nose looked much too high though.

        1. NOOOOO!!! How is it people think that car was beautiful I’ll never understand…

  9. Those thumbs look ugly on the nose. Imagine if you had a thumb on your nose! That’s how absurd it is. McLaren Honda looks especially ugly. What would you expect after that livery anyway…

  10. I though this article was about the aero impact of the nose design change in 2015 and got my hopes up thinking that FIA is revising the nose rule again for 2016 to allow the cars to follow each other. But its all about looks. Bummer!

    1. Yup this year’s noses are a disaster! So F1-esque really, that they thought about safety and looks and forgot all about the aero and the Overtaking Working Group.

      They keep changing the rules without looking at why they made the outgoing rule in the first place.

  11. Simon (@weeniebeenie)
    14th July 2015, 14:27

    I personally don’t understand why they have to be so low. Lower, yes, but when you look at past years, they were relatively low noses that were never a problem with protrusion on other cars and they looked nice.

    2003 for example, five different car noses in shot, all pretty low, all slightly different designs, but good looking.

    1. this is what you call low and gorgeous,
      just need to sort that high air intake,
      now this cars could follow so close around corner they could bump you.

      1. The air intake is fine, the problem is the camera pod that is very large, if that was smaller it would be prefect.

        1. dont no what happened to the link but it got lost some place,

          1. now its a blank, dam one last go,

    2. @weeniebeenie @lethalnz They probably look lower than they actually were because the front wings were higher back then.

      1. Also I believe the noses are longer now because of the newer crash test’s.

  12. Mercedes w06 is the best looking car.

  13. Ferrari and Sauber have the ugliest noses of this year. Especially the nose of Ferrari is oddest of them all. Flat, jet not flat, strangely shaped, with the rounded tip at the start…simply ugly and unatractive…Good that STR changed their design because its not pleasing to the eye…i understand Sauber, they dont have money, but Ferrari should know better

    1. It’s not a beauty contest. It’s all about maximizing efficiency given current (rather stupid) regulations. There’s no correlation between having a limited budget and having ugly aerodynamics.

  14. Sincerely, I don’t understand why the FIA have to control the “beauty” of the cars. I liked the 2014 cars because they were all different and differentiable one with another. Now the cars, with all these technical regulations in the design, looks all the same. I’m interested in how much speedy are these cars, not in their looks. In the 1970s the cars were really ugly and still is one of the more loved eras in the F1. And the cars were easily distinguible and had the beauty of monster machines made to race. A race car hasn’t to be beautiful in the terms of a normal car. Their beauty resides in their speed and capacity of racing

    1. @Dani
      That would be true if Formula 1 is a science experiement and the cars race in closed environments. This is a sport, and looking good matters. We’re all human beings with a sense of aesthetics. Spectators aren’t scientists who appreciate only the technology and precision but don’t care about beauty.

      And, who said cars of the 1970s were ugly? They were the meanest looking. Just see Mario Andretti in the Lotus 78…I just keep my jaws open whenever I see cars like that plus those massive rear tyres. I just wish I was in the 70s…

      1. Well, my native language is not english and maybe I don’t have explained it very well. Look, for example, at the Eifelland March E21. It’s a surfer’s table with wings and a bathtub attached to it, with a stick in the center to sustain a mirror. It’s not “beautiful” in the terms of beauty for a normal car. But it’s mean, it’s a monster, look at it and you only can think “racing”.

        What I wanted to say it’s that the 2014 noses, although it might be caused by safety design regulations, were easily recognisable and mean. Different one from another. Design was still free enough to allow each team to search the best solution, and each team came with different nose. For me, this is F1. The research of the best solutions for maximize the speed. If you want only racing, you can go to other series like GP2, WSR, etc. The noses from Lotus or the first Caterham maybe can be ugly in the moment of their debut, but I think that in a few years they are going to be a “classic” design and appreciated by the fans. Now the technical regulations for the noses make that all the cars looks the same and the cars, at least from my vision, have less soul.

        In addition, the aesthetic sense is different in each person, and what is beautiful to me, for you or for another can be very ugly.

  15. I’ve always hated high noses, aesthetically. I’m glad that’s been rectified. But I like the designs of the 1970s when the nose wasn’t as prominent and as slim as it is in today’s cars. Take the Tyrell P34, the Ferrari 312T or the Lotus 77 and 78 – aesthetic perfection!

    1. Looking back at the high nose designs they actually look more bad-ass to me. I miss them.

  16. Back in the 70’s and 80’s I always cherished the launch of new cars because the regulations allowed for engineers to be really creative and come up with new and unique designs, some of them really different.

    Nowadays, with aero dominating all of the choices it is hard to distinguish the cars on the track, if not for the livery. They are all products of a cookie cutter when it comes to shape, with minuscule differences.

    Not living in the past, but just making a distinction of how it used to be and how it is now.

    1. Those cars don’t look like cars. They look like toys! I didn’t like those tiny front tyres & huge rear tyres.

  17. How about the 2009 Brawn ??

  18. I’m for aero performance over aesthetics, but I understand the objections. Obviously some teams have lost performance in this department, and as has been suggested the stricter and even lower noses this year may be partly having an effect on the racing.

    Looking forward to seeing what 2017 throws up!

    On a side note, I thought Mercedes and Red Bull’s 2014 noses looked nice. I thought Ferrari’s looked the worst. Yes, even worse than the Lotus tusks.

  19. Except the finger nosed cars, I like the nose designs of the current F1 cars. The finger looks less disgusting than fallic noses of last year but it’s still not pretty

  20. On the contrary; the noses still look ugly and awkward and for the fourth year running the FIA has failed to foresee the potential for such interpretations. I want to see car designs that are the expression of optimal aero; not over-prescribed rules. On the subject of aesthetics we also have a grid full of the most drab and uninspired liveries F1 has seen in its history.

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