McLaren 'baby shak fin'

The ‘baby shark fin’ and other F1 tech tweaks coming for 2020

F1 technology

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The FIA’s technical working group has approved a series of rules changes for the 2020 F1 season.

The tweaks target fuel flow tricks, ensure drivers are controlling their own starts, and require teams to display larger car numbers on new ‘baby shark fins’. Craig Scarborough (@Scarbs) explains what’s new.

Brake ducts classed as listed parts

Currently brake ducts, although partly described as ‘bodywork’ in the technical regulations, are not counted as the aerodynamic bodywork under the listed parts rules.

Teams must produce certain parts of the car in order to be classified as a constructor, while other parts can be bought in from other teams or outside suppliers. The core hardware required to make the car are termed ‘listed parts’ in the rules.

Currently Haas take the full ‘listed parts’ entry to F1, producing the minimum allowed by the rules and buying everything else in from Ferrari. Toro Rosso take a lighter approach to the same rules through Red Bull Technology.

At present the listed parts are the core structure of the car: monocoque, crash structures and aerodynamic bodywork. The latter, oddly, also includes the cooling radiators.

The change to include brake ducts in the listed parts regulations make sense, as these partly are now overtly aerodynamic, as well as their function of cooling the brakes and directing heat to/from the wheels for tyre temperature management. For 2020 this rule should only affect Haas, requiring the team to design and make their own brake ducts front and rear, rather than take Ferrari’s parts. This would not have a significant impact on the team’s workload and performance.

Changes to front wing endplate construction

Ferrari, Albert Park, Melbourne, 2019
Ferrari, Albert Park, Melbourne, 2019

The front section of the front wing endplate has been subject to specific carbon fibre construction (prescribed laminate) for many years. This has been to prevent front wings damaging other cars and also to reduce sharp carbon fibre debris from broken front wings.

However the new rule sets out to include other hardware around the front of the endplate, items such as fasteners and inserts. It’s all well and good ensuring the carbon fibre is made of a safe constructor, but that benefit is nullified if the same isn’t true of the metal hardware inside.

The new rules remove such metal hardware from the front 30mm of the endplate to prevent any unwanted damage from wing accidents. There’s no real impact to the teams for such a rule, in performance or construction. Some teams do have metal skid plates bonded into this area, which would need repositioning, but with little impact on their protection of the endplate’s under-surface.

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Front wing profile transitions

This is a detail rule change to the way the five front wing elements can merge or diverge.

Although the rules state the front wing can have no more than five elements, teams are free to split one element into two elements at certain points on the wing’s span, or vice versa, as long as the profile count remains at five. However the old regulation could be misinterpreted as a way to merge the centre neutral wing section into the five outer elements.

This rule change enforces a technical directive issued last year which prevents any attempt to do this by defining it only affects the wing geometry 250mm outboard of the car’s centre line, which is where the outer five element wing starts.

‘Baby shark fins’ for engine numbers

Lando Norris, McLaren, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019
Driver numbers should be easier to see in 2020
Shark fins are back! Although not a technical rule for performance reasons, this is a marketing-led rule change. It has always been hard to read the driver’s race number on the car and on the side of the car, with the ban on shark fins from two years ago, there has been little real estate on the engine cover to place the numbers.

Now the teams will have to create a tiny shark fin on the spine of the engine cover, as defined by the dimensions in the rules. This make a small shark fin similar that that McLaren have run this year and seen on the 2021 ‘India’ CFD concept car. As with any rule change, team will seek to find an advantage and having the small fin in this area down low ahead to the top rear wing, there could be some performance benefit to keep the wing working when the car is cornering.

Fuel volume outside survival cell

The power unit regulations have enforced a fuel flow restriction since 2014. To measure this there is a homologated fuel flow sensor inside the fuel tank allowing the FIA to record and enforce the 100kg/hr fuel flow limit.

However, there have been concerns that teams might be able accumulate fuel outside the fuel tank and, when the engine demands maximum fuel flow, exceed the flow limit. This accumulation could be used to deliver more than the FIA defined fuel flow.

For 2020 teams can only have 250ml of fuel outside the fuel tank, rather than the more generous current limit of 2,000ml. This should reduce the fuel outside the tank, to simply what’s in the fuel lines, high pressure GDI (gasoline direct injection) pump and fuel rails. There were technical directives issued post-2014 to limit this sort of loophole being exploited, so clearly some engine manufacturers have been accused of such trickery.

Engine materials

A less sensitive subject than the fuel volume rule change, this is a simple rewording to reflect the method of manufacture of the V6 engine’s basic structure; sump, cylinder heads and cylinder head cam covers.

While some of these parts may still start out as castings, its more common for a lot of these parts to be machined from aluminium blocks, so the rule deletes the cast or wrought wording, as these specific manufacturing techniques do not need to be enforced. There should be little to no impact from this rule change.

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Clutch control

Start, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019
Drivers’ starts are under scrutiny again
This detailed change defines exactly what the FIA want from the clutch control paddle son the steering wheel. The rules to define clutch usage at the start of the race have been annually updated to reduce software control of the clutch release, such that is only the driver’s modulation of the clutch paddle that controls the race start.

Some drivers have two clutch paddles, though only one can used at the race start. Having two paddles allows the driver easier access to pull the clutch in during a spin to prevent the engine stalling. However some drivers prefer a single paddle on one side of the wheel. If there are two paddles these must mirror each other and be mapped with the same software settings, so that one clutch paddle cannot be used differently to the other.

Specifically, the new regulation further defines the paddles must only be pulled, not pushed, and have no more than 80mm of movement in one direction. During the clutch paddle travel the clutch movement must match the paddle movement, with little ECU interference. The rule details that the driver’s request for clutch release must deliver 90% of the engine’s torque for the majority of the clutch paddle travel, so that the release isn’t phased or delayed to aid the car’s launch off the grid.

Additionally, any means to define a point on the paddle’s travel is not allowed, either by ‘detents’ built into the pivot mechanism of the driver being able to align their fingers/paddle with other paddles or hardware on the steering wheel. Some teams used have the clutch bite point set up, so that the clutch paddle is aligned with the adjacent gear shift paddle, as an aid for the driver.

By further defining and restricting the clutch control rules, the race start is under greater control by the driver and not by outside of software assistance. This could lead to slower and less consistent starts, but every rule change that has taken electronic control away from the car (e.g. clutch or gearshift) and given it to the driver, generally sees the driver perform the same functions just as well and consistently as before.

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Rear view mirrors

After mirror position and mounting rule changes for this year opened up a new area for aerodynamic exploitation by the teams, new rules have been worded to defined and limit the excess seen on the some of the 2019 cars. This is a nearly completely reworded set of regulations to define the mirror surface, its housing and mountings. Although teams have exploited the mirror rules, the performance gain is minimal and no team would likely lose any obvious performance from the rule change.

Cockpit padding

Affecting the horseshoe padding around the driver’s head, this rule simply defines finer points to the part’s construction.

Adapting cockpit rim tests for the presence of the Halo

As part of the load testing of the monocoque, this rule is again a simple revision of the old regulation, in this case as a result of the Halo.

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Author information

Craig Scarborough
Craig Scarborough is RaceFans' technical contributor....

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  • 33 comments on “The ‘baby shark fin’ and other F1 tech tweaks coming for 2020”

    1. It has always been hard to read the driver’s race number on the car and on the side of the car

      Come on, Granny, put your glasses on.

      1. Identifying the team with the livery and the driver with the roll-hoop camera color.

        1. Yeah, by the time I read the number and figure out who it is (particularly for drivers outside the big teams + big names like Kimi/Hulk/Ric) the car has passed, and I too just rely on car livery + either the camera colour, or helmet colour.

          1. It’s probably for the benefit of Sky’s commentators, though they even manage to get it wrong looking at multiple screens with driver positions and track positions, let alone the livery and camera colour…
            I can only hope that one day the drivers will ride a car in the shape of their number. But even then they’d confuse 6’s and 9’s, probably!

        2. I would like to see a rule requiring teams to put the driver’s name or contraction on the halo so it’s easier to identify the car during in car camera shots.

          1. Yes, I agree with that. Some drivers have their website or such like painted onto the Halo, but most don’t, so I have no idea who it is you’re looking at.

      2. I find very easy to know who is the driver just looking to his track position.


      1. As the parent of a toddler who loves that song all I have to say is stop. :)

        1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
          5th April 2019, 15:15

          Read this article an hour ago and I’ve been singing that bloody song ever since

        2. @geemac I completely missed the reference (possibly because I’m not a parent nor particularly aware of musical trends in toddlers). Please could you, or someone else, explain? (Preferably in terms not involving AAAAARGH!).

            1. @fullcoursecaution My belated thanks for providing the link. Is it a good idea to say I quite like it?

      2. I suspect Craig new well what he was at when he penned that awful earworm :)

      3. My thoughts exactly… gets my vote for COTD!

      4. Glad it wasn’t me.

    3. robinsonf1 (@)
      5th April 2019, 14:01

      At present the listed parts are the core structure of the car: monocoque, crash structures and aerodynamic bodywork. The latter, oddly, also includes the cooling radiators.

      I don’t think it’s odd. The radiators have a massive aero affect. Not just because air passes through them but the fact that if you can reduce their size (by increasing cooling efficiency) you can reduce the sidepod size – increasing overall aerodynamic performance.

    4. Teams must produce certain parts of the car in order to be classified as a constructor, while other parts can be bought in from other teams or outside suppliers.

      Regarding this, will a team that is not classified as a customer still be allowed to field drivers, despite not being allowed to compete for WCC points?

      If they are allowed to do so, then it presents an interesting opportunity for constructors flush with cash to set up a subsidiary, enter it into the championship, field the exact same car being driven by said constructors’ junior drivers with the subsidiary purchasing it whole from the parent. The driver will gain valuable experience with the exact same car that is being driven by their senior drivers, and the constructor can rotate engineers between teams to “share” knowledge which they otherwise cannot share.

      This is probably a bit far-fetched and somewhat expensive proposition, but if teams can field cars without earning WCC points, it is still a possibility.

    5. Great article, and highlights the fine points that the teams find to try to exploit every aspect of the rules to their advantage, as they should.

    6. I don’t understand all the effort put into the minutiae of starts when you can go to your local Vauxhall/Ford dealer and buy a low range car with launch control.

      I’d rather see exhilarating starts from all cars than a bit of a clutch lottery. It seems an odd thing to do for a sport all about speed and the show, especially when car shows (both the TV ones and newer YouTube channels) all take great pleasure in launching the latest sports/super/hyper cars off the line.

      1. robinsonf1 (@)
        5th April 2019, 15:12

        It sounds like you think we should also bring back traction control and anti-locking brakes… I disagree. If you make driving the car reliant on electronic assists then the driver has less of an input to the performance.

        1. Yeah, why not. They’re modern tools for modern race cars.

          1. Pedro Andrade
            5th April 2019, 16:30

            I agree with @robinsonf1, the more difficult a car is to drive, better drivers will be rewarded. Also, this will mean a higher probability of mistakes being made and thus introduce variability into the races. If cars had all “modern tools” as possible F1 would eventually turn into “cars-on-rails” (which it already is, too much).

            1. So a field full of 2019 Williams’ would improve things?

            2. A Williams in isolation isn’t slow. Still faster than cars from 5 years ago and that wasn’t exactly poor racing

      2. robinsonf1 (@)
        5th April 2019, 15:17

        …furthermore super/hyper cars are for fat Arabs with a wad of cash that have no clue on how to drive a car fast. F1 is for the best drivers in the world who are experts in car control.

        1. And [INSERT DRIVER NAME], too!

    7. Loved this. Not the rules themselves, but the way they were explained. These articles are now my favourite on the site! Thanks a lot Craig!

    8. When Hulk’s rear wheel went over Ricciardos endplate in Bahrain I wondered why they aren’t mandatet to be made out of more flexible materials.

      Surely contact should be more frequent as the front wing gets wider.

    9. The horseshoe pad is an abomination. It fully blocks drivers view to the sides, creating tunnel vision.
      Not surprising that we get so many silly collisions.

    10. One thing I never understood about the oil burning was that why was it allowed and why didn’t fia just ban it? Why should the limit for oil burning be anything else except 0? Sure some oil will always find its way to the combustion chamber but when you make a rule that sets a maximum for that value you are also setting a target value at the same time. If I remember correctly the limit is 0.7 or 0.6 liters of fuel per 100km. That means the cars are basically running on 2 stroke fuel and the engines eat oil like 2 strokes.

    11. Funny how F1 keeps having trouble defining the mirrors. I do admire the things teams have come up with over the years to try and get at least a bit of extra aero from them. But on the other hand, why not define them as a safety part and have an external supplier build them to ensure they are both neutral, and safe enough and offer enough actual functionality?

      Surely that would be a reasonable way to save trouble and save some cost, right?

    12. For 2020 teams can only have 250ml of fuel outside the fuel tank, rather than the more generous current limit of 2,000ml.

      Ha ha, that’s just so funny. I’m sure this can’t be true. Or is there something I’m missing. Is it saying I can put a 2 litre tank of fuel beside the engine that gets topped up by a maximum 100 kg/h flow fuel pump? Doesn’t that sort of negate the need for a fuel flow measuring device?

    Comments are closed.