Can 3mm Really Make Such A Big Difference
|08/31/2012||Posted by under Carburetor Parts|
In the first two races of this year the McLaren MP4-27S of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button swept up the front row. Into the third race of the season – in China – Charlie Whiting in his role as the FIA’s technical delegate informed McLaren it could not include the splitter behind the front wing as part of the floor and could not therefore have the splitter as part of the 3mm tolerance allowed for the flatness of the floor. It was at that race that their qualifying form deserted them, even though they were still very quick in the race and Button might even have won but for a pitstop problem.
Into the slower confines of Bahrain a week later the cars really were in trouble. What if that ruling on the 3mm tolerance had previously allowed the floor/ splitter to be angled enough to run the car with more rake? Clawing back the performance lost to the blown diffuser has been one of the main preoccupations for all the teams this year and a reduction in the amount of rake it has been feasible to use has lost performance not only from the diffuser but also the front wing and floor. This has been most apparent in slow corners, where this year’s generation of cars have been getting precious little aero help. A greater proportion of that lost aero performance has been clawed back in the faster corners than in the slow – as the squaring effect of the aero loads as the speed increases pushes the cars down, bringing them closer to the old (blown diffuser) rideheights.
This seems to have applied particularly to the McLaren. The team’s aero philosophy for the past few years has been to keep the car in a very narrow rideheightlattitude window – to the benefit of high -speed aerodynamics, but requiring the use of a super-stiff platform that brings its challenges into the slow turns – such as getting a quick enough weight transfer to help heat up the front tyres. With super-effective exhaust-blown diffusers particularly helping low-speed aero, the downsides of the McLaren philosophy were minimised. The rake it allowed meant it was possible to get the front wing super-low, giving you front downforce when you most needed it, whilst creating more negative pressure on the floor to the benefit of rear downforce at higher speeds.
Bereft of the blown diffuser, the McLaren aero philosophy will have been particularly hurt. Was that splitter and the 3mm tolerance of the floor a crucial part of allowing that philosophy to work with the 2012 regulations? And if so, has the removal of that been responsible not only for the car’s subsequent difficulties, but also left McLaren with no obvious development direction to follow while it completely reconfigured the aero? Yes but the McLaren was fastest by o.SS at Barcelona, I hear you say. That’s a high-speed aero track where the track temperatures were high, so negating the key McLaren weakness. Hamilton won in Montreal. Yes, with new rear suspension that allowed more dive and pitch to help with those front-tyre temperatures.
Both Hamilton and Button were very quick at times at Silverstone yes, a high-speed aero track but one at which the track temperatures were not high, and it was notable that both drivers had problems switching on their tyres and keeping them switched on. For Hockenheim a major aerodynamic upgrade appeared to bring the car a significant performance boost. It was arguably the race’s fastest car. But it qualified poorly – because neither Hamilton nor Button could generate the necessary heat in their wet tyres.