February 04, 2011

F1 Pr0n: McLaren MP4-26

It's always hard to tell what you're going to get from McLaren.  Without a doubt, the car is going to be good (well, usually), but they can be fairly... bland with their designs.  Now when you're one of the God-Teams of F1, you can do that.  After all, when your chassis is consistently one of the top three every year, you don't need to go into ridiculous mode on your designs. 

But of all the teams out there, McLaren is the only one with an institutional sense of humor.  And McLaren occasionally does roll out the weirdness; witness the original "viking horns" on the MP4-21, for example.  So you never be sure what's coming from these guys... and without a doubt, the team went into full goofy mode this year.

What in the name of St Fangio the Quick is going on with those sidepods?  Oddly, I believe the viking horns might just give us the answer.  Besides the obvious increased airflow into the radiators, I wonder if the odd shape of the 'pods don't give much the same effect as the viking horns, just in larger scale, with air being channeling over them and back towards the rear of the car.  Should be fascinating to see how that works out.

Seen from the side, the car looks almost normal.  Lower nose than on many of the others, with a very long, shallow descent all the way from the cockpit to the tip.  Still, the odd sidepods make the MP4-26 look like it has hunched shoulders.  I rather like the look of the car, honestly.  Very clean.  Swoopy, but not looking like it was drawn in the middle of a fever dream.

Even prettier from this angle.  The odd shape of the 'pod intakes are quite visible here.  I wonder... does that shape allow it to claim more of the air coming off the front tires?  It might be rather roiled up air, but it's still air to cool the engine. The front half of the car is just gorgeous... so clean, and such a change from the front of the Ferrari and Red Bull.  One thing that you might notice is the double air intake above the driver's head.  The one in the normal position is for the engine, as you might expect.  The one farther back along the fin is probably for cooling the KERS unit.

One last picture, the annual McLaren centerfold.  It's a big one, but there's no staples to get in the way.  Enjoy!


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February 03, 2011

F1 Pr0n: Lotus T128

The chassis I've most been looking forward to hit the track for the first time on Wednesday, and again today.  Let's take a look at the new car from Lotus:

Last year, the T127 was very much a throwback car, all slab-sides and table-flat.  None of the aerodynamic swoops and curves we've come to expect from a F1 car there!  Now, however, they seem to have jumped right into something more like the old teams.  The big surprise is the air intake over the driver's head... they're using a split inlet, like the one Mercedes started 2010 with.  I'm unsure as to what the advantage of using such a thing is, while there is at least one known disadvantage, namely unsettled and unbalanced airflow in a turn.  When the car turns, the side opposite the direction of the turn gets less air, and in some cases airflow may be blocked altogether.  Perhaps the Lotus engineers don't think this is a problem, or the lessened drag caused by a blanketed air duct balances the reduced airflow, or the whole problem is overblown in the first place.  Still, Mercedes dropped it fairly quickly.

Lower nose than most of the other cars this season, though it's a sharp dropoff.  The body surely isn't as slab-sided as it was last year, though it still seems less swoopy in the sidepod area.  I suspect the biggest improvement to the car will not be in the aerodynamics, but in the Renault engines they'll be running for 2011.  No knock on Cosworth, they did a great job last year, but the Renault is a definite step up, and will probably be enough on its own to keep Lotus as the best of the new teams.  Will it be enough to let them play with the established teams?  Well, if any of the newbies are going to, it'll be these guys.  I'm sure they're aiming for points this year.

According to the team, the T128 has been designed up from scratch, using none of last year's car as a basis.  It certainly looks more modern, but I wonder if that's a good way to go.  The good teams got that way by building on the experiences of their previous seasons, for the most part keeping the good parts of the older designs and improving the not-so-good parts.  Evolution, in other words, not revolution.  To be sure, evolving a bad car isn't exactly an easy thing to do, but at least they'd have some running data to work off of.  If this one was indeed begun from scratch, they'll be back at square one again.  Guess we'll see... they get paid a lot more than I do to do this stuff, so they must have a better handle on it, right? 

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Great Moments In Odd Snow Formations

I woke up this morning, and this is what I saw out on my balcony.

I have no idea what combination of wind, sun and cold conspired to make this happen, but it pleased me to no end.


The tiniest duck, closeup, cropped from the original picture.  He's 3/4" long x 1/2" tall.  I didn't dare put anything bigger on the snow formation, in fear of hastening the impending collapse... though it hasn't fallen down yet.

In case you're wondering, Duck U is still closed.  According to an e-mail sent last night by Matt the Screwdriver, VP of Campus Ops, most of the sidewalks are still covered with snowdrifts six feet deep and the main road through campus is impassable.  I can only imagine what the parking lots look like.  So... snow day #2!

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February 02, 2011

Snowmageddon 2011: 2/2, 845am (UPDATED @ 1242pm)

I'm not the sort of person who swears very often.  Unlike many people these days, I believe that using profanity in everyday conversation is vulgar and childish... and I never use it here at The Pond.  No, when I use an unpleasant word, it shows a moment of very high emotion.  I'm explaining that so you really understand what I'm about to say.

Holy SHIT.

The picture above was taken at 1am.  That red line stretching toward the tree is from a laser pointer... a clearly visible beam that stretched all the way to the tree.  It was visible because of the snow coming down and passing through the beam, basically like what you'd get if you blew smoke into the laser.  Around this time the wind was howling, the snow was falling around two or three inches an hour, there was thunder and lightning, it was terrifying... and awe-inspiring!

You may remember the post I put up with a picture taken at 310pm yesterday.  Well, here's a picture I took about a half-hour ago:

...and that's on the railing of my sheltered balcony.  The wind was coming from the north... my balcony is on the opposite side of the building.  Here's the view of Pond Central's parking lot, which is on the north side:

Yup.  The good news is that the snow seems to have stopped.  The Duckford International Airport is saying "only" 13.5 inches of snow fell overnight, but there are reports of 17 and 20 inches in other parts of the city.  Some rural roads have 12 foot drifts over them.  Hundreds of cars have been reported to be stuck on the various highways and streets near Duckford.  Most roads, both in and out of the city, are reported to be impassable.  Duck U is closed today, of course.

This is supposed to be the fourth-heaviest snowfall in Duckford recorded history.  Now comes the shoveling.

UPDATE @ 1242pm: Snowdrifts up to my waist.  Took four men with shovels a half-hour to dig my car out.  Once my car was done, we moved on to the car of one of the other guys.  Then we did the car of a teenage girl who needed to go to work (and helped push her out, too... the snow drifted high under her car).  Then I moved my car to a different spot at the far end of the lot, right next to the place the snowplow will start his snow-moving efforts... which means I won't have a four foot pile of snow to deal with in the morning!  Just negative temps...

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February 01, 2011

F1Pr0n: MegaPr0n 2011

Over the past two days, seven F1 teams brought out their cars for the 2011 season.  Unfortunately, only one, Sauber, actually bothered to take glamour shots for our perusal.  They, of course, got a F1 Pr0n entry all to themselves.  Lotus released a couple of grainy and poorly exposed pictures and some computer renderings of their new car, so they don't get nuthin' until it hits the track on Wednesday. 

But Renault, Williams, Mercedes, Red Bull and Toro Rosso?  They get to share a post... the first ever F1 MegaPr0n!

We'll start with the team that got the least amount of worthwhile photos, Toro Rosso.

As near as can be told, the STR6 is merely an evolution of last year's chassis, which was, in effect, a Red Bull RB4 taken in a different direction than the parent team's chassis, the RB6.  That's hardly a bad thing, considering that the RB5 fought tooth and nail with Brawn for the constructor's championship.  Still, I was hoping for something a smidge more exciting from the Red Bull "B" team.  It's a lower nose than that being copied by... well, just about everybody.  It's possible that Toro Rosso is running an interim design, one that uses pieces from last year's car, until the whole package is complete and tested.  Of course, they might be trying to step out of the shadow of the "A" team, too.  Might be interesting, that.  On the whole though, it looks pretty vanilla, or at least as vanilla as any F1 car can look.  I'll pay attention to the car over the next few weeks and if there's any major change I'll let you know.

Next up, 2010's Disappointment of the Year, Mercedes!

First off, I love the new paint job.  Last year's all-silver livery was historical, a hearkening back to the "Silver Arrows" of Mercedes' past, but it was a little dull.  The addition of the Petronas green livens it up a bit.  As far as the chassis, named the MGP-W02, goes, that nose reminds me somewhat of a platypus' bill.  It's certainly higher than the W01's, though.  Sidepod inlets are huge, but a triangular shape as opposed to the rectangular of last year's.  Is that because the designers are trying to move away from the BrawnGP design?  Or just an inevitable design evolution?  Kinda hard to tell from this photo, truth be told.  I suppose we should get used to rollouts like this, as opposed to the high-end, no-expense-spared affairs of the past.  Darn shame, though.

Our next entry comes from the World Champions themselves, Red Bull!

If there was one chassis I wasn't looking forward to seeing, it was the new RB7.  I mean, let's face it: the RB6 was the best car all season; on those few occasions it didn't win, well, it wasn't usually the fault of the chassis.  With uber-aerodynamicist Adrian Newey on the payroll, it's not like there were going to be many external changes. 

And indeed, there aren't.  Oh sure, there's a new thing on the centerline of the rear wing, which I assume is part of the actuator for the new movable bits, but otherwise?  Pretty much the same.  Sidepod intakes look to be a smidge smaller, but it's really difficult to tell: black on dark blue does not visibility make.  I'm sure there's something different, perhaps many somethings, but my guess is that they're all internal.

Speaking of black on dark blue, allow me to present the Williams FW33.

I really do hope they keep the car number in a white circle like that on the real livery; this is just the testing color scheme.  I'm going to do something I've avoided this year... I'm going to post a picture of last years' car for comparison purposes.

Sharper downward turn on the nose, angled strut connecting the front wing to it as well.  The thing that lept out at me instantly, though, was the sidepod.  It's definitely more graceful in the FW33, more angled across the top where the FW32 was rounded.  I'm sure some of that is due to the dark color preventing details from coming out, but not all.  The rear wing is different as well, with a notch taken out as opposed to the whole upper-rear corner (if you get what I'm talking about).  It's a bunch of subtle differences that, to me, add up to a chassis that's more pleasing to the eye... or maybe it's the livery, I dunno.

Speaking of liveries, it's time to bring out the best-damn-lookin' paintjob of the year.

Renault this season will be more correctly known as Lotus-Renault, for reasons that are much too confusing to get into here, and this livery is a tribute to the classic Lotus "John Player Special" livery used from 1972 to 1986... and my all-time favorite to boot.  It's certainly better than the bumblebee colors used last year.  And while the body seems pretty normal, there's something very clever going on with the R31... very clever indeed.

As you're all aware, the trick diffusers of the past two years have been outlawed.  No more double diffusers, no more blown diffusers where the exhaust gases flowed directly onto the diffuser, none of that is allowed now.  Of course, that removes a small (or not that small, perhaps) but measurable amount of downforce from the equation.  Now, look carefully at the rear end of the car, right around where the word "elf" is located.  That's roughly where the exhaust pipes should be, yet there are none visible.  Good reason for that: they aren't there.  In fact, there aren't ANY exhaust ports anywhere on the rear of the car.  Instead, Renault has trunked the exhaust to the bottom of the front of the sidepods... where they blow onto and underneath the floor of the chassis.  This introduces faster (and hotter!) airflow under the car, which in turn increases the downforce as it passes beneath the flat bottom, just like an airplane wing induces lift... except opposite, of course.  It's a brilliant idea, and one that Renault deserves to have pay off big.  Of course, there are potential problems here.  Extra cooling and insulation will be needed around the pipes, since F1 engines kick out exhaust gases at approximately 800°C.  Instead of going right out the back, now the piping is running around such things as the fuel tank, the radiators and the electronics... none of which play well with high heat.  Look for the chassis to perhaps have overheating problems in Bahrain, Malaysia and Abu Dhabi.  But it might just be worth it, considering how clever the idea is.

So that's it for the F1 MegaPr0n!  The real Lotus should be taking the track on Wednesday, and with any luck we'll get some good pics of that challenger.  Check back tomorrow!

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Snowmageddon 2011: 2/1, 310pm

The Anatidae Weather Service in Duckford, IL, has declared a Snowmageddon for Pond Central and the surrounding environs.  Expected from this Snowmageddon is 12-18 inches of snow.  Winds blowing from the north at 20 to 30 mph, with gusts of up to 45mph, will create blizzard conditions for much of the Snowmageddon area.  Thundersnow may occur, with increased snowfall rates of up to four inches per hour may happen during these storms, with near zero visibility.  Travel is greatly discouraged.  Duck U has closed for the day.  All night classes and evening events have been canceled.  As of yet, there has not been an announcement as to when it will reopen.

The above picture was taken at 310pm, Pond Central time.  We will update as events warrant.  This Snowmageddon is dangerous and potentially life-threatening if you're stupid enough to go out in it... so don't do it.

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