February 24, 2011

F1 Pr0n: Williams FW33 Livery

After the nuclear announcement of the cancellation of the Grand Prix of Bahrain, it's been kinda quiet around the F1 Circus.  Instead of traveling to Bahrain for the final test session, the teams were already at the new location for the test, Barcelona.  Other than Robert Kubica leaving intensive care and beginning his rehab, and the release of a new biography of Bernie Ecclestone,  there just hasn't been much going on.

Which is why I'm going to do a quick look at the newly revealed livery for Williams' 2011 challenger, the FW33.  As you may remember, the paintjob has remained the same for Williams for a few years, pretty much looking like this:

...and that's fine.  It's bland and conservative, but that fits Williams' institutional character to a T, at least recently.  Then, as usual, they began the offseason sessions in a testing livery:

I'll be honest, I really like that plain look.  Glossy dark blue with just a simple car number in a white circle?  Classic, give me more of that please.  But of course, testing liveries never last (anybody remember Force India's original paint job?  Baby, was that one good!) and we knew that this one would be no different.  So today Williams brought out the official livery for the FW33, and what do we get?

Well, it is different from the past few years, I'll give it that... just not particularly different.  Supposedly it's supposed to be paying tribute to the mid-90s livery, when the team was sponsored by Rothmans, and I guess I can see that.  I guess.  Sorta.  It's got stripes.

And the stripes have colors other than blue and white!  Cue the marching bands and parading elephants, a miracle has occurred.  But there's something missing... something important... oh yeah!  The name "WILLIAMS"... you'd think they'd want to have that somewhere on the car, wouldn't you?  Most of the other teams have their own name some place on the chassis; it seems weird for Williams not to.

Oh, there it is... sure, everybody'll see that.

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February 08, 2011

F1 Pr0n: miniMegaPr0n 2011

Two teams debuted their challengers today, and since neither of them were kind enough to provide me with the usual low-nose-side-front-quarter views of their steeds, I've decided to lump them both together in a sort of miniMegaPr0n.  So without further ado, let's take a look at the 2011 Force India!

Sort of a big, chunky kinda nose on this one.  Ferrari-style sidepod inlets, Lotus-style split intake above the driver's seat, Red Bull-style high nose, McLaren-style flat forward section... it's a Frankencar!

I kid, of course.  I'm sure nothing here is copied from other designs, it's just the way F1 cars look these days.  Is it just me, or is the very front of the underside of the nose... hollow?  Covered with a smoked-glass-like thing?  Like a sensor pod on a jet plane or something?  It's hard to tell, but it'd make for some hellacious camera shots if that's what's going on there!  Force India is talking seriously about contesting for fifth place in the constructor's championship in 2011.  If that happens, that'd be a huge step for the fourth-year team that's shown occasional flashes of brilliance.  For it to occur, Vijay Mallya will have to pour a lot of cash into the team over the course of the whole season.  If you remember, Force India started out quite strongly, but as the bigger teams developed their cars, they couldn't keep pace.  It'd be cool if they could... I'd love to have a team to root for again.  Also in passing it turns out that FI has decided on their driver lineup for 2011 but forgot to make a formal announcement: Adrian F'n Sutil and rookie Paul di Resta, with Nico Hulkenberg as reserve driver (for now).  Di Resta, a Scotsman, was the team's reserve driver last year and won the DTM championship as well.  So yeah, he's got that going for him, which is nice.

Onto last year's winner of the ugliest car of the year award, HRT!

HOT DAMN!  Now that's what a race car should look like!  Except for all the begging for sponsorships going on that is... "Your Logo Here"?  "This Could Be You"?  "This Is A Cool Spot"?  Guys, I understand how desperate you are for cash, but geez....  To be honest though, the checkered flag really should be replaced with a blue flag... truth in advertising, y'know?  Helluva nose on the HRT F111... actually, come to think of it, didn't the F-111 Aardvark have a droopy nose, too?  Throw in the movable (rear) wing, and I'm more and more amused by the comparison.  I wonder if it can do a dump-and-burn?

Darn it, I really want to see a nose-on picture of this beast now.  It'll be taking the track at the third test session in a few weeks, hopefully we'll get some good pics then, as opposed to these, which I'm almost positive are really good computer renderings.  I wonder what their cost schedule is for some of those sponsorship locations?  I might have to put up a tip jar, see about getting a rubber duckie on the car for a race.  Now that'd make it the single coolest livery of all time!  Still no idea who their second driver is going to be... "This could be you" takes on a whole different meaning all of a sudden.

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February 07, 2011

F1 Pr0n: Virgin MVR-02

It's time for the second of the "new" teams to debut their car!  Ladies and gentlemen, the Virgin MVR-02:

As with last year's car, this one was again designed and tested entirely in a computer, using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software.  No wind tunnels for these guys, no sir.  One could say that the CFD technique worked acceptably last year, though the team ended up dead last in the championship standings, behind even lowly HRT.  To be fair, that wasn't so much the fault of the car design as it was the innards... it seemed like every race, one or both of the cars were breaking down due to a hydraulic failure or the gearbox turning itself into a wide selection of Neutrals.  The chassis itself was fairly quick, all things considered.  However, last year the body was built by Dallara and reminded me of another Dallara product, the IndyCar chassis.  The needle-nose in particular stood out.  Well, this year the team is doing the building on their own, and the nose immediately leaps out as being different.  Much wider, though still lower than everybody else.

So the computers are suggesting that everybody else, with their high nose, is wrong.  The rest of the chassis is pretty conventional.  Nothing leaps out at you and says that Virgin is taking a risk here, though Nick Wirth, team technical director, says that they looked at using the Renault forward-facing exhaust.  They decided not to use it, mostly due to the costs involved. 

Y'know what?  This might just be a generic F1 car.  That's not a bad thing, by the way.  "Generic" is a huge step up from "Dead Last" like last year.  "Generic" is also a pretty solid strategy for a new team.  If you make radical changes all over the place, you might never figure out which ones work... and which don't.  Virgin is claiming that they'll be playing with the Toro Rossos and Saubers of the world this season... that'd be a heckuva improvement, and I wish them luck with that.  That'd mean they'd be consistent point scorers in 2011, quite the leap in one year.  It took Force India three years to get to that point, after all.  Well, we'll see soon enough.

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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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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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