March 08, 2009

The New Noses

As we're all aware, F1 has some new aerodynamic rules that have, for the most part, made the cars look pretty much alike.  While doing the "F1 Pr0n" series of posts, though, I've noticed that there's one place that the teams have been showing a surprising amount of individuality.

That's the nose, and particularly how the front wing is mounted to the pointy end of the car.  There seem to be three main schools of thought on how the wing should be attached under the new rules, and we'll take a close look at them in a second. 

First, however, let's take a look at how the nose of a F1 car has been designed over the past three seasons:

 The 2006 Ferrari nose came with an extra element slung beneath the wing, but had a simple short mounting.

The 2007 SuperAguri nose had a fairly complex, medium-length mounting system, and of course a raised bridge-style wing.

The 2008 BMW nose had a short length mounting, and a very convoluted wing.

Now onto the 2009 noses!

As I mentioned, there seem to be three base concepts behind nose mounts this season, which I'll call long, short, and intermediate.  Surprisingly, the teams appear to be divided over which style is better; nine cars have debuted (the last is scheduled for Monday, March 9th), and each style has the same number of adherents.

First, the long style:

Force India


Red Bull
All three mountings are thin, almost spindly, mounted to a high nose.  Each team, though, has taken a different route as to placement, however.  Red Bull's attaches straight to the underside of the nose with a visible offset from the edges.  Toyota's curves to the edges of the nose, and Force India mounts theirs straight to the sides.

The intermediate style:



Ferrari's mounting has a gentle bend with a slight offset inwards to the nose cone.  BMW, on the other hand, mounts straight to the side.  McLaren, on the other hand, nearly takes a right-angle turn at the top as they mount to the narrow nose.  Ferrari's nose is also narrow, with a substantial droop, while BMW has a wider nose with a less obvious swoop.

The short style:



Brawn Racing
Brawn has a severe droop to their nose, with a simple inset mounting for their wing.  Williams is similar, but with a more gradual droop.  Renault is the oddball of the entire field, however, with a broad, almost blunt, nose with only a slight droop.  It's also fairly high, but with a weird angle to the underside that allows a short mounting for the wing.  In a way, it reminds me of the inverted gull wing used by the F4U Corsair as a method of shortening its landing gear struts.

So what does it all mean?  To be frank, I haven't the slightest idea.  If I had to guess, I'd say the intermediate style is most likely to be the best.  It may be no coincidence that the top three teams in the Constructor's Championship (Ferrari, McLaren, BMW) are using it. 

If you go by the eye test ("If it looks good, it is good"), though, I'd go with Brawn Racing's nose.  It looks clean and simple, which probably means it's the least likely to be any good; that's how F1 works sometimes.  Conversely, Renault's truck nose is, without a doubt, the ugliest of the bunch, and thereby should be awful.

However, nobody really knows, which is the beauty of all of this... we won't know until they get on the track. Three weeks and counting...

Posted by: Wonderduck at 09:34 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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What's the purpose of the front wing? It's hard for me to judge good/bad if I don't know what they're trying to accomplish.

As a guess, the purpose is to control airflow over the front tires in order to minimize turbulence and drag. Is that it?

Alternatively, the purpose is to produce down-force so that the front tires have better traction for steering.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at March 08, 2009 11:20 PM (+rSRq)

2 Downforce is the primary reason for the front wing, Steven.  Anything in the way of airflow control is an extra benefit (and one that I'm sure they design for), but keeping the front tires stuck to the ground is the main goal.

A F1 car without the front (or rear) wing can still be driven, but it becomes very difficult to steer, and impossible to steer at higher speeds.  It's no surprise that when Honda went to Bonneville a few years ago to run their car up to 400kph, they had taken off as much front wing as they could (and replaced the rear wing with a tailfin)... they needed little drag and just enough downforce to keep the wheels on the ground.  Of course, on the salt flats you don't need to turn.

At a place like Monaco, though, they crank on the wing for as much downforce as they can get.  It's a slow track, so the drag caused by the wings doesn't affect the top speed much, and it lets the car hold onto the street like a cat on a shag carpet.

Posted by: Wonderduck at March 08, 2009 11:39 PM (tMdKd)

3 If anything should remind you about F-4U, it's McLaren. Remember that F-4U received a lot of benefit from wings meeting the fuselage at the right angle, which is exactly what McLaren's bent mounts are for.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at March 09, 2009 06:37 AM (/ppBw)


Good analysis of the nose types.  I think I prefer the Brawn nose for the highly technical reason that it looks nicer.  Red Bull, for instance, looks like it's attached with paper clips, although that may have been the angle of the picture or the lighting or something.

Looking forward to race day!


Posted by: Mallory at March 10, 2009 06:47 AM (3sife)

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