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Alpine and Williams pursue Mercedes-inspired F1 front wing idea

Alpine and Williams in Japan simultaneously made a switch to the semi-detached front wing flap and endplate solution that Mercedes first unleashed in Formula 1.

Williams FW46 new end plate

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

Giorgio Piola is the preeminent Formula 1 technical journalist. Born in Genoa, Italy, Giorgio has covered the F1 World Championship since 1969, producing thousands of illustrations that have been reproduced in the world’s most prestigious motor racing publications.

The design centres around how the flaps connect to the endplate and how that can be used to amplify the outwash effect that’s being generated.

This is something that the regulations for this newer generation of cars was supposed to limit, in order to improve wheel-to-wheel racing by means of reducing the overall wake output of the cars.

However, knowing the value of generating outwash from the front wing and the role it can play in improving performance downstream, teams have inevitably looked for a means to recover any losses.

Mercedes was the first to propose a similar solution in 2022, albeit in a slightly different guise. It still had the intention of opening the lowermost rear corner of the endplate to help generate outwash though.

Owing to subsequent changes in the regulations to prevent this trait for 2023, Mercedes pursued the semi-detached design solution instead, which has since spawned a number of similar arrangements up and down the grid.

Rival teams likely saw the potential and sought ways to optimise it - either by adapting their current layout or by making further alterations to the wing’s overall design in order to reap the rewards on offer, not only at source but also downstream.

In order to achieve this, the lowermost rear portion of the endplate is cut away completely and the flap's tips are displaced from the endplate’s Y axis.

This aerodynamic confluence is further enhanced by the twist that’s invoked on the vertical portion of the flap, as each tip creates its own vortex structure that influences the larger aerodynamic structure being generated.

These flow structures are further optimised in some cases by the introduction of horizontal winglets that are mounted on the inner face of the endplate, above the flaps. Williams has added its above the final element on its front wing.

Meanwhile, the shape of the endplate (red arrow), the position and type of diveplane, plus the shape and position of the spars that connect the flaps and endplate and the shape of the flap transition also play an important role in the betterment of the main flow structures emanating from this region. These are often adjusted in concert with a change to semi-detached flaps.

In Williams' instance, this has resulted in the team changing the design of its diveplane entirely, with the novel wedge-shaped solution (inset, main image) making way for a more conventional S-shaped variant.

For Alpine, it has forsaken the addition of any winglets above the flaps but has opted for the semi-detachment of the upper three elements, rather than the upper two elements in the case of Williams.

Meanwhile, the overall architecture of the front wing has been modified in accordance with the introduction of its semi-detached flap solution, with the shape and function of the flaps being altered significantly, as can be seen with the dotted line on the trailing edge of the upper flaps.

Furthermore, the load structure of the elements has also been changed, which can be seen by how the slot gap separator brackets have been repositioned around the assembly.

The four brackets connecting the mainplane and secondary element have been reduced from four to two, whilst an extra bracket has now been added between elements two and three.

Aston Martin pushes on

Aston Martin had already made changes to the AMR24’s front wing in Australia, as it looked to dial in the car’s performance window.

It added to this in Japan with adjustments being made to the floor, edge wing and diffuser, which all tie in together to improve the flow field beneath the car.

This has been achieved with alterations made to the leading edge of the floor and the floor fences attached to it, whilst the contours of the floor’s edge have been adjusted in tandem with changes made to the edge wing.

In this respect, a twist has been added to the edge wing aft of the scrolled and straked section (blue arrow), whilst a tapering tail now converges with the rear section of the floor, rather than working its way under the floor via a cutout, which has also been deleted (see inset for comparison with the old specification).

As a consequence of these upstream alterations, the shape of the diffuser was also amended to take advantage of the new flow conditions it receives.

Meanwhile, the AMR24’s sidepod bodywork has also been tweaked, with a swage line now traversing the front upper corner and working along the bodywork’s flank (red arrows), as the team returns to a design concept first adopted in 2022, when it moved to the downwash ramp-style solution before abandoning it to concentrate on its deep gulley arrangement.

The combination of these two solutions has also been paired with some adjustments to the sidepod’s midline cut, with the belly raised a little when compared with the previous specification.

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