Analysis: McLaren, Renault adopt fairings

Although much of the focus for onlookers at this week's final Formula One test of the year in Jerez is on new drivers, a closer look at the action shows just as much effort by the teams has been placed on important new parts aimed at 2008

Several teams brought development parts for track evaluation, and one of the more interesting avenues being looked it as the adoption of front wheel fairings.

During the 2007 season, Ferrari and Toyota raced with these parts, while Williams were also seen testing their own versions in late season testing. Now, however, both McLaren and Renault have joined the ranks of teams trying them out.

The fairings streamline the front wheel and remain static while the wheel turns. Although some could view them as illegal 'moveable aerodynamic devices', they are allowed because their position means they are deemed part of the brake duct.

Their true function, though, is much more complex, as Pascal Vasselon of Toyota told

"You are playing with the front wheel wake, it's not only a drag reduction item," he said. "It's not just something that you put on the car."

A Formula One car's open wheel creates a lot of drag, lift and turbulence. Teams have been working with CFD to understand how the air flows around a spinning wheel, and these fairings are one solution to tackle the problem of open wheels.

The fairing on the front wheels calms the unsteady wake created by the wheel and this aids the flow along the rest of the car.

Only three teams were able to get a grip on the impact of the fairings during the 2007 season and run them. With changes needed to aero and front uprights, it was no easy matter getting from concept to track.

Williams, for example, had to make a big push to get their version on track. The team's technical director Sam Michael said: "You can imagine it's a bit complicated to keep something still while everything around it is moving.

"We had problems with it before we could take it to a race. So we had a revised design at Barcelona (testing last month)."

As the teams are now running versions of their 2008 suspension on 2007 cars, the changes to the front upright can be made. This is why so many teams are now likely to adopt the fairings.

McLaren ran their revised front uprights and wheel nuts, but as yet the actual fairing has yet to appear. Renault's version features a much deeper inset wheel nut than those of rival teams.

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