Mercedes joins in with Formula 1’s latest rear wing trick
Mercedes and Alpha Tauri have become the latest teams to join in with a rear wing trick that is becoming more commonplace on the Formula 1 grid.
They have utilised a feature that connects the rear wing endplate and upper flap’s tip section differently in a bid to help manipulate airflow in this area of the car.
It is the result of teams clearly poking and prodding to try to reverse the impact of changes made by the FIA to reduce wake turbulence created by cars, which then improves their ability to follow one another more closely.
The FIA wanted to prevent, or at least reduce, some of the aerodynamic trickery that had ensued during the last few regulatory eras.
The reason being is that the vortex shed from this region is particularly potent, and teams had spent a huge amount of resources on tailoring its performance to both reduce drag and increase downforce.
But knowing how much performance can be leveraged from this region of the rear wing, and the knock-on effect that can have on other aspects of its design, the teams were never going to sit idly by and leave that lap time on the table.
This has resulted in numerous variations in terms of the design of the endplate, the tip section and the flap juncture, with the latest interpretation leading to the separation of the tip section from the endplate, with a metal support placed inboard of the outer surface curvature instead.
The idea first emerged at the Monaco Grand Prix, when it appeared simultaneously on the Alpine A523 and Aston Martin AMR23 - although both teams did it in a slightly different way.
In fact, you could argue that there are already two diverging development branches from the tree, with Aston Martin having created one branch that Mercedes has followed, whilst Alpine created another that AlphaTauri has followed.
In the case of Aston Martin and Mercedes, the approach still relies on a metal insert but it sits on the endplate’s shoulder and still creates more of a round section for the lower half of the tip section, whilst the upper half flares out and allows a larger rear cutout.
By comparison, the approach taken by Alpine and now AlphaTauri has the metal support sat further inboard and allows the tip section to become a flatter, horizontal extension of the upper flap. This not only increases the size of the rear cutout but also introduces another shedding surface into the mix too.
While it’s perhaps easier to conceptualise how the wing might operate in the closed position, there’s also the performance of DRS to consider and how this new design trend might alter its behaviour.
It will be interesting to see if any of the other teams decide to add this design concept into their arsenal in the second half of the season and which, if either, of the two variants is ultimately seen as the more effective.
Rear wing redesigns aside, Mercedes and Alpha Tauri both had a few more tricks up their sleeve in Hungary too.
For Mercedes, it introduced a revised front wing diveplane and front wishbone fairing. Both can be considered corrective surgery in order to optimise the new features that have been added to the W14 of late, with a new front suspension arrangement introduced at the Monaco Grand Prix that the team has since found further aerodynamic gains from.
The lead arm of the upper wishbone was relocated to a higher position on the chassis as part of that update package but the fairing has now been modified and a kink added that should better guide the airflow downstream.
Mercedes also updated its front wing endplate design at the British Grand Prix, with a curved leading edge and more outwardly angled profile employed.
To further enhance the new flow conditions that have been created by these changes, it introduced a new diveplane design at the Hungarian Grand Prix, which is shorter than its predecessor and more steeply angled.
Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri AT04
Photo by: Michael Potts / Motorsport Images
AlphaTauri raised the central section of its front wing and nose, whilst altering the spanwise load distribution of the flaps at the Hungarian Grand Prix, as it looked to improve the car’s balance and offer aerodynamic assistance downstream.
It added to this by making changes to the central section of the floor, a feature that’s squirrelled away out of view but has been a focal point for many of its rivals
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