Technical Analysis – Grand Prix – Australia – Friday 16 March 2007
Two horizontal fins (red arrow) have been added in Melbourne, midway up the side of the chassis. Shaped almost like an Arabian sword, the fins split the airflow coming out from the front wing, diverting it towards the sidepods inlets and, to an extent, the bargeboards. More fins (green arrow) have been placed inside the inner shields of the front wheel beneath the brake cooling ducts. Slightly curved, these help to reduce the turbulence generated in this area by the wheels’ rotation, providing more aerodynamic stability.
Last season, Ferrari adopted shields to cover the rear wheel rims. These additions meant the mechanics could only access the wheels with their wheel guns through a small central hole. To improve the timing and precision of this operation, the F2007 has been fitted with a wheel nut extension, which enables the mechanics to fit the wheel gun onto the nut more easily. This modification has already improved the timings of the team’s pit stops.
The rear view mirrors on this car are housed in the uppermost section of the front sidepod winglets. During winter testing, rival teams trialling similar solutions complained about the mirror flexing too much when the car was in motion. Hence before Australia, Renault decided to adopt an additional pillar on each side (red arrow) to increase the stiffness of the assembly and hence reduce flexing under load.
Since the last Bahrain test session, two winglets have been added to the side of the front section of the chassis. Last season similar additions were used by Renault in a few races. These elements don’t noticeably increase the downforce, instead they act as turning vanes, splitting the airflow directed towards the cockpit. They work in conjunction with the horn wings placed behind the cockpit and raise the quality of the airflow directed to the rear end of the car, hence improving overall aero efficiency.
This latest rear wing sports a double-sculpted main profile (lower arrow), with a much smaller flap that decreases in section at its extremities (upper arrow). The effect is raised rear downforce, without a noticeable increase in drag. This improves the car’s overall aero balance, providing better handling, especially in the transition from fast to twisty sections of track. The engine cover is also slightly revised, its narrow ‘shark fin’ profile enhanced still further by a narrowing of the cover’s base.
Not a revolutionary change, recalling a similar solution adopted last season, but interesting in that now both the side of the vertical shield and the winglet elements feature two open slits, which help raise the air pressure in this area. They also assist in diverting airflow towards the outer edges of the car, reducing the turbulence generated by the rotation of the rear wheels.
This series of changes is part of the aero package introduced at the recent Bahrain tests. They were developed to up aero efficiency while also assuring adequate engine cooling. The winglets (1) behind and connected to the chimneys now sport a single, rather than a double element, reducing drag. The cooling slits (2) are now asymmetrical in their layout, with the right sidepod featuring one less slit than the left. This will, of course, vary from race to race. Also asymmetrical is the positioning of the exhausts (3), with the one on the right slightly further forward than that on the left.
Nose-cone camera position
This is a small but important change for 2007. The camera housing is now placed on the top corner of the nose cone, where it acts as a proper winglet, diverting airflow around the front suspension’s upper wishbone. Previously it was in the middle of the vertical side of the nose cone, where its position reduced the aero efficiency of the car’s front end by affecting the airflow exiting off the front wing.
This engine displayed some worrying reliability problems right from the very start of last winter’s early testing sessions. In fact, for much of January McLaren were obliged to run the MP4-21 in a hybrid configuration, using a modified version of the older V10. By the first race in Bahrain, the inner weaknesses of the V8 had seemingly been solved, but over the course of the season this proved not to be the case. As with the Toyota, the McLaren’s problems weren’t only engine related, but the need for several pre-race engine changes combined with a string of retirements helped prevent the team scoring a victory in 2006.
A controversial engine in many ways. In previous seasons the engine has always been a strong point of the Toyota package, but this year it wasn’t always so. The TF106 had weaknesses in several areas and the engine was certainly among them. It reportedly lacked top-end power, usually running lower revs than its rivals. The engine block, on the other hand, was one of the lightest – a potential advantage in terms of performance, but a potential risk in terms of reliability. This should not be considered a mistake on the part of engine designer Luca Marmorini, rather a reflection of his compliance with requests from Mike Gascoyne’s chassis department to give them more freedom with weight distribution.
Designed by Gilles Simon under the supervision of Paolo Martinelli, this engine was conceived as a reliable starting point not just for the 2006 season, but also for 2007. It may have lost two cylinders, but the new V8 was no lighter than its V10 predecessor, as Ferrari focussed on strengthening the inner mass of the engine to reduce the risk of possible weaknesses – even though in many ways the vibrations generated by a V8 are less disruptive than those of a V10. It represented a cautious start to the season, as Ferrari concentrated on issues with other parts of the car. However, they pushed hard on engine development later in the year, clearly increasing the revs, as well as paring away some of the weight. It didn’t go entirely to plan, with Schumacher’s engine failure at Suzuka costing him the race – and arguably the title.
With the 2006 introduction of the 2.4 litre V8 rule, this engine was built from scratch, with its development then phased into three steps over the season. The aim was to start with a solid foundation and then gradually raise the revs. Specific figures for peak power and revs were not revealed, but the P86 was certainly very capable of high rpm. By the end of the year was generally considered the third most powerful engine, just behind Renault and Ferrari. The 20,000 rpm barrier was certainly broken, the optimum probably closer to 21,000.
The RS26 was the jewel in the Renault’s crown. The basis for its design included all the things that were good about its V10 predecessor, the RS25, meaning the team weren’t really starting from scratch, even if they were losing two cylinders. The concept was a reliable, fuel efficient engine, that wouldn’t need to rev extraordinarily highly in order to be competitive. But Renault did have to modify its intended development path slightly, pushing things on towards the end of the season as Ferrari got closer and closer. They seemingly pushed too far at Monza, where Fernando Alonso’s unit failed, and the team reined things in slightly for China and Japan – just by enough to avoid reliability problems and hence beat Ferrari.
Honda’s 2005 engine was one of the most powerful on the grid. That looked to have changed with their 2006 V8, which early in the season displayed lacklustre performance, with a definite lack of torque and acceleration. However, as is tradition with the Japanese maker, the engine was developed at each race, increasing maximum revs in search of top-end power while maintaining a wide rev range. It may not have been as light as the Toyota block, but the RA806E was still believed to weigh in at under 94 kilogrammes with its ancillaries. In the second half of the season, this, combined with a noticeable increase in power and refinements in the RA106’s aerodynamics, helped make the Honda far more competitive.