Archive for the ‘Cars’ Category

Chinese F1 car made from scrap

April 14th, 2009 No comments

With the Chinese Grand Prix just days away, here is a video of a Chinese Formula One car made entirely from scrap metal.  According to Jalopnik, this is the fourth of these replicas built by the Zhao brothers and it is capable of hitting 100mph.  Whether you would want to drive something made from scrap while sitting on a folding chair at 100mph on the streets of China is debatable but you have to admit the end result looks pretty damn cool.  Some might say it even looks better than some of the new 2009 F1 cars.

The video shows the adjustable rear wing and extensive ‘wind tunnel’ testing of the chassis.  A number of ‘things’ are also highlighted with red circles but as my Chinese is non-existent I have no idea what they are.

Bernie Ecclestone has had a lot of criticism over his efforts to take Formula One to new markets in Asia and the Middle East but I think it’s pretty clear from this video that there are at least four guys in China who will be watching the race on Sunday.

Categories: Cars Tags: ,

Teams’ fancy diffusers are legal (for now)

March 26th, 2009 No comments

Toyota's diffuser after an engine failureThe controversial diffusers on the Brawn GP, Williams and Toyota cars have been declared legal by race stewards after a formal protest was lodged by Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault.  BMW had also planned to join the protest but didn’t get their complaint submitted in time.

This means there will be 20 cars on the grid for Sunday’s race in Melbourne but it is not the end of the story.  As soon as the verdict was announced the protesting teams said they would lodge an appeal against the stewards’ decision and the way these things work means this will not be heard at the FIA International Court of Appeal until after the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Frank Williams, whose car is one of those under complaint, thinks the Brawn BGP 001 could win the Australian Grand Prix:

It is no accident that their new car is absurdly superior – they are making the rest of us look like amateurs. In Australia they will disappear on the basis of what we have seen in testing. I just hope we can be up there, too.

Ross Brawn has always said his car was legal and thinks those who are protesting are just mad because they didn’t spot the loophole themselves:

The accusations are coming from teams who did not come up with the idea and now they are getting angry.  For anyone who has read the rules it was quite obvious. Ferrari have only woken up because someone has driven faster than them.

I think it’s a shame that the teams have chosen to appeal the decision as it means that should Brawn GP score points or even a podium on Sunday the result will be uncertain until the teams’ complaint is heard in court. We don’t need another situation like Spa last year when Lewis Hamilton’s win was taken away after the race had finished.

Formula One has a long history of teams finding and exploiting loopholes in the rulebook and I don’t think these three teams should be punished for doing just that.  The other thing to bear in mind is that Ross Brawn is the chairman of the FOTA Technical Working Group so you would assume he has a pretty good understanding of the rules.

It will be interesting to see, now that the stewards have declared it legal, if McLaren or any other teams fit a new diffuser to their car for Saturday.  McLaren might feel that if they don’t have a chance at points anyway they won’t have much to lose.

It’s all about the aero

March 16th, 2009 No comments

McLaren MP4-24 in testingMark Hughes has written an interesting piece on the ITV F1 website about the problems McLaren have been having with their new car.

McLaren won the 2008 Drivers’ Championship and were among the favourites going into the 2009 season after early testing.  But recently the Woking squad have been falling further and further behind the other teams and drivers Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen have been lapping a couple of seconds off the pace.  After much speculation team boss Martin Whitmarsh confirmed McLaren weren’t sandbagging and those lap times were the best they could do.

But how could such a beautiful car be so slow?  And how could something with a nose like the Renault be faster?  It all comes down to the black art of aerodynamics.  While McLaren have banks of supercomputers running CFD analysis and a state of the art wind tunnel back in Woking, all it takes is one little disturbance in the airflow to effectively “switch off” a perfectly good aero part.

McLaren’s problems highlight the importance of aerodynamics in Formula One.  With no development allowed on engines, aerodynamics is where most of an F1 car’s speed can be won or lost.  Take the Brawn GP BGP 001; it has the same engine as the McLaren, but better aero and Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello have been putting in some scorching lap times.

The good news for McLaren fans, according to Hughes, is that once the McLaren engineers find the problem it should be pretty straightforward to fix.  The question is can they find the problem before they give away too many points?

In other aerodynamic developments, the Brawn GP diffuser’s legality has been called into question along with the Toyota and Williams.  According to Cologne newspaper Express, the BGP 001 design links the floor with the diffuser in a sneaky (and illegal) way to generate more downforce.  The FIA have already inspected the Toyota and Wiliams cars and found them, in their opinion, legal.  As Max Mosley says:

The current FIA view is that Williams and Toyota have been clever and found a loophole in the rules. It’s probably wrong, but they’ve exploited the wording of the rules in a clever way.

But because of the way these things work, the teams have to wait until Melbourne if they want to lodge an official protest.

And finally, Williams have decided to remove the cockpit-mounted ‘skate fins’ that appeared on their car in testing.  It seems like FIA technical delegate Charlie Whiting didn’t like the safety implications of two massive spikes on either side of the driver’s head and I can’t say I disagree.  They did look kind of cool though.

Red Bull bring back the shark fin

March 10th, 2009 No comments

RB5 shark finLast month, when Williams introduced their radical ‘skate fins’ I wondered why Adrian Newey, the man who introduced shark fins to Formula One, decided to shrink the engine cover on the new Red Bull RB5 to little more than a ‘stingray barb’.

Well, it seems like he was just teasing us as Red Bull have arrived at the Circuit de Catalunya with the mother of all shark fins.  As you can see in the picture, the engine cover of the RB5 now stretches all the way back to the rear wing!  There’s a closer view at

The 2009 race season hasn’t even started and already the teams are seeing what kind of crazy stuff they can fit around the new aero regulations.  McLaren have installed a completely new floor with cutout sections near the rear wheels and whether the FIA will allow Williams to keep the skate fins remains to be seen.

I don’t really mind the standard shark fin and even those skate fins are ok but I think the Red Bull’s new engine cover spoils an otherwise good looking car.

Toro Rosso launch STR4 (Pictures)

March 9th, 2009 No comments

Toro Rosso STR4I like a press release with swear words in it. In the “rather impressive press kit” accompanying Toro Rosso’s launch of their new car they reveal that Red Bull’s motives for taking over the Minardi team in 2005 were that they “just liked pissing people off by buying a second team.”  Nice.  STR have their own unique style.

What is not so unique is their 2009 F1 car, the STR4, which was rolled out at the Circuit de Catalunya just outside Barcelona on Monday morning.  At first glance it looks like a carbon copy of the RB5 and, indeed, it uses the same Adrian Newey designed chassis as the  Red Bull car.  But acording to Toro Rosso’s Technical Director, Giorgio Ascanelli, the STR4 is not just a rebadged RB5:

It’s a common misconception that before the start of the season a big truck turns up in Faenza from Milton Keynes, its back door folds down and, hey presto, a fully-built Toro Rosso car rolls out. In fact, Scuderia Toro Rosso has far more control over its technical destiny, right from the design stage through to construction.

I guess most of the differences are under the skin though because it’s going to be hard to tell these two cars apart on the track.  Replacing the Red Bull’s Renault engine with Ferrari power caused a lot of redesign of the internal plumbing as Ascanelli explains:

Different engines have different heat rejection and different operating temperatures, with materials specified to different levels. Also, the tolerances, which you have to respect when building an engine, are tuned in such a way that an engine works at its best within a defined temperature range. This in itself conditions the radiators and also all of the internal aerodynamics. That then impacts on the aero side and this work is also done in Faenza.

All of this in-house design work will be good preparation for the team.  Next year, the Toro Rosso customer car exemption will run out and the team will have to design and build their own car from scratch.

Pictures of the new car below:

Categories: Cars Tags: , ,