From tweaked headrests to new floors: Chinese F1’s comprehensive updates

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From tweaked headrests to new floors: Chinese F1’s comprehensive updates


However, with the fight so intense within the F1 field this year, everyone also knows that small gains can make a big difference in the hierarchy.

That’s why several teams brought new parts to Shanghai, with Alpine and Haas making fairly significant updates, while Mercedes, Williams and RB all made small changes to their cars.

With only one free practice session available to the teams, any changes seen in China had to work virtually off the beaten track, although the new parc ferme rules allowed for some adjustments in the settings between the sprint and qualifying.

Cockpit area adjustments

The Mercedes trio, Williams and RB have all made changes to a similar area on their cars, adjusting or adding halo fairings or, in RB’s case, adjusting the shape of the headrest.

These changes will not provide significant performance benefits, but will help eliminate inefficiencies that may have been present previously.

RB VCARB01 Cockpit Frame Comparison

Photo: Giorgio Piola

Among the changes, those made to VCARB 01 are by far the most interesting, as the team raised and reshaped the portion of the headrest behind the pilot’s helmet.

The headrest is now much higher than before, as it is more in line with the back of the driver’s helmet, rather than a few centimeters below (see box).

As a result, the body section behind the headrest and under the airbox and cowling has also been revised, so that everything moves smoothly rearwards.

Additionally, where a single spar was previously fitted between the two sections, there is now a pair of shorter spars in its place.

Haas launches into the update

Haas has chosen to introduce a series of new parts at the Chinese Grand Prix in a bid to capitalize on its strong start to the season and with the intention of standing out from those hot on its heels.

It is clear that the VF-24 is a more complete challenger than its predecessor, and it is therefore not surprising that the updates that have arrived are not completely new in concept but simply build on the foundations already posed.

Technical detail of the Haas VF-24

Technical detail of the Haas VF-24

Photo: Giorgio Piola

Technical detail of the Haas VF-24

Technical detail of the Haas VF-24

Photo: Giorgio Piola

This starts with the floor fences, as they are realigned to locally improve airflow behavior and to tie the improvement to changes to the front corner of the floor.

So changes to fences are not just limited to how they connect to the leading edge of the floor, but also how they snake back and where they peak at the edge of the floor.

From here the changes saw the floor edge and edge wing also modified, with a more generous step now present on the scrolled section of the edge wing, which also allowed the team to optimize the strakes that are connected to its surface. .

Haas VF-24 Mirror Comparison

Haas VF-24 Mirror Comparison

Photo: Giorgio Piola

A new set of mirrors was also part of the update package, with the main body re-profiled to improve its aerodynamic efficiency.

The overall shape of the new mirror body is not radically different from its predecessor (inset), but rather it has been lengthened to reduce its height. This is a small change but will reduce turbulence created by the mirror body and improve flow to the sidepod and engine cover body downstream.

As for the engine cover, Haas has made two changes here, both relating to how heat is rejected by the powertrain and its ancillaries and how this affects the car’s aerodynamic efficiency.

The first is a change in the height of the louvers in the panel on the side of the engine cover, as they are now taller, allowing the team to use fewer of them now (main image).

Meanwhile, at the rear of the car, the size of the main outlet of the engine cover has been reduced, which also affects how the airflow moves over the shoulder of the engine cover and descends into the coke bottle region.

Haas VF-24 Rear Cooling Outlet Comparison

Haas VF-24 Rear Cooling Outlet Comparison

Photo by: uncredited

Alpine accelerates its changes

In terms of updates, Alpine was only able to provide its new components to one rider, because the updates had been rushed before their original arrival date and there were not enough spare parts for everyone.

In this regard, Esteban Ocon had a first glimpse of the car’s performance with the new floor, floor barriers, side wing and modified diffuser side wall, since his A524 was equipped with the new parts.

The changes are designed to influence each other, with each modification a link in a larger chain that the team hopes will not only add more load, but also better balance as a result.

Alpine A524 ground fence comparison

Alpine A524 ground fence comparison

Photo: Giorgio Piola

The first link in this chain are the floor fences, with the interior fence of the four being the highest priority in terms of modification on this occasion.

Now, rather than being between the frame and the second guide, the innermost guide sits below the frame line, changing its behavior in relation to the frame and the leading edge of the floor.

If this changes the airflow interaction with the fence at the front of the floor, it will also cause a change in behavior downstream as well, since the fence will no doubt have undergone significant surgery along its entire length.

There are also clear signs that the interface of the floor and chassis has been modified to accommodate these modifications, meaning that there would also have been no question of simply removing the old floor and fit the new one, which is likely another reason why the team chose to apply the updates to just one car in China.

Alpine A524 floor comparison

Alpine A524 floor comparison

Photo by: uncredited

The forward portion of the edge wing appears largely unchanged at this point, but the floor edge camber and edge wing have been adjusted around the twisted center section.

The rear edge wing section is no longer simply tapered to match the geometry of the floor, as it slopes around the corner and forms a horizontal fin in the space formed by a new cutout.

This is something of a throwback for Alpine, as the A523 featured a similar cutout (inset), with a spoiler protruding from an underfloor mounting point, although the team now has found a way to combine both elements, with one less. metal support deployed over the entire length of the edge wing.

This arrangement results in a higher tire cracking deck in front of the rear tire, with these surfaces used to help mitigate some of the detrimental aerodynamic effects created in the region between the diffuser sidewall and the rear tire.

Alpine A524 front fender comparison (modifications highlighted)

Alpine A524 front fender comparison (modifications highlighted)

Photo: Giorgio Piola

The arrival of a new floor for Alpine follows the introduction of a new front wing in Japan, as the team looks to take advantage of the change in downstream flow field.

The new front wing features a solution we’ve seen others like throughout this set of regulations, with a semi-detached flap and endplate arrangement.

In this configuration, the flaps are positioned away from the surface of the end plate, which has a separate vertical edge to the airflow to create a more intense swirl structure that will help generate flow through and around the front tire.

At the same time, the shape of the flaps was also modified across their entire span in order to better manage the conditioning ratio between support and flow.

This is most visible on the top pane, with a very different trailing edge shape (see dotted lines), while a change in the frequency and placement of the metal supports between each element shows how the loads changed across and between the elements. .

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