Car desings show how teams have manipulated FIA regulations again

While Formula One’s latest decision to ban monkey seats and change regulations with regards to exhausts for 2018 was supposed to stop teams from taking any advantage of blowing wings with exhaust gases, the latest car designs have shown that teams have still looked to keep hold of performance gains to be had in this area.

It was easy to observe that the Renault, McLaren, Mercedes and Williams all seem to suggest that designers are doing all they can to exploit exhaust blowing, and it could prove to be a fascinating development race between them all in 2018.

For a number of years, teams have been using exhaust gases to drive aerodynamic performance and FIA has tried its level best to clamp down on this, but teams have still somehow always managed to find a loophole.

Although the excesses that we witnessed at the end of the V8 era – when teams were blowing diffusers with ever more complex engine modes – were finally sorted, it is an area that teams have still worked hard on in the turbo hybrid era.

In the 2014 regulations, which tied into the introduction of the current power units, FIA mandated the use of a single main outlet along the car’s centreline. Since then, this has been joined by two wastegate pipes in order to improve the sound emitted.

Designers have still remained focused on improving the aerodynamic profile of the car, and have leveraged the exhaust gases being emitted to help drive airflow over the rearward structures.

While the monkey seat winglets helped in this without question, but a lot of concerns about a massive spending war in this area made it important to implement some key changes to deter teams from using a new push on exhaust blowing.

The tailpipes exit must now be located 50mm further rearward, while bodywork, such as monkey seat winglets, can no longer be used in the central section of the car at a point more than 20mm forward of the tailpipe.

While this has led to some rigidity in one avenue of car design, F1’s first pre-season test has made it clear that teams are already working on alternative solutions to help maintain the gains.

One may argue that Renault has taken the most aggressive approach. The French manufacturer has placed the wastegate exhausts directly beneath the main one in a double barrel configuration.

To add to that, it has also angled up the tailpipes to what is the maximum tolerance of 5-degrees to help better direct the exhaust blow.

Interestingly, the rear wing’s main plane is devoid of its usual painted finish in order that it doesn’t get burnt by the exhaust.

It seems obvious that the team had a close eye on what was going on in this area too, as it has placed several temperature strips here to get some feedback on how hot things were getting.

Following a trend that was started by Mercedes and Ferrari last year, Renault has also added a duck bill winglet on the trailing edge of the crash structure in order to try to upwash the airflow.

But these winglets are not exclusive to Renault, with a number of cars sporting them this term.

This most interesting use, though, is perhasp the new Williams challenger. In its case, it’s a mini winglet hung from a small swan-neck support bracket.

While the monkey seat concept may be binned, teams have still sought to find an alternative to it.

McLaren has mounted a very simplistic single-element appendage ahead and above its exhaust, which, like the works team, is also angled upwards.

Reigning champions Mercedes have also focused on this aspect, placing winglets either side of the rear wing support pillar, although its version is furnished with endplates to define the flow too.

Will this lead to a further change in regulations from FIA? Only time will tell…

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