What Makes RB8 Faster – Flexi Front Wing

I’ve mentioned in a previous post on McLaren Spa Updates that McLaren is possibly using Flexi front wing. The flexi part is not new to F1 cars – Red Bull used it back in 2010, other teams tried on this principle as well although not all of them achieved preferable results.

How it works?

Basically, at moderate speed, the front wing runs at a relatively high angle of attack, maximizing downforce generated. At high speeds (long straights), the outer part of the wing tilts pack, reducing AoA, therefore reducing both downforce and drag (Although Research on Honda 2007 shows that there is scarce decrease in drag, although downforce deduction is noticeable). The shedding of downforce promotes better aero balance of the car – as what Mercedes want to achieve with their FW DDRS system. Flexi front wing also helps guiding the air around the wheel inward underneath the car, subsequently enhancing diffuser performance.

While Adrian Newey highlighted the loss of downforce due to ban of EBD as their major problem this year, the Flexi front wing should be one of the compensation they found.

In this December’s Racecar Engineering there is an interesting article regarding the composites used for flexi front wing. Basically, teams are using FEA (Finite Element Analysis) to evaluate material deformation under loading – they’re seeking for an optimised aerodynamics design that could meet all the FIA crash test requirements.

Picture from RaceCar Engineering

Front wing flexing back as shown in the green curve

As illustrated in the picture above, flexi wing can have less bending deformation and more twisting/tilting at the rear of the wing.

What about RB8 Flexi Front Wing?

RB8’s new front package is actually quite unique – in additioin to the wing flexing, they seem to have a rubber nose that can deform/tilt under loading. This pitstop from Vettle in Abu Dhabi caused lots of discussion as the mechanicseem to flex the nose when removing it.

However Vettle’s front wing was slightly damaged at that point, which may exagerate the nose tilting observed. Another GIF from Webber during the race does show quite large oscillation of the front wing as it goes through kerbs.

 Webber’s front wing oscillating in Abu Dhabi

Generally speaking, RB8 now has a really flexible front package – the tip of nosecone can bend downwards, also the outer section of front wing tilts back at high-speed.

Besides the benefit of downforce reduction and airflow enhancement around/underneath the car, Red Bull’s rubber nosecone may also create a mass damper effect, whereby car bounce is deducted, enhancing chasis stability.

The mass damper effect is well demonstrated in the video below, as can be seen, with a mass damper extended out, bumping on the main structure is significantly reduced.

The mass damper idea is not new to F1 – used by Renault back in 2005, although it’s later banned by FIA in 2007 (More to read if you’re interested in mass damper effect: J-dampers in Formula One). However, Red Bull’s Flexi front wing is an innovative idea extending this principal. The improvement of chasis stability also supports more stable aerodynamic performance for RB8.

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What Makes RB8 Faster – DDRS

In the last few races, Red Bull came back to the dominate position again nearly as the situation in previous 2 seasons. It’s not due to a development of one single miracle part, but rather the whole aerodynamics pakage – DDRS, Flexi front wing and nosecone, modifidied exhaust profile etc. I’ll look into the DDRS first in this post and hopefully continue this series in coming posts.

After Mercedes’ Front wing DDRS and Lotus’ passive DRD, Red bull’s introduced their DDRS, kind of inspired by both systems. As the name DDRS suggests, it’s activated by DRS, the same as the Mercedes system. However, it’s fully equiped in the rear wing assembly same as the Lotus system.

RB8 now has a small hole on each side of the endplates, which is covered by a oversized plate attached to the rear wing main plane when DRS is not activated. When DRS is in operation, the rear wing tilts and exposes the holes, allowing air to pass through and guided out underneath the beam wing to stall it.

rb8-ddrs
Source: Sutton Images

Red Bull DDRS inlet – notice the hole exposed as the covering plate tilts

As mentioned, Red Bull’s DDRS is fully compact in the  rear wing assembly. The duct curve is slightly shown in some close shots on their endplates.

Red Bull RB8 ddrs

Red Bull DDRS – Duct curve on endplates?

There’s possibly two outlets under the beam wing – one in the middle and the other near trailing edge, although the exact part it stalls – either the centre of beam wing or wing tips – is still ambiguous. ScarbsF1 inclines to the wing tip stall idea as he sees small impact on stalling the middle section (Analysis: Red Bull DDRS). Major media however believe that it’s the centre part that stalls although there’s no clear picture showing the existence of these holes. techF1Les came up with three posible conficurations with the last one mostly proved by actual observation.

Red Bull DDRS possible outlets position

I personally agrees with the wing tip stall argument since I’ve not noticed any clear picture showing the central part outlets. Some arguments regarding the central part stall working in coherence with diffuser does look interesting, although more evidence is needed for that.

I was a bit surprised as Red Bull introduced this system near the end of the season, while it’s going to be banned next year. However, they’ve somehow showed it’s worth investigating by continuing strong performance recently. This system has definitely given Red Bull a better qualifying performance and top speed boost during the race.