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Nicolas Carpentiers’ 2016 F1 technical review

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From Mercedes’ aero philosophy of segmentation to Red Bull’s interpretation of the bat-wing; from Toro Rosso’s unique rear wing design to Williams’ revised wheel hubs and Brembo’s hollowed out discs: Nicolas Carpentiers reviews the technical concepts that caught his expert eye during the 2016 Formula One season, while also looking ahead to next year’s radical regulation changes and what to expect from them.

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MERCEDES' WINNING PHILOSOPHY OF SEGMENTATION

With undercut sidepods and front wing arches all the rage in recent years, bargeboards have become smaller and more segmented. But Mercedes took the concept to a whole new level on its title-winning W07 car.

Instead of being a single part, the Silver Arrow’s bargeboards are made of five vanes (it was even a six-element setup at Silverstone) mounted on shorter, profiled winglets that are attached to the lower sidepods.

The bargeboards’ purpose is now to segment the airflow before re-energising it thanks to the small vortices generated by their sculptured outlines.

Meanwhile, the Mercedes front wing and its pronounced arches are in charge of fending off the turbulent air coming off the front wheels.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2017?

2017 technical regulations allow longer and higher vanes (per Articles 3.8.9 and 3.10.1). Will Brackley’s aerodynamicists have stuck to their current concept or will have they decided to chase turbulence away with longer deflectors instead of relying on the front wing?

Mercedes’ characteristic floor W evolved in Great Britain, and bore close similarities with Lotus’ 2013 design (even the winglet on the lower bargeboard was already there). Could it be that current Mercedes head of aerodynamics Mike Elliott, who joined the team from Enstone over the summer of 2012, brought the concept along?

There is a difference with the Lotus layout though: the Mercedes vanes are mounted on top of protruding elements that look like reversed knife blades, which help direct the airflow towards the floor.

Mercedes’ unique bargeboards highlight the aero philosophy of segmentation it has applied on many components across the W07’s bodywork: turning vanes, serrated front wing endplates and flaps, saw-tooth detail on the rear wing, etc.

All these parts are located in areas where vortices are created. While these prevent airflow separation, they also generate drag. With their wider tracks and tyres, next year’s cars will create more drag than their 2016 predecessors. Therefore, F1 aerodynamicists could be looking for ways to curb it across the car, which could spell the end of Mercedes’ segmentation philosophy.