After months of speculation the Formula 1 2017 season is finally gaining momentum, with team after team peeling off the covers on their new designs this week. The new Aerodynamic rules/specifications are in full effect: wider cars, delta style “hammerhead” front wings, bigger rear tyres, lower and wider rear wings. From these changes have sprung a multitude of other design tweaks, as teams seek to exploit aero effects and gain a foothold early in the season.
The most notable aero addition is the shark fin, which now appears on almost every car in some variation. The shark fin is a very divisive piece of engineering amongst fans, but as we know nothing on an F1 car is there for purely aesthetic reasons (Well, obviously the livery is!)
So without further ado, the cars of 2017!
Mercedes AMG F1 W08 EQ Power+
The defending champs return with their 2017 entry, a sleek silver black machine with plenty of gorgeous styling. From the above picture we can see the curvature of the front wing, and the extension of the nose to wing pylons, transforming them into vertical vanes that will help guide airflow past the nose. The front wing is now an even more complex array of vanes and strakes, generating more downforce whilst also guiding air up and over the front wheels. Per 2017 rules the rear wheels are now bigger than the front pair, generating more grip at the rear and stabilising cars through high speed corners.
The sidepod air intakes have been lifted and given a more angular entrance, separating them from the body floor and giving unused air another more defined channel to travel along the car.
The W08 has the most unobtrusive shark fin of all the cars, best described as a low dorsal sail that runs from behind the camera wing and terminates just in front of the rear wing. The most obvious change here is not the fin itself, but rather the “whale tail” T-bar winglet standing up just in front of the rear wing. Technical speculation online indicates that it may assist in controlling vortices coming off the rear wing.
The previous side on angle also shows the rake of the new rear wing. It’s been lowered and widened, and curves back in to tighten up airflow as it leaves the rear of the car.
With the Mercedes hybrid power unit approaching 1000 brake horse power the W08 appears to be the car to beat in 2017.
Red Bull RB13
Heralded by man as the car most likely to steal a win from the Mercedes in 2017, the RB13 was unveiled in Red Bulls traditionally secretive manner – not much was shown in the unveiling video, which came at the end of the week long smorgas-board of car reveals, and the team has only released two well-lit studio shots for folks to analyse.
Analyse we must. Many have been surprised at the somewhat sparse nature of the RB13 on its first showing, but anyone who’s followed the Red Bull team over the last decade knows that they’re notoriously secretive, almost to the point of paranoia, when it comes to disseminating info about their cars.
One commentator has already remarked the duct on the nose tip borders on the edge of rule-breaking, and Christian Horner gave an interview this week where he confirmed that Red Bull moved to have the re-introduction of shark fins blocked (unsuccessfully). Yet there it is, conspicuously devoid of sponsorship or any kind of aero tweaking, which has led to some in various comments to state that this initial version of the RB13 is a headfake.
The head-on shot provides even less insight – it’s too high to discern any valuable info about the new front wing, and the contrast of the image too murky to make out much detail beyond the front suspension.
What we can see is that the RB13 has no mini “whale tail” rear wing, as seen on the Mercedes and Ferrari (next up).
The RB13 is presented in the newer matte finish, which looks great, but also obscures insight.
The Scuderia were kind enough to present every studio shot of their new ride in an annoying desktop wallpaper format, replete with sponsors and logo. Information can still be gleaned, and one of the more intriguing design aspects are the horizontally squeezed side pods, a novel approach to maximising air intake and bodywork air flow. Further examination shows smaller ducts above the side pod intakes.
The shark fin on the Ferrari is presented in a clever fashion, with the Ferrari red of the main body curving down as it would sans fin, while the fin is adorned with the colours of the Italian flag. The profile of Ferrari’s rear wing is less aggressive than that of the Mercedes, but they have matched Mercedes ingenuity when it comes to the “whale tail” mini wing.
The mini wing is suspended from the very rear tip of the fin, and is so well camouflaged I missed it the first time I looked over this car. The front-on provides another take on those side pod inlets too.
Not everyone is a fan of McLaren reviving a slice of history via their 2017 livery, but I must confess it is starting to grow on me. Fans clamoured for McLaren to apply liberal daubs of their trademark orange hue, and they obliged. The orange has been selectively wrapped across a black base, adding more urgency to the overall aerodynamic look.
Design wise, the first thing to note is the gill like panels running up either side of the nose tip. With the FIA amending nose-to-wing pylon rules teams have begun exploring this space as a new avenue of aero control, and this is one of the bolder choices.
Much like the Mercedes the MCL32 sports very aggressive notching on its rear wing, and the orange helps to clearly define the horizontal gill slits cut into the leading corner of the vertical vane.
The black paint around the side pods thoroughly obscures any detail.
The front wing of the MCL32 is an intricate bow like piece, with gentler curves than some of the hammerhead designs on other cars. There are a whopping 7 horizontal plans at the thickest part of the wing, all guiding air through while keeping the nose glued to the track.
The new kids on the grid delivered a strong season in 2016, and their 2017 challenger looks like it’s ready to pick up where the VF-16 left off. The cockpit and engine area are covered in an almost industrial grey gloss, with the rear wing and nose picked out in red. Black seems to be the colour of obfuscation in 2017, and Haas have used it to mask the details of the lower body work and front wing.
The profile shot of the VF-17 shows the car has quite a small shark fin in terms of area. Where some teams have a wall all the way to the rear wing the Haas engineers a big notch, possibly to allow the two channels of air to mix before the contact the rear wing.
The head-on shot provides insight into the side pods, which look quite large still compared to some of the revisions in 2017. Haas have also mounted two canard-style winglets in front of the intakes for added aero stability.
Force India VJM10
I’m a bit cross with Force India, as they’ve failed to distribute any proper studio based shots giving us a clear look at the car. FI were one of the best of the rest in 2016, and one has to assume that they’ve continued on their trajectory of being a midfield leader.
What we can see is that there is (a) definitely a shark fin, although without any livery, and (b) no mini wing. The rest of the car is obscured by murky showroom lighting, so you’ll need to hunt down hi-res shots from the first test to get a sense of what it looks like.
Renault’s new ride comes wrapped in its newly minted Renault Sports livery, a brand wide concept for all their racing endeavours. Like some of the other entries on this list it’s presented in a rather gloomy studio style, with the details of the side pods and the front wing hidden in the shadows.
The profile shot shows things in a brighter light, and the very aggressive shark fin is the first thing you notice, followed by the stepped vertical vanes on either side pod. No mini wing for Renault, although that’s not to say it won’t appear before Melbourne.
The top-down shot shows the hammer head styling of the front wing, with vertical vanes clearly protruding from the back of the wing. This shot also gives a good comparison of the size increase of the rear wheels.
Toro Rosso STR12
Toro Rosso are another offender when it comes to not handing out the visual goodies. More pics have appeared of the STR12 at testing, but I prefer a good static shot with contrast to pick out the changes. Poring over the car zoomed in does reveal some nice surprises. There are the mini wings over the leading edge of the side pods, and the split intake of the air box above the driver’s head. What really tweaked my interest is the smaller saddle wing under the main rear wing, something which’ve I’ve not seen on any of the other cars.
Another poorly lit studio – clearly the teams have blown all their cash on the cars. The most immediate thing about the C36 is its livery, celebrating 25 years of Sauber racing with gold trim everywhere.
The Saubers’ shark fin is a very high cut affair, and they’ve clearly spent their time getting the notches and slits cut into the rear vertical vanes on the wing. The car looks quite clean in profile, with a lot of the sponsorship facing up rather than out.
The front on shot demonstrates a lot of restraint on the engineers behalf, with only three levels rising above the main plane of the front wing. The side pods appear quite pedestrian from front on, probably Sauber playing it safe and seeing what happens with other more experimental designs.
Last, and possibly least, Williams gave us a gloomy cg rendering of their FW40. Despite this there is quite a bit to be seen, from the vanes supporting the air box. The actual FW40 has a proper shark fin, complete with Ferrari style mini wing hanging from the end of it.
Front on the FW40 has quite a swooping appearance, but once again poor lighting hides anything major.
So there you have it folks – shark fins are in, along with installing trick wings anywhere you think you can get away with it.
The first test has already passed, with Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull at the front, but we won’t get a real feeling for the pecking order until Friday the 24th of March in Melbourne.