F1: 2018 TECHNICAL RULES AND TRENDS

Every year the technical and sporting regulations change for the F1 teams. This is year is no exception, there are a multitude of changes, mostly these are small detail changes, but there’s also some headline items like the halo, shark fin, engine use and oil burning. But compared to the major changes of last year this year is not a step change in the car’s tech. Along with the rule changes this is a chance for the teams to reset, to change the ideas of last year and adopt new or plagiarise rival’s ideas. In this article EVERYTHING TECHNICAL looks at what’s not changing, what new rules there are and what are teams likely to do to get around them.

WHAT’S NOT CHANGED

After massive changes to the size and shape of the car and their aero bodywork, this year largely follows the same rules. Things the like the shark fin and T-wing have been edited out, but other things the thumb-toip[ noses raced by the majority of cars remain in place. Likewise, the basic engine and gearbox rules remain the same, with the 1.6l V6 direct injected single turbo combustion engine, aided by two hybrid systems. One Kinetic (ERS-K) energy recovery system with a 160hp power output and 2mj recovery limit, then the second system (ERS-H) that takes kinetic energy from the turbo that has no energy recovery limit. Meanwhile the gearbox still has eight speeds (plus reverse) with the individual ratios and final drive gearing fixed for the season.

MAJOR RULE CHANGES

HALO

Much of the talk over the launches, testing and first races will be the Halo. The scope of this article is to explain the rules around the HALO, not to justify or criticise it, please respect this is the comments section. In simple terms the HALO falls under the FIA idea of frontal cockpit protection, to safeguard the driver’s head from debris, other cars and trackside objects. Initially an idea from an engineer within Mercedes F1, although a Mercedes idea per sé, its development has since been taken on by the FIA safety division the Global Institute of Motorsport Safety (GIMS). Its formed of a hoop passing around the cockpit opening supported at the front by a gusseted pillar. Its shape has evolved through testing by GIMS and in cooperation with the teams. The Mk3 HALO is in the rules and is mandatory for all teams in F1. Its use will be rolled out to other single seater categories as they change rules and\or chassis supplier.

The HALO structure is fabricated from Grade5 titanium, the main hoop being approx 50mm dia tube with 4mm wall thickness. It bolts to the cockpit sides with three fasteners and a pin fastens it to a chassis top mounting at the front. To protect the driver from the HALO itself crushing, there is an extremely stringent load test, greater even than that of the roll hoop itself. Two tests are performed with a HALO fitted to the tub, one top down test with downward and rearward forces applied, the resulting effect is a 125KN force, this has been rated by Mercedes AMG F1 as equivalent the of a London Routemaster bus (12.75 tonnes) or by my calculation 17 F1 cars. The offset test is even tougher, this also places a combined force of 125kn onto the side of the HALO, this will try to literally twist the HALO off the chassis, which is especially tough for the rear mountings. Through all of these tests the chassis and HALO must not fail, so even if the roll hoop may have been compromised in a huge accident the HALO should still be there to protect the driver. In testing these loads will be really pushing the limit of what the tub can withstand, having seen footage of the FIA roll hoop test, the entire tub ad hoop is twisting from the load. With even greater loads applied to the HALO and tub, the effect must be quite scary.

Made by a limited number of FIA licensed suppliers the HALO cannot be made by the teams, it is manufactured to an incredibly tight tolerance of just 50microns between its mounting points. Although the HALO weights about 9kgs as supplied to the teams, the fixings and reinforcements in the chassis will add more weight, although the minimum weight limit has not increased by the same amount for this year. So, teams will need to find weight saving across the car and driver for 2018. This weight being quite high up affect centre of gravity, which is a sensitive factor for lap time, but as all teams are equally affected there is no real impact as regards the competition.

Another factor for the HALO is aero, if used undressed when fitted to the car, the roll hoop inlet and rear wing would suffer. The general airflow over the driver is the upwash from the front wing, this would hit the HALO and then be diverted away from the roll hoop inlet. This is why testing with the HALO was restricted, as cars soon overheat from the lack of cooling airflow into the radiators fed by the roll hoop. However, the teams are allowed a fairing around the HALO, these bodywork rules are vague, simply saying that the fairing can be no more than 20mm from the HALO, so there may be more complexity and clever shaped ideas around the HALO, than perhaps intended. Already, in testing we saw teams run boomerang shaped winglets over the HALO, to redirect the airflow back down towards the roll hoop inlet. Also, the general shaping will try to help the car’s aero to turn the upwash downwards to help the rear wing. While these HALO add-ons will be highly visible and most likely very closely scrutinised by the media and fans, they will not be a primary performance factor. Several ideas will emerge and by mid-season we can expect everyone will have found a solution they’re happy with. Although the wooly regulation wording may mean there is scope to create shape or ducting to direct airflow to places we hadn’t expected.

One benefit from the HALO fairing might be that the driver gets a more comfortable ride. Normally the air rushes over the driver’s helmet creating lift, this pulls the helmet up and the strap cuts into the driver’s chin. With the HALO the airflow is disrupted and should reduce the lift, but there may be unexpected turbulence to offset this gain.

In order to mount the HALO at the front, the FIA High Speed Safety Camera HSSC that used to be mounted to the chassis top in front of the driver has been repositioned. Now the camera sits higher passing through a channel made into the front gusset of the HALO and points down towards the driver. This may be a better position than even the old chassis top location, as the camera has an unobstructed view of the driver’s helmet. This camera is used for post-accident analysis by the FIA and GIMS to understand how the driver’s head moves in an accident. There were images posted by the FIA after Alonso’s 2016 Melbourne accident, that show how effective this camera can be for analysis.

Development of Frontal Cockpit protection continues with the FIA and GIMS, the HALO is not the final solution for F1 nor for every category. There is still development of screens such as the Indycar screen the shield. As well as hybrid structures such as the Red Bull AeroScreen, which had an underlying HALO-like structure in carbon. Or, other ideas perhaps a lighter HALO structure with frontal screen.

MORE INFO

SHARK FIN T-WING

Although rules for Shark fins have been in place for many years, despite the post post-2010 F-Duct ban affecting the shark fin design, there was initially fan and media surprise that the 2017 cars ran shark fins to the fullest extent allowed within the rules. The bigger surprise was that the Technical regulations missed an area ahead of the rear wing to allow the T-wings. After much debate the FIA and teams agreed to remove the shark fin and T-Wing for at least 2018. Now the shark fin is trimmed back to near pre-2016 size, with an exclusion area ahead of the rear wing in side elevation.

For teams this loss will affect cornering stability and performance, initially the shark fin is simply a rudder to create a side force to keep the rear end from excessive yaw in turns. However, the long top edge of the shark fin produces another effect also useful in turns. In yaw the rear wing suffers with poor airflow on its inside span, as the upper structure of the car obstructs airflow towards that half of the wingspan. Teams find the vortex spilling off the top edge actually directs airflow to the less effective wing section to keep it working even in yaw. Although this effect is felt most at high downforce circuits.

Along with the loss in downforce with the T-wing, the car should be less stable into turns, but I understand the remaining fin allowed within the rules still provides some two thirds of the stabilising effect. Teams will want to make the shark fin space available a thin as possible, rather than having it housing bulbous ductwork towards rear mounted radiators.

The loss of the top T-Wings simply reduces the global aero efficiency of the car. As the T-Wing is quite an efficient wing, producing downforce with reasonable amounts of drag and little downstream disturbance to the rear aero. So, losing the T-Wing means the teams will run more top rear wing to meet the same downforce target, this having a bigger drag penalty than the more efficient T-Wing.

Although the loophole area for the upper T-Wing is now closed, but there remains space for a lower T-Wing, similar to the lower wing run by Williams last year. But in this lower position it will not be used as a pure downforce device, as with the upper device, rather being used as a downwash generator to make the diffuser, monkey seat and top rear wing work more effectively. Also as the space remaining free for the Lower T-Wing is so small teams may struggle to fit more than one or two aero profiles into the space, so the complex six-element T-Wing designs seen last year won’t reappear low down.

MONKEY SEAT

One unexpected victim of rule changes this year is the Monkey seat, these are the little winglets mounted below the top rear wing. More technically known as the Y100 winglet (due to their 100mm width from the car’s centreline), the reason for the ‘Monkey’ term is less clear, but I believed it was something to do with vintage cars and the extra seat behind the cabin for occasional passengers. These winglets do produce downforce, but are largely used as an airflow device to keep the upwash created between the diffuser and rear wing flowing. This helps keeps the airflow attached to the wings undersurface and prevents separation, especially at high wing levels. This common use at high downforce circuit creates the misunderstanding that they are downforce producers, but really its as the steep high downforce top rear wings needs the monkey seat’s upwash to keep the airflow connected. Since 2014 the Y100 winglet has been restricted from being in the direct path of the exhaust tailpipes, but still teams use the exhaust plume’s energy to provide some added upwash effect to the rear aero. This is useful, but not to the extent of the blow diffuser of a few years ago.

For 2018 Monkey seats aren’t ‘banned’, as that’s neither how the rules work or are worded. Instead a larger area is excluded behind the exhaust tailpipes, the thinking appears to be to reduce this blown effect. However, you can still add a monkey seat directly under the top rear wing and below the exhaust around the rear impact structure. This will still have some airflow use but will be far less affected by the exhaust plume.

STEERING EFFECT ON RIDE HEIGHT

Over the winter another Technical Directive (TD) was sent from the FIA Technical department on Suspension. This time last year, a similar principal was being outlawed. Since the active suspension ban of 1994, the FIA has sought to prevent suspension being overtly used for aero control. This year’s TD cover ride height change with steering movement, already F1 cars run KPI hat provides some change in ride height with steer, but this isn’t the issue. Instead its the pushrod mounting and how it moves with steering that’s called into question. All teams mount the front pushrod, not on the lower wishbone, but on the upright. This practice has existed for over ten years, known as Pushrod On Upright (POU), the pushrod mounting is offset from the steering axis, such that with steer there is a movement in the pushrod that create a lateral weight transfer. As the outer upright steers through a turn, the pushrod moves nearer the car and vice versa for the inner upright, this anti roll effect is tunable and teams can shim the pushrod mounting to get the set up they desire.

However, in 2017 with more complex hydraulic or collapsible anti roll bar links being banned by the previous winter’s TD, teams looked more closed at the POU geometry. The issue they face is this, the designers want a steeply raked car, to get the front wing closer to the ground and the floor/diffuser further from it, as this is a key means to create more downforce. But to get this to work you must have close control of ride height, especially at the front where the splitter and plank are effectively limiting how low you can go. As the car compressed with aero load at high speed, then the front end further compresses under braking, just before the driver releases the brakes and turns-in to the corner, the ride height is at the perfect attitude for downforce. But as the brakes come off the pitching effect of the weight transfer under braking is lost and the front suspension wants to extend to increase ride height. This suddenly moves the aero away from the sweet spot and just as the driver want to turn-in there’s a balance shift in the downforce. Ideally the teams want something to reduce front ride height as the driver steers into the turn, with a different POU geometry this can be achieved.

Rather than arrange the POU geometry to move the outer pushrod mounting inwards and the inner pushrod mounting outwards with steer, the mounts are aligned with the axle line. In frontal view with conventional POU both of the pushrod mounts move the same way as the steering. With this ride height lowering POU, both mounts move away from the body with steer, this reduces ride height, although the antiroll weight transfer effect is lost. To get the ride height change effect the offset of pushrod mounting to the steering axis must be much larger.

McLaren were seen as early in the season at Austria to be racing with this long ride height effecting POU set up. The offset being nearer 100mm than 10-20mm. Ferrari (in Belgium) and Red Bull (in Mexico) both tried this geometry, neither appeared to have raced this geometry.

Now the FIA will scrutineer the cars with a further test, that measures ride height change with steering. This should prevent mechanical means such as POU from creating the ride height benefit. But, there may still be means within the rules that allow heave and roll stiffness to vary with hydraulic means. No doubt more arguments about suspension and aero legality will brew up over the year.

TYRE RANGE SOFTENED AND EXPANDED

Pirelli have produced a new range of tyres for this season, after being somewhat conservative with the compound choice for the supposedly faster 2017 cars. Now the tyre range is expanded with a new Hyper Soft and Super Hard, while generally the compounds are a step softer relative to last year.

This should make the cars some 0.5-1s faster per lap and lessen the likelihood of one stop races.

WEIGHT

As mentioned above the minimum weight, is reduced for the cars\drivers for this year. Despite a 10-12kg penalty for the HALO installation, this puts pressures on the teams to hit the minimum weight. It hardly needs to be said, but weight is an incredibly sensitive factor for performance. All the teams will want to run at the minimum 733kg limit and with their preferred front to rear weight distribution, with in the limits of the regulations (Minimum 333kg Front – 393kg rear). I’ve heard about suppliers such as seat belt and brake calipers are being for incremental savings in their products.

THREE ENGINE RULE

Part of the 2014 Power Unit (PU) regulations included a roadmap to reduce development and number of PUs as the years progressed. While the development restrictions and the token scheme were discarded, 2017 will see another reduction in PU elements. The FIA define the Power Unit as five items; ICE-V6 combustion engine, T-Turbo, ES-Energy Store (Battery), MGUK-Kinetic Motor\Generator, MGUH- Heat Motor\Generator and CE-Control electronics for the Hybrid systems. Last season each car entry gets four of each element, the use of more than four of any element inflicts a 5-position grid penalty at the race the extra element was introduced at. This also caps development as the team should only get four changes to bring an updated element to a race (assuming 100% reliability).

For 2018 the four element rule is taken a step further, now the driver gets three of everything except the battery and control electronics, which tend to be longer lasting and more reliable, so there’s only two of them per season.

Furthermore, the teams with poor PU reliability in 2017 that needed to change multiple PU elements, sometime several times over a weekend, were being given penalties amounting to huge grid position drops. Now the rules set out a stepped grid penalty system that can be easily understood. If one additional PU element is used there’s a ten position grid penalty. For the second additional PU element is used at the same event the driver gets a total fifteen position grid drop for the two parts. Any further additional elements used thereafter at the event is simply a ‘back of the grid’ penalty.

If the team change driver, the new driver simply gets the PU allocation the previous driver had been using. If a team change PU supplier midseason, as I see it, the new PU will be a complete set of new PU elements within the driver’s season allocation. So, should any team regret their PU choice there will inevitably be grid penalties for changing.

With these limits on PU elements, we can expect some drivers\teams making strategic choice to replace elements and suffer the grid penalty, as its going to be a hard task for SOME PU manufacturers to be reliable enough to last the season on the 3/2 elements available.

OIL BURNING

A big story throughout 2017 and one that was a game of cat-and-mouse between the teams and with the FIA. Its evident that oil mist from the crankcase was being directed into the engines airbox to allow additives into the combustion process. These additives being legal in oil, but not in petrol. Thus, the oil being burnt wasn’t used as fuel, rather combustion and anti-knock additives were allowing the engine to burn fuel more efficiently. This particularly being the case in qualifying when oil burning was believed to be worth over 20hp. Both Ferrari and Mercedes were implicated in this trick, but Renault and Honda weren’t believed to be involved.

The method being used was the vent from the crankcase was fed into the airbox, the rules allowing a valve to alter the crankcase pressure. Thus, ECU maps could be set up to allow larger amounts of oil to be passed up into the airbox for combustion.

Now engine gasses need to vent out the rear of the car, the breather must be behind the rear axle line and low down.

Now the breather or any other fluid must not exit into the airbox, but exit through a breather pipe exiting at the back of the car. No other substances are allowed into the airbox, aside from ambient and homologated fuel. At a stroke this prevents the bypass valve trick from allowing oil to be burnt in this way. However, the return of drivers with oiled visors from following other cars with oil blowing from the breather pipe, will return! Additionally, the FIA will monitor oil consumption levels to be sure blow-by past the piston\valve isn’t a means to suck oil up into the combustion chamber, while oil formulation will come under greater scrutiny.

For Ferrari and Mercedes this will be a performance hit, while Ferrari struggled to gain as much as Mercedes from the oil burn trick, I suspect Mercedes qualifying engine performance will continue to be a factor 2018, as not all the gain will have been coming from oil.

OTHER RULE CHANGES

THREE WHEEL TETHERS

Now each suspension upright must be held on by three tethers rather than two. Each tether must have unique mounting and pass through different suspension legs. This should further mitigate any loose wheels after accidents.

WHEELNUTS

Along with wheels being retained to the car by tethers, the wheel nut locking mechanism is also revised. Now the dual stage retention mechanisms must be stronger to prevent a loose wheelnut allowing the wheel to come off. Teams will need to present the FIA data with test data that proves the nut is retained with a 15kN pull on the wheel and resist a 250Nm torque trying to remove the nut from the thread.

BIO METRIC GLOVE

Every driver will now wear gloves with a sensor pad in the finger. This will monitor the drivers heart and oxygen rate, the data being recorded wireless on the cars Safety Data Recorder and available real-time to the FIA medics. This will allow the rescue teams to ascertain the urgency in extracting a driver from an incident. For instance, where a car is buried under a tyre barrier, knowing the driver’s signs are healthy means that removing the car is not a priority and a slower safer removal of the tyres should be used.

MORE INFO

ERS CE UNDER TANK

Although Hybrid systems have been used in F1 since 2009, only the 2014 PU rules enforced the battery being mounted inside the survival cell to protect it during crashes. Red Bull used to place the batteries in and around the gearbox, as a better packaging solution to placing them under the fuel tank. For 2018 the electrical CE-Control Electronics (Inverters) must now also be placed under the fuel tank area, for crash protection. Coincidentally, the only team still placing them under the radiators in the sidepods is Red Bull. Again, they trade the location for aero performance, as the sidepod location frees up fuel tank volume, allowing the engine to be moved forward in the chassis for a better aero shape to the car.

For clarity the under-the-fuel-tank location is not literally under the fuel tank itself. Instead the rear of the survival cell (monocoque) is moulded to to create a recess under the fuel tank. The battery and control electronics sit sunder this and false floor seals them in. The fuel tank then sits inside the enclosed structure of the survival cell.

FUEL FLOW SENSOR

After the debacle at Melbourne 2014 when the Red Bull Renault of Danny Ricciardo was excluded for exceeding the new fuel flow rate. It transpires the Total fuel was not working properly with the new sensors, since this was resolved the contactless sensor has been barely discussed in the media. These sensors are contactless, they sense the fuel flow in order to enforce the fuel flow limit introduced back in 2014 with the new efficiency PUs.

Now the Sentronics unit has been homologated as the exclusive sensor for for 2018/2019, all team

s must run with this sensor. There isn’t expected to be an issue, after lessons learnt in 2014, but there always scope for some controversy.

OTHER SENSORS

Along with the fuel flow sensor, the FIA now enforce homologated sensors for the power unit. All PU temperature and pressure sensors (for any fluid, fuel. oil, coolant, air etc) must come from agreed suppliers. It’s probably not surprising for F1 but the engine water-coolant temperature\sensor, of which there are several in the car, cost over £1250 each!

PLENUM TEMPERATURE

Along with agreed sensors, the temperature of the air entering the plenum is to be monitored and kept over a specific relative temperature. The plenum is the pressurised chamber above the engine that feeds the charge air compressed by the turbo into the inlet tracts. As the turbo compressor pressurises the air from the airbox (at ambient temperature) the air becomes hot, every team use an intercooler to lower the charge air temperature before it enters the plenum. Lower temperature charge air increases power as its denser and more oxygen can therefore enter the combustion chamber. While there’s also a cooling benefit with cooler charge air. Now the charge air in the plenum must be over ten degrees above ambient temperature (announced by the FIA before the session).

This sounds like a reasonable request, in fact the target temperature shouldn’t be an issue for the teams with intercoolers limited in efficiency in reducing the hot charge air to somewhere mid-way towards ambient temperature before entering the plenum. So, the explicit mention suggests that other means beyond air-to-air or air-to-water intercoolers is possible. While cooling the air entering the airbox is banned, a better intercooler solution might aid performance, even if for short periods such as qualifying, race starts or high-power-modes in the race. This could be simply dry ice packed intercoolers, low-temperature or evaporative sprays applied external to the intercooler or perhaps more extreme solutions like closed loop nitrogen cooling. This latter being almost like a refridgerator for intercoolers or even Hybrid MGUs and the like. Whatever the possible means this appears to be circumvented by the +10 temperature rule.

FOOT POSITION

With the pressure on teams to get the ideal weight distribution and also to obtain the desired wheelbase, there could be as pressure to push the drivers feet forwards relative to the front bulkhead. Although the feet must already be behind the front axle line, now a clearer definition of foot position relative to the front A-A bulkhead (which the nose cone attaches to) is defined. So for 2018 the pedal faces must rest 300mm behind the bulkhead and behind the front axle line.

MONOCOQUE CROSS SECTION

Since the rules that gave us stepped noses 2012 tried to tidy up the front of the chassis cross section and height, now more rules fully define the shape of the area of chassis from the front bulkhead to the dash bulkhead at the the cockpit opening. Both are specified in height and width, but teams could curve the chassis cross section such that its narrow as possible at the nose bulkhead and only widens before the dash bulkhead. Now there must be a linear change in section between the two points, to maximise the area inside the chassis for the driver’s legs.

lane B-B to 25mm at the plane A-A.

Other small detail changes affect the front top of the chassis, where the high tub slopes to meet the nose cone. It’s now clarified that nothing structural can sit above this slope.

Also, no overly large holes are allowed in the tub for wiring etc and the anti-intrusion Xylon panel along the front of the monocoque is revised in its detail.

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Comments (16)
  • Very interesting, thank you for that Craig.

    9 months ago
    1 Bump
  • Great read Craig! Really enjoyed that in depth bit of know-how, cheers

    9 months ago

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