Mclaren's New Nose? Looking at the 'experimental' Mugello Test
Racing Point aren't the only ones following in Mercedes' footsteps...
All the way back in Mugello (which now seems like ages ago, even though it was literally 2 races back) Mclaren trialled a new nose in Free Practice. This, apparently, was part of a 'wider package' that Mclaren are contemplating for 2021, and since they have to carry forward their 2020 cars into 2021 (as per the cost saving measures after the pandemic), they have to test out new parts sooner than previous years.
This comparison shows exactly what they're considering. In the new version, the slotted vanes (inboard of the front wing elements) are replaced by a 'cape'. This 'cape' (you can sort of see it further along, to the side of the nose swooping downwards) is a near flat piece of bodywork which essentially guides airflow from the crucial front end, mainly to the bargeboards. This was pioneered by Mercedes in 2017 when they first used the needle nose (the extra space by slimming the nose allowed this 'cape' bodywork).
Both cape and slotted vane design are there to enhance what's called the 'Y250 vortex', something which is actually quite simple. The rules say you cannot have any aerofoils inside 250mm of the nose cone, hence why there's a gap on the plane of the front wing. The transition between the front wings elements on the outside, and the region inside create spinning air, vortices, and they can be used to increase downforce.
These vortices then interact with the bargeboard to speed airflow being sent under and around the car, which improves aerodynamic efficiency.
It seems aerodynamicists have discovered that the turning effect of these vortices can begin earlier with cape, rather than the slotted iteration, and the earlier you can turn the flow the more gradual you can make it (which results in less drag) and the flow is less likely to detach (bad for downforce).
But switching to the cape design from a well-honed slotted design isn't simple, so a lot of research and development will come from Mclaren to try and figure out how to best use the design. That's why they've had to road-test it so early.
The bottom of the nose is also more rounded, like the Mercedes and the Renault, so yet again we have another team moving to a more Mercedes-like concept...