Mercedes and Ferrari: The development war

Chinese GP Saturday 11/04/15

While F1 teams are not scheduled to introduce their next major aerodynamic upgrades before Barcelona, the increasingly competitive battle between Mercedes and Ferrari drove both frontrunners to bring new evolutions to their cars as early as last weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.

The Silver Arrows were sporting a new front wing at Shanghai, although the assembly had already been spotted in free practice in Malaysia. Its outer sections clearly stand out from the previous installation – which was heavily based on last year’s design – and now features more pronounced, square-shaped arches (see the yellow outline above). This creates a kind of funnel that sits right in front of the tyres and has been made with a view to generating more downforce and diverting the airflow towards the outside of the tyres.


The six-element funnel creates powerful vortices, which in turn push away the dirty wake coming off the rotating front tyres. Such vortices had decreased in intensity due to last year’s technical regulations requiring narrower front wings. In order to recover part of the lost energy, Mercedes has clearly overhauled its front wing design philosophy (compare the two pictures below). Meanwhile, rivals Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren have elected to go down another development path and use the blown front wheel hub concept as a means to divert the front tyres’ dirty air.

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