Feature F1 Unlocked
TECH TUESDAY: Inside Haas's major upgrade and how it will help guide the development of next year's car
At this late stage of the season, and at the back of a long-haul triple header, it was not surprising that only one team had any sort of upgrade on its car in Brazil – and even that was just a minor change to the front wing flap of the Haas.
But at the beginning of that triple header sequence, in Austin, Haas presented its first major upgrade of the season. This was essentially a rebody of the VF-23, one which had involved substantial re-engineering of the car’s cooling system layout.
In this, the Haas reflected similar changes made elsewhere by bigger teams. Moving the radiators further up and back allows the sidepods to be reprofiled to give a more advantageous airflow. The sidepod is bulkier at the top to accommodate the newly-sited radiators. The volume this has created elsewhere has been used as follows:
- A greater undercut at the front of the sidepod, enhancing the power of the airflow which tumbles down there and along the floor edges.
- A greater downward ramp angle for the sidepod towards the back, accelerating the airflow making its way down to the gap between the rear wheels and diffuser.
- An enhanced ‘water slide’ gulley separating the bottom of the engine cover from the walls of the sidepod, helping to keep the airflow spilling from the radiator inlets from interfering with the flow along the floor edges.
The radiator inlets now have an enhanced lower lip, like those of the Red Bull. This is designed to better contain some of that air spillage, which occurs at high speed when no more air can be forced through the inlet.
As a generalisation these changes reflect those made up and down the grid in the search for more total downforce. They are not specifically addressed at the Haas’s propensity for excessive rear tyre degradation, a trait which has usually seen it race far less competitively than it qualifies.
But better controlling the aerodynamic platform of a car can be a valuable tool in reducing the stress put upon the tyres. The centre of aerodynamic pressure is the aerodynamic equivalent of the weight distribution.
It simply refers to how the aerodynamic load of the car is distributed between front and rear. When the car is braking, that centre of pressure moves forward.
When the braking is reduced and released, the centre of pressure moves back. This generation of car, deriving so much of its downforce from the underbody, has a centre of pressure quite far back, given that the lowest point of the floor is towards the back, just before the diffuser.
With the flat-bottom generation of car, the lowest point of the floor was its leading edge. Consequently, the centre of pressure is trying to move more with these cars as they are braked then unbraked.
This can create problems with the rear tyres, as the inconsistent loads upon them cause them to degrade faster. Improving the consistency of the airflow along the floor, and thus making it more robust, would help with reducing the load variation on the rear tyres.
If the airflow is not adequately controlled, it can be that some of the downforce generated when the car is pointed straight is lost when it is in yaw or when steering lock is applied. This too would tend to overwork the rear tyres.
Haas chief designer Andrea de Zordo commented after qualifying in Austin: “We have something that's performing a little bit better. But we know that we can develop a lot more the platform. So, all in all, even if we didn't expect a big step, I think what we are seeing is positive.”
On the evidence of Austin, Mexico and Brazil, the Haas’s underlying tyre degredation issue is still there, but those three races will have given the team a lot of data to help understand how the new car is performing. That, in turn, should be valuable input into next year’s Haas.