It’s not often that a modern Formula One car can be seen like this. Anyone who has visited an F1 car in a museum, at a motoring event or even a Grand Prix can attest to that. So, to be this up close and personal, with no pushing and shoving by people with selfie sticks or intervention by jobsworth security guards, is an absolute pleasure.
According to the caption, this is the 2018 Toro Rosso STR13, chassis no. 2, as driven by Pierre Gasly in the final Grand Prix of last season in Abu Dhabi. It is currently located in a Honda display showroom beside Exit 5 of Aoyama-Itchome Station, Tokyo, Japan. For racing game nerds, that’s on Tokyo Route 246, around 250 metres from the first turn of the fictional circuit in Gran Turismo. For visitors to this amazing city, I would highly recommend spending 30 minutes walking along this stretch of road. In that time, I counted over 25 supercars passing by and the whole street is lined with supercar dealerships.
Putting aside the touristy stuff for now, let’s take a look at the car. First, the external shots. Click on each image to see them in full resolution.
Now, let’s see some of the detail around the front end. It’s always been obvious that modern front wings are incredibly complex, even when the cars are seen at speed on TV. It’s difficult to count, but there are more than a dozen separate flaps and turning vanes on each side of the nose. From certain angles, you can see the how the airflow is purposely directed through ‘channels’, which funnel the air either towards the centre of the car, or over/away from the tyres (which I’m sure are the aerodynamicist’s least favourite parts of the car).
What tends to be less noticeable on TV is the complexity underneath the nose, particularly of the floor and the bargeboard area. It’s absolutely covered in little flaps, which presumably direct airflow underneath the car. As someone who knows almost nothing about aerodynamics, I don’t understand why these tiny winglets are angled sharply towards the ground instead of up in the sky, unless a) There’s further aero underneath the car (i.e. the rear diffuser) that would benefit from this air, or b) they are disposing of the excess dirty air that has rolled off the front wing. You may notice that the front suspension arms are shaped like aeroplane wings and are also directing the air downwards. Again, in my head, these would generate lift, but these seem more angled towards the floor, which as we know, is a vital source of downforce and is also covered in aero devices. Another small detail I had not noticed before are the two winglets on top of the monocoque, which is adorned with five small turning vanes, in a curved arrangement, with slightly different sized gaps between them. An incredible amount of detail.
Let’s now take a look at the cockpit and halo area. With the halo on top, the cockpit really looks quite inaccessible and it’s difficult to see into it. It doesn’t look ugly with the halo at all, though the halo does look incredibly bulky. Really, the most impressive part of the cockpit area is the steering wheel. Some of the machining done just to shape the gear lever, for example, is quite exquisite.
Around the rear of the car, it starts to get interesting. Rather than being a very simple flat floor, it has been formed with various channels and slots. Again, these seem to accumulate just in front of the rear wheel, so must serve some kind of function in redirecting airflow. While most of the suspension pickup points at the front end are immaculately hidden away inside the car and there are no real nuts and bolts to see, we finally see all that and more at the rear. Just check out the rod ends under the exhaust, the overflow pipes and the black electrical tape. The carbon fibre pieces covering the suspension arms seem a little untidy, even. Teams often talk in the off-season about ‘packaging’ and getting everything wrapped around the engine as tightly as possible. With the camera flash lighting up the inside of the rear bodywork, we can actually see what they mean by ‘packaging’. However, there is a lot more space than I expected in there than I expected. The last thing to note about this is how the top of the gearbox casing is rounded, providing the gases a smooth, uninterrupted exit off the rear of the car. There are even two little winglets either side of the gearbox just for that little extra bit of downforce.
Finally, a look at the rear wing and rear floor, where the aero devices don’t get any less ornate. The most interesting aspect of this area for me is seeing how the DRS opens and closes. It looks to be the simplest, most raw mechanical part of the car, if you imagine it’s just a piece of metal with a bolt and some washers on it, which moves up and down to lift and drop the wing flap.
So, there we have it. This is just one design that appeared in the 2018 season and it is a work of art. It’s neatly packaged, incredibly sophisticated, the product of several hundred geniuses. Yet, as a fan, I can’t help but wonder why all these extra aerodynamic parts are allowed when everyone knows these are the reason why the racing is so stale lately. We have already been in this situation twice before, most recently in around 2007/8 where the amount of winglets became insane and the racing wasn’t getting any better. 2009 was a big improvement on that when the FIA clamped down, but somehow these extra flaps have crept back in. 2019 is meant to be a repeat of 2009 in terms of getting rid of the problem, but I don’t see much difference going by the pictures from pre-season testing. We shall see…