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Explaining the aero innovation teams are COPYING from Mercedes

Explaining the aero innovation teams are COPYING from Mercedes

F1 News

Explaining the aero innovation teams are COPYING from Mercedes

Explaining the aero innovation teams are COPYING from Mercedes
Shubham Sangodkar

The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 W14 hasn't yet provided the jump in performance over 2022's W13 that many, notably Lewis Hamilton, were looking for.

That being said, there are still some pieces of innovation on the 2023 edition Mercedes that other teams have been eyeing up. Specifically, the downwashing suspension patch/fairing which Alfa Romeo have already made their own copy of.

So, what actually is a downwashing suspension fairing? Why do teams want to downwash the upwashing air from the front wing? What do those sentences even mean?

Let's unpack it for you.

'What's upwash?' 'Not much, what's upwash with you?'

How a front wing creates downforce is a fascinating aerodynamic process in its own right, but for the purpose of understanding this, the main thing you need to know is that producing downforce from the front wing changes the direction of the momentum of air.

As the air flows over the wing, the air gets pushed upwards - and that act of pushing the air up is what aerodynamicists call 'upwash'.

The amount of upwash being produced by the front wing is proportional to the load being generated - that is to say, the more your front wing is turning the flow of the air, the more upwash.

The load on the front wing across the wingspan gives a 'spanwise upwash distribution', i.e. how much air is being turned at each spanwise section.

That spanwise upwash distribution coming from the front wing is key, because it communicates with the suspension fairings.

Suspension bridge (not that kind)

The suspension acts as a kind of bridge to the air coming from the front wing and going towards the floor.

From an aerodynamic design point of view, there are two things we want to do with the airflow coming from the front wing.

The first thing is to ensure there is minimal to no separation on the suspension arms, because that's a major factor in the quality of airflow to the mid-rear area of the car.

The second, if possible, is to make the suspension arms interact with the front wing upwash in order to turn that flow of air and create downwash. That redirects the air toward the leading edge of the floor (that is to say the floor of the car, not the race track itself).

What's happening is a little more subtle than simply redirecting air into the floor (although yes, it does that) as the process of downwashing the air using the suspension increases the Angle of Attack, or AoA, on the leading edge of the floor. That, in turn, creates increased suction and provides increased downforce and better floor strake vortices - the main vortex which governs floor performance.

Effect of the W14 suspension fairings

What the suspension fairing does, in accordance with the principles outlined above, is take the airflow coming over the nose and inboard suspension and aggressively downwashes it onto the floor - helping generate extra downforce from the floor itself.

Because this effect is so powerful specifically in the inboard half of the car, it also contributes to a more powerful inboard strake vortex, helping the car's floor perform more effectively.

If this demonstrates anything, it's how the performance of the front wing, suspension and the floor leading edge are all intrinsically linked on a Formula 1 car, all part of the same aerodynamic ecosystem.

READ MORE: Toto Wolff: Net worth, wife and career profile of Mercedes giant

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