Somers Column - Tunnels, directives and Lowe points

Ok, so this week's column is not going to cover just one thing but take a wee poke around several news stories of note.

McLaren, who’ve used the TMG (Toyota) facilities at Cologne for around 10 years have finally decided to bite the bullet and will build a new tunnel at the MTC. This is interesting from several angles, firstly I’ve long held the opinion that using the TMG tunnel has hindered McLaren’s progress, as having a twofold operation, one at either site only adds unnecessary stress and could impinge on lead times.

Secondly, it’s clever timing, as they can funnel money into this project before the new budget cap comes into play for the 2021 regulations. So, you might wonder if you have a tunnel of your own already, why haven’t they been using it? That comes down to the change in regulations for 2009 which instructed a maximum tunnel size of 60%, whereas the one built under the lake at the MTC was designed with a 50% scale in mind.

That’s not to say it cannot be altered, but you always come against issues in doing so. Force India had been doing this for years prior to moving to TMG (there’s two tunnels in Cologne) and really makes you consider just how well they’d done during that period when others had such better facilities.

7, yes 7, technical directives were issued ahead of the French GP and as usual I’m still scrambling to get my hands on them, but an article run by AMuS did shed light on three of them -

Exhaust blowing is not a new tactic but one that’s always on the minds of designers, as it’s technically free downforce if you can harness it. Well, it seems that they’ve been trying to do just that, as one of the TD’s seems to make reference to the wastegates being used to blow the mini winglets placed on the side of the crash structure for a nominal downforce gain. They’d do this by opening the wastegates and letting the MGUH propel the turbo - a classic qualifying tactic that’s used to improve laptime when there’s less desire to recharge the battery.

Then we have the change in approach when it comes to measuring the ambient temperature and difference at the intake sensor, which is not supposed to have a differential of more than 10 degrees (a regulation introduced this year). It seems that someone was still trying to take advantage here though, as up until now the FIA would take a baseline reading before the session. However, they’ve upped the ante and will do this live during sessions instead.

The most interesting change mentioned by AMuS though is the prescription of mounting holes and bolts for the rear wing mainplane, with it being asserted that someone had been using an oblong hole that allowed the bolt to move as downforce increased, which would/should reduce drag. 

I’m skeptical about this one, I’m not saying it’s not possible, just that there are already preventative measures in the place that kerb this sort of behavior - from slot gap separators, the rigid deflection test and even the way the DRS mechanism would be affected. However, this is F1, every gain is worth the pain...

Last thing on the agenda in this column is the announcement that Paddy Lowe is finally off the hook at Williams, I do hope he’s recovered though, as being thrown under that bus must have hurt a little. 

Paddy may have had technical responsibility over this year’s car and clearly someone’s head needed to roll for the mishaps that led to their late arrival at pre-season testing. But, I think there’s far more depth to the damage that’s been done at Grove than Paddy is responsible for, in fact one might argue that given enough time he could have continued to help turn around the sinking ship that’s Williams.

I hope Paddy finds employ elsewhere, as he’s one of the good guys. Anyway I suspect FOM’s working group could be a good home for another of the sports great engineering minds...