A brand new technical challenge
In Formula One, major regulation changes have usually been designed to limit performance and provide the technical teams with new constraints to work within. The new rules for 2017 opened up a new and exciting challenge – the freedom to explore a more generous set of regulations, coupled with the uncertainty of not knowing exactly where targets should be set, or what will represent a good result.
If last year’s W07 was all about refinement and elaborate, detailed evolution, the W08 project has gone back to first principles. With the car having to be designed before running the definitive 2017 tyres, and in some parts before the regulations had even been finalized, it was important to arrive quickly at a sound base architecture, while following a flexible, adaptable philosophy to allow scope for major developments during the season. With this in mind, only 17% of the components in W08 have been carried over from its predecessor, with the team’s main focus lying on optimizing the car within the new aerodynamic regulations.
This is also the first major regulation change to occur under the Aerodynamic Testing Regulations (ATR), which limit every team to the same maximum amount of wind tunnel testing – 65 runs per week. Given the extent of the regulation changes, the first W08 concept ran in the team’s 60% Brackley wind tunnel before the first race of last season and has completed over 2,000 runs during its development so far.
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) February 23, 2017
In addition to the new shapes of front and rear wing, the biggest areas of aerodynamic opportunity are the floor and the barge board area in front of the sidepods, which have been the focus of significant work. And while the performance opportunity has been significant, the design teams have also worked to improve the W08 structurally in order to withstand the substantial increases in aerodynamic and mechanical loads.
The Power Unit, christened M08, has also been comprehensively redesigned for the new season. Although the previous token system did not constrain power unit development since 2014, its abolition allows the technical group more freedom for engineering solutions.
As ever, much focus has been on the primary energy conversion opportunity – the combustion process – but there are also many opportunities for gains further downstream, including within the engine ancillaries. The new aerodynamic regulations have had a significant impact on the configuration of the engine which, as a structural component of the car, must cope with significantly greater physical loads. To maintain its structural properties, the engine is therefore slightly heavier than its predecessor.
In addition to this comes an increased duty cycle, with the cars expected to spend approximately 10% more of every lap at full throttle – a change that is reflected in a 5% increase in race fuel allowance for the new season. M08 has also been designed for increased durability, with only four Power Units per driver per season permitted by regulation in 2017.