The early concept stages of the 2019 cars will have generally been pencilled-in around the end of 2017 when the broad outline of the ’19 regulations were known. But the concepts and development paths each of the teams were on with their previous cars will still have formed the general foundation and informed certain critical choices. Some of these choices have proved better than others, though not necessarily always for reasons of merit; in some cases it will just have been good or bad luck.
There was logic, for example, in Scuderia Ferrari’s decision to prioritise aero efficiency rather than absolute all-out maximum downforce. The bigger rear wing was going to be more draggy, the previous two Ferraris had poorer efficiency than the rival Mercedes. A repositioning along the sliding scale of downforce/efficiency trade-off seemed an entirely logical design direction for the new car.
But that was to reckon without the effects of the new thinner-gauge Pirelli tyres for 2019, which were only confirmed after an end-of-season test in Abu Dhabi 2018. With less rubber to be forced into the tiny gaps between the grains of the track surface – the mechanism that stores the tyre’s energy and defines how much grip it can generate – greater downforce was more valuable than ever in getting the tyre into its working range.
It’s around the two hard points of regulation and tyre spec changes that many of the key distinguishing technical features of the 2019 cars have been formed.
Front wing: Outwash vs downforce
The choice was between utilising the full allowable depth of wing elements at the outboard ends so as to maximise direct front wing downforce, or bunching-in the outboard ends of the five permitted elements so as to enhance the outwash of airflow around the front tyre. The power of the outwash had been limited by the regulation simplification of the front wing endplates and so some, notably Ferrari, Alfa and Toro Rosso, chose to surrender some wing area so as to make the air flow more easily around the tyre, powering the outwash flow down the rest of the car. Others, notably Mercedes and Red Bull, favoured using up the full depth permitted. In concert with the requirements of the tyres, it looks as if the Mercedes/Red Bull direction was the better one.
Boomerang barge boards
For 2019 the barge boards had to be lower (making the wake less disruptive), but could be mounted further forwards (to make the downforce of the car behind less affected by the wake of the car in front). This has placed them in the ideal place to help enhance the outwash by placing a boomerang section wing atop the guide vanes that, in creating some negative lift, brings a high pressure bubble around it that the air coming through the suspension turns hard outwards to avoid – thereby strengthening the vital outwash airflow.