By the early 2010s this concept had been taken so far that FIA was becoming concerned about the damage high noses would do to a cockpit in a side-to-side impact with another F1 car. This concerns has been dealt with in two ways: by increasing the use of anti-intrusion panels around the cockpit, and reducing the height of car’s noses to reduce the risk of an impact occurring close to a driver’s head.
However the means by which designers satisfied this rule produced some unattractive results. The first examples, seen in 2012, mostly featured an inelegant ‘step’ in the middle of the nose. This was alleviated in 2013 by allowing designers to add a vanity panel although some, such as Lotus, eschewed this route to save a few grams in weight.
For 2014 the height of the nose was lowered even further, and the solutions became yet more outlandish.
Force India’s was just one of several unfortunately phallic designs on display – the Lotus E22 doubly so. Although several different solutions appeared most had one thing in common: they were far from aesthetically pleasing.
This was not the outcome the FIA had envisaged, and it was a result of ambiguities in the rules which led to some unforeseen and creative interpretations. The nose was required to be between 135mm and 300mm above the reference plane and 9,000 sq. mm in cross-section. On top of this, crash test requirements enforced a further limit on nose length.
The Force India solution – also favoured by McLaren, Toro Rosso and others – created substantial space below the nose to ensure maximum airflow, yet still allowed teams to comfortably pass the crash test.
F1’s wealthier teams such as Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes choose more innovative solutions which in all likelihood produced only small lap time gains. If you were a small team it made much more sense to plough your scare aero resources in to the front wing innovation.
For this year the FIA responded with further changes for 2015 in an attempt to push designers away from creating cars which invite ridicule. The regulations are now far more detailed, and the limitations can be summarised as follows:
- The nose tip cross section remains the same at 9,000 sq mm
- The nose will be lowered further and must sit 135mm to 220mm above the floor
- The tip must be no wider than 140mm
- The nose must widen to a second cross section 150mm behind its tip, which must be no less than 20,000 sq mm
- Again a maximum width is stated of 330mm at this second cross-section
- Both cross sections have to be symmetrical about the centre line
- Remaining length of the nose going back towards the chassis must have a tapering cross section
- The nose tip will have to start about mid-way along the front wing
What does this mean in practice? The rules specify two cross-sections, supplemented by a tapering requirement to avoid any odd shapes as the nose merges with the front bulkhead. The tip also has a maximum width requirement of 14cm. In addition there are a series of conditions around symmetry so as to avoid the uneven Lotus “fork” nose from last year.
Based on these rules two broad concepts have emerged. The first is the short, snout-style nose which Williams has used since the start of the season. Red Bull, after extensive crash testing, introduced a similar nose in Spain and McLaren has had one since the Austrian Grand Prix:
The intention is to maximise airflow under the car, which helps feed the floor and seal the region around the sidepods. To achieve this designers put the nose bodywork as far back and as high as possible, but in order for to comply with the nose regulations and front crash test the result is a protruding snout-like structure.
Others have opted for a different route. Force India’s new nose, with freshly carved nostrils help duct the airflow underneath the car. This is a compromise solution, which makes it easier to pass the crash test without have to do a full structural redesign of the nose.
Mercedes opted against a snout but have followed a similar concept but have chosen a different shape with which to meet the cross-section area requirement. However, it is still running a short nose, which will yield aero gain.
Meanwhile Ferrari have opened for an extended nose and use the underside to help shape the airflow below the car. Ferrari have the resources to move to a shorter nose if they wish but feel the benefit, if any, is small.
The changes to the 2015 regulations have largely succeeded in eradicating the most offensively unattractive noses and improving the safety of the cars while also leaving designers enough freedom to pursue different solutions.
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