Liveries aside, the 2014 season has been the first for several years where even casual fans could tell the cars apart with a quick glance.
Formula One’s regulations on nose design, which have caused problems before, have been responsible for this. Designers responded to the ever-stricter limits on how they could design the front of their cars with some outlandish creations.
While the twin-pronged Lotus is the most immediately recognisable of the various designs, the differences between the other styles are a little more nuanced:
The rules specify that the nose must be between 135mm and 300mm above the reference plane. In addition the cross-section area must be 9,000 sq mm. This gives designers considerable freedom on how the nose looks.
The Mercedes (top-left) and Ferrari (bottom-right) are similar in that the nose section forms a closed section with the front wing. A small venturi is created below the nose section, which allows air to expand creating downforce. The difference in the shape comes down to how the designers have chosen to meet the cross section area requirements.
The Force India (top-right) sports the more unsightly protruding proboscis. This unmistakeably phallic interpretation of the regulations is what has created the ruckus about nasal aesthetics. Unfortunately it is the most common on the grid with at seven teams adopting a similar design. The advantage it has is that creates substantial space below the nose to ensure maximum airflow.
The Red Bull (bottom-left) is a neater interpretation of the more common snout design. It features a drop-down keel below the tip of the nose to meet the cross-section requirements. The nose mergers with the front of the car and is probably the most pleasing on the eye of all the noses. It is believed that the lap time difference between the various nose designs is minimal.
The fourth category of nose design is the Lotus ‘fork’. One end is slightly longer than the other as it is the main crash structure and the regulations only allow a single cross-section area at the tip of the nose. The Lotus design is probably the least efficient as the two forks double the effective area facing the airflow and also require reinforcement (and therefore further weight) to meet crash test requirements.
2015 nose design
This all came about because the FIA wanted to force designers to lower the height of F1 noses to improve safety in the event of contact with another car. Whether they have succeeded in this respect is a point of debate – as Adrian Newey pointed out at the beginning of the seasonthey could prove less safe in some scenarios.
What few deny is they have produced a generation of cars which are comically unattractive, sapping the sport of aesthetic and emotional appeal. The FIA has responded to this with further changes for next year in an attempt to push designers away from creating cars which invite ridicule.
For 2015 the nose regulations now require the following:
- 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. Teams will likely deploy a oval or rectangular nose tip that then merges in to the chassis.
The following drawing shows a very simple schematic of how a 2015 nose could look. There is still a nose, but it is shorter, a bit more stubby, and hopefully less unattractive than the some of the snouts on show this year.
The regulations also restrict some of the more innovative designs. Lotus’ tusk design falls foul of the requirement that the nose be symmetrical either side of the car centreline. Also the Mercedes’ design is not allowed as the tip is back behind the rearmost part of the rear wing.
The revised nose regulations will fortunately avoid some of the aesthetic atrocities we have to put up with at the moment. This comes at a cost of uniformity through a design straight-jacket. Though perhaps in 2015 we’ll be lamenting the loss of this individuality.