80s Benetton airbox design

Dario Resta

Podium Finisher
Sorry about the title, hopefully the subject is a little more interesting. I was a big fan of the early Benetton cars. The B186 - 189s in particular. With the end of the turbo era, most teams went down the route of having the airbox fed through the roll hoop, which sort of made sense. The Benetton B188 & 189 went down a different route, having airbox intakes either side of the car on top of the sidepods, more like the turbo cars. I remember reading a technical report in (I think) F1 magazine, that this arrangement, coupled with the Benetton's triangular (pointy) roll hoop, was a more efficient way of feeding air into the engine. I believe there were some rule amendments effectively banning Benetton's roll hoop design (on safety grounds)??, and negating the advantage of their airbox intakes, hence the B190 looking a bit more conventional.

My question is, with Mercedes (last year), Lotus and Force India experimenting with alternative airbox ideas, is there any technical advantage ( maybe coupled with a radical roll hoop) to not having the airbox above the driver's head? I loved the low engine covers on the Benettons, they just looked so sleek. I suppose now it would just mean a lack of advertising space.....
 

no-FIAt-please

Champion Elect
Premium Contributor
I thought that the reason Mercedes last year moved the airbox lower was that having it above the driver's head reduced the effectivness of the rear wing, by having it lower the rear wing became more efficient.
 

Dario Resta

Podium Finisher
I thought that the reason Mercedes last year moved the airbox lower was that having it above the driver's head reduced the effectivness of the rear wing, by having it lower the rear wing became more efficient.

I think you're right. That was part of the advantage. The Benettons had a large front wing area and tiny rear wings. I haven't looked at the current regs to see if a similar concept could be used, but in theory moving the airbox intakes lower could help with airflow to the rear wing. Maybe I should give Colin Kolles a call, as the loss of advertising space on the engine cover doesn't really matter to HRT at the moment, and any downforce increase would be welcome!
 

FB

Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
The Ferrari 640 Mansell won with in Brazil also had side air intakes rather than through the roll hoop but Ferrari moved to a different air box not long into the season. I think this was all to do with air flow to the rear wing and the side intake disturbed the air more (which is counter intuitive I know).

 

Dario Resta

Podium Finisher
The Ferrari 640 Mansell won with in Brazil also had side air intakes rather than through the roll hoop but Ferrari moved to a different air box not long into the season. I think this was all to do with air flow to the rear wing and the side intake disturbed the air more (which is counter intuitive I know).

Not necessarily. the 640's intakes are much higher, which could disturb airflow to the top element of the rear wing. The intakes on the B188 & 189 were much lower.

 

Pyrope

Podium Finisher
Supporter
On the flip side, having your air intakes lower places them in disturbed air, reducing the ram-intake effect and so lowering the efficiency of your engine. Hence, it's swings and roundabouts time. If you have a horsepower advantage over your rivals but need better cornering speed you compromise your engine and optimise your wing airflow by moving the inlets. On the other hand, if your engine is only average (or worse) in the power stakes you'll probably be more concerned with eking out every last pony from the crankshaft so you'll want the intakes in nice, clean, cold air.

One of the nicest contrasts in this rationale was in 1976, with the high horsepower Ferrari 312T2 using NACA(-ish) ducts ahead of the driver and the Cossie-powered McLaren M26 splitting the airbox in two and positioning them as close as possible to the old position around the drivers' heads. This year we have two team running split airboxes, both of whom are likely to have an intrinsic horsepower advantage over their nearest rivals (Team Lotus's Renault engines vs. the Cosworths in the HRT and Virgin cars, and FIF1's Mercedes vs. the Sauber and Torro Rosso Ferrari lumps and Williams's Cosworths) so they may have thought it worthwhile. Just a couple of guesses there, but worth pondering.
 

Dario Resta

Podium Finisher
On the flip side, having your air intakes lower places them in disturbed air, reducing the ram-intake effect and so lowering the efficiency of your engine. Hence, it's swings and roundabouts time. If you have a horsepower advantage over your rivals but need better cornering speed you compromise your engine and optimise your wing airflow by moving the inlets. On the other hand, if your engine is only average (or worse) in the power stakes you'll probably be more concerned with eking out every last pony from the crankshaft so you'll want the intakes in nice, clean, cold air.

One of the nicest contrasts in this rationale was in 1976, with the high horsepower Ferrari 312T2 using NACA(-ish) ducts ahead of the driver and the Cossie-powered McLaren M26 splitting the airbox in two and positioning them as close as possible to the old position around the drivers' heads. This year we have two team running split airboxes, both of whom are likely to have an intrinsic horsepower advantage over their nearest rivals (Team Lotus's Renault engines vs. the Cosworths in the HRT and Virgin cars, and FIF1's Mercedes vs. the Sauber and Torro Rosso Ferrari lumps and Williams's Cosworths) so they may have thought it worthwhile. Just a couple of guesses there, but worth pondering.

It's a tricky one. We're talking about a 20 year + old design, and maybe things have moved on aerodynamically. The Benetton had a relatively underpowered Ford HB engine, but the car performed pretty well at the time. I think the B188 & B189 (along with the turbo B186 & 187) were the most beautiful cars of the time, mainly due to the radical design and colour schemes.
 

Pyrope

Podium Finisher
Supporter
In retrospect it's clear that the HB was down on power compared to the Honda, Renault and Ferrari offerings, but Benetton were the de facto FoMoCo works team in 1989 and having produced likely the most powerful engine of the turbo era it wouldn't surprise me if they anticipated their NA unit would be near the top of the tree too. In any case, weren't roll hoop airbox intakes still (as of 1975) banned until the end of 1988?
 

Dario Resta

Podium Finisher
In retrospect it's clear that the HB was down on power compared to the Honda, Renault and Ferrari offerings, but Benetton were the de facto FoMoCo works team in 1989 and having produced likely the most powerful engine of the turbo era it wouldn't surprise me if they anticipated their NA unit would be near the top of the tree too. In any case, weren't roll hoop airbox intakes still (as of 1975) banned until the end of 1988?

Didn't the Williams FW12 have a roll bar fed airbox? I'm not sure about any others, but I thought the 89 Williams did.
 
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