Looked all over the place for a suitable thread for my comment that follows. I wonder if it is worth considering a separate section entirely for F1 technical threads since they seem to get buried and forgotten. The engineering side of F1 is at least 50% of my interest in the sport and we have Drivers, Teams and Personnel sections which combined only make up the other 50% of my F1 interest. Obviously if I am alone in this (although I think Blog Zbod
for one would be quite keen) then I would not expect CTA admin' to go to the trouble.
Anyway, down to business:
inspired me to write this post with his comment in the Limiting Pit Crew thread about low profile tyres. Rufus said "Lower profile tyres seems the obvious solution to me. I just can't understand why they're still using essentially 1960s style tyres in this day and age."
There is a view that it's for aesthetic reasons. I believe, though, that the main reason for retaining old style "balloon-like" tyres is for the additional cushioning afforded by the sidewalls acting as part of the suspension system. It's something that Martin Brundle has often mentioned in commentary during those tedious bouncing over the kerbs slo-mo shots.
Suspension travel on an F1 car is very limited and the current tyres actually provide more cushioning as the car travels over bumps and kerbs. In addition, the tyre sidewalls flex and cushion most of the lateral forces acting on the unsprung mass of the car. The wishbones, currently designed with the least mass as possible and to mostly resist horizontal loads and forces, would be particularly vulnerable to the effects of side-on impacts and loads that the "balloon" tyres currently soak up.
Switching to low profile tyres might be a way to deal with the issue of such big differentials of advantage between teams that led to criticism of Pirelli - oh, and the idea that Red Bull dominated the 2013 season because of the tyres. At the very least having to revisit suspension design to compensate for the loss of a contributory element (balloon tyre sidewalls) would provide engineers and designers with the opportunity to come up with new solutions. They will need to deal with the stresses on the suspension components that tyres no longer soak up. Components would need to be stronger, maybe with some designed in flexibility. Beefing up suspension arms would mean modifying the size and shape of the wishbones and control arms. Longer suspension travel and redesign of the dampers may be required to cope with bumps and kerbs.
Adrian Newey will have a few field days!
Redesign of the suspension system would impact on other areas of the overall car design. The current technical regulations allow for some limited aerodynamic shaping of wishbones, control arms and the driveshaft shrouds. The aerodynamic design and the effects of the suspension system in use would need to be included in the considerations with regard to aerodynamics of the chassis. Even the way the parts of the front wing are designed to direct airflow over and around the suspension will be influenced by, and will influence, the suspension components design.
F1's technical working group would need to work on revising the regulations to allow the teams the latitude to work up their solutions. The big question is, will the FIA and the teams be willing to use switching to low profile tyres as an opportunity for innovation? If the regulations simply prescribe systems based on existing technology such as that used in other race series such as IRL then I feel it will be an opportunity missed. In all likelihood such a change is unlikely to take place until we are out of this current budget squeeze. The cost implications are a variable in the equation but all we can hope for is that the outmoded tyre issue is one that will be on F1's radar for the future. After all, F1 will need to keep fans and followers interested and anything that stirs up the pot just has to be good.