The 2012 season has kicked off today in a 4-day test at Jerez, Spain.

9 teams have unveiled their challengers so far with Mercedes AMG, HRT F1 and Marussia F1 teams set to launch theirs during the 2nd test in Barcelona on the 21st of February.

As you may have witnessed, 8 out of the 9 cars revealed so far are featuring the controversial and “ugly” stepped nose due to regulation changes. So what are these regulation changes?

And is McLaren’s solution playing for their advantage or will they have to switch back to what we’ve seen on all other teams?

For 2012 the regulations will limit the high front chassis designs we’ve seen in 2011.

The illustration on the left shows the 2012 style noses. As you can see, most teams will try to keep the area behind the bulkhead – which is part of the monocoque – as high as possible (at 62.5cm) to maintain the aerodynamic benefits, and will drop the nose to a maximum 55cm clearance from the ground which leaves a gap of 7.5cm between the two areas. This new regulation was introduced because the FIA was afraid that teams were exploiting the area a little too much without taking into consideration driver safety, and to avoid collisions similar to Webber’s during the 2010 European Grand Prix in Valencia.

If you look on the primary image above McLaren have opted for a different solution. They kept last year’s nose, which was lower than most teams’ and dropped it down even further, and in sleek fashion, making their nose quite low compared to other teams’, more or less, high nose.

The following image demonstrates how low the MP4-27’s nose is compared to that of the F2012.

So what is really the difference between the two nose arrangements?

A high nose channels better air around the sidepods and onto the car’s floor. The more air you get under the floor and the faster it can exit out of the diffuser the more downforce will be generated; This configuration also leaves more room for development.

On the other hand, a low nose feeds less air into the back but generates more downforce at the front and provides a lower Center of Gravity which renders a car more accurate around corners with better front grip.

Many questions will be raised before the 2012 season inaugurates but, unfortunately, we’ll have to wait for the Australian Grand Prix on the 18th March in order to find out all the answers.

By Joe Baaklini

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