For the 2014 season, the technical regulations for the front impact structure were altered to produce a nosecone that was lower than before to improve safety. We talked about this at the time and detailed what the teams had to work against to make sure the new nosecone designs met the new regulations.
On the flip side, it produced a complete eye-sore in terms of aesthetics.
To try and keep with the lower nosecone theme but to create something that still looked visually acceptable the frontal impact crash test regulations were tweaked for 2015.
In 2014, there was a single cross section 50mm behind the tip of the nose that had to have a minimum surface area of 9000mm². For 2015, this cross section remains, but its width must not exceed 140mm. It also has to be 3cm lower than 2014, sitting between 220m and 135mm above the floor of the car (the reference plane). This should make the front of the nose more wide than tall as well as making the front of the nose even lower than 2014.
In addition another cross section has been added 150mm behind the tip of the nose. This has a larger surface area than the first cross section at 20,000mm² and the width must not exceed 330mm. This was put in place to stop the twin tusk concept sported by Lotus, and to also push the teams down the path of putting together a more visually appealing nosecone design.
The nose itself from the front bulkhead also has to be longer this year, up from 750mm for 2014 to 850mm this season. This creates a problem; keeping with a nose that the teams can exploit the full aerodynamic advantage of, creating very little drag and getting good airflow to the floor, versus something that can pass the front crash test.
This is where teams such as Toro Rosso and McLaren are likely running an interim spec nose at the front. As the first test is generally about system checks and not maximum aerodynamic performance, it makes sense to design something conservative that can pass the crash test (which all cars have to pass to be allowed to go testing) and then work on something more aggressive for the later tests.
It will be interesting to see the evolution of the nosecone designs from these teams, as it is likely these will change prior to getting to Melbourne.