Adjustable wings – a change too far?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

F1 wings will be movable in 2009
F1 wings will be movable in 2009

The 2009 F1 rules are a source of great interest with several radical changes aimed at improving overtaking.

Along with bring back slick tyres and reducing wing sizes, teams are expected to be allowed to use adjustable wings.

I’m not a fan of the idea. What do you think of it? Cast your vote below…

The planned rules for 2009 will allow teams to create elements in their front wings that can be adjusted by the drivers while the car is moving.

This was experimented with when wings were first used by F1 teams in the late 1960s and the benefits are clear: a flatter wing profile will give less drag and more speed down a straight, a deeper wing will give more downforce and better cornering speed in the bends. They were originally banned on safety grounds, but the thinking now is that F1 teams should be able to make them safe enough.

However the FIA has also stipulated a maximum number of times the wings can be changed: a driver may make no more than two adjustments per lap with a different of up to six degrees.

Why limit the number of changes per lap? It seems to be completley arbitrary. In fact the whole ‘adjustable wings’ idea seems to me to be a variation on the ‘push to pass button’ idea, where a driver gets a limited number of horsepower boosts to use per lap to aid overtaking.

And I expect it will have the same kind of effect: in series that have ‘push to pass’ (such as A1 Grand Prix and, formerly, Champ Car) the driver in front is just as likely to use their power boost as the driver behind, cancelling out any advantage the chasing driver will have.

So what will adjustable wings achieve except add yet more artificial complexity to F1? I’m not sure.

My concern is that, with so many changes planned for next year, it might be hard to tell which are having the desired effect and which aren’t. The FIA has, rightly, identified the difficulty experienced by one car when following another closely as being a problem.

Finally they have chosen to attack the problem by bringing back slick tyres and reducing wing sizes (which is exactly what the FIA Advisory Experts Group told them to do almost a decade ago). But with the added complexity of these adjustable wings, to say nothing of KERS and other changes, it might be hard to see which rules have the desired effect and which don’t.

Should F1 cars have adjustable wings in 2009?

  • Yes (30%)
  • No (59%)
  • Don't know (11%)

Total Voters: 274

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2009 F1 season

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107 comments on “Adjustable wings – a change too far?”

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  1. John Beamer
    28th July 2008, 7:21

    The implementation might be flawed but the idea isn’t that bad, I don’t think.

    Back in the 60s these things were banned for safety – the technology wasn’t avaialable to make adjustable wings work safely. Now engineers can make these things work safely.

    I don’t actually think it is like the push to pass button where both drivers will adjust at the same time. When the following car is in the dirty air going around the corners the idea is that they can steepen the angle of attack to get more downforce. The front car will benefit far less (if at all) if it follows suit because it is running in clean air. In theory the car behind benefits far more.

    Obviously the implementation remains to be seen, which is why I use the word “theory” a lot in the paragraph above. I think wait and see is the call here …

  2. I have voted ‘yes’ but I do that from a standpoint of less restriction in general not because I approve of using artificial means to boost the entertainment. I am a firm believer that F1 should set a budget and let teams do anything they want within specified margins of safety.

  3. I think it’s a rather silly gimmick, and the purpose of the 2 adjustments per lap is unclear. I don’t know what it is about this idea, I can’t quite put my finger on it but it just feels so asinine. I’d like the drivers to simply drive, instead of constantly fretting in the cockpit trying to “optimise the package”.

    It seems like yet again they’re adding another layer of complication which could baffle or bemuse “casual fans”.

    On a bit of a tangent, I also fear the rear of the car will look a tad ridiculous next year, with the cars being 2m wide, but the rear wing being reduced to 75cm.

  4. “So what will adjustable wings achieve except add yet more artificial complexity to F1? I’m not sure.”

    fuel efficiency. less drag, less consumption = greener f1.

    presumably in the future they’ll do the same for the rear wing too?

  5. I voted yes..but it realy remains to be seen how the teams adjust with the new regulations. And yeah, I do agree with Andrew, FIA should set a budget to make competition steeper.
    A hard time coming for the drivers, I guess!! :D

  6. The only way we can know if it increases overtaking, is that if we put it into practise.

    Try it out at a winter test session in 2009 perhaps? If it increases overtaking significantly, then great. If not, scrap the idea.

  7. I don’t have a problem with adjustable wings but any restrictions on their use would seem to be an unnecessary complication.

  8. But if the drivers are allowed to adjust the wings to help with drag, fuel efficiency etc, why not allow the suspension height to be adjustable too? It seems that the FIA is carrying on the only way it knows how and making arbitary rules just for the sake of it before they understand what is and isn’t required.
    By the end of 2009 most of this will be outlawed again, just as the teams are gearing up to make better use of the possibilities!
    I think the budgets will be capped once the FIA have discovered what the ‘theorical’ car is capable of. At the moment its spend what you want to make sure the cars are actually built, although you notice there have been no announcements from Peugeot, Ford, Volkswagen or GM about them making new KERS systems for any of the teams, and nothing similar from the teams themselves. I say this just to remind you that KERS was announced as a way to bring in new manufacturers as well as new technology. If its the same group of Manuafacturers and they aren’t allowed ‘Customer Cars’, won’t that mean smaller grids?
    (end of lecture)

  9. Sean Newman
    28th July 2008, 8:48

    Crazy, crazy, crazy. What are they playing at? We don’t want this kind of stupid artificial fiddling. Slicks and very low downforce are all that is needed. The old GP2 car was the perfect example of how to make cars that can overtake. The new GP2 car is aerodynamically like a F1 car and as a consequence they can’t overtake very easily. For heavens sake the FIA are losing it BIG TIME! This make me mad. My favourite sport is being ruined.

    KERS – Another really BIG mistake.

    KERS is an interesting and worthwhile technical exercise, but NOT for formula one.

    Here’s why:


    The cost of formula one is too high already. This will just add to it. Formula one is a sport. It doesn’t need to be so expensive. The powers that be need to decide what they want formula one to be, an exciting and closely fought racing series or a test bed for technical innovation. Despite what the decision makers think those things ARE mutually exclusive.


    As we have seen already, another element of danger is being added. Also it will make drivers actions more unpredictable. As some drivers have pointed out, they are being increasingly overloaded with systems. At 200 mph they should be driving the car not pressing buttons.


    This one is ridiculous! The KERS systems we see on F1 cars will be ‘token’ green system anyway. It will simply not be as efficient as a road car system. If the FIA seriously wanted to be greener then it should just slow the cars down. Slower cars will need a lot less fuel. Also the FIA should not stage races in countries which have a poor pollution record.


    KERS is an expensive and unproven way to improve overtaking. Slicks and low downforce is a cheaper, safer, greener and proven option.

    What on earth are the FIA thinking?

  10. I have no idea whether adjustable wings would work or not. In theory they might, but with this arbitrary “can only change twice per lap” rule they might not. I don’t know. I think we just have to wait and see.

  11. @DG
    *end of lecture ???????? :D

  12. I’ve to admit I don’t know if it’ll work or not in 2009. But if the idea remains unchanged for the following seasons, then adjustable wings can be useful to F1.

  13. I voted yes, BUT the drivers should be able to adjust the wings as often as they like… to dial out over/understeer themselves and to provide more downforce in the corners, than in the straights.

    I doubt it will increase overtaking, as the car in front will have greater straight-line speed with the wings set to flat, than the car behind with the wings set to create more downforce. The smaller rear wing will reduce the downforce of the following car as much as they will create less wash.

    If they want to increase overtaking, it’s simple. Allow more tyre producers (one per team? maybe two?) and take away the rev limit. Let the engines rev as high as they will go, but keep the two race rule.

    Have we seen more overtaking thanks to the T/C ban? Not really because the following car is just as compromised as the leading car. Slicks will bring back some of the overtaking, but the cars will still be rev limited, so slipstreaming is still basically out of the question and even the advantage of movable wings will be negated by the rev limit.

    Does anybody know if the KERS system will allow the engines to rev over 19K? Or is it a torque thing?

  14. 2 times per lap! Another element for teams to challenge on.
    I’ve voted “No” as I do not want to see a race decided on one car being penalised because the driver changed his wing too many times on lap 33!

  15. ogami musashi
    28th July 2008, 9:43

    The purpose of this is absolutely not to reduce drag in straight.

    It is to re-claw the downforce lost on the front wing by increasing the camber of the exterior wing sections (the central part being standard and with no flaps), just like flaps on an airplane.

    The purpose of this thing is to MAINTAIN THE BALANCE (correct any understeer).

    Except if set up for that, a car in front using it will only get oversteer.

    I said except if the car are set up for that, well that’s why you have a Two time limit. To prevent teams from using it on performance purpose.

    Now depending on how the driver handles his balance behind someone, there’s definitely the possibility that they use it in straight line, but not in corners.

    Reducing the angle makes the car understeer that’s why in straight line there’re no problems using it, but getting overtseer in mid corner by increasing the flaps is the last thing you want.

    A couple of other thing:

    Only rear wing is smaller; Front wing and diffuser are all larger than this year.
    It is not relevant to have small wings except the rear if you’re following someone.

    In contrary to a popular belief you need to have very efficient aerodynamics not to loose too much when following someone; that why while being smaller the rear wing is placed higher to have more efficient feeding.

    The cars are not 2meters wide, they stay at the same size.

  16. Something like 5 times in a race would be a better option IMO, there would atleast be some strategy to it. This is just going to make the lives of drivers and their forearms even more difficult… What next? Outlawing power steering for 1/3 of the race?

  17. The first thing that pops into my head is that this is obviously a moveable aero device designed to generate downforce in the corners.

    Therefore if this becomes legal then surely Renault can re-use that mass damper as that was banned for being a moveable aero device?

  18. Sean Newman
    28th July 2008, 11:01

    The Renault mass damper fiasco! Another example of the FIA being STUPID! They said it was an aerodynamic device. RUBBISH! if a device is not in the airflow it is not aerodynamic. End of story. However the damper worked by using it’s mass (it’s ballast wieght) to improve the MECHANICAL handling of the car. Moveable ballast (whilst moving) is banned ro the device was illegal but not for the reasons the FIA said. IDIOTS!.

    Moving wings are not needed. Just have low downforce and slicks and hey presto – OVERTAKING. Simple.

  19. Sean Newman
    28th July 2008, 11:11

    Sorry I just read at the bottom of the page I can’t insult anyone. Of course the FIA are not stupid. No one would agree would that would they?
    Lets just say they are to close to the problem. They take too many things into account. The should go back to basics. What makes a car which is able to overtake other similar cars?
    One more time …. LOW DOWNFORCE and SLICKS. That will do it trust me.

  20. Sean – you can insult the FIA, that’s fine, happens all the time. Just be nice to the other readers :-)

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