Adjustable wings – a change too far?

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?

  1. cyanide said on 28th July 2008, 10:02

    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?

  2. Rabi said on 28th July 2008, 10:40

    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?

  3. Sean Newman said on 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.

  4. Sean Newman said on 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.

  5. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 28th July 2008, 11:37

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

  6. Noel said on 28th July 2008, 12:08

    I understand comments that say this will help drivers dial-out over/understeer, and I know track and air conditions conspire to alter the balance of the cars, but being able to ‘actively’ adjust balance smacks of babysitting the driver to me.

    Of course drivers will want a tweak of wing here and there to get the balance right, as we see during
    pits stops now. But it seems to me, if drivers can’t get their cars set up properly during a few hours of practice etc, something’s not right. Understeer and oversteer are a part of racing, and how the drivers handle them makes the spectacle more exciting, for me at least. I don’t really want to see beautifully balanced cars parading around when I can watch drivers hanging it out and mastering an untame beast.

    Just my random thoughts. I may just be blabbering and full of rubbish :)

  7. Kester said on 28th July 2008, 12:13

    I think this rule will actually be quite interesting, and is more designed for tracks like Hockenheim. With the first 2 sectors being high speed, low downforce, the cars currently run the entire race at that setting, effectivily compromising themselves in the final sector with is a high downforce sector.

    With this new moveable aerodynamics we’ll still see the speed on the first 2 sectors, but the downforce in the last giving the drivers more confidence to try a move around the outside of one of the turns.

    We could then also see drivers taking a risk by changing earlier or later than the track demands, giving them more grip in a corner to try and jump by someone, but then compromise them up until the more usual high downforce areas.

    I think for that very reason it’s not so much a push-to-overtake system, and is why it’s limited to 2 times a lap; once to go to high downforce, and once back. Not every corner high downforce, back to straight low downforce.

  8. ogami musashi said on 28th July 2008, 12:23


    The balance problems are not related to set up of the car.

    When you follow someone your car lose some downforce (even if you had 3kg of downforce), but the loss is never uniform, that is, some parts of the car lose more downforce than some others.

    For instance you can lose more on the front wing than on the rear wing.

    If you lose on the front wing, you car will exhibit understeer behavior which, in a corner, is a “crime” as you can’t simply turn enough anymore.

    Thus by allowing the driver following someone to increases the wing camber you can increase your downforce and thus re-claw your balance.

    As said above, that system is limited to two adjustements per lap, that is one increase then back to normal (or possibly, lowering it for one long straight then going back to normal for the corners).

    Thus this system is meant to help correct the effects of wake on the balance of the car.

  9. Robert McKay said on 28th July 2008, 12:28

    It’s a stupid idea. It’s an over-complicated solution to a problem that could be addressed in a much easier way, which is exactly the sort of thing Formula 1 does these days. It’s a bit like the (untrue) allegations of NASA spending millions of dollars in designing a special pen to work in zero-gravity when the Russians just used a pencil.

  10. Brar said on 28th July 2008, 12:39

    F1 vmax without wings could reach almost 500Km/h. The cars and drivers remain stucked by that aerodinamic.

    The old F1 carisma was that you thing that everything in the car was conceived to make it faster. Performance and ecology have the same path. Why not?

  11. ukk said on 28th July 2008, 12:39

    I voted Yes and my reason is this will enable the drivers to use more of their skills. Now rather than seeking the holly ballance between the slow and fast parts of the circuit the car will be tuned optimally for both. Then it is up to the driver to really extract the maximum out of it and not risk being stuck for the whole race with some stupid compromise configuration. I’d even go further and drop the 2-times-per-lap limitation :-)

  12. Noel said on 28th July 2008, 12:53

    @ogami, I hear you buddy. I did say I might be talking rubbish :)

    But I thought that was what next year’s aero regulations were designed to sort out? Clean-up the airflow from the leading car to allow the car following more grip and balance, hopefully leading to closer racing and more overtaking.

    I’m not disagreeing with you, but this new idea sounds like overkill to me. Do any other series allow this kind of thing?

  13. ogami musashi said on 28th July 2008, 13:16

    without entering too much details, the 2009 regulations aim at reducing the effect of the wake.

    You can’t suppress the loss. Even if the leading car had no downforce at all (no wings, no ground effects), the following one(with wing and/or ground effects) would still lose downforce and balance because the air is disturbed.

    So it is only possible to reduce the effects.

    The next thing is that the problem is very complex.

    You have the problem of knowing how much total downforce you’ll lose, and then how this will be shared by aerodynamic devices (I.E: how much each wing/diffuser will lose).

    There’s a complex correlation between quantity (how much downforce you lose/total grip) and design (how the tyre will react to that loss) which is very difficult to assess.

    It will vary according to conditions so the idea of having adjustable wings is pretty simple yet efficient.

    The OWG has thus worked on the two main areas: Diminishing the total loss and allowing to retain the balance (they also did some works to ensure the balance loss would be less than this year without the front wing adjustment).

  14. Sean Newman said on 28th July 2008, 13:53

    Ogami can you explain?

    To quote you

    “Even if the leading car had no downforce at all (no wings, no ground effects), the following one(with wing and/or ground effects) would still lose downforce and balance because the air is disturbed.”

    So just so I understand you, even if the cars have no downforce they can still lose it when following another car?

    The cars of the 1950’s had no downforce so could follow each other through corners. Why not now? If todays cars had little or no downforce the problem would be solved.
    Anybody out there gonna deny it? It’s undeniable!

  15. Steven Roy said on 28th July 2008, 14:07

    I haven’t had time to read the comments yet but I will later so if I am repeating what everyone else has said I apologise.

    The whole concept is idiotic. How are the FIA going to know how many changes someone made and for that matter what constitutes a lap. Is it a lap only at the start finish line or for example if someone makes two changes on the second half of a lap can they make another two changes at the start of next lap so that in effect they have made four changes in less than a lap. If someone makes a change at a corner and the following lap they make the same change 10 metres earlier is that the same lap or another lap?

    This is yet another false way of creating position changes which it will not do. The drivers have way to many toys to play with as it is and this combined with push to pass means they are going to spend even less time concentrating on the job.

    Max has clearly learned nothing from this season. Despite howls of protests from people who think that F1 should be open to any technology the ECUs were simplified and traction control was banned. The electronics were dumbed down a bit and the racing improved massively so now we are going to add complexity which will make the racing worse. The logic is stupid beyond belief.

    It is the easiest thing in the world to write a set of regulations that allow cars to overtake and follow each other through corners. Numerous championships of all levels in every country in the world manage it every year. The reason overtaking is difficult in F1 is because the aerodynamics are so complex and in addition they generate way too much downforce. Personally I would like to see the wings ripped off but they could be simplified enough to give great racing.

    The standard spoon section all teams must use next season is another idiotic idea that is way to complex. All that the regulation had to say was that only single element wings were allowed and the section must be the same along its width. That leaves the teams scope to use different wings for different tracks but reduces the effectiveness of them and reduces their sensitivity.

    It is a well established fact that F1 wants to keep sizeable wings on the car because sponsors like them. It is perfectly possible to have large wings that produce little downforce. You simply ban endplates. Single element wings would be more popular with sponsors because their names or logos would be much clearer than at present when they are spread over a number of elements.

    Max and co need to analyse what they are trying to achieve and work to that end rather than introducing constant knee jerk reaction changes that often contradict the previous season’s knee jerk changes.

    They should now be planning to introduce a completely new set of regulations for 2012 with the plan of allowing cars to follow others through corners and encourage racing. If the wheel to wheel racing is good enough no-one gives a damn about the technology or anything else. Despite the complaints at the end of last season that F1 wouldn’t be F1 any more because they were dumbing down the electronics I have not heard a single complaint all season that the cars are too simple to be proper F1 cars or that someone would be as well watching A1GP because it is just the same. Those were the arguments used when those changes were announced and I have no doubt someone will write the same in response to my comments here. F1 is about the best teams and the best drivers racing each other. F1 does not die if some of its current features are banned. We have seen turbos, ground effects, twin chassis, 6 wheelers etc all banned and no-one has expressed an opinion that F1 is no good now because they have been banned and I certainly haven’t heard anyone say that this season would be better if the Ferrari had six wheels and the McLaren had two chassis. Don’t be afraid of restricting the excesses of F1 engineers. Sometimes as with the electronics the racing gets better.

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