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. ogami musashi said on 31st July 2008, 19:27

    read “increasing the Cl” (only camber increase Clmax, which is just why the wing will change their camber)

  2. Pingguest said on 31st July 2008, 20:59

    I think the adjustable wings are a step too far. It a part of the very complex rules that will be introduced next year. I don’t think this is the way to go.

    Formula 1 should focus itself on engine, tyre and chassis development. Free up the tyre rules, re-introduce the tyre war and introduce a fuel formula. The aerodynamics should be restricted in such way that only a small rear wing can be used to create downforce. Front wings, bardge boards, diffusers, etc should be banned in my opinion.

  3. Brar said on 31st July 2008, 23:12

    For sure, nowadays the f1 cars have a better down force/drag relation then 20 years ago.

    But, Ogami Nosashi, in other way you need to say that its impossible to achieve down force, without achieving drag.

    You want the lowest drag possible, for sure. But if you increase down force, you necessarily will increase drag too (even if it is little bit, more little as time goes by).

    For sure you Know that quote: “The final speed hadn´t changes so much from 1950. They almost reached 300Km/h at that time”

  4. ogami musashi said on 1st August 2008, 11:32

    “You want the lowest drag possible, for sure. But if you increase down force, you necessarily will increase drag too (even if it is little bit, more little as time goes by).”

    Of course downforce comes with drag; But since the CL/cx is by definition a ratio and then will definie the level of drag for a given condition, you can’t say that a downforce car will drag more than a non downforce car (if their design are different of course) and you can’t say the top speed will be less (at the same HP rating).


    For sure you Know that quote: “The final speed hadn´t changes so much from 1950. They almost reached 300Km/h at that time””

    That’s not true; for sure they reached 300km/h but most of the tracks were really different consisting of far more bends than corners, with long straights.

    At monaco the 2004 cars reached more than 300km/h out of the tunnel, it was not possible with 50’s cars.

    My point is indeed that you can’t say a downforce car will drag more than a no downforce car.

    In addition, a downforce car will benefit from that very downforce in accelerations and in braking, were they’ll be able to brake later thus accelerating for longer time.

    So all in one there’s no possibility a no downforce car can match the lap time of downforce ones.

    If it was not the case, they would certainly not bother spending millions in aerodynamics R&D as in the regulations , nothings forces you to employ wings!

  5. Brar said on 1st August 2008, 14:28

    “If it was not the case, they would certainly not bother spending millions in aerodynamics R&D as in the regulations , nothings forces you to employ wings!”

    Of course they are not perfect idiots! (neither everybody here)

    Osami Musashi. No one here is telling you, that you are wrong.

    I understand what you are saying. The thing here is not to stay arguing with each other and arrive no were. The intention is to achieve knowledge, observing things, perceiving, change informations. We can even “compete” with each other if in the end we arrive in a better level, that´s learning.

    Everyone here knows that you need aceleration to achieve speed. If you have better brakes (let´s say “negative” aceleration) you will go “faster to”, you will have better lap times wich is an obvious thing the auto world made it more clear with Le Mans Jaguar. And every one knows that down force make the car acelerate more in all directions and senses and thus have better lap times.

    If you race in a airport in straiht line(let say a Silverstone old airport) with a 1950 car in one direction you will arrive at the 300km/h. If you take a vehicle specially designed like an airplane, you will reach the same speed even with less power because you will reach a zero lift in some time and the tyre rolling resistance will be zero allowing the vehicle to have a higher final speed.

    What you are saying, and everybody will agree with you, is that if this airport race changes to a race consisting in going to the end and then coming back, the downforce formula 1 wins.

  6. ogami musashi said on 1st August 2008, 14:50

    “If you race in a airport in straiht line(let say a Silverstone old airport) with a 1950 car in one direction you will arrive at the 300km/h. If you take a vehicle specially designed like an airplane, you will reach the same speed even with less power because you will reach a zero lift in some time and the tyre rolling resistance will be zero allowing the vehicle to have a higher final speed.”

    Okay, this is a matter of level of course.

    Let’s make it clear, a car needs more downforce for corners than for straight line accelerations, that’s for sure.

    So we basically agree that if you want to beat a straight line speed record you need to cut some downforce.

    What do you mean by “shape like an airplane”?
    Roll resistance is never zero;
    Both in the case of an ancient tyre, if rolling resistance was decreased, loads also so less acceleration resulted.

    In new tyres, rolling resistance is decoupled from grip but you still need loads.

    So i don’t understand what you mean sorry.


    What you are saying, and everybody will agree with you, is that if this airport race changes to a race consisting in going to the end and then coming back, the downforce formula 1 wins”

    I’m saying both. Be it race or airport, if you have downforce you’ll go faster.
    Of course if you run the race track you’ll need more because you need lateral accelerations, but in both case you’ll need downforce.

    But that said, the topic back at the origin was to talk about the solution of “no downforce” car on a race track.
    Some people think those cars would not be far slower than actual one, i just answered why i think they would be far slower.

  7. Brar said on 1st August 2008, 17:09

    In the airplane example the tyre rolling resistance aproach to zero, and is zero at the exact instant the airplane takes of.

    With a live axle if you don´t have tyre rolling resistance you will not achieve aceleration.
    In the straight line record you start with v=0 and maximum aceleration using maximum grip (the reaction equal to rolling resistance), until the end when you reach V=max and zero aceleration (and you would want zero rolling resistance at this point and no downforce if that was possible (it´snt) and F1 aerofoils are working against you at this point. Will be nice to have an adjustable one to avoid this. But that´s not the case now and that´s not FIA aim is it is well explainded in post (15)Ogami).

  8. ogami musashi said on 1st August 2008, 20:31

    Ah yes i see what you mean okay.

    However rolling resistance is not anymore linked to downforce and friction coefficient.
    Rolling resistance and grip occuring at totally different frequency ranges, modern tyres are built to have little mass deformation (rolling resistance) while still allowing high surface deformation (grip).

    At least if you talk about “rolling resistance” in the scientific term (that visco-elastic mass deformation).
    A problem that occurs at high speed with loads (like downforce) often mistaken for rolling resistance is the carcass fail.

    That’s another problem.

    It was totally true however until the mid 90’s that a tyre with more load (of even friction coefficient) used to have more rolling resistance; but even at that time a properly set tire only had rolling resistance in small proportions and at those times Drag was the most important limiter.

  9. Brar said on 2nd August 2008, 1:17

    To accelerate you need to have down force and friction coefficient. And the price you will need to pay for it, is rolling resistance.

    They are related for sure. As rolling resistance is the reaction to acceleration.

    In a dragster, in the starting moment you want carcass deformation, grip, and you will pay it with rolling resistance

  10. ogami musashi said on 2nd August 2008, 11:16


    In a dragster, in the starting moment you want carcass deformation, grip, and you will pay it with rolling resistance”

    Why would you want carcass deformation?

  11. William Wilgus said on 2nd August 2008, 18:04

    Dragster slicks’ carcass deformation:

    It gives a larger contact patch while the tire is not rotating and `softens’ the shock of sudden torque application to the tire. As rotation speed increases, the deformation decreases due to the `centrifical force’ [inertia] of the tread. These special slicks are called `wrinkle-wall slicks’ because the sidewall wrinkles at the tire rotational speeds mentioned above. (They’re also inflated to very low pressures.) Here’s a photo of one:

    http://www.hotrod.com/techarticles/general/drag_slick_tire_tech/photo_01.html

  12. Brar said on 2nd August 2008, 18:05

    Because you need to mechanically increase the grip.

    So for that, the dragster tyre before the start have a visible carcass deformation looking like deflation.

    This deflation give you big patch area. When the movement began the tyre “inflates” by rotation, and this increase the car load over the road. It´s like a “mechanical down force”, and you achieve by this more traction.

  13. ogami musashi said on 2nd August 2008, 20:58

    Yeah thanks for the photo,

    The carcass deformation may feature rolling resistance increased, but it is not because you have more contact patch area, it is because the whole tyre is deformed.

    Thus,this has nothing to do with friction coefficient.

  14. Brar said on 3rd August 2008, 7:07

    When you have deformable bodies like tyres and rubber surface patch area increases grip.

  15. christopherlewis said on 3rd August 2008, 10:08

    What a headache! Through a tight hairpin, accelerate out, don’t forget ‘new fangled flap thingy button’. Two main reasons i don’t like it are that driver skill is not based the optimum time to press the ‘cheat button’, and that i think it gives another advantage to the bigger teams who will obviously plough money into the perfection of the system.

    Does anybody remember that fantastic advert where the driver had to get out of the car at a pit-stop, spin round ten times and get back in?

    Brilliant website by the way

  16. ogami musashi said on 3rd August 2008, 20:34

    “When you have deformable bodies like tyres and rubber surface patch area increases grip”

    Yeah…hum..excuse me i think we just don’t understand each other.

    Let’s let this for another time, as i’m sure the question of “downforce over tyre grip” will come again.

    See you.

  17. Brar said on 3rd August 2008, 23:25

    Ok.
    Sorry for my “Shakesperean English”.

    Deformable rubber “penetrates” asphalt, and for that you have accelerations bigger then 1g wich would be impossible if we were speaking about rigid bodies in a car whith “zero down force” when contact area size doesn´t change Grip. When you have surfaces like rubber and asphalt a bigger contact area incrases grip.

  18. ogami musashi said on 4th August 2008, 12:57

    I know that brar; We don’t understand each other because we’re not speaking of the same thing.

    But that comes from both of us, and surely more from me as my english is not my first language and sometimes have difficulties employing the correct words.

    I can assure you that sooner than you think a topic talking about the very same thing will pop up here again.

    It pops up every time on every forums that talks of F1.

    We will start from fresh arguments and that will be easier to follow because i think now we’ve diverted too far from the original point.

    Thank you for your patience and politeness.

  19. Brar said on 4th August 2008, 21:39

    This time I will not agree with you. I think we understand each other very well. This subject is one of the nicest things in estate of the art in auto racing. I hope we continued writing about it for sure.

    Thank you for the talk too.

  20. ogami musashi said on 6th August 2008, 11:22

    Well okay let’s continue but i think we need to re center our arguments.

    The context of the discussion is “A car with less downforce will have less rolling resistance thus going faster in straight line”.

    My answer to that is “no, not necessarily” because “it depends on the construction of the tyre because it will depend on the softness of the tyre in the particular frequencies of sollicition of loadings”

    That is we now develop tyre with silicium; The mixes make that the rubber doesn’t deform so much in the frequencies of rolling resistance thus it decreases it, while it deforms a lot in the frequencies of grip.

    So “Grip and rolling resistance are decoupled”.

    Now that’s between one tyre and one another that are different.

    If you now talk about the same tyre, one case loaded with downforce, the other not loaded.

    In this case “Rolling resitance will increase because of the downforce, but only because of the downforce”.

    Thus “Contact patch area has no influence on rolling resistance”.

    In addition The forces of rolling resistance are very small in regards to the forces developed by grip so by far he most important thing that slows down a car with downforce (we talk about the same car with the same tyres, one case run with downforce, the other without) is the aero drag.

    The final top speed will depend on the ratio of drag/traction.

    That’s why in my posts above i said that “There’s no guaranty a car once run without downforce and once with will be faster without”.
    It depends on the what you need as acceleration.

    In the single example of wrinkle slicks the carcass deformation does increases the rolling resistance but not the fact there’s a larger contact patch area (see my explanation in the beginning of that paragraph).
    This is simply the fact the whole tyre deforms.

    So to stay in the context, we can’t say that a downforce car will go slower than a non downforce one.
    It depends mainly on ratio offered by drag/traction.

    This true that you would need to decrease the downforce as speed goes up (as you need less acceleration) but in the case of a no downforce car, this one would have some problems accelerating right from the start to the middle speeds.
    A F1 car still accelerates at 1,4G at 240km/h!

    The example by william of the Indycars ran with less ground effects is too vague, i’ve seen the account from the pilot, so many things could explain it, but rolling resistance is very small in comparison of drag so even with ground effecst that offer less drag than the wings, you still have drag, so less ground effects, less drag.

    That alone can account for the higher top speed.
    Also the tyres were not as good as now so, again going back to the subject, a no downforce car would be dead slower that a downforce one.

    Especially in high speed cornering.

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