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 29th July 2008, 12:31

    @sean:

    The GP2 car is a good example indeed.But it was not low downforce, it was simply a well balanced (between tyre grip and downforce) car.
    Next year F1 will be like that.

    @Sriran:
    Depends but genrally just aft of the front wheels, prior to the bargeboard.

    However people usually switch names for what they speak about so if “turning vane” means something different to you, please show me a drawing pointing at what you want to know

    @Alastair:

    Turbulence affects less ground effect cars,unfortunately the slipstream does affect them more than wings.

    Thus cars with venturis can also be affected, however the balance of the car moves less.

    Again, one solution is to balance wings, ground effects and tyre grip.

  2. Ogami: I’ve heard Toyota using the term ‘turning vanes’ a lot in their press conferences and I couldn’t really get to see it all. That’s why I asked you and thanks for your answers!

  3. Brar said on 29th July 2008, 12:54

    I´m quite sure I have seem Schumacher in a especial Ferrari Tv Discovery stile program, saying that it was possible to reach 500Km/h in a F1 without the drag caused by wings and down force.

    Alan van der Merwe reached near 400Km/h in Boneville with the Honda F1 V10 in 2006.

  4. ogami musashi said on 29th July 2008, 13:22

    @Brar:

    Bar the rear wing (if you talk about the bonneville attemp), it stayed the front wing and all the underfloor aerodynamics.

    Not really a no downforce condition.

  5. ukk said on 29th July 2008, 14:37

    @Ogami: theoretically there could be a gap in the speed range, however this will practically happen when the mechanical grip is drastically lower than normal, i.e. if you’re driving slicks on a wet track and you have a super efficient aero. Then theoretically the car could understeer out of the corner.
    In practice I’ve never seen such case on the telemetry, but this was long time ago so if you have more concrete details I’ll be quite interested to learn from your experience.

  6. Brar said on 29th July 2008, 14:58

    Ogami: For something because of that they didnt´reach the 500Km/h, that Schumacher said.

  7. William Wilgus said on 29th July 2008, 16:49

    Top Fuel Drag racing cars have about 7,000 horsepower, so I think that the amount of drag produced by their wings is rather moot.

    Ogami: Finishing with drag racing, the highest acceleration rates are in the first 400 feet; the main reason for top fuel’s wings is because the slicks grow at speed, severely narrowing their contact patch with the asphalt.

    As yes, wake turbulence. The front wing’s angle of incidence RELATIVE TO THE AIRFLOW and IN THE WAKE of a LEADING CAR is going to depend upon the distance from that car and the aerodynamic properties of that car—which will depend on the attitude of that car (understeer, oversteer, etc.). Since all of those factors are in a constant state of flux, the downforce generated by the wing will be in a constant state of change. Through the waterspray left behind a moving car, it’s rather easy to actually see the turbulence a moving vehicle leaves: some of the air spirals and some of it `tumbles’. It’s safe to assume, then, that at some moments, a wing in the wake of a car will stall due to that turbulence. More significantly, it is a given that the airfoil’s angle of incidence in that wake turbulence will be constantly changing. That will result in constant changes in the amount of down-force being generated and the structural load on the wing. Since increasing the lift of a wing increases it’s load, adding flaps or a camber altering device to the front wings of an F-1 car isn’t simply a matter of adding a couple of actuators. Because extra strength in a component translates to extra weight of that component, such things as front wings are designed to be only strong enough to last the race. A front wing flap / camber adjustment device will bring about more front wing failures . . . and more accidents.

    Movable aerodynamic devices were banned for a reason, and it’s still valid.

  8. ogami musashi said on 29th July 2008, 20:33

    @william wilgus:

    I know what is an effective angle of attack thanks..that doesn’t change the fact that a wing operating lower than its clmax will be less prone to stall than a fixed wing near that Cl.

    The load variations are not new, and adjusting the camber will help.

    Now, if the attachement of flaps this year work fine with twice the downforce (hence far greater loads) i don’t see why actuated flaps attachement would not sustain those loads with half (or so) the downforce.

    In addition there’re strict deflection tests carried on by the FIA.

    In case of a failure of the actuator what would result is a simple lock of the flap so again i don’t see the problem.

    In contrary to you technical directors don’t see that problem either.

    @ukk:

    I reckon most of the time this is to be rather a problem of taking the corner at the optimal speed (the highest possible) than taking it or going off, but still that happens.

    As for data, i’ll ask a friend at michelin competition but last time we talked about it it was no question of looking at the data, as you know their are strictly confidential.
    however i’ll ask for more precisions for hard data facts.

  9. Brar Soler said on 30th July 2008, 1:11

    Ogami Musashi: After reading your posts for several times I finally understand it.

    And so, now, I will try to explain it to the others :-).

    All the misunderstanding that happens in the case is that everybody at first glance think that the adjustable aerofoil is conceived to be used to achieve higher speed in the straight. But that for sure is not the case (the two cars will lower front aerofoil and no one overtakes no one)

    But as you already explained in your first post (15) it´s not that.

    Let us imagine, for metaphoric communications reasons that nothing had changed. Then arriving at the last corner, in Hungary, Spain or even Monza, the driver that is trying to pass can move his front aerofoil, up! He will not understeer and will get closer and come out of the corner in the mood to take a tow and overtake.

    The front driver for obvious reasons will not gain nothing with more aerofoil´s camber because he will imbalance his car, even oversteer it, and be passed.

    The maneuver security is assured because the driver is increasing the aerofoil camber. Its, awfull to say that, I agree, but FIA made it just right.

  10. michael counsell said on 30th July 2008, 2:39

    Front wing angles are adjustable and are done so every pitstop cheaply and safely with an allen key. An actuator mimicing the allen key linked to a contol on the steering wheel would do the trick and cost very little.

  11. William Wilgus said on 30th July 2008, 6:40

    Well, yes, I suppose that you could just mimic the Allen wrench action. Those adjustments work fine for clean air running. But you still have missed the point that increasing the angle of attack of the wing or changing the angle of a wing flap does not mean that downforce in the wake of a leading car will increase the down-force. It might actually decrease it by passing the optimum angle of incidence. Don’t forget that lift (down-force, in this case) decreases as the airfoil approaches stall; loss of lift isn’t a sudden event, but a gradual event that becomes a sudden loss of all lift at the stall angle. (Further, as the angle of attack increases, drag increases. So you’d need more locomotive power to stay close.)

    There is no driver controlled device that is capable of dealing with such constantly changing apparent angles of attack. Dealing with it would require extremely sensitive sensing devices and a very high-performance computer. An example of this can be found in modern fighter aircrafts’ `fly-by-wire’ systems. (To increase maneuverability, they’re designed to be unstable; no pilot has the skills necessary to perform the minute and rapid adjustments to the plane’s control surfaces that are needed to keep them from going out of control.)

    Let’s get back to acceleration and downforce. The greatest acceleration of a wheel driven vehicle is obtained when the driving wheel(s) are just barely spinning; i.e., `burning rubber’. (So having the wheels `glued’ to the road isn’t what you really want. Of course, too much wheel-spin is totally un-acceptable.) That means applying the exactly correct amount of power throughout the acceleration period. It’s true that more down-force on the drive wheels will allow more power to be applied without excessive wheel-spin. However, the more the car weighs, the greater the inertia the car must overcome to accelerate—so weight isn’t the answer. Aerodynamic downforce isn’t the answer either: at low speed, there isn’t enough downforce produced to do much good; and at higher speeds, any gain in traction produced by the increased down-force is more than offset by the increased aerodynamic drag that the aerodynamic down-force produces. Remember, Drag increase as the SQUARE of the SPEED. (How do Top Fuel dragsters get away with their wings? 7,000 + horsepower.)

    As far as adjustable front wings go in relationship to increasing the ability to pass in F-1, you’re looking for a free lunch—and there ain’t no such thing.

  12. William Wilgus said on 30th July 2008, 6:50

    One more regarding flaps:

    Since you would have a left and a right flap, you’d need 2 actuators. What would happen if one failed and the other didn’t? Therefore, you’d also need an asymmetry detection system—just like on airplane wing flaps—to prevent out of symmetry situations. So much for simple, cost-effective systems.

    Ogami: How would changing the wing camber help relieve the wing’s structural requirements? I don’t understand that one.

  13. ogami musashi said on 30th July 2008, 8:43

    @william wilgus:

    “Well, yes, I suppose that you could just mimic the Allen wrench action. Those adjustments work fine for clean air running. But you still have missed the point that increasing the angle of attack of the wing or changing the angle of a wing flap does not mean that downforce in the wake of a leading car will increase the down-force. It might actually decrease it by passing the optimum angle of incidence. Don’t forget that lift (down-force, in this case) decreases as the airfoil approaches stall; loss of lift isn’t a sudden event, but a gradual event that becomes a sudden loss of all lift at the stall angle. (Further, as the angle of attack increases, drag increases. So you’d need more locomotive power to stay close.”

    Two points you’re missing:

    Do you know what is a wing designed to run below its Clmax?

    That is a wing that run below it’s maximum angle of attack.

    So in anyway, compared to a 140cm, 15 cm high wing, a FLAP of a wing running 180Cm wide and 7.5cm will behave better.
    And increasing the camber of a wing is NOT like increasing the angle of attack; the flow pattern is not the same.

    We do that for planes not only in landing approach but for supersonic flight on fighter jets (where your have compressibility and a lot of load variations) and there’s no problem.

    Do i say the wing would never suffer from load variations??? no of course, the situation is not perfect, but believing the wing will stall is not realistic..

    -The second point is that most of the variation in relative angle of attack is just the opposite of what you think.
    by FAR the most common pathlines pattern is an upwash, which result in DECREASING the angle of attack, so increasing the flaps will only help.

    “Let’s get back to acceleration and downforce. The greatest acceleration of a wheel driven vehicle is obtained when the driving wheel(s) are just barely spinning; i.e., `burning rubber’. (So having the wheels `glued’ to the road isn’t what you really want. Of course, too much wheel-spin is totally un-acceptable.)”

    No no no. A tyre grip is the best while there’s a part of sliding in the contact area but the part of that area that is griping is non sliding of course!
    And, apart from tyre load sensitivity, the more load on it, the better the traction.

    So downforce is of course important..a funny car produces more than 6,5tons of downforce at 400km/h why do you think it does??

    “any gain in traction produced by the increased down-force is more than offset by the increased aerodynamic drag that the aerodynamic down-force produces. Remember, Drag increase as the SQUARE of the SPEED”

    The “square of speed” is a time rate of change not a level.

    the Cl/Cx ratio is relevant; here Cl means the downforce.
    Just like braking (and appart from the pure aerodynamic braking) no F1 car would accelerate like it does without downforce, just like no dragster.

    Of course at low speed (but very low speed) the tyres are important.


    Ogami: How would changing the wing camber help relieve the wing’s structural requirements? I don’t understand that one.”

    I don’t understand what you mean.

  14. William Wilgus said on 30th July 2008, 18:23

    ogami:

    When I wrote about acceleration and wheel-spin, I should have said that THRUST is maximum with a small amount of wheel-spin.

    The square of speed—it certainly is a LEVEL change for Cdrag; it has nothing to do with time.

    Down-force and acceleration, top speed, and lap times: Years ago during an Indy 500, A.J. Foyt showed that a non-ground effects car was faster than a ground-effects car by literally running away from the rest of the field. Did he win? no, he blew his engine. At least for Indy cars at Indy, the advantage of downforce is higher cornering speeds at the cost of lower straightaway speeds—yielding greater reliability of engines. Yes, you’re right that aerodynamic down-force is wonderful in the corners, but it’s a disadvantage on the straights.

    Funny cars: the circumference of the slicks increases with speed, which has the result of narrowing the tread. The huge amount of down-force they have is required to overcome that—and due to their short wheelbase, prevent the front of the car from lifting (at higher speeds).

  15. ogami musashi said on 30th July 2008, 21:29

    @ William Wilgus:

    “When I wrote about acceleration and wheel-spin, I should have said that THRUST is maximum with a small amount of wheel-spin.”

    This is a technic, not a physical situation. A wheel spinning even for a bunch of tenths of a second does not provide with the best grip.

    This technic was(is) used in some cars because their tyres and engines mappings can’t provide for progressive acceleration.

    Don’t confuse the micro sliding into the contact area and a wheel sliding.

    And in any case, that is only relevant for starts, not for accelerations.

    So that has no relevance on our discussion about downforce and acceleration.

    If you think downforce doesn’t allows for better acceleration, then ask yourself why in monaco you run at highest downforce trim with so many 1-2 gear corners.

    “The square of speed—it certainly is a LEVEL change for Cdrag; it has nothing to do with time.”

    I said “time rate of change” but wanted to say “rate of change” short..thus it is not a level, it is just an indication of how fast it grows..well that’s a derivee.

    So in this case the following pragraph:

    “Down-force and acceleration, top speed, and lap times: Years ago during an Indy 500, A.J. Foyt showed that a non-ground effects car was faster than a ground-effects car by literally running away from the rest of the field. Did he win? no, he blew his engine. At least for Indy cars at Indy, the advantage of downforce is higher cornering speeds at the cost of lower straightaway speeds—yielding greater reliability of engines. Yes, you’re right that aerodynamic down-force is wonderful in the corners, but it’s a disadvantage on the straights.”

    ….means nothing. You’re talking about an oval race with little accelerations times.
    We’re talking about road tracks, and we’re talking about cars with downforce vs cars with no downforce which is absolutely not the case here.

    In addition, if i tell you that drag raise is only an indicator of how fast it grows, it is that i tells nothing on the drag level.

    Hence that’s why i said the “Cl/Cx” ratio is relevant here.

    You can have a car with 500Kg of downforce draging less than another car with less downforce or even no downforce.

    “Funny cars: the circumference of the slicks increases with speed, which has the result of narrowing the tread. The huge amount of down-force they have is required to overcome that—and due to their short wheelbase, prevent the front of the car from lifting (at higher speeds)”

    What do you think the downforce does then???? increasing the loads on the tyre.

    Even if there was no centrifugial effect on the tyre carcass you would still need downforce to maintain the grip as with speed the coefficient of friction decreases.

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