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

Loading ... Loading ...

2009 F1 season

The comments below have been split across multiple pages. If you are having trouble viewing all the comments click here to see them all.

Advert | Go Ad-free

107 comments on Adjustable wings – a change too far?

  1. William Wilgus said on 31st July 2008, 1:58

    ogami:
    Wheel-spin. I’m not talking about a time duration of wheel-spin, I’m talking about a rate or amount of wheel-spin. Whether it’s a technique or not, a small amount of wheel-spin produces the greatest amount of thrust. Note that the words thrust and traction are synonymous here.

    How is a start different than an acceleration? Please enlighten me.

    I don’t doubt that you’re knowledgeable in the subject we’ve been discussing, but if you aren’t willing or able to admit that drag increasing `with the square of the speed’ refers to the amount of drag—indeed, describing the rate at which the amount of drag changes—there’s no hope of having a meaningful discussion with you. (You’ve also failed to either grasp or admit the significance of other comments I’ve made in this thread.)

  2. ogami musashi said on 31st July 2008, 9:59

    ” (You’ve also failed to either grasp or admit the significance of other comments I’ve made in this thread.)”

    I always find funny people complaining that their interlocutor don’t understand what they say why even asking themselves if they understand what HE says.

    “Wheel-spin. I’m not talking about a time duration of wheel-spin, I’m talking about a rate or amount of wheel-spin. Whether it’s a technique or not, a small amount of wheel-spin produces the greatest amount of thrust. Note that the words thrust and traction are synonymous here.”

    Then i tell you this is wrong.

    “How is a start different than an acceleration? Please enlighten me.”

    That a wheel spin is used to hook the contact path area in case of a start because there’s no motion so there’s no micro sliding into the contact path area yet.

    That means, while you can do wheel spin at a start and have good acceleration, you can’t do that from a non zero speed to a greater speed.

    Traction control is all about not spinning the wheels, that’s not just for fun.

    “hat drag increasing `with the square of the speed’ refers to the amount of drag—indeed, describing the rate at which the amount of drag changes”

    *The drag that increases* is a level, but *with square of speed* is a RATE.

    Don’t play on words, you’re telling me a non downforce car will have greater top speed than a downforce one “because he’s trading straight line speed to cornering (because the drag increases with the square of speed)”, i say NO, not necessarily.

    Simply because you don’t know the coefficient of drag and more you don’t now the downforce/drag ratio.

    So indeed, for a fixed car, if he trims the wings for more dowforce it will trade off straight line speed, but you can’t compare two different cars saying that “because the drag increases with the square of speed” the downforce car will drag more, that really means nothing.

    In this case, i just could say that 2004 cars should have been slower in straight line speed that 1988 cars, 2004 cars produced less horsepower while having far more downforce…however those one were doing 370km/h at monza, while to other were doing 340km/h… guess why?
    the 2004 one have a far better Cl/Cx ratio.
    Which means they can use their downforce for traction yet having less drag.

  3. William Wilgus said on 31st July 2008, 17:52

    You fail to credit me with the assumption that when comparing the top speed potential of 2 cars, one with little aerodynamic drag and one with significant aero drag, their horsepower should be equal. Then you would have me believe that changing the angle of attack of a wing changes the camber of that wing. It doesn’t. Changing the angle of a wing’s flap changes the camber—and it also changes the cord.

    Structural strength: static load testing does nothing to determine a wing’s ability to endure flexing / flutter. Further to flutter, how about flutter harmonics and at the proper rate, it’s ability to cause wing failure?

    Call it micro-sliding if you wish; I’ll still call it a small amount of wheel-spin.

    On the rest of this discussion, I’ll just put you down as a troll and give up trying to get you to admit some basic truths.

  4. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 31st July 2008, 18:37

    William can we calm things down a bit please. Healthy debate is fine but I don’t want any personal insults or name-calling, we can do without that.

  5. ogami musashi said on 31st July 2008, 19:26

    “You fail to credit me with the assumption that when comparing the top speed potential of 2 cars, one with little aerodynamic drag and one with significant aero drag, their horsepower should be equal. ”

    I don’t understand what you mean sorry.


    Then you would have me believe that changing the angle of attack of a wing changes the camber of that wing. It doesn’t. Changing the angle of a wing’s flap changes the camber—and it also changes the cord.”

    I think you didn’t understand what i wrote, read again..
    i said just the opposite: changing wing camber is NOT changing angle of attack, but it does the same thing: increasing the Clmax, so a wing designed to run under its clmax should have no problem at all increasing its camber.


    Structural strength: static load testing does nothing to determine a wing’s ability to endure flexing / flutter. Further to flutter, how about flutter harmonics and at the proper rate, it’s ability to cause wing failure?”

    Well again you didn’t properly read what i wrote as i talked about “deflection tests” which is “flexing” tests.

    If you had read the regulations you would know that flexing is among the test.

    The flutter bit is funny, do you really think we design wings with a natural frequency so close that it can withstand any load variations??


    Call it micro-sliding if you wish; I’ll still call it a small amount of wheel-spin.”

    Well a micro sliding is a sliding of the contact path which is clearly not the wheel spinning at all, it in fact is a stretching of the contact path area.
    If the wheel slided that would mean no point of the contact path would have zero velocity in relation to the ground hence the adherence would drop.

    Now let me tell you that if your next message contains any personal insult, don’t except me to answer it.

  6. 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)

  7. 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.

  8. 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”

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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).

  13. 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.

  14. 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

  15. 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?

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.