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. 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:

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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

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

  5. 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

  6. 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.

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

    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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. Kester said on 6th August 2008, 12:31

    I think the problem here is that you are saying faster and slower when you are talking about acceleration, not overall speed.

    A car with no downforce will eventually reach a higher straight line speed than a car with downforce (that’s common sense, as there is less drag). It could however take longer to get there as it may not be accelerate as fast due to the fact that it’s tyres may slip over rather than grip the track, whereas a car with downforce would be pushing the tyres into the road. It would also have to slow more for the corners.

    ogami musashi is right, it’s just the way the arguement was delivered.

  12. ogami musashi said on 6th August 2008, 19:13

    No I am talking about overall speed.
    Where you’re right is that of course it is taken on a given distance, if you run a infinity of course the car with less drag (so if the car are identical the one with no downforce) will finish at a higher speed.

  13. Brar said on 7th August 2008, 20:00

    Osami: to make it awfully clear: You are talking about the integral of the instant speed, (at each instant) overall the circuit.

    I don´t want to put this like an argument. This is not the matter here. The matter here is to achieve understanding.

    For sure that a car with fixed wings angle will have better laps time. It is obvious, too, that if you have a variable wing you will make an even better lap time.

    The problem of a variable wing is that if you had a failure in rising the angle, then (you will have no reaction like the almost 5g in braking and cornering and this is the same effect of losing brakes or ground grip). Because of that they were banned.

    The central point of the topic here, you have already explained in (15). The device is not an (dangerous) adjustable wing, but, a variable flap that will recovers active security (down force) allowing the back car to aproach the front one in the corners.

    In the past years FIA was, lets say, going in the wrong way. The front wing was rised and the aero sensivite was so that the car in the turbulence looses grip and overtaking for that was pretty dificult.

  14. Here’s an idea that wouldn’t be difficult to implement on top of this crazy adjustable wing idea;

    Give each driver a random number of wing changes from 3 to 7 per lap. The drivers don’t know how many they have, the number changes each lap.

    They would have to attack / defend all of the time, and it’s garunteed to bring more overtaking ;)

    Of course it’s still completely arbitrary, and not based on skill.

  15. Martin said on 16th September 2008, 7:09

    wait, I’ve got it! If we alter the camber of the adjustable, uhh, the adjustable… – ok, I guess I don’t have it.
    worst of all, I NEVER will.

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