Addicted to aero (Making F1 better)

Aerodynamics are widely blamed for causing poor racing in F1

Aerodynamics are widely blamed for causing poor racing in F1

The “Making F1 better” discussion series started here last week has provoke a range of responses and ideas from fans.

But one particular complaint has come up time and time again: F1 cars are too dependent on downforce.

There may be no silver bullet which cures all F1’s ills, but kicking its addiction to aerodynamics could be the best way of improving the quality of racing. How can F1 do it?

Piece by piece

It didn’t take long after wings first started to appear on F1 cars for the governing body to step in to restrict them. The first wings, mounted high above the cars on tall legs, were prone to collapsing, causing huge accidents. These were banned, but soon teams got to grips with integrating them into their cars.

Throughout the eighties and nineties and up to the present day wing size, shape and position has become increasingly restricted. But as the teams’ understanding of aerodynamics has become more sophisticated they’ve been able to claw back the lost performance.

Today the leading F1 teams bring new aerodynamic components to every race – either refinements of existing designs or one-off versions tailored to the demands of a particular track.

The changes recommended by the FIA’s Overtaking Working Group in 2009 brought the most radical changes to the aerodynamic rules in a generation. These continued the practice of limiting what aerodynamic devices the designers could put on the cars, and where.

The oversight in the regulations which allowed teams to create ‘double diffusers’ will be fixed in 2011. Some designers have disputed whether banning double diffusers will increase the amount of overtaking.

Could the FIA limit the amount of downforce a car could produce? Hiring a windtunnel to measure it would be prohibitively expensive, and the cars would have to be checked at the tracks to ensure compliance, so this looks like a non-starter.

Is it possible to reign in downforce sufficiently by continuing the practice of limiting what the designers can put on the cars? The amount of development which has gone into front wings and pod wings this year suggests more aggressive tactics are necessary.

Standard components

It’s always controversial to suggest introducing any kind of standard components in F1. But as rules on what the teams can put on their cars become ever tighter, the value of retaining total freedom looks increasingly worthless.

It is impossible for F1 to have completely free technical rules – it would be too expensive and too unsafe.

Requiring the teams to use some standard aerodynamic components, such as front wings and rear wings, could free up their budgets to concentrate on areas that are more beneficial for the wider motoring industry and less likely to harm the quality of racing than piling yet more downforce onto the cars.

Over to you

How should F1 get its aerodynamic problem under control? Has the time come to standardise wings on the cars? Is more than just a ban on double diffusers needed for 2011?

Or perhaps you think the aerodynamic a debate a red herring, and there is a greater problem which spoils the quality of racing in F1? Have your say in the comments.

Read more: FOTA consider new 2011 downforce cuts

This is part of “Making F1 better”, a series of articles looking at ways to improve Formula 1. Fore more information see the introduction: Making F1 better: a discussion series

Making F1 better

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189 comments on Addicted to aero (Making F1 better)

  1. Bartholomew said on 27th April 2010, 20:50

    – definitely, banning all “floor” things like DD
    – front wings, half as wide and half as deep, to make cars shorter.
    – smaller brakes
    – shorter cars
    – whatever it takes

  2. DaveW said on 27th April 2010, 20:55

    This obsession with chopping off the wings, even if based on more than aesthetics or nostalgia, is misguided. The evidence we have is that limiting the appearance of certain types of body work in certain places does not by itself make cars more follow-able. And it won’t save costs.

    Standardizing the wings, or making them teency, will not somehow demephasize aero development, or make it cheaper, or make it less time-consuming. One only has to look at the nose of the Audi R-15 and its competitors to see how much banning front wings has done to idle aerodynamicists, or quiet design controversies. More likely, drastic limits will only increase the marginal returns to research in that area, and thus the effort expended on body-work-related downforce.

    Second, and as a related result, I expect that it will not necessarily reduce turbulence sensitivity, which is not the same thing as reducing turbulence. Open-wheel, open-cockpit cars have enourmous amounts of drag, due primarily to their fundamental configuration. So long as any downforce, and performance, is derived from bodywork, it will be disrupted by turbulence. Further, possibly, resulting designs relying almost entirely on body shape for downforce will be more vulnerable to dirty air, not less. Even Sprint Cup cars suffer from these issues, and, contrary to popular myth, IRL cars suffer greatly from wake turbulence as well.

    It’s easy to say, well then “ban” “wings”, but a glance at an LMS/ALMS car where the rear wing is limited to a scrawny single plane, with no front wing allowed, shows us the limits of texts to govern shapes. And Adrian Newey hasn’t even put his pencil to a modern prototype design.

    This is simply not a pressing issue. And going down some radical path of redesign of the formula is not a risk worth taking. Frankly, I don’t think the aero changes from 08 to 09 ammounted to a hill of beans, as far as improving the show.

    I would suggest one body work change, to go with some rule changes. The cars should be required to have hard body work behind and and in front of the wheels, like the Swift IRL chassis proposals. Drivers need to know that going for a pass will not send them into the stands if it goes wrong.

    • BasCB said on 28th April 2010, 10:03

      Maybe having the 18″ wheels next year will make the teams change the suspension and have a more varying ride heigt to cope with less flexibility in the tyres.
      That would affect Aero efficiency as well, wouldn’t it?
      The tyres would ruin aero in a larger part of the cars.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 30th April 2010, 17:05

      I would suggest one body work change, to go with some rule changes. The cars should be required to have hard body work behind and and in front of the wheels, like the Swift IRL chassis proposals. Drivers need to know that going for a pass will not send them into the stands if it goes wrong.

      That would be pretty radical. Would people even recognise them as F1 cars any more? And would it not just encourage driver to push each other out of the way?

  3. Eddie Irvine said on 27th April 2010, 20:57

    I totally disagree! if we agree on that, in 5-6 years we ‘ll agrre to remove completely the front and the rear wing… We will come up with a formula 1 car like 50s’. Formula 1 is all about designing an opel wheel car. I’m sad to say that but max mosley was right…set a budget cap(my proposal is 100m without marketing) and give freedom to the designers, this will lead to bigger differences between cars and more overtaking…
    Finally most of the overtaking takes place under braking… so increase the breaking zones.. how? increase the power of the engines ..so bigger top speeds… and put ”bad” breakes

  4. Niko said on 27th April 2010, 21:31

    3 things that you need to consider:

    1.) these discussions kinda fall victim to the continuous banging about fixing F1 and making it “better”. Although I truly love and follow this blog, it seems that we are only talking about getting cars to overtake each other easily. Is this what is all about? No. Watch motoGP if you rather – however think first why it is easier for them to overtake – simply it is harder to drive the bike and has less elements to adjust and manipulate for each track totake it to the limit corner after corner.
    2.) We all know that in a race a) an F1 car matters too much to the result – yes, but b) driver/team finding optimum setup and getting into the “grove” matter too – this is really important to understand that the whole sport now revolves around this fact – changing the aerodynamic philosophy is not enough, as this is how F1 operates and the teams will find anything they can to get an optimum setup for each track. It is like “programming” the cars to a base level that contribute to 95% of the performance and up to the driver to find the remaining 5% (if that). You want more challenge? the restrict the adjustments they can do on a race by race basis – let them drive almost same car in Monaco, Bahrain, Spa, Monza, etc… – But hang on – we don’t want that do we?
    3.) If you just make overtaking easier then you are making it easier for the fast car to get in front during the race – indirectly you are allowing the fast ones to, say, make mistake and have a good chance to get back in front.

    The main fact is this – the fastest cars have a huge advantage – best drivers do not necessarily shine. Cutting aero etc will not fix this challenge, it will shift it to something else that the clever engineers will find. This is how it is for the last 20 years I watch F1, (Beneton, Williams, McLaren, Ferrari, Renault+Michelin, etc..) – but this is what we come to like. I hate boring races, but then the small details make the difference now and this is what we all appreciate in this sport – diversity and technology at the cost of manic overtaking – and when it rains then let them driver work his magic or ruin it

    • Gilles said on 30th April 2010, 11:56

      I think you have an interesting idea in racing the same car at every track. We wouldn’t notice it that much, but it might still contribute something. At least, it’ll keep some costs down, although the teams will probably end up designing their car to do OK in most of the tracks on the calendar.

  5. Sven said on 27th April 2010, 21:45

    Make the tyres wider and the wings smaller.

  6. Craig said on 27th April 2010, 21:52

    Larger wheels, radius and width, smaller wings, cars to be higher off the ground? And BRING BACK REFUELLING!

  7. Front wing just a head of the barg boards (it would be cool to see how the aro guys would use the air coming off of the front wheels. Rear wing mounted on the shark fin,trailing edge must end at the center line of the drive shafts and the single floor plate must end there too. Push bar on gearbox, so team mate can push to pass like NASCAR :)

  8. Ant W said on 27th April 2010, 22:40

    I’ve been reading nearly all the comments on here and obviously I believe some of the ideas are quite good. Instead of all the restrictions for the sake of them, e.g. they might improve overtaking costs etc. Why not instead have a points based system whereby you can bring updates to your car, either at the expense of you own teams points, or based on the previous years constructors standings. So the higher you finish the more restricted you are in terms of number of developments, track time in testing. This would give smaller teams, more freedom to keep on par with the big boys but more cheaply. Obviously you have downsides, say ferrari make a really bad car, think we can skip this year and dominate the next, but is that really in the teams interest? I would see it kind of like mosely’s cost capping rules(as much as I despise him), but based on points instead.

    • RFB said on 28th April 2010, 0:35

      You realise that with your rules, in 2009, Brawn in front would have been allowed lots of developments, while Ferrari and McLaren would have been stuck with slow cars all season, right ?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 28th April 2010, 10:14

      So the higher you finish the more restricted you are in terms of number of developments, track time in testing.

      I can’t agree with that idea, it’s wrong to punish people for doing well. It’s like giving the winning driver more ballast for the next race.

  9. f1Fan said on 27th April 2010, 22:50

    I think F1 does have a problem because of its reliance on aero which does need to be addressed in some way to get a greater balance between mechanical and aero grip.

    But if you listened to the drivers after bahrain Schumacher said its impossible to overtake unless a driver makes a mistake, Button also eluded to this by saying he wasnt driving flatout because there was no way passed micheal.

    So I think there are two things to think about here,

    You could re-introduce manual gear boxes, a driver might get the wrong gear coming into a corner – driver behind has a chance to overtake.

    The tracks have a lot to do with it! F1 needs to look at going to race circuits where they are many places a driver can overtake if he’s fundamentally faster. Brazil is a good example, there is always plenty of overtaking because of the environment of the track, the sweeping corners, straights, braking zones and the face its high above sea level (I think :S)…

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 28th April 2010, 10:17

      I think the manual gearboxes idea is a red herring. It’s not as if we saw much overtaking due to missed gearchanges before semi-automatic gearboxes came along.

      And in a few years’ time you might have a job explaining to an average driver what a manual gearbox used to be.

  10. Mark said on 27th April 2010, 23:26

    How about removing the rev limit ?

    One limit on overtaking is that cars hit the rev limit on the straights when slipstreaming and therefore they cannot get past or even close enough to overtake under braking.

    Remove the rev limit and a following car will be able to gain much more speed to overtake than they can today.

    Also some teams/drivers will take more of a risk with the revs than others and may suffer engine failures (better for the show ?) and run into problems towards the end of season due to the engine limit…. it would certainly introduce greater variation and different strategies.

  11. Firstly, I would propose ground effect tunnels with a maximum total volume and a maximum rear opening. Limit fornt wing span to center line of the tire and limit the number of fins and the total outline volume of the end plates. Limit the span camber thickness and chord of rear wings and the area of the end plates, as well as limit the placement of the wing fore and aft and a range of height they may be mounted. Allow 15 degrees movement in angle of attack, and allow cockpit articulated flaps on the front wing as well as allowing the both wings’ angle of attack to be articulated in brakind and strasighaway conditions. These are completely with in the capability of F1 drivers as pilots do it all the time.
    engines:
    1.5 liter turbocharged direct injected gasoline for the time being with flywheel Kers with up to 150 hp and no limit to when or how long or how many times it can be used.
    No telemetry control forom the pits. Any changes to the car while on track limited to the drivers control only.
    18″ wheel and steel brake discs. this will allow bold braking passes but will restrict the number of time as a result of overheating and wear. 1 only mandetory fuel stop, but allow fuel tanks to be only 75 % of present capacity.
    This allows for strategy.
    No mandatory running of 2 tire types, but return to qualifying tires, and 2 race compounds more closely matched. Adds to strategy.
    No fins wort or proturerences from Any are of the body work.
    Limit changes to cars to every forth race.
    Suspension arm chord wise crossections must be semetrical with no or maximum pitch of 2 dergees and must maintain that angle throughout their travev and loading.
    That’s all I can think of for now, so I’ll go back to sleep
    Barry

  12. I forgot one last thing.Pit grews.
    One tire man per corner, one front, one rear jackman, and one lollipop man. 2 men allowed to work on the nose or whatever, and 2 for fueling.

  13. Luiz said on 28th April 2010, 0:57

    I think that in every race the safety car should get into the track at the half of the race to make that the cars get closer and it will give to F1 an significative improvement.

  14. Mike said on 28th April 2010, 1:12

    I have often enough voiced my opinion that we need the change the aero-mechanical grip balance in favour of the mechanical. But how to do it and what to change are very difficult questions.

    The first consideration I will point out, Is a purely aesthetic one, I don’t want to see both Ferrari and Mclaren look the the same, Many people have almost a fear of having F1 resemble a spec series, quite like Americans and communism, But in this case, it is a valid fear, F1 has always distinguished itself from other series by the cars visual differences, and that is something we will want to continue.

    The second issue I think is the need for the change, Aerodynamics are having two effects on the racing, It is harder to overtake, and cornering speeds are continuing to rise. Note how cars in 1997 (from memory) achieved higher top speeds, but much slower lap times than the cars of today, This is at least in part due to the cornering speeds increasing due to down force. The first problem is the one we see easily and ergo complain about, But the second is just as damaging overall, and in the end, partly responsible for the first one. So there is a need for some to be changed.

    Lastly, F1 leads the world in aerodynamics, The classic line “F1 has more in common with a fighter Jet than a road car” Is what makes it different, I know F1 tries to have itself seen as a series from which road car technology trickles down, But ignoring the Williams KERS Device, both simply can’t be commonly achieved in this day and age.

    I think that this problem will never go away, and can’t be solved without making sacrifices,

    I would suggest two idea’s, have wings with rules Limiting modification,
    for example, FIA rules stipulate teams use a certain wing section and these are the dimensions of it, with rules preventing teams building around it to manipulate it, and allowing teams only to change the sideboards within these limits. also in conjunction, Modifying the rules to further limit the bottom of the cars design, basically force teams to use a block instead of a diffuser section, and have the underbelly of the car fairly useless in terms of generating down force.

    That should severely restrict Down force, The FIA picking the section means that they could have one that does not create much down force, but does create a relatively high amount of drag allowing a slipstream, but only a limited one, and not as we have it now.,

    • JW Tacoma said on 28th April 2010, 3:05

      Down force is cool. These F1 cars never cease to amaze me; they look like slot cars, it looks unreal and sets them apart from Indy cars. It seems to me that down force is not the problem, it’s turbulence and/or sensitivity. Can they obtain current levels of down force while reducing turbulence? Perhaps the problem isn’t so much overtaking per Se as it is the inability to race close together. What about allowing down force to be directly applied to the suspension? Clearly I am no expert, but I would imagine less aero would be necessary to attain the same levels of down force and grip, perhaps creating opportunities to clean up the wake.

  15. Danny said on 28th April 2010, 1:44

    Maybe wing components can be restricted to be under a certain weight (surface area would be too complicated), from a standardized hardpoint position on the chassis. Then it’d be a matter of optimizing wing up to a limit.

  16. VXR said on 28th April 2010, 1:45

    Standard smaller front wing, limited or even no diffuser, and tyres as hard as iron.

  17. narrower tires, and smaller wings..
    and take away the mirrors too, so we dont have another malaysia race. (hamilton-petrov battle)

  18. sato113 said on 28th April 2010, 2:22

    kick the word ‘standardise’ out of the dictionary. it shouldn’t be anywhere near Formula 1.
    i think f1’s ok as it is. definately room for improvement, but definately not as bad as we make it seem.

  19. ming mong said on 28th April 2010, 2:53

    The FIA could allocate an amount of area to all the teams & as long as they meet strict safety rules & standards allow each team the ability to decide how they wish shape & mold this aero area to there car. This would promote interesting designs like we had back in the 70s/80s and make the cars more interesting & diverse than they currently are today. This also could apply for the engine specs as well, cap the HP, RPM & EPA & then let the engine manufacturers decide how they wish to produce the numbers. For manufactures like Toyota & Renault it is in there business interests to develop & run small lightweight turbo engines as heavy V8s will never feature in there road cars however Mercedes & Ferrari may wish to continue to develop & run heavier V8s/10s etc. I think F1 was great when we had different size engines, each one had there strength, weakness & distinctive note. No need to over complicate things, sometimes less is best!

  20. Mark in Florida said on 28th April 2010, 3:14

    I think that limited wings similar to the way that the Indy league uses would work.The FIA could adjust the downforce according to the track,just like Bridgestone adjusts the tires now.Taking wing development out of the picture would free the designers to concentrate on the the body shape and more importantly on gaining mechanical grip.If anyone thinks that doing away with wings will solve the overtaking problem.Just look at NASCAR those cars with no front wings and barely any rear wing are so aero dependent that when they get close to each other they almost lose all control.Engine development should be allowed within limits such as a fixed amount of fuel per car.Now that the working groups are going towards 1.5 liter turbos this would reward efficiency.If you can make 800 hp vs. 720 hp with the same amount of fuel then you will reap the benefits.Development has to occur somewhere it might as well be the motors.At least this efficiency can translate well into the real world.

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