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. 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.
    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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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

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

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

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. rikadyn said on 28th April 2010, 5:04

    I don’t think Indycar will have the balls to accept it, but I think the DeltaWing approach,remembering that the Deltawing group isn’t a car design, it’s a design philosophy and idea for other teams to interpret, would be perfect for F1

  12. DavidS said on 28th April 2010, 6:28

    I’ve brought this up before.
    Return to active suspension, even if it is a spec unit.
    It has implications for the motor industry, as it will improve ride, grip and handling on road cars.

    On F1 cars, it will improve mechanical grip, narrow the window of performance gained in Free Practice and if you mandate a minimum ride height that is far above current standards, you can limit the effect of underfloor air flow, which results in less turbulence. A car following will still have a higher level of mechanical grip to help them close up on a car.

  13. thomas said on 28th April 2010, 6:39

    Some of the best racing comes dring wet races. I’d say we need to decrease aero grip and have a corresponding increase in power to mimick wet race conditions.

    A downforce limit is easy to enforce if the tech inspectors were given the spring and dampening rates and load cells were attached to the suspension. With a downforce limit, efficiency comes to the forefront which would actally provide a benefit to road cars and engine development can come back.

  14. alun said on 28th April 2010, 6:57

    a return to the ground effects of the 80’s and banning the ridiculous and hideous wide front wings would work

  15. thomas said on 28th April 2010, 7:36

    can’t ban wings…that’s advertising space. besides, like it or not, wings are now a part of f1. you can decrease the size of the wing i suppose.

    another problem the cars have is the ability to follow each other. there has to be some sort of minimum radiator area available for cooling. how often do we see a car pop out of the slipstream so as to get fresh air? pathetic.

    the neutering of the engine development takes away one of the best methods for a team to increase their speed.

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