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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