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)

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  1. Steve said on 28th April 2010, 20:29

    adjustable front wings

    i.e. turned down in clean air, turned up in dirty air

    simplified wing elements for front and rear

    i.e. only one-two element allowed for front and rear (look at the wings on indycars)

    the modern F1 front wing has like 6-10 different components, which work amazing in clean air, and horrible behind another car…

    simplify the wing as much as possible, and allow it to be as low as possible

    the rear wing must also be simplified, to one element,

    two elements for monaco and hungary

    3 – much smaller diffuser, ban shark fins, have a minimum size for radiators, restrict aero pieces around sidepods and around rear tires

    the end

  2. Steve said on 28th April 2010, 20:30

    remember, the CARS ALREADY HAVE adjustable front wings, but they can only use it once per lap…

    let the cars adjust the wings even further, and let it be done as much as the driver wants or needs

  3. Ranilom said on 29th April 2010, 5:34

    “It’s always controversial to suggest introducing any kind of standard components in F1. But…” Exactly my point.
    We have no clues (as viewer)of what is going on under a car, there are no technological benefits passed to the road cars from a multimillion $ F1 undercarriage…Why cannot impose a standard undercarriage? (I start to sound like a broken record..)
    Std wings, standard undercarriage and move on. Aerodynamic engineers will have plenty to invent of top of the car…I think.
    Other engineers will have to make the car stick to the ground by other means…plenty to develop for everybody!

  4. GWbridge said on 29th April 2010, 8:23

    Let’s try a different approach. How about designing the cars so that driving skill becomes the primary factor, and use that as the starting point for changing the rules. 1.Anything that substitutes for the driver, such as traction control, should be eliminated from consideration. 2. Anything ridiculously complex and expensive that doesn’t add to the racing (such as KERS; a simple push-to-pass as per IRL rules works fine) should be eliminated from consideration. 3. There needs to be more adjustability built into the cars for use both before and during the race (sorry guys: a la NASCAR) to tailor the car to conditions or the driver’s “style” (no more whining about that when you aren’t competitive). In my opinion, Formula One has always been about attracting and showcasing the best drivers, which team best prepares the car, who has the best strategy, and who can design the best car within ANY set of rules. Formula One should not continue to be ruined by runaway technology. The days have long since passed when what’s in an F1 car has any relevance to what’s on the street (aside from road-going supercars), and running a KERS system does not make F1 cars relevant to the real world. Reduce the aerodynamic dependency, limit the budgets (if they can police it), and let them test the cars. Formula One had better get back in touch with its roots, if it wants to survive. Don’t forget that a few months ago it almost ceased to exist because the people running the show had forgotten or ignored where the sport came from.

    • Stuart said on 29th April 2010, 9:28

      Apart from the Kers, which is relevant to road cars, the rest I fully agree with.
      TC is already banned in F1.As is ABS.
      Telemetery is one way only already.The team can monitor the car, but they cannot make any adjustments.Only the driver can do that.

      • CeeVee777 said on 29th April 2010, 16:09

        Yes telemetry is only one way but effectively you have a driver and about a dozen non-riding co-drivers. These co-drivers monitor the car systems and feed information to the driver.

        How about returning F1 to a single driver formula and only allow the driver to make adjustments based on instrumentation in the cockpit. The driver work-load may well increase but this would add to the uncertainty and could well lead to unexpected retirements or slow-downs.

        It would also serve to reduce costs significantly as there would no longer be the need for all the co-drivers to attend the race or for all the tons of their equipment to be freighted around.

        • BasCB said on 29th April 2010, 18:47

          After seeing the video from Ferrari about their steering wheel, i certainly had the same idea.

          Take this:
          – each driver has his own spec. steering wheel.
          – during the weekend the drivers give remarks and ask for different settings
          – in the season there are several versions of the steering wheel to suit new possibilities etc.
          – there is a whole team of engineers working on this.

          At first i was astounded by the detail going into things like this, but is that not a little bit too much of it?

      • Glen Wilson said on 29th April 2010, 17:11

        I think KERS is just green window dressing. F1 cars are not hybrids. I don’t want to see the driver become even more distracted by gadgets in the cockpit. Talk about texting while driving! Maybe there should be even less in the cockpit. However, I think it might be a good idea to allow some control over chassis setup by the driver in the cockpit during the race. I think this could validly be classified a driving skill if an intelligent driver could compensate for changes in fuel load or change the handling somewhat to improve speed, adapt to changing conditions or save tires.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 30th April 2010, 17:52

          I don’t want to see the driver become even more distracted by gadgets in the cockpit.

          I don’t think there’s any evidence to suggest they’re distracted to begin with.

  5. BasCB said on 29th April 2010, 11:37

    I saw Gas turbines were already tried in F1 ( )

    why not give teams a second chance at them?

    The wigshaped car looks great, does it not.

  6. the funny thing with history and time people aways forget…
    I remember races where the winner was laps ahead and alot of races where there was single numbered finishes…

    Here a few ideas that other have made as well..
    Engines…open up development..we can see some teams haven’t adhered to the freeze as it is…well Renault seem to have and even after last year where they were allowed to get on par they again are mile behind!
    If you want pure grunt you should be allowed to have a v12, or if you want a 4cyl turbo go for it…

    No refueling

    No forced changes, softs to hards, let teams choose their own strategy

    Smaller metal brakes and non exotic pads

    Smaller diffusers

    Regulated wake controls, homologated wings post passing wake tests…
    What this wont work…Monza to Monaco, simple they have movable front wings now…so just make a few extra settings for wider adjustment for each race. Same for rear wings more holes to adjust elements for each track…now this wont be ideal but it would be the same for all.

    Allow proper qual to come back low fuel with a 1 or 2sets MAX of tyres designated to teams to do qual, these tyres dont have to start the race as teams get to choose how they want to strategise each race regardless of qual position.

    The major idea is behind a few ideas like brakes, aero homogation via fia and wake allowance and engine reg is to make cars different…

    Some cars will be quick with v12 but need tyres or more not so fuel efficient and bad with brakes, turbos may be light but need nursing to last 3 races and not go bang…
    Smaller metal brakes over heat and require longer braking so that allows for braver or a driver more efficient that can breaker to get in a positions to overtake..

    Different tyres allow other differences

    DDD are bad..and I am sick of explaining this…yes they produce less drag, the height angle and length of dirty air that can be made is astronomical…a rear wing is far to high to effect a front wing on following car. The ddd does…simple…

    There is 7 ideas that can be implement next year and some this year…
    Like I said controlled spec series arent always down to cars equality…it’s usually a mix of talent pool and not THE BEST drivers in the world…so talent has a major role in this…mistakes…reliability, pit crew problems, some looking to make a name, and others try to save there butt…etc…

    PS, wake turbulance is a measurable thing…
    if you want there is so many reasons why it would be too hard…or you could also investigate how EASY it could be as well…
    If they can do parc fereme and have cars not tampered with in between when they get them back on sunday and b4 race..and if they can contol engine use and gearbox use and spend millions on crash testing all teams and also design templates to check cockpit dimension, fuel quality and octane, etc etc…why would this be too hard?

    Team can design turbulence into design with cfd models and wind tunnel models so they could also then design a car with out it.

  7. AMVM said on 29th April 2010, 18:34

    Why use wings at all ?!

    Look at the Lotus 88 twin-chassis racecar, just ground-effects tunnels and a spoiler at the back. Add to that active suspensions so that the ride height could be properly controlled and say good bye to wings and diffusers.

  8. john duggan said on 14th October 2010, 6:23

    The problem is Aero
    and the fanatical following of vortex generation & seperation bubbles! in the quest for D/F this is just plain wrong.
    the cars have the CD of a Mack truck !and carry a parachute of drag behind them(in the shape of a giant Vortex) to the point that is a major part of their braking & they cannot overtake due to the massive vortex interference drag behind the car.
    The current Aero people are practicing faulty Aero theory, and tossing out 60 years of fact .
    Proved by the fact they are just now going as fast as the non D/F cars ! with large engine and tyre advances !

  9. antonyob said on 14th October 2010, 9:16

    So you don’t think banning turbo’s, reducing the engines down from 12 cylinders and restricting rpm have had any impact on top speeds?

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