Why don’t drivers drift anymore?

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This topic contains 10 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  f199player 4 years, 11 months ago.

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    I was watching some retro videos today and noticed that there was A LOT of drifting in those days. I personally think it looks awesome although I am not sure how better or worse it actually is. Do you guys have any idea why is there not much drifting today and whether it improves times or just pure show?



    Having a “tyred” past I risk turning this into a technobabble jargon fest.

    First off, we need to define “drifting” vs “sliding.” Sliding is going beyond the slip angle that gives max cornering force. Drifting is not. More on slip angle later.

    -Tyres have very small slip angles vs max lateral force to minimize rolling friction in corner (i.e: not loosing too much speed)
    -Downforce is greatly affected by large body yaw (cars produce reduced downforce when they are sliding – because the surfaces are designed to produce downforce when hit head-on)
    -Cornering speeds are so high that a 4 wheels slide means straight in the walls
    -Wings allow for far better stability than non winged cars
    -Grip levels are so high that this is already a challenge to use the maximum grip for each corner (that is the difference between a high downforce car and a non downforce car; I.E: fight the track vs fight the car)

    This is just, for high performance cars, a thing of the past. Now if you want to see 4 wheels sliding, watch nascar on road courses.

    Take a look at this graph for instance. You can ignore the numbers for this explanation:

    You can ignore the red “street tires” line too. Basically slip angle is, as you can see – the difference between the direction the tyre is pointing, and the direction the car is moving. If you had a car not moving, and then you pushed it sort of 45 degrees to the front and to the right, then congratulations – you have 45 degrees slip angle. While it may not be very visible – at a microscopic level, that’s what’s actually happening (tyres are never “gripping” the road – they’re always sliding, at a microscopic level)

    Just take a look at the basic shape of the graph. There is a point at which the corner force peaks, before it drops back down again. Drivers will want to achieve the maximum cornering force, and as such – stick near that “optimum” slip angle. If you were to slide it more than that angle, then you have less cornering force – ie less “grip.”

    In the graph above, the optimum slip is around 9 degrees (off my eye and without a ruler). In essence, if you were to create a super-closeup, super-slomo shot, you would see that the rear tyres were in fact sliding, by about 9 degrees compared to the direction they were pointed in. This is a very small drift – coming in at 9 degrees. Then if you were to see it sliding at 10-12 degrees… you’re sliding. That’s slow. So with the numbers in the graph above the tyre would be quickest when slid around by 9 degrees.

    If you were to want drifting – you need to change the tyre design. If you were to create a tyre where the optimum cornering force was far out enough – say 30 degrees for an exaggerated number – then the cars would be quickest when being slid at 30 degrees. Which WOULD be visible. It would cause some shock and horror amongst the Jenson Buttons of F1 – but yeah.

    As such… if you want to bring back this “drifting” – then create tyres that generate their optimum cornering force at higher slip.



    Now having absolutely confused you to hell, I shall now bow out, and shut up.



    @raymondu999 That was an awesome explanation :) now I understand the technical side of it which was mostly why I was looking for.

    On the other hand, I quite like how the sliding looks although I understand it may not be the best for performance naturally. What would you, and other readers, think of Pirelli introducing a tyre with an optimum cornering force at higher slip to increase maybe a little bit of unpredictability and skill showing? Its just an idea though! Not that I am supporting it! I am just curious :D



    I would assume the lack of drifting is because modern F1 cars are more dependent on aerodynamic performance than their past counterparts. More downforce pinning the car to the track naturally means less slip for the driver to play with. Whereas old F1 cars had very little in the way of aerodynamic grip, and so were more prone to losing traction, demanding more input and corrections from the drivers. Furthermore, given the high degradation nature of the modern Pirelli tyres, drivers aren’t willing to risk damaging them with repeated sideways moments.

    Don’t take my word for this third point, but apparently drifting is a slower way of negotiating a corner. Whatever time you gain drifting around the bend at high speed, you lose on the acceleration out of the corner. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.




    As @raymondu999 explained, its not just a tyre issue. By sliding, the air hits the car form the “wrong” direction, generating less downforce, thus reducing grip, thus reducing the maximum cornering speed.



    Yay a technical post that’s well received! :P

    But yeah – a very very simple explanation (it’s not necessarily true, but it’s very good for visualising the aero effect of sliding) – if the car is sliding, then obviously, the air hits the wing endplates, as opposed to hits the wing plane.

    Of course with higher optimum slip angles, there will be a balance between the amount of slip you induce to access the optimum cornering force, versus the higher downforce at a slightly smaller angle. It gets messy real quick – and given that I haven’t had my coffee I have neither the time nor the energy to do even the most basic calculations :P



    I think its more the evolution of the cars and drivers. These days its all about look after the tyres and having large amounts of downforce on the car which gives so much grip. Compare that to the 50s/60s and well into the 70s, there was (if you was really good) some allowance to drift, and in some instances, was as fast around the circuit.

    I love watching old videos, seeing the 4-wheel drifting (I think started by Tazio Nuvolari) which looks just insane, but it was due to the technology of the day and it was a quicker way around the curcuit. I think some of the best drivers to watch on those old videos who allow the car to drift, and keeping it under control are Ronnie Peterson & Giles Villeneuve. Theres a fantastic video of on of the 70’s Monaco GP, looking up the hill, you watch as several drivers are seen coming round (sensibly) the Mirabeau Houte corner, and then comes Peterson, full opposite lock with the rear flicked out. Fantastic!



    Isnt part of if that the cars had so much less grip at the front in those days due to the larger rear tyres, so the sliding/rotating the rear of the car via oversteer – was intended to get the pushy front end to point the correct way out of a corner?



    @raymondu999 great post! Very informative. Thanks!



    I just love this

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