The future of F1 aerodynamics part 1

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2009 F1 cars are ugly as sin but will the racing be better?
2009 F1 cars are ugly as sin but will the racing be better?

Guest writer John Beamer from F1-Pitlane begins a two-part feature on discussion about the future of F1 aerodynamics technology at the World Motorsport Symposium.

In the first part he looks at how the radically re-shaped wings on the 2009 F1 cars and their moveable sections will transform racing.

Last week at Oxford Brookes University the finest technical brains in motor racing gathered for the fourth World Motorsport Symposium, organised by Race Tech Magazine. The event was split into two days ?ǣ the first focusing on engines and the second on aerodynamics, with an awards dinner sandwiched in between.

Because of work commitments I could only go to the aero day, which was chaired by John Iley of Ferrari and featured several top F1 aerodynamicists from the past and present. Here?s what the key men at the cutting edge of aerodynamics in international motor sport had to say.

John Iley, Ferrari

Ferrari\'s curvy 2008-style front wing
Ferrari's curvy 2008-style front wing

After a short welcome from Race Tech editor and Symposium proprietor, William Kimberley, John Iley kicked off proceedings by comparing the aerodynamic characterises of the F2008 with a 2009 machine.

Iley spent about 15 minutes discussing the F2008?s front wing and in particular the design of the central spoon section. The FIA regulations allow the central ??spoon? to be lower than the rest of the front wing, which means it works more in ground effect. As a result the central section generates a lot of downforce and is an important contributor to the performance of a 2008 F1 car.

Iley went on to discuss the purpose of the ‘blow nose’ that the Scuderia debuted to much fanfare in Spain. Because of how hard the central section is worked its wake gets stuck beneath the nose harming efficiency. Very simply, the ‘blow nose’ provides an outlet for this wake increasing the efficiency of the central spoon albeit at the cost of a little drag. At tracks with a lower downforce requirement evacuating this wake wasn?t an issue and the extra drag penalty incurred by the blow nose wasn?t worth it.

The problem with working the central section so hard is that in turbulence airflow here is upset and performance suffers. Iley contrasted a 2008 front wing with a 2009 version run by BMW at the recent Barcelona test.

Parts of the 2009 front wing on BMW\'s interim car produce lift
Parts of the 2009 front wing on BMW's interim car produce lift

Under the 2009 regulations the geometry of the central section is standardised with no camber. In fact it actually produces a little lift to calm any disturbed air. That?s a pretty major change. Moving from a heavily worked central section to one that generates no downforce means that teams must completely overhaul the vehicle?s aerodynamics.

Iley considered BMW?s 2009 car pretty well advanced. Aside from the odd shape of the front and rear wing he pointed out the bulged sidepods as evidence that KERS places new cooling demands on the car. Add to that the banning of shark gills (the BMW car was still running these) and the cooling requirement in 2009 is a lot more substantial that it was for 2008. Incidentally this could help McLaren, whose Mercedes power plant is a lot more efficient at dissipating heat than many others are.

Iley closed by talking about the ever increasing restrictions placed on teams by the FIA. After the imposition of control tyres and homologated engines, aerodynamics has now come under the FIA?s scrutiny. With rumours about impending Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and wind tunnel restrictions, Iley posed the question of how would the role of the aerodynamicist change over the next few years. He offered no answers except to say that given the economic backdrop he was quite concerned.

More pictures of 2009 F1 testing

Robin Tuluie, Renault F1

Tuluie runs Renault F1?s R&D department. The thrust of his talk was that for motorsport to thrive as a technical adventure it must remain relevant to road vehicles.

What was the last innovation to pass from F1 to your average hatchback? It certainly wasn?t bargeboards or shark fins! It is noticeable that Toyota, a leader in the quest for greener vehicles, will not be an early adopter of KERS. Tuluie would like to see road car technical development an explicit goal of F1. Perhaps being part of Renault that isn?t a surprise given the on-going rumours that the parent company will pull the plug on the Enstone-outfit.

As an example under Tuluie?s model teams could have to meet certain emission standards. Whether teams elected to use KERS or some other device to meet that target is up to them. The idea isn?t new but it would surely encourage innovation and is 100 times better than the current snafu.

Read more: KERS not powerful enough for F1?

Mark Hanford, Ex-F1 aerodynamicist

Will moveable front wing elements improve racing in F1?
Will moveable front wing elements improve racing in F1?

Hanford started in F1 as assistant to the legendary Ross Brawn but has been working as an aerodynamic consultant in America for many years. He is an intelligent thinker and the most interesting aspect of his talk was his take on moveable aerodynamic devices.

Hanford argued that with overtaking at a premium moveable aero would allow wings to tune themselves to the turbulence thus overcoming the in-built disadvantage of following a car. He is, of course, correct and in 2009 F1 will allow the driver to control a small section of the front wing flap for the first time.

The subject of moveable aero isn?t new and as Hanford reminded us it is worth revisiting. The obvious counter argument is cost and given the current economic climate the likelihood of the FIA giving teams more design (and cost) leeway is remote. If the restrictions are the relaxed optimising aero tuning or trying to reduce weight (e.g. of various control electronics) will almost certainly suck up a lot of resource.

Who knows – if the 2009 driver-adjustable flap is a roaring success then perhaps the FIA will embrace other dynamic parts. Don?t expect it to happen anytime soon.

Read more: Adjustable wings in F1 – a change too far?

This is a guest article by John Beamer. If you want to write a guest article for F1 Fanatic you can find all the information you need here. Check back tomorrow for the second part of this article.

20 comments on “The future of F1 aerodynamics part 1”

  1. Over-all, F1 has very little to offer with new regulations in the aerodynamic front!

  2. i am waiting for Ruben Barichello’s book on the Dirty Linen of Ferrari – sorry Keith, but i couldn’t resist

  3. At the contrary, mani: the overhaul of the aerodynamics is so radical that all the teams have to start from zero. A few days ago I read (don’t remember where) an interview to some McLaren aerodynamicist, he said that they are (where) improving a lot in a week by week basis, because they have to learn again how to take every single pound of down-force and efficiency from the car.

    Obviously there is less room to play, but there is where the best minds will excel.

  4. It will be interesting to watch these cars with the revised front wings drive around Monaco. For sure they’ll have to adopt a different line through the corners with armco.

  5. One good thing to point out is that because of the aero restrictions, a new upgrade will most likely be a wholly new aero package, instead of a few flick-ups taped onto the sidepods or nose. I like that idea.

    And again, I disagree that these cars are ugly.

  6. TommyBellingham
    25th November 2008, 16:01

    Am i the only one who thinks the front wing is what makes the cars ugly, not the rear wing?

  7. I’m already starting to get used to these cars….

    Come 2009 I doubt they’ll look that strange…

  8. F1 end of the day is about technology. I am sure the Designers and engineers in team will find work around and FIA initiative to increase overtaking will be beaten. Only chance is the Push2Pass which will get additional HPs from KERS. I wonder if the cars without KERS will be sitting ducks in 2009 season :?
    Another question is how will FIA ensure that Push2Pass will get HP from only from KERS and not other source on the car.

    I see another set of controversies and conspiracies in incubator ready to be hatched in new season :D

  9. After a few races everyone will be used to the look of the cars, by the end of the season we’ll love them.

    This is always the way.

    Personally I prefer the look of the old cars from before the wings were brought in (and before I was born), the Shark Nose Ferrari makes modern cars look like Hot Wheels toys.

    Looking forward to the next article John.

    Although we’ve had lots of smaller regulation changes over the past few years I still like it when we get several big changes all at once, especially when it changes the look of the cars so much.

    The reduced down force & KERS should give the teams plenty of headaches over the winter, I bet there are lots of guys working overtime at the moment.

  10. Im starting to like the look of the cars, I think the BMW will look better without the shark fin as well, Probably very similar to ’97 cars…Awesome!

  11. I must say I quite like the look of the widened front wing to be honest – reminds me a bit of the pre-98 cars which always looked much better with the widened track.

  12. I must say I quite like the look of the widened front wing to be honest – reminds me a bit of the pre-98 cars which always looked much better with the widened track.

    I’d probably agree, but the cars would also have to be wider. It still just looks silly when the outside wall of the tyres are within the wing perimeter, when in those days the inside wall of the tyres was about inline with the outside of the front wings.

  13. I like the cars look, I like it from the get go. I think it looks more like a Open Wheel style. Of course the best part of F1 racing is the sound of the engines!!!

  14. The BMW looks just like a Viper from the original Battlestar Galactica (especially if the front wing was knocked off). Very cool, if you ask me. I know what I’m calling it from now on!

  15. The more I see the new car, the more it looks nicer, and I’m sure it will be less ugly when it is less prototyped and more finalized.

    Look at how low the car sits, it almost looks like a return to the ground effects era, and at the very least, they’re trying to build a more sensible (race-wise) car.

  16. i hate that car…. big front wing, narrower rear wing…
    no aerodynamics….are you taking us to the 80’s????

  17. I dont like the new look. I just want to know who makes all these rule changes every year and is there a list of reasons why they do it? This year was great and I dont see why they have to make all these changes including maybe replacing the points systems with Medals. they should let the public vote on these rule changes.

  18. razgriz

    are you taking us to the 80’s????

    I seem to remember the 80s as a decade of action & entertainment for F1, who cares what they look like as long as they’re fast & give us good racing ?

  19. i like the way the engines roars in f1 and the style of every drivers in gearing up the throttles at the time of over taking maneures

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