Davidson: rear wings will make cars 15kph quicker


Posted on

| Written by

Anthony Davidson, 2011

Anthony Davidson reckons the Drag Reduction System introduced this year could make cars up to 15kph quicker.

The former F1 driver turned BBC commentator described the adjustable rear wing as a “far more powerful tool” than the moveable front wings used in 2009 and 2010.

Speaking to F1 Fanatic he said: “The cars are going to be travelling anything up to 15kph faster down the straight.”

He expects the wings to make the biggest difference as “circuits where you run the highest downforce.

“Circuits like Spa, Suzuka and Silverstone where you run quite a draggy car, in terms of downforce, for the speed of the circuit. Where you’re running a relatively high amount of downforce for the track that you’re on.

“It will probably allow teams to run slightly higher downforce than they normally would have.”

According to Davidson, whether the wings increased the amount of overtaking will be influenced by where the FIA allow them to be used during races:

“It’s all down to where the FIA decide to put the timing beams. That’s really going to dictate and govern the amount of overtaking.

“If they’re at the beginning of a straight you will see a hell of a lot more overtaking than we had last year.

“But if they put them, say, 300 metres the 100-metre board into a braking zone at a tight hairpin then that’s going to be pretty late. The effect will come a bit too late, only just put you alongside the car, and then you’re talking about proper, wheel-to-wheel racing.”

Although drivers will have free use of the wing during practice and qualifying, in the race its use will be limited to specific places on the track.

This could make for challenges of its own at circuits such as Monaco, if the drivers are able to deploy their wing going through the tunnel, as Davidson explains:

“I should think the start of the tunnel would be good – but then you’ll be going through the tunnel with a lot less downforce on the car through the right-hander.

“And it’s touch-and-go sometimes whether that’s flat-out or not. It’ll have to be well thought-out and I’m sure they’ll do a good job.”

Asked if he thought the DRS rules were complicated, he agreed: “That’s F1, isn’t it? It’s always going to be horrendously complicated.

“I fear for the drivers slightly because, from my experience, it’s very hard work. I’ve got quite a lot of capacity as a driver, I’m still young enough to understand the PlayStation generation.”

Having experienced the new 2011 systems on the Mercedes simulator, Davidson said he thinks drivers will be able to handle the extra demands being made of them:

“Sometimes, for different drivers up and down the grid, that’s all they can think of, driving 100 percent for the lap time.

[Michael] Schumacher is a driver that has a lot of capacity, he’s got a lot of space to think about other commitments inside the car than just driving flat-out.

“In the era of traction control, over-run control on the engine braking, electronic differentials, all those things, Schumacher was the master of all that in his day. And he still plays around with the brake bias a hell of a lot, more compared to other drivers out there.

“So I think he’s going to adapt to it quite well, it’s not just a question of how old you are meaning you’re going to struggle with new technology, I think it’s just driver-specific.”

Davidson is commenting for BBC Radio 5 Live again this year and he said the new system will make his job more challenging as well:

“I think for us, in the [commentary] box we’ll have to keep an eagle eye on the split difference between all the cars out there.

“Because if a car is within a second of the car in front we’re going to have to be sure we’ve spotted that and mention that before they get to the timing beacon where they can apply the rear wing adjustment.”

He added: “A second is actually quite a difficult achievement to get to of the car in front. To get to nine-tenths behind the car in front of you is a very difficult task.

“So we might not see the trains of cars overtaking each other like has been mentioned. It might be a lot more difficult than that.”

And he’s not going to give much sympathy to drivers complaining about the new Pirelli tyres:

“The thing is as long as it’s the same for everybody, why complain? You’re all in the same boat. It’s not like one person has a slightly better tyre than you, you’ve all got the same situation.

“It’s a big part of road driving, it’s a big part of driving at Le Mans and it should be a big part of F1 as well.”

Some drivers such as Jarno Trulli have already voiced concerns about the durability of the tyres. Davidson said:

“I would say so if there’s another driver out there that’s been able to look after the tyres and not be a hooligan and destroy them on lap two. Every driver knows how to look after tyres and every engineer out there knows how to look after tyres.

“So it’s up to them and as soon as a driver starts complaining about the tyre, I’m not going to give them much sympathy at all.”

2011 F1 season

Browse all 2011 F1 season articles

Image © F1 Fanatic. If you wish to use this image please contact F1 Fanatic to request permission

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

78 comments on “Davidson: rear wings will make cars 15kph quicker”

  1. During a race the difference could be even more than 15 km/h when you take KERS & lapped cars into account.

    On the other hand there is the problem of the engine hitting the rev limiter in top gear. We’ve seen this in previous races.

    1. So you have to make a compromise somewhere. Getting this compromise to work better than other teams compromises is where some of the the skill lies. You also have to factor in things like KERS and tyre usage.

      1. Note: KERS is used mainly to increase acceleration rather than top speed.

        1. Hitting the rev limiter shouldn’t be too much of an issue as they are allowed to deploy the DRS at all time in training and qualifying.

          1. Sure it will be since you might loose top speed when you’re in front and can’t use the DRS.. All a matter of balance..

        2. KERS gives you extra power. In the past it has been used mainly to accelerate however you can use it to boost your top speed as well. If I remember correctly that’s how Kimi got past Fisichella at Spa a few years back. I think it will be interesting to see how teams use the KERS this year. It wouldn’t surprise me if they were used by some drivers as a defensive tool against a following car.

    2. KERS will probably be used as much defensively as offensively, so they will cancel each other out. I think that brakes are going to be the big factor here. DRM will give an advantage but often too much of one. They will need to be especially concious of their speed and not get caught up in staying ahead going into a corner. Drivers are going to be fighting until the last moment and the ones who can avoid marbles and still have enough time to brake will win. Those who don’t will end up in the kitty litter or worse.

      1. Of course qualifying is going to be a whole other situation. Here avoiding traffic and tire strategies is going to be huge. I think tha a lot of teams are going to take advantage by using soft tires at the last moment. But this strategy has many pitfalls. Sure you can gain a second or more by using Super softs on the last flying lap, but who the heck wants to start a race from pole when you may have to pit in a couple of laps?

        1. Tyre performance will drop off after a couple of laps (degradation) and then degrade gradually thereafter, but they will last (wear well) for many laps. Which doesn’t necessarily mean that you will have to pit after 2 laps, unless you are sure of making up that time on the fresh tyres. What it does mean is that you will need to know at what point is the optimum time to switch to a new set of tyres.

          Still some confusion among some about what is wear (actual physical deterioration of the tyre) and degradation (performance drop off of the tyre).

      2. I meant DRS. Geez, all these acronyms confuse me

    3. It’s good that they can use DRS during qualification. At least that means they will set their top gear up for the extra speed it provides.

      So in effect the opponent will be going 10 to 15 kp/h slower along the main straight. While the overtaker is going at the same top speed as during qualifying.

  2. Bit of a shame that the only simulator testing Davidson will do for F1, will be for Codemasters..

    Mind, he’ll know ‘God Mode’, so he can finally beat Alonso! :D

    1. ( God Mode.. AKA .. Traction Control.. or perhaps, Bernie’s Special Button? for when he’s in the sim )

      1. OOooo, traction control, with batman style afterburner…. nice! :D

        1. You seem to be having fun talking to yourself there Hare…

          You alright mate?

          Anyway, I didn’t buy F1 by Codemasters because I had a feeling last years game would be pants, the whole dodgy timings I hear about would really break immersion but thats not really Davidsons fault.

          1. Well. I’m a games developer, so gifting myself a God Mode of course excites me :)

            If you were building a game as realistic as that, putting a few little bits on the car to beat some of the modern greats could be quite fun :) although personally, it wouldn’t be anywhere near as gratifying as beating them on a ‘level playing field’.

          2. I think Ant is doing some simulator work with Mercedes GP as well, so not just at Codemasters.

          3. Its actually a very good game. It has a few flaws here and there but there is rarely a game that does not nowadays. It is certainly the best F1 game I have ever played and up there with some of the best racing games.

    2. Pitty the F1 game codemasters made is nothing close to a simulator. Every GT5 is more sim than that game, and its still a bit arcade.

      rfactor and iracing are the only games which deserve the title “simulator”.

  3. wish this guy had got more of a chance in F1

    1. Hopefully he’ll get the first of many Le Mans victories this June…and also avoid taking out the GT2 leader this year!


      1. he need his wiki entry updating

  4. the moveable front wings used in 2009 and 2011.

    Do you mean 2009/10?

  5. Ant is such a top bloke!!

  6. I fear for the drivers slightly because, from my experience, it’s very hard work. I’ve got quite a lot of capacity as a driver, I’m still young enough to understand the PlayStation generation.

    what is that supposed to mean? i’m 36, he’s 31, and i’ve been playing video games as long as he’s been alive. schumacher is older than the both of us put together, and he’s never had an issue with buttons and switches.

    1. stevienodrinks
      26th February 2011, 16:45

      “schumacher is older than the both of us put together”

      Wow, he looks great for 67.

    2. Yes, but have you played with a video game controller with buttons, dials, and switches while moving 150kph+ around Spa in the wet in a Ferrari? Thats the difference between us who have played games and the old man ;)

      1. Going go karting has taught me enough about g-forces and b-b-b-bumps to tell me how much games suffer without the g-forces.

  7. Well at the Barcelona test the Merc managed 316km/h in the speed trap where as the fastest car in qualifying last year god 312. It’s not 15km/h as far as I’ve seen so far.

    1. I’d be fairly confident he means the car could be 15kph faster with the wing open then it would be with the wing closed.

    2. Then again, they would not have been pushing for the limit in testing, would they?

  8. I think it would be dangerous to deploy the wing in curved sections of the track (i.e. Monaco tunnel, the straight at Interlagos, Woodcote) because the sudden change of balance between the front and rear pressure points while steering the car might send the cars into high-speed oversteering crashes..maybe the teams could set-up the cars around this issue (if it would turn out to be an issue), but I still think the ARW is superflous overall

  9. ‘Drag Reduction System’ my a**. More like “Destroys Racing’s Soul”.

    I have to say – I know that drivers want to drive anything they can, but I’m disappointed that nobody is speaking up against something that’s going to turn F1 into a parody of early ’90s arcade racers. Yes, business is important – but as with Bahrain, there comes a point where the infraction is so egregious that there is an obligation to speak up.

    I’m following F1 news because it involves my business and I (irrationally) feel personal interest in the drivers. But I won’t be watching. I like to watch racing, and whatever it is that’s going to happen on track this season, it’s not going to be racing.

    And honestly, the fact that almost everyone here has just taken this with a shrug of indifference, and maybe a half-hearted spurt of anger, but continued as if nothing has changed? That’s truly disheartening. What will they have to do to finally get “F1 Fanatics” up in arms? Oil slick buttons? High speed zones with arrows? ‘Competiton Yellows’, the monumentally ironic “we’ll eliminate the leader’s advantage if we feel like it” abomination from Trans Am?

    Bonus points for style?

    When will you realize that you’ve been watching a TV show rather than a sport?

    1. Machine guns. That is my line in the sand.

      I’m no fan of the mario kart wings, but I’m expecting to be underwhelmed. The moveable front wings and KERS as well as the refueling ban were supposed to create heaps of passing. None of them satisfied their massive hype. Before long we will have an FIA-remote-operated drogue chute so slow the car ahead. And tha probably won’t work either.

      1. id say the refueling ban did as despite what everyone seems to think we saw more overtaking in 2010 than any season since 1989.

    2. You say that your business is involved with F1 and I take it from your user name that you have something to do with pirelli. Do you think that the rapid wear and marbling effect is as bad a Trulli makes it to be?

      1. Not at all involved with Pirelli. Coincidence – when I was 12 or so, I started a “software company” (heh) that I called Perigee Software, in reference to the then-popular Apogee. When I logged in to a BBS for the first time, it wanted an 8-character username… so, PeriSoft it was. And so it’s been, for the last 18 years. :]

        At any rate, as you might expect from my previous post, I honestly don’t care about whatever other technical issues there are. They’re moot until the movable wings get eliminated (or altered to not rely on track position and proximity to other vehicles).

  10. Davidson: “So it’s up to them and as soon as a driver starts complaining about the tyre, I’m not going to give them much sympathy at all.”


    Nice example of double-standards from Anthony!

    -So Anthony,….throughout the whole 2010 season…you kept giving the benefit of doubt to the reigning champion who is supposedly known as a ‘tyre-master’. During that season…all other drivers too had the same tyres, but because your mate Button couldnt deal with them..you kept letting the so called ‘Tyre-master’ off the hook with all the ‘No Grip’ excuses from him.

    Funny that this season you will not give much sympathy to anyone who says the same this time!
    -It will be interesting to watch your reactions when/if jenson button complains about the tyres……imo…I think you will just like last season sweep his excuses under the rug and swiftly change the subject!

    Anthony, I always thought of you as a decent bloke, but since it seemed like you have fallen for the bbc policy of showing complete biased views in support of jenson….you sir have gone down in my estimations quite dramatically.

    1. Indeed. Ahead of the 2010 season people predicted that Button would teach Hamilton a lesson in tyre management. Well … he didn’t. All we really got is Button whining about the tyres not working for him.

      Ahead of this season we get the same predictions. Sure the Pirelli tyres need to be driven like egg shells, necessitating all drivers to abandon the frivolities in their driving styles (like doing fast laps and overtaking). Now they all have to be Heidfeld’s and Button’s. Ease the car from pit stop to pit stop.

      One tiny glitch though. Every driver can drive slowly and careful (name one driver who hasn’t done a really long stint on a single set), but some drivers don’t deal well with balance problems. The Pirelli tyres seem to give some balance problems. Therefore it seems pretty likely that Button will switch his record to “can’t get the balance just perfectly right”.

      1. At least Ant will not exuse Button for “not getting heat in the tyres” this year, will he?

        That’s what I liked about DC saying the tyres are not that interesting for him in commentary as everyone has to deal with them. Let us hope he keeps to that.

        On the other hand, Lewis might be using his tyres a bit more, but he does that when getting that extra bit of speed or racing out of them, so he should be able to use it. What if he makes one stop more, if it helps him in finishing more to the front the better for him!

  11. The reason that Button couldn’t get the 2010 Bridgestones to work is because he couldn’t get enough heat into them at some races (Korea is best example) to get them to grip properly, probably as a result of his less aggressive driving style. The result of which is that you slide around on them a lot and wear them out in next to no time.

    Like one or two others, he is quite pleased that you don’t have to get so much heat into the Pirelli tyres before they start to work.

    The reason we have the DRS is probably because that if the teams lost massive amounts of downforce to make overtaking easier, people on here would then start moaning about the lap times being no better than GP2 cars. Not that it should matter much that F1 cars lap slower than some other open wheel series around the same circuit.

    1. Not that it should matter much that F1 cars lap slower than some other open wheel series around the same circuit.

      yes it should. being the fastest series is one of the appeals of f1…

      1. But it’s not the fasrest.

        1. err…fastest, even.

  12. Did some math on this subject, and it turns out it adds a somewhat different aspect to the whole “choice of gear”-challenge.

    Without the DRS the cars are going 340 km/h down the straight at Monza. To do 340 km/h with a wheeldiameter of 660 mm and 18000 RPM you need an overall gearing of 1,83.

    If you activate the DRS you will now go 355 km/h down the straight. This calculates in to an overall gearing of 1,752 that is quite a big difference. Choosing this gearing would probably mean going 340 km/h without DRS is not possible so in qualifying I would go with more downforce and a little bit lower gear. This would help me remain at a top speed of ~340 but help me go faster in the corners.

    In a race a new situation occurs. If you plan on being able to activate the wing every lap, the qualifying setup would prove to be good. But you cannot count on that, so what will you go for? Also I do not even think it is allowed to change the gear ratios after qualifying, or is it only if you don’t report it, that it is illegal?

    1. Given what he’s said about the tracks where it will make most of an effect, I doubt it’ll make as great a difference at Monza where the wings are already trimmed out to begin with.

    2. Thank You Søren, for this but I think You have made a slight mistake: 340 km/h = 94,44 m/s. With Your ratio they would reach 1223,68 km/h, which is a fine cruising speed for an F16 at a little altitude;-)
      I get a ratio of 1:6,5865 for 18.000 rpm = 300 rounds pr second and a wheel circumference of 2,07345 m.
      If they can reach approximately 355 km/h with DRS, then they must run with a ratio of 1:6,308 to do it at 18.000 rpms. Then without DRS they would reach 340 km/h at 17.267 rpm. So You are right it is quite a difference.

      1. Yea ok I see a slight mistake sorry :). But my intentions were good. And yes keith I see your point about the effect being lower than 15 km/h at Monza.
        Still, now with the right calculation: To go 300 km/h at Silverstone, the overall ratio should be 7,46. To go 315 km/h you would have to have an overall ration of 7,11. The difference is still big, and I would probably still go for the same tactic, as on Monza.

        1. Agreed, but maybe Alonso would need to have the 1:7,11 ratio to overtake Massa and the Renault/Lada’s;-)
          It will depend on how often they think or experience that You would need the DRS, or if the qualifying time depends on it.

        2. I am a total n00b on the subject of gear ratios, but my car has a DRS (is a convertible) and I can tell you that with the roof up it takes 250rpm less to cruise at 80mph. So in my eyes you dont need to fiddle the gear ratio to use the DRS you simply go faster at the same rpm

    3. Don’t forget you can’t use it for the firs few laps, so you’ll be a sitting duck.

      1. That is where the guys without KERS will be shaken off.

  13. Its odd how many of the current F1 drivers have suggested the ARW will not improve overtaking,and yet we have Davidson saying it will who at best was an also ran driver,otherwise he would still be competing in F1.

    So who would you believe?

    VXR which tracks do other open cockpit cars lap faster than F1 cars on the same track?

    1. They don’t, but they do have better ‘racing’. Which is what I was getting at. But if you want ‘speed’, go watch drag racing!

      1. Funny you should mention drag racing,i used to work with Dennis Priddle many years ago,an engine builder in drag racing circles of great repute,and yes for sheer accleration no F1 car could come close particularly top fuellers.

    2. Alonso sayd so after hearing about FIA letting them use it for about 600m which is a bit more than the miniumu 300m Davidson uses in the example, but still pretty small.

      I saw a comparison of speeds, where the writer shows that it really makes only that bit of difference to make a move stick if the driver would consider having a go. Possibly it would not even have helped Alonso past Petrov in Abu Dhabi.

  14. 15 kmph is a huge difference now the rules needs to be clear of where & how to use them.

  15. “But if they put them, say, 300 metres the 100-metre board into a braking zone at a tight hairpin then that’s going to be pretty late. The effect will come a bit too late, only just put you alongside the car, and then you’re talking about proper, wheel-to-wheel racing.”

    Good. What we want is more potential for overtaking, a way around the problem of aerodynamic wakes, not passing for the sake of it.

    1. This combined with Pirelli marbles could lead to a some crashes for sure. Drivers are going to have to be really intelligent to make this work without incident. I think it is going to be very exciting. Only the most skillful drivers will shine.

    2. if the ARW/DRS/FFS is deployed before a high-braking zone, there will be less air-braking when the car decelerates, the braking distance will be increased, and the driver would have to brake earlier, thus nullifying the effect of the ‘pleonastic’ FFS in the first place

  16. 15km an hour is a bit too small considering you can only turn it on when you are within a second from the car ahead and also within a 600 meter zone. So you may end up getting the green – or whatever colour – light, just when you reach the braking zone. And do you really want to be watching a light show at that point.

    1. There won’t be a need to watch for the light too much. I believe that you can switch it early and when you hit the zone, it will automatically come on and switch off within the set time limit or zone. As for where this zone is, it is not definitively set. In fact it may change from race to race, depending on the circuit.

      1. Wouldn’t that be dangerous if you find yourself in a situation where you suddenly have to take an avoiding action – groundhogs, debris, protesting priest dressed like Jackie Stewart – I mean, a driver needs to know at all times what exactly he has underneath him, not to be caught off guard by a suddenly light rear end.

        Although if its driver induced then automatic I suppose it would just be left in automatic mode it will take the stress off the driver so long he remembers to deactivate it. But I never heard of such and will it not be a driver aid?

    2. If car in front is doing 292 km/h = 81 m/s and the overtaking car uses DRS and thus increases its speed by 15 km/h = 4,2 m/s, this gives the overtaker 85,2 m/s. If he is only just within 1 sec, then the distance is less than 80 meters. He needs to pass also and get in front, i.e. he needs to gain 90 meters on the car in front. With only 4,2 m/s gain it takes 21,4 seconds. In 21,4 seconds he travels 1823 meters (@85,2 m/s).
      This simple calculation doesn’t take the acceleration and braking zone into consideration. But I guess he needs to be much much closer than 1 sec to be able to do the overtaking, alone by the advantage given by DRS.
      If he only has 600 meters to do the job, he needs to do the overtaking in 7,04 sec., and thus he gains only 29,6 meters on the lead car. He thus needs to be within 25 meters to be able to outbrake the car in front in the braking zone.
      Off course any speed advantage he might have before using DRS will help a lot also.

      1. I did my own calculations but from a different point of view but reached the same conclusion. The driver behind gains on average .34 of a second. It will take 4 laps of using the DRS to see an attempted overtake… 4 laps in dirty air … I dont think it will work but if it does it won’t be noticeable

  17. I tend to disagree a little with Davidson on the tyres. Not every engineer knows how to conserve tyres at least not the ones employed by Mclaren. Last year when the Mclaren drivers complained that their tyres were off, it wasn’t necessarily that they were shot but just that no more performance could be extracted from them relative to the other runners.

    Come this season if the Mclaren continues to mince the tyres like they normally do, the will quickly fall behind by as much as 5 seconds a lap unlike the 0.6 – 1 sec a lap from last years Bridgestones.

    Ferrari and the Redbulls seem to make cars that are gentle on the tyres. Williams and to some extent Sauber also. But the Mclarens always seem to run an odd camber relative to the other cars.
    As for the new teams, its anybodys guess.

    1. Reason for Red Bull’s and Ferrari’s being gentler on their tyres was because they had more downforce. The car moves around (slides) much less on its tyres.

      If you have less downforce you sometimes have to compromise your set up in other ways.

    2. Not every engineer knows how to conserve tyres at least not the ones employed by Mclaren.

      But everyone has the same opportunity to. If one team or driver are mincing (good word!) their tyres it’s their fault, not Pirelli’s.

      1. That is exactly why I was disappoined with what Trulli said. You would thing an experienced guy like him would know how to do it.

      2. I disagree with that. 2009 and 2010 showed that any car following behind the car infront will mince their tyres.

        Just you wait when the race starts and the car behind has to slow down and then the drivers and spectators complaining the tyres don’t last long enough for a big skirmish.

        Doesn’t matter if you have Kers or this flap jack wing, you simply cannot get rid of that massive wake behind the car regardless if DDD has gone.

        They should just go back to 2007 of cars and rules allow drivers to choose tire compounds groved tyres = less grip 2007 cars 30% less downforce then these and strategies that can go anywhere on high or low fuel loads.

        2011 will be the biggest let down in formula one history, and you Keith will be writing how the tyres aren’t lasting long enough. and Pirelli saying how they’re making stronger tyres due to the lack of duels.

        I hope I’m wrong but very much doubt it based on observations and driver feedbacks on the tyre compounds at present.

  18. Another fantastic insight into DRS and it’s potential effects.

  19. By the way, great you got Davidson for a pretty in depth conversation on the DRS Keith.

    Nice interview.

    1. Thanks :-)

  20. “far more powerful tool” than the moveable front wings used in 2009 and 2011.

    I think it should be 2010 not 2010, Keith.

    1. You’re right it should be 2010 not 2011. But you’ve written 2010 instead of 2011… Anyway, I’ve fixed it!

    2. lol thanks!

  21. But Alonso said it would hardly help in top cars overtaking cause on track both cars will have the same advantage, no

  22. can we just ditch this stupid gimmick already?

    get rid of kers, get rid of this stupid rear wing, design some proper tyres instead of the joke tyres we have this year.

    lets just get back to proper racing, pure racing like we had prior to refueling.

Comments are closed.