From one extreme to another: Monza’s low drag wings

F1 technology

Posted on

| Written by

Monza and Spa demand the lowest downforce settings seen all season long. Particularly at Monza, where there are only a few fairly short corners to break up the straights, the cars are trimmed out to reduce drag to a minimum in order to maximise top speed.

The most obvious visual change is the rear wing, which tends to be far skinnier than at most grands prix. Ordinarily it is positioned to generate downforce, but at high-speed Spa and Monza this is sacrificed for pure speed.

The top teams create bespoke rear wings for Spa and Monza. But even between these there significant differences. The Mercedes-powered cars, revelling in the extra grunt of the three-pointed star, could afford to use a thicker rear wing than the likes of Red Bull.

To make up the shortcomings of their Renault engines Red Bull opted for a drastic low drag set-up. It was able to get away with this because the other surfaces of Adrian Newey’s RB10 generate so much downforce to begin with.

The illustration below shows the rear wing McLaren used on their MP4-29 at Spa:

In comparison, note the depth of the wing McLaren used in Hungary in the photograph. The angle of the Monza wing flap is shallower, reducing the cross-section area of the rear wing, which results in lower drag.

The most interesting feature of the MP4-29 rear wing is the ‘wave shaped’ leading edge on the upper flap. When DRS is de-activated it often takes a short while for downforce to build back up. The ‘waves’ create mini-vortices on the underside of the rear wing that help air attach more quickly after DRS is deployed.

As seen in the drawing the main plane has a gentle U-shape. This creates more consistent downforce, for better rear stability on cornering. McLaren felt that was important at Spa where there are a number of medium-to-high speed corners. McLaren altered the main plane for Monza making it straight thereby reducing its cross-section area and lowering drag.

The other notable feature of the rear wing is the end plate slots and also the slats on the lower aft part of the rear wing endplate. Both of these structures are designed to reduce drag. The rear wing flaps create a pressure gradient either side of the endplates. When the airflow has passed the rear wing this air collapses into a vortex, which creates a substantial amount of drag. The slots and slats allow air to bleed across this pressure gradient thereby reducing the strength of the vortex.

In sharp contrast, this weekend’s race is at Singapore, where we can expect teams to use wings closer in specification to those seen in Hungary. Singapore is a typical ‘point and squirt’ street circuit with a ton of corners, where teams will go to the opposite extreme and sacrifice straight-line speed for downforce.

Those Monza ‘tea trays’ will be left at the factory in favour of the Singapore ‘barn doors’.

F1 technology

Browse all F1 technology articles

Images © Ferrari/Ercole Colombo, McLaren/LAT, John Beamer

8 comments on “From one extreme to another: Monza’s low drag wings”

  1. How does the curvature of the lower element affect the pressure load distribution ??
    Less or more downforce at the curved parts ?

  2. Formula Indonesia (@)
    16th September 2014, 15:33

    which means : due to lack of downforce in this year car, the rear wings were not really skinny in Monza and Spa

    1. In fact they were quite skinny, as skinny as previous years. Monza is a typical circuit where you can’t have the huge drag penalty coming from the rear wing, no matter how low you are on downforce.

  3. You gotta love aerodynamisits

    “The ‘waves’ create mini-vortices on the underside of the rear wing that help air attach more quickly after DRS is deployed.”

    1. Great little piece by the way John.

      1. Agreed, I love John’s articles !

  4. DRS allows for fatter wings anyway. pre-DRS you would have very skinny wings all around (exeption being McLaren 2010 who used the f-duct on a fat wing on Button’s car)

  5. That’s why from a designers point of view F1 is still F1!
    (sporting side asks for another view)

    Gotta’ love the meticulous attention to detail! #aero

    “Those Monza ‘tea trays’ will be left at the factory in favour of the Singapore ‘barn doors’.”

Comments are closed.