Ross Brawn, Circuit de Catalunya, 2017

Cutting aerodynamics is “naive” and won’t improve F1 – Brawn

2017 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by

Formula one’s managing director for motorsports Ross Brawn believes cutting back on its high levels of aerodynamic downforce will damage the spectacle.

Speaking in a press conference at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve today Brawn said F1’s new owners were lucky the 2017 championship has proved so competitive.

“If I’m honest, we’ve been very fortunate this year that we’ve had two teams that are battling it out so strongly at the front,” Brawn admitted. “I wouldn’t like to claim any credit for that. It’s just been good timing.”

Romain Grosjean, Sebastian Vettel, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2017
Canadian GP practice in pictures
However Brawn said there’s “a real recognition that there has to be some work done to consolidate that in the future”.

“There’s a slightly worrying gap between the front and the middle of the field which we need to pay attention to.”

Brawn has hired several ex-F1 engineers to conduct research into how to facilitate better racing.

“We’re still starting to understand the behaviour of these cars with regard to how well they can race each other,” he said. “We’ve just initiated our aerodynamic programme to look at the design of these cars and see what we can do in the future to make them more race-able.”

“That’s something we’re doing with the FIA, starting a research programme. I don’t want to call it an overtaking working group because that’s not what we’re looking to do.”

“But we’re looking to create a group that can have a look at the design of cars presently and in the future to make sure they’re race-able because the feedback from the drivers is it isn’t.”

However he insisted that slashing aerodynamic levels is not a realistic solution.

“We know we rely on the aerodynamic performance of the car. I think there’s a slightly naive view that we should get rid of the aerodynamics and then everything would be wonderful.”

“The fact is they won’t be as spectacular, they won’t be as fast as they are if we get rid of the aerodynamics. There’s no way of just putting on big tyres and hoping they’re going to go as fast. We need to retain the aerodynamics and we need to do it in a way that makes the cars more race-able.”

“You can’t guess that, you have to do work to establish it. But I don’t think we’re taking anything for granted. We’ve got some great racing going on and we need to make sure we can do that more consistently in the future.”

2017 F1 season

Browse all 2017 F1 season articles

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.

Posted on Categories 2017 F1 season

Promoted content from around the web | Become a RaceFans Supporter to hide this ad and others

  • 42 comments on “Cutting aerodynamics is “naive” and won’t improve F1 – Brawn”

    1. Duncan Snowden
      9th June 2017, 17:59

      “We need to retain the aerodynamics and we need to do it in a way that makes the cars more race-able.”

      Well, um… yeah, Ross. I don’t think anyone’s seriously advocated getting rid of aero altogether. The argument, for decades now, has always been about over-reliance on over-body aero.

      I shouldn’t be too hard on him. I’ve huge respect for the guy, and he obviously understands the problem. Maybe he just thought it needed to be said.

      1. Yeah you’ve pretty much said what my initial thoughts were on reading this. And I agree and am encouraged that they are taking a sensible approach to solving this. I’ve been very vocal about too much aero dependency but have never claimed or even thought they could eliminate aero. For sure let’s give Brawn and his crew due time to get this right. Brawn’s concern has also been not making knee-jerk reactions that keep the smaller teams particularly, on their hind feet while the ‘have’ teams can more quickly adapt to changes. Ie I expect to see the removal of DRS under Brawn, but I don’t expect it until 2019 at the earliest.

    2. They need to find a way of keeping most of the aerodynamics while making it less sensitive. I read an article a while ago that said if you increase the ‘chord’ of a wing (not sure how F1 would refer to that) but decrease the pitch then this helps to achieve it

      1. Arad (@just-an-fan)
        9th June 2017, 20:24

        The aerodynamic principles (Subsonic only) is the same for planes, wind turbines and cars. First of all, lift/drag are proportional, so, if you increase the chord(longer upper surface, then drag increases. The chord length, A/R, pitch angle(AOA)….etc don’t matter much in the aero performance of a car. How all the aerodynamic forces affect the car is what that matters. It doesn’t matter how much resources a team has(matters only a tiny bit), it is all about who the aerodynamicist(s) are.

        1. @just-an-fan, but don’t forget that on a car the wing is upside down.

          1. Arad (@just-an-fan)
            10th June 2017, 0:10

            Yes, but that won’t change anything in principles.

            1. @just-an-fan except for ground effect, of course, which is a big deal on the front wing (as well as the undertray, of course).

            2. Ground effects also effect the rear wing as wel because the rear wing works together with the diffuser to get the maximum out from the both. The lower the rear wing is the bigger the combined effect of the two is.

    3. I just think they should remove all the restrictions of actually efficient aero that does not cause all that much turbulent air like the horrid wings do. And allow them to shield the tyres from air would also only make sence.

    4. I watched the press conference. Ross said that many people think that getting rid of aerodynamics altogether was naive, it was somewhere along these lines and then he added that the cars wouldn’t be as spectacular without aero. The tone is different from what I read on the headline and the article.

      1. @peartree, Reading between the lines I think he means that the cars would just be too slow if they got rid of aero but he still knows aero is the root of the problem.

        1. @hohum thats what I meant, or tried to.

    5. Simplify the front wings and go back to ground effect skirts or tunnels. Simple, cheap down-force that won’t get affected by dirty air as much as these complicated air fondlers called front wings.

    6. ….does ground effect still count as aero?

      1. @davidnotcoulthard
        Of course. F1 fans have been asking for ground effect for a while now though and it’s been repeated rejected by the overtaking working group and the FIA. Either that means they think it wouldn’t be effective or there are still hangups surrounding safety, i.e why it was banned in the first place. This is a new group of engineers (I assume?) so that position might change, but I’m not holding my breath.

        1. Neil (@neilosjames)
          9th June 2017, 23:12

          They’ll always have hangups over the style of design employed in the 1970s to maximise ground effect, but I don’t imagine there are any serious safety problems with the more basic stuff like in Indycar, GP2 (sorry, F2).

          I personally think (cynical git that I am) that these proposals always end up in the bin because such floors would almost certainly be heavily regulated, perhaps even with a stock basic design. Everyone would in theory have the same level of benefit from that particular part… so the bigger teams – the ones with power – would tend to oppose that, because they prefer things that let them to use their greater resources to acquire an advantage.

        2. @george, there has been a particularly interesting discussion about this topic on the F1Technical forums, with one particular person there having undertaken quite a bit of CFD research on that topic.

          Now, a lot of people attack the complexity of the front wings and say that more downforce should be generated from the floor of the car, or bandy about “ground effects” in a rather fast and loose manner. However, what most individuals here seem to forget is that the diffuser rules were also modified as part of the current regulation package, and that has actually had quite a significant impact on performance.

          What that researcher found was that, if anything, the reason why the current cars seem to be finding it harder to follow each other is because the current regulations resulted in an increased shift to underbody aerodynamics. The problem is that, when trailing another car, the front of the floor of the car is prone to stall – that results in unpredictable shifts in the handling balance of the car as the centre of pressure shifts rearwards.
          Furthermore, because the floor now makes a more significant contribution to the amount of downforce that the car generates, that stalling has an even greater impact on the handling of the car – both in terms of the shift in balance and the overall loss of performance – than before.

          I presume that, because the wings are easy to see and the floor of the car is usually hidden, the wings are treated as an easy target for vitriol. However, in reality the situation is far more complex and the usual solution which is wheeled out – increased underbody downforce or “ground effects” – isn’t necessarily the panacea that it is often claimed to be, and could in fact make the situation worse if it is not carefully applied (as appears to be the case right now).

          1. @anon Good stuff. It seems like the longer around a lap, a stint, or a race that the car is well balanced, the better chance it has of keeping the tires in the right temp window for optimum performance.

    7. Theres a wonderful article on Autosport about the idea of bringing in new cars for the WEC series, below is a compiled quote:

      “really, do we need spec chassis, spec batteries or spec anything else at the very pinnacle of world sportscar racing? I would argue not ……. Manufacturers competing on the world stage need to be able to showcase their technological expertise in this day and age. I believe that a more cost-effective set of LMP1 rules, ones that still allow a manufacturer to trumpet its technological credentials, can put three, four or more manufacturers on the grid.”

      I think this is what F1 needs to do. Keep the idea that a “Team” is a builder of a chassis and a “manufacturer” builds both chassis and engine, but find a way to make the costs acceptable to lure in the big car makers or big teams who know how to build a car. Brawn knows that aero is a part of the technology that makes F1 what it is and its role as acting as a differenciator between it and a spec series such as Indy car. It’s going to take time as its better to spend that time actually learning things rather than another knee jerk reaction.

    8. Good. Finally a scientific approach.

      What I wonder is, what will they do when the results from the study point to solutions that they prefer not to implement, such as re-introducing high rear wings, or covering the wheels and take a step away from open wheel racing. We’ll have to wait and see.

    9. I am pretty sure that Ross remembers the remark about aerodynamics by Enzo Ferrari, which was something like… aerodynamics are for people who cannot build engines….. I believe the cars would be more raceable if they did away with the kinetic electronics / witchcraft part of the drive train. I know this is a token to the alleged environmental party in racing, which I further believe is a mythical group and only exists in the minds of some management levels of F1. Thanks, Racer Norriski

      1. Ray Norris, Enzo is supposed to have made that comment in 1960 to Paul Frère about the Ferrari 250TR that he drove at Le Mans that year.

        However, less than a year later Enzo personally authorised Forghieri to begin running wind tunnel tests at the University of Stuttgart when working on their latest sportscar, the 246SP. If he did make that comment, Enzo seems to have made it to make him shut up about the car, as Enzo’s actions quite shortly afterwards indicates that he was fully aware of the importance of aerodynamics and in fact putting a fair amount of effort into it.

    10. I don’t agree with him.

      seeing Senna slide around, during his insane quali laps, in an overpowerd car with too little grip was a spectacle in itself

      aero racing is less of a spectacle to watch for me, until they start doing loop de loops

      1. Hmm. But F1 cars can’t really afford to go slow around the tracks & technologically regress by decades to achieve such slidings…..

        1. @praxis

          we already do, fuel flow rate, aero & ground effect restrictions, and control systems could all decrease lap times by huuuge margins

          F1 cars are way slower than they could be, if they up the power and down the aero grip it would make the lapping a bit slower yes, but way more dynamic to watch imo.

          Mechanical grip is also way more intuitive to watch, and relevant for the audience. The skill utilizing the double diffuser and coanda exhaust to the full extent days for example is so niché and specialized that a regular person don’t even understand what makes the car go faster round a corner

          1. @dr-jekyll, thing is…I do share your sentiment about this topic. But I don’t think F1 will go toward that philosophy. Aerodynamics dominates current Motorsports & Automotive world as much as mechanical/chemical engineering does.

            Mechanical engineering side of Motorsports appears to be intuitive mainly because it’s been present since well before the inception of automotives. It’s also one of the oldest sector of science & engineering. Same goes for chemical engineering side of it & they’re also somewhat understandable for a layman.

            Funny thing for me, as a CSE graduate & software engineer in profession…. the data analytics, mining, embedded systems, simulations… etc are far more relevant & intuitive to read about. They’re not too complicated or ground-breaking when used in Motorsports. Yet I’m sure, most people will find them less relevant than aerodynamics.

            Anyway, drawing up regulations involve way too many necessary/unnecessary variables. At least now there’d be proper research & engineering to back up the planning.

    11. I agree with Ross Brawn that the aerodynamics should stay, I think that the high speed cornering ability of a Formula 1 car is a large part of the appeal, but not in its current form. A lot needs to be done in order to make the aero a lot less sensitive and more reliable. From my understanding the main reason why the current cars are so sensitive is because the teams are working the aero surfaces of the car a lots harder than they used to, which means that the air flow is more likely to detach, resulting in a loss of down force. Therefore I think that Ross Brawn and his team need to find a way to make the teams stop working the aero surfaces so hard.

    12. Arad (@just-an-fan)
      9th June 2017, 20:25

      Can anybody(Including Ross) tell me what was wrong with 2008-2009 aero regs???

      1. Arad (@just-an-fan)
        9th June 2017, 21:06

        Sorry 2007-2008 Aero regs!

      2. @just-an-fan All the various winglets, flaps, horns, dumbo-ears as well as the overall dimension/height of the wings was creating a ton of turbulent air as well as making the cars far more sensitive to that turbulent air. Additionally many felt they looked absolutely hideous with all that nonsense sprouting off them.
        I remember a quote from somebody at the time which went something like how the cars looked like they had been driven through a scrap heap with a lot of random scrap having then gotten stuck to them.

        The concept of the 2009 aero changes was to make the cars aerodynamically simpler & have wing dimensions that created less & were less affected by turbulent air.
        The taller/narrower rear wing was designed to move the worst of the turbulent air coming off it higher (Away from the front wings) & have a narrower footprint of turbulent air.
        The Lower/Wider front wing was to work in balance with the new rear wing. Wider to get the main flaps outside of any turbulence coming off the narrower rear wing & lower to also get it away from any turbulence coming off the wing of a car ahead but also because having the wing lower is more efficient (They were only raised in 2001/2005 to reduce front grip & cut cornering speeds).

        And the removal of all the extra nonsense (flaps wtc..) was simply to reduce turbulence further & remove extra things that could be disturbed by turbulence as well as to make the cars more sleak & less cluttered.

        1. To be honest I think the biggest problem with this year’s regulations is that they have allowed some of the complexity of pre-2009 cars to return.

          The wider cars/tyres are a positive for the racing as the tyres are giving more mechanical grip & the wider cars allow for a wider floor/diffuser which creates a larger ground effect.
          However the complexity of the front wings (Not a new issue to 2017) & the aero bits behind it, Especially around the side of the cockpit/side-pod’s are creating additional turbulence & in the case of the front wings are affected by that turbulence far more as there more aero sensitive.

          If you kept everything else the same but removed all of those flaps & stuff with the simpler front wings originally envisioned in 2009, The racing would almost certainly be better with cars able to run closer & stand a better chance of overtaking without the need for gimmicks such as DRS.

    13. It isn’t possible to get rid of aerodynamics because no matter what the shape of a vehicle, as soon as you introduce air into the equation shape becomes important.
      From what I’ve read, open wheels create lift as soon as they start rotating while moving, the faster you go and the faster the speed of rotation (which is the usual situation) the more the lift. I don’t know how much lift there is, but I’m guessing it is enough to have forced teams into using wings in the early days of F1. If so, then as long as we have open wheels that rotate while the car is moving then the cars need something to keep them on the ground.
      As I see it, the reason for the open wheel philosophy is to create drag for the vehicle at the front and to reduce drag for those behind, so those behind have an advantage over the car in front, but with these cars the density of the air and its unturbulence (for want of a better word) gives a car a performance advantage, so the one in front with more dense air and more unturbulent air has more advantage than those behind it.
      It was interesting to see the Indycar racing cars have their rear wheels partially or completely covered, which, as I understand it, reduces the lift of those wheels, which in turn would reduce the need for downforce at the rear of the car, which reduces the disadvantage the trailing cars have.
      If there was a way to spoil the lifting effect of the rotating wheels at speed while keeping the aesthetics, then that may offer a partial solution to this problem.
      Brawn is right employing experts in F1 aerodynamics to look into this. It will be interesting to see what their solutions are.

      1. I think the body work around the wheels has also been to help lessen the risk of wheel on wheel contact that can, and has, sent cars flying given the speeds they carry on most ovals.

        1. Yes, minimising damage and danger in collisions and crashes is important. I hadn’t thought of that. Thanks.

          1. @drycrust, “Open wheel” racing is just a tradition that originated from the philosophy of removing everything that wasn’t essential in order to make the car lighter and reduce drag.

    14. When Ross Brawn talks aero it is easy to have confidence that he and his team will find the best solutions in relation to the various factors that make it harder to follow or pass now, as well as all other tech aspects. For so many years F1 has lacked the ownership, management and technical direction to make this possible. This will be positive for all involved.

      One more thing taken from this press conference:
      “If I’m honest, we’ve been very fortunate this year that we’ve had two teams that are battling it out so strongly at the front,” Brawn admitted. “I wouldn’t like to claim any credit for that. It’s just been good timing.”
      Refreshing honesty from a public figure in this day and age.

    15. To the people arguing to get rid of aerodynamics, here’s a better idea. Lobby FIA & Formula One Group to hold races on the moon.

      Or go under-water…oh, then hydrodynamics will come into play.
      So, moon it is then.

      1. Lol that was great.

    16. Jonesracing82
      10th June 2017, 1:21

      I’d reckon it’s impossible to have the current aero as well as good racing.
      cutting aero would make them less spectacular? I disagree, they will slide more & that would be more spectacular.

    17. It’s a vote for oval racing. Going in circles.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.
    If the person you're replying to is a registered user you can notify them of your reply using '@username'.