Robert Kubica, Williams, Circuit de Catalunya, 2019

Will F1’s new wings create better racing? The jury’s still out

2019 F1 season

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There’s no missing the vast, two-metre-wide front wings on the new 2019 F1 cars. But do they work the way they’re supposed to?

When the new front wing rules were agreed last year the FIA claimed the research behind it “indicated the strong likelihood of a positive impact on racing and overtaking within F1.” In other words, that drivers would now be able to follow each other more closely.

But after four days of testing drivers are not yet sure whether it has worked. Or, in the case of some, exactly what the change was supposed to achieve.

“I didn’t know that was the reason for the rule change,” said Lewis Hamilton when asked whether he thought the wings would improve the racing.

“I’ve been behind one car think out there and it seemed fine, didn’t seem different to last year in that respect. But I’m hopeful that it will be better for close-combat racing. Time will tell, I’ve not really been up behind too many cars.”

Most other drivers reported something similar. Kimi Raikkonen said he “never really got to the position to say if it’s any different from last year.”

However Daniel Ricciardo said his first experience of running behind another car was encouraging.

“It actually seemed alright but at the time I was lapping quite a bit quicker. I think the car – I don’t know what car it was but I assume they had more fuel – so maybe that’s why it was easier for me to follow.

“But if that was a like-for-like it felt better. I don’t want to get too excited, we’re still going to feel it, don’t get me wrong, but I would like to think that was a sign that we will feel a bit less.”

Sergio Perez, Force India, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018
2018 front wing: 1.8m wide, intricate designs
Sergio Perez, Racing Point, Circuit de Catalunya, 2019
2019 front wing: 2m wide, simplified surfaces

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By simplifying the design of the wings, the FIA hoped to prevent teams generating ‘outwash’, the turbulent air around the side of the car which negatively affects a following car.

But the teams, of course, are only concerned with how the wings perform on their cars. When asked by RaceFans whether the new wings had eliminated outwashing, Racing Point technical director Andrew Green admitted: “I have absolutely no idea whether they do that or not.”

Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo, Circuit de Catalunya, 2019
Alfa Romeo have opted for a different front wing design
“We only look at the performance of our car,” he said. “Not the car behind our car.”

However he did confirm they hadn’t recuperated all the downforce losses due to the new designs. “We’re still down,” he said. “We’ve still got a bit to go.”

In pushing to regain that lost downforce, teams will inevitably be looking at ways to recreate the lost outwash, as Renault’s technical director Nick Chester explained.

“Front wings is going to be a big one [for development],” he said. “There’ll be a lot of work on front wings.”

Chester said the main goals for front wing designers will be “trying to get outwash, trying to stop the wheel wakes coming back under the floor and trying to try to generate more performance that way.”

There is also the question of whether the different approaches to front wing design taken by some teams, such as Alfa Romeo and Ferrari, produce more ‘outwash’ than other designs.

The final four days of testing next week may provide more answers, particularly as we are likely to see more teams attempting race simulation runs. More likely, we’ll need to see a few races before judging whether there really has been a “positive impact on racing”.

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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...
Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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  • 30 comments on “Will F1’s new wings create better racing? The jury’s still out”

    1. ”I didn’t know that was the reason for the rule change”
      – Even though it’s been almost ten months since these changes were first announced/brought up.

      1. Which points out a well known fact: as always with rules change nobody asked the drivers’ opinion. Even in this particular case about “how to improve racing”.

        1. Well ya we have heard that but on the other hand how many times have we heard on the radio a driver saying ‘you can’t pass with these cars’ or what have you. They have spoken ahead of races about the lack of passing at certain venues etc etc. And I’m just talking about things we’ve heard from our armchairs. So I think they do listen to the drivers probably more than we think.

          My takeaway from this article is that I am excited to hear DR saying he didn’t want to get too excited, and that ‘he would like to think’ there will be an improvement. I would say if the drivers haven’t been asked, they certainly have expressed their opinions anyway. And they want to be able to follow better.

    2. If all fails just press the big DRS button.

    3. It would be really interesting to see the current wing rules fed into a computer program and to see what extreme wings would still be legal and still comply with the rules. It does not have to be functional either, I would just like to see how different from the vision the interpretation of the rules can be.

    4. I’m surprised that teams did not test more running behind other cars.
      It is up to 19x likelier that you’re behind a car rather than in the lead ;)

      1. +1. I was sure that the teams would do some nose to tail running to evaluate the wings impact on driving in traffic. I guess that’s why during race weekends I’m on my sofa and not in the pitlane.

        1. Based on what it says in the article above, I would say this first four days of testing has been more about each team finding their way with their new cars. The next set of days will have the teams starting off with much more experience with their cars, so they will likely feel more comfortable and have more time to do nose to tail experimentation with other teams’ cars.

    5. At the end of the season they can sell the spare wings to Airbus.
      If the teams circumvent the intent with devious designs will next year’s wings be twice as wide?

      1. Bad luck; Airbus will cease the production of the A380.

        PS if a whatdoIknow like me would reduce outwash then the proposal would probably to make the wings smaller.
        PPS or a slightly smarter person than me would propose to get skirts back which eliminates the need for outwash.

        1. PPPS: Every Dumbass like me knows the answers to all their questions asked were all answered in wind tunnels months ago before 2018 ended. As they know where every cubic mm of air goes and flows above, below, and around every car with every aero configuration, which we all have noticed is tailored for each track. So a wider 2tier vs 1 tier multi aero points has no surprises. maybe its a slow roll to get back the wide wings again that went 2” outside tires, before they narrowed them to intentionally slow the cars down. (which got them to use directed exhaust gasses as an aero-effect..lol)

    6. I don’t get it. Between 2008 and 2009 F1 decided that it was better for racing to have a bigger front wing and a higher rear wing. Between 2009 and 2017 the front wing got smaller again. Then in 2018 the rear wing got lowered again and in 2019 the rear wing got higher again and the front wing larger again.

      So between 2008 and 2019 the front wing got bigger, smaller and bigger again and the rear wing got higher, lower and higher again, all for the sake of better racing. See why I am confused? :)

      1. I see that I got a year wrong (2017 rather than 2018) but my point still stands.

        1. This academic paper might give you some insights.
          @matthijs

        2. @matthijs, 2017 was a ‘Bernie’ change, i.e. one based on gut feeling and little else

          1. Indeed, and certainly not with better racing in mind. Only “cars need to be faster”

      2. I agree with you. F1 has been going in circles for decades (not just literally).

      3. Those changes have no all been with the same goal in mind

    7. Dont know if it works but they somehow look so much better than 2009, must be the wider cars and huge wide rear wing, with the shiny black tyres all the cars look good, somehow like a 70’s vibe about them. All looks more in proportion.

    8. Watched a lot of testing and it did look promising.

      There were quite a few times that cars were running close for a couple of laps and I was expecting to see understeering from the following car but it didn’t happen.

    9. Maybe the larger wing means more car damage on the first lap which will mix up the field and improve the racing.

      1. Oh there will definitely be more first lap carnage. That was a selling point of the narrower wing – reducing first lap destruction.

      2. Maybe the larger wing means more car damage on the first lap which will mix up the field and improve the racing.

        Drop the maybe in the sentence. I agree with rpiian. It is as certain as tomorrow’s sunrise, we will see copious amounts of carbon fiber being destroyed in the opening laps of 2019’s GP’s. I suspect crews will be replacing noses very, very often at the end of lap 1. And those sharp debris will be deflating many tires of the cars behind. It should make for exciting race starts, I guess.

        1. The same thing was on the air before the 2009 season. Of course there were some incidents because of wider front wing but in the end it wasn’t really a game changer. Now cars are much more longer and wider which makes front wing bigger. But I don’t think it will affect racing very much.

        2. OR it may lead to restarts.. Bringing back ‘Qualifying cars’ (lucky to have enough fuel or rubber to make 1 lap, aero set for running alone on track) that they can crash at turn 1, then run back to the pits to jump in their Race Cars(full tanks, new tires, less aggressive aero) to run the race at the restart 3wide instead of 2. like in the 90s.

    10. Which do you think is easier to get through a doorway, a 2019 F1 front wing or a couch?

      Jury’s still out

    11. I’m quite sure top teams will consider generating more outwash to affect following car in a negative way, contrary to Racing Point ““We only look at the performance of our car,” he said. “Not the car behind our car.”” If you’d have two similarly performing solutions with one generating more “dirty” air for following car, you’d choose the one hampering following car more!

    12. I think it’s what’s happening at the back of a car that’s important, not what’s happening at the front. I suspect the rear wheels are one of the big causes of turbulence, and that going to the larger wheel in the next few years will mean more turbulence. One way I see of reducing the turbulence would be to allow the back of the wheels to be covered.

      1. @drycrust, it’s long been known that the wheels are the biggest source of turbulence on the car by far, but at the same time the idea of partially enclosing the wheels has met with resistance from those who insist that the sport should remain an open wheeled sport for reasons of tradition.

    13. I believe the new front wings will help the racing, even if it is only a little. Brawn is no dummy and I trust in him. This change was made as an experiment – so I wouldn’t expect a major change – but I do believe it will prove to be a step in the right direction; which is exactly the remit.

      Plus, shock/gasp, I like the bigger front wings!

    Comments are closed.