Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2019

Hamilton: 2019 front wing change ‘made no difference to turbulence’

2019 F1 season

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Lewis Hamilton says the changes to Formula 1’s front wings for the 2019 season have not helped drivers to race each other more closely.

F1 increased the maximum width of front wings to two metres this year but also required teams to use simpler designs in a bid to reduce the amount of ‘outwash’ they produce, which has been blamed for the difficult drivers have following each other closely. However Hamilton, who spent part of last week’s British Grand Prix trying to pass his team mate Valtteri Bottas, said he couldn’t see a benefit.

“That wing has not made any difference to the turbulence,” said Hamilton. “It really hasn’t. It’s just as bad as before I would say.”

The wings came about as a result of the research being conducted by F1 into new technical regulations for the 2021 season which are intended to make it much easier for drivers race closely. However Hamilton believes the closer racing seen at Silverstone was due to the track, not the cars.

“This track is special in the sense that the wind direction and the way that the layout is, you’re able to follow.

“But still it’s not good enough because the tyres drop off. Me and Valtteri were having that fight, if we didn’t have thermal degradation, because the car is too heavy and the tyres overheat, I could’ve just stayed on his tail and kept racing. But eventually I had to give up because after God knows how many laps behind in that battle the tyres dropped off a cliff and then you have to back up and you have to go to a different strategy.

“So I’m hoping in the future they are able to make a tyre that goes longer. A bit like the hard tyres we pushed more [at Silverstone], and stay in that battle and not suffer with that and you’ll see hopefully closer racing.”

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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...
Keith Collantine
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  • 29 comments on “Hamilton: 2019 front wing change ‘made no difference to turbulence’”

    1. The cars are too heavy…..and nimble they will never be. It’s simple physics in case you are in doubt.

    2. But who could possibly have for seen these problems ?

      1. Colin Chapman.
        Make it light, and if it breaks, make it lighter still.

        1. Unfortunately, some drivers died simply because of a spring failure in his cars.

          1. @mg1982, hence why Chapman also famously said that he wouldn’t ever drive any of his own cars – not to mention Moss complaining that cars like the 18 were fairly prone to sudden snap oversteer at high speed, assuming that something didn’t break and make you crash first.

            In fact, it has to be said that the true fatal accident rate might be higher than is sometimes suggested given the ambiguity over the cause of some accidents, and Team Lotus’s fatal accident rate is already high. For example, whilst Alan Stacey’s fatal accident in the 1960 Belgian Grand Prix is sometimes attributed to being struck in the face by a bird, causing him to lose consciousness, some other spectators have suggested that the suspension might have failed (a fairly common occurrence on quite a few of Chapman’s early cars).

            Some accidents in customer cars in non championship races are also excluded from the total, such as Ricardo Rodriguez and his crash in the non-championship 1962 Mexican Grand Prix (again, suspension failure being the suspected cause of his accident).

      2. Ask a few sceptics and you’ll probably find they were right. Of course, being sceptics they might said it wouldn’t work for no other reason than to say it wouldn’t, but maybe they did have reasons. For example, most of the turbulence is created at the back of a car, so that’s where you’d expect changes to be made, but no, changes were made at the front of the car. So one wouldn’t expect a large reduction in turbulence, which seems to be what Lewis is saying.

        1. This could also mean the Mercedes cars are so tuned for speed, that they are more sensitive to the ‘wake’ of the cars in front, than other cars. It would be interesting to compare the Mercedes to the Red Bulls, for how the cope in turbulant air.

          1. Yes, that’s a good thought too.

    3. Josh (@canadianjosh)
      22nd July 2019, 9:37

      Every other week there’s a driver saying the new wings help and the next a driver says they don’t help.

      1. Question is which drivers are doing the talking? I take Lewis and Kimi’s experience over guys like KMag.

        1. I am not the biggest K-Mag fan, but let’s be fair here. However let’s review your analysis of who to listen to.

          Lewis : Has spent a grand total of 20 laps followng another car (that he wasn’t lapping) in the lat 5 years.
          Kimi : Has at times been fast enough to get behind another car. But he would follow a car for 1 million laps without trying an overtake.
          K-Mag : Has followed cars for almost every race in the last 5 years. Well, the races where he didn’t crash out early with his team mate anyway.

          Why don’t we go with our own guts on this one rather than listening to drivers? What I have seen is that they generally can get about 0.1-0.2 second’s closer when following. i.e. last year, they would be 0.8 seconds behind when close. This year they seem to be 0.6 to 0.7 seconds behind.

          I think it is a win, but only a slight one. More to be done on this front.

          1. @mickharrold I think you’re spot on—I’d think the guys who would have the most experience in the new-wing aero wash are the midfield runners who are mixing it up with every other midfield team.

            The other thing is that even if there’s been no change in the ability to follow, that could well be a success for the 2019 regs, because if nothing had been done, the progress of the teams may have well made it worse.

      2. How about both are right? In that it hasn’t got worse. Which if you looked at 2017 to 2018 was the case.

    4. It’s possible the Mercedes aero philosophy and implementation is different from other teams and so the new front wings also have a different effect on their car. To me it always looks like the Mercedes is designed to run in free air and it’s superior if it does. But if it needs to come from behind it sometimes looks like they are struggling more than others.

      So it makes sense that different drivers have different opinions because they driver different cars with different aero

      1. To me it always looks like the Mercedes is designed to run in free air and it’s superior if it does. But if it needs to come from behind it sometimes looks like they are struggling more than others.

        Some time ago I was thinking about the same thing, but I don’t believe it that much anymore. I think it’s mostly a myth. There’s already a number or races where Mercedes doesn’t seem to have any problem racing close behind some other car(s) for many laps. HAM in Germany 2018, Italy 2018, Canada 2019 etc. On the other hand, Ferrari do seem to have cooling and tyres problems when running many laps close behind another car. Also, Ferrari’s acceleration and top speed seems to be another myth too. Even in the last 2 races they didn’t top the speed trap sheets, then it simply doesn’t look like they’re overtaking easier on the straights than Mercedes and RBR.

        1. @mg1982, that said, there is the question of what Ferrari’s straight line speed is like in relation to the wing angle that they have been running on their cars in recent races.

          What has been noticeable in the past couple of races is that Ferrari seem to have been using larger front and rear wings than either Mercedes or Red Bull, particularly in Silverstone. It suggests that the floor and bodywork of Ferrari’s car isn’t generating downforce as efficiently as Mercedes and Red Bull can, forcing Ferrari to use larger wings – Silverstone in particular is a high downforce circuit – and sacrificing some of their straight line speed in favour of total downforce, even if it comes with a higher drag penalty.

    5. Cars are also very large. Larger than some small sports cars.

      On Tires though, hard tires till the end of the season please.

    6. Well, he hasn’t done too much racing anyway especially compared to those not driving a Mercedes, Ferrari, RBR, nor Williams, and mostly those drivers have given an opposing view to his.

    7. Of course, the idea to test that Brawns work for 2021 was on the right track, and to not make following worse with further development, so even if it is now the same (for Merc/Hamilton) as before, that’s arguably the wing change working as intended.

    8. I don’t know why they don’t simply extend the DRS zone to 1.5 seconds to account for the effects which the car in front, has on the car behind.

      1. All cars not in first place should have DRS use at any point on the track at any time.

        1. It’s unsafe to use DRS in many places on the track! Off-loading downforce at critical points like in corners, will have adverse effects leading accidents.

    9. Even if following now is the same as it was a year ago it doesn’t mean the change was worthless. F1 aerodynamics develop every year and from aero perspective every year is faster. If there had not been any changes for this season the situation would have been worse and the cars would have suffered more when following other cars. This is because for every bit of downforce you add to the car the more dirty air it generates and the more sensitive the car is to it. Without the front wing change the downforce levels would have increased even more compared to 2018 along with more dirty air and more sensitiveness to it. The fact that it is the same as 2018 (if it is) is a success because without it it would have been worse.

      1. @socksolid – What you have described may have been true, and it may have not. Had 2018-style regs continued, surely the teams would have developed what they had at the end of last year and we would almost certainly be in a different place to where we are now. But just as Merc would be finding more downforce (and potentially but not necessarily increasing disturbance to the cars behind), Ferrari would be finding downforce in order to close the gap. So would every other team. Some cars would likely be a bit ahead some a bit behind, but it is not “a fact” that 2019 regs are a success just because the cars can follow the same distance as 2018 regs allowed (if that is even the case).

        1. @hobo The point of this years front wing changes was not to reduce the amount of downforce generated by the front wings but to reduce the amount that teams could steer air around the front wheels which caused more turbulence off the back of the car (affecting the following car).

          It is also not the final solution, It is one small part of an overall package of changes designed to help cars follow more closely from 2021 onwards. It just happens to be a small bastardised part of the upcoming regulations that could be implemented on the current cars without to much redesign work.

          1. @asanator – I understand it was, more or less, an early test. But just like they have done before, teams worked around small changes. It’s fine that they want to test things, but let’s test bigger steps.

        2. Had 2018 regs continued as they were without the outwash front wings the downforce levels and dirty air levels would have increased. Now the downforce increase the new front wing sort of cancel each others out. F1 cars gain downforce by being more complex and intricate which is the exact same thing that makes them more effected by dirty air and create more dirty air. And we are not talking about the differences between teams but about following other cars.

          and potentially but not necessarily increasing disturbance to the cars behind

          That’s not how physics work. The more downforce you make the more efficient and powerful you want your wings to be shaping the airflow. And the smaller you want to make them to reduce drag. Perfect wing in a race car makes lots downforce with minimal drag. This means it is highly sensitive to airflow changes because it uses the airflow so effectively.

          1. @socksolid – Yes, likely as you state, outwash would probably have increased. But what we cannot say is whether the effect would have been different or not. If teams pushed designs with more outwash/wake and also pushed designs that did not suffer as much from the wake of other cars, what then? The point is simply that nothing really changed, whether that is better than it would have been, who knows.

            For the second point, you can create or move locations where downforce is created that do not effectively change the wake impact on the car behind. Small changes will often get lost in the larger wake. Make enough small changes, and yes, the wake will be different in some way or another. But not all changes impact the following car in discernible ways.

            And what you are talking about is not physics, it is aero design. You would ideally like the most most efficient wing possible, regardless of the downforce you are making. But given that the cars still cannot follow closely, and without data proving one way or the other, it may be that the current wing regs do not effectively change the wake from the former wings.

            1. Without the changes the 2019 cars would have made more downforce and more dirty air. Looking back to 2017 there is nothing there to indicate that 2019 would have been the first year ever in f1 where downforce levels increase but sensitiveness to dirty air and dirty air creation decreases. It is definitely not unknown either. Brawn were confident the new outwash front wings should help little bit with making it easier to follow other cars. Unless they were totally completely wrong there is very clear situation where the benefits of the outwash front wings have been eaten away by new more effective aerodynamic designs.

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