First wind tunnel test of 2021 F1 rules produced ‘exceptional results’

2021 F1 season

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The first wind tunnel test of Formula 1’s new regulations for the 2021 season have produced “exceptional” results, according to the sport’s chief technical officer Pat Symonds.

F1 and the FIA tested a 50% scale model of a car based on the new rules at the wind tunnel operated by Sauber, which runs the Alfa Romeo F1 team.

The rules are intended to reduce the turbulence produced by cars, which has been blamed for the difficulty drivers experience in overtaking other cars. Current designs lose around 50% of their downforce when they run within two car-lengths of another car. The new design is intended to cut that to 5-10%.

While Formula 1 teams are limited by regulations to a maximum wind tunnel model size of 60%, F1 used a 50% model in order to gain more useful data on the aerodynamic wake behind a moving car. Symonds told the official F1 website the results of the first test were “actually beyond what I thought we could achieve when we started the project.”

“With the configurations we have got at the moment, the results are exceptional,” he added.

According to F1 the “general results” of the test will be shared between all the teams. The test was run by Sauber’s consultancy group, not its F1 team, in order to prevent them gaining an advantage over their rivals from the knowledge of the test.

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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...

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52 comments on “First wind tunnel test of 2021 F1 rules produced ‘exceptional results’”

  1. Music to our ears.

    1. Very good. So how many overtakes were achieved in the wind tunnel, preferably without penalties?

      1. @greenflag Not sure how much tongue in cheek if any to read into your comment, but just to reiterate the goal is not about numbers of overtakes, just close battles. Said just in case you are one amongst those who think Liberty/Brawn want as many overtakes as possible just for the sake of the numbers…they don’t. It’s enough for them that the trailing car only lose 10 or 15 percent of it’s downforce/grip/performance so that he has good confidence in the car to attempt a pass. And of course the tires, whatever they’ll be like, will have not been suffering nearly as much from movement in dirty air as is the case now, so they’ll be there for the drivers for more laps too, presumably. Pirelli has to be mandated to make less finicky tires.

      2. Brilliant! 😎

        I think you win the internet for August 23!

  2. Sounds like something the POTUS would put on twitter.

  3. Do we dare to believe? Those who dare, win. I’m starting a team!

  4. That’s good news for sure. Ground effect downforce has produced good close fights in the past for F1. Interesting designs came up. Does anyone remember that Ferrari (Lauda’s?) that barely had a front wing?

    I believe Sauber will benefit from what they saw. Just like Mercedes benefit from that tyre test back in _ _? (add the year if you know for sure…)

    Or like Ferrari benefit from the work on Haas aero in their first year.

    But that does not matter much at this stage. First teams have to agree with those rules in october. And second we will have to wait and ser who’s in and who’s out in 2021.

    1. Does anyone remember that Ferrari (Lauda’s?) that barely had a front wing?

      Quite a few ground effect F1 cars didn’t run front wings. The FW08 and BT49 are two that leap to mind immediately.

  5. Good news. But I fully expect the cars that actually show up in 2021 will be worse off than these Platonic forms of 2021 regs. Time will tell.

    1. @hobo Worse off then exceptional is still vastly better than what they have now.

      1. Have to echo what @robbie says here @hobo

        Though I see, and understand what @roger-ayles writes below, I am looking forward to see what a real, solidly thought through and researched, effort by the sport authorities to improve racing can do.

        It won’t be a cure all, of course, but if the cars can more easily race ,then the rules can remain relatively stable, and the (somewhat watered down) cost-cap might help bring more cars, more often, into a more equal race to give opportunity for that racing.

        1. @bosyber I think it will be a cure all wrt to the racing. They’re ridding themselves of clean air dependence.

          1. Well, to some extent @robbie, though as long as there’s aero, there will be clean vs. dirty air.

        2. @robbie @bosyber – I would agree that “not as good as great” is better than “not as good as so-so.”

          But I’m not expecting miracles based on a test 18mos prior to new regs that don’t even fully exist yet. I hope that I am wrong, truly, as I want close racing. And if we get great results in 2021, please please rub it in my face. Seriously, because I do want better fights on track and races and seasons that aren’t runaways. I will happily be proven wrong.

          That said, I do wonder if that is ever going to be possible with heavily aero-based racing.

          1. @bosyber @hobo Oh for sure there’s always dirty air. I’m just convinced it will no longer need be feared.

            And yes I absolutely believe they are about to introduce something very good. If we can be enthralled by these recent races we’ve had with these cars, (much thanks to Max and Honda) how will we not be more enthralled when there is more of it more regularly with more drivers, only in cars genuinely meant to be raced closely.

            So, I don’t need to outline yet again the multiple aspects of the car and aerodynamics they are tackling for us to appreciate that even a small percentage of improvement from these massive and unprecedented changes would make what we have been having even better. Throw out the integrity robbing drs and we at a minimum have better than now racing without an aid for free passes. All earned passes from close and enthralling battles. Isn’t that a great goal at least? Something to chip away at? Evolve from? I think they’re taking a chunk frankly, a revolution. Can’t see it any other way.

            Expect a miracle? No, just closer racing without drs, and surely the F1 that enthralls us must therefore have within it’s massive brain power, politics aside, unprecedented tunnel work achieved, the ability to tackle this better than any racing series, as they are the global pinnacle, or they wouldn’t enthrall us would they?

  6. The results they get in the wind tunnel & CFD simulations are largely irrelevant because by the time you have hundreds of engineer’s running many more models on more advanced computer systems what we get on the grid for race #1 of 2021 will be completely different & a few years after that they will be different still.

    The testing so far may well show the cars will be able to run 70% closer or whatever by that won’t be the reality & even if that does prove accurate that doesn’t necessarily guarantee the racing will be better or overtaking more possible.

    People tend to have an impression of ground effects that cars will run closer, Overtaking will be easier & the racing will be better. But you go back & watch races from 1978-1982 when F1 last had ground effects & there are plenty of processions where cars could run closer but still not overtake because cornering speeds were faster & braking distances shorter due to how much grip they were getting from the ground effects.
    And let us not ignore the fact that the drivers back then hated ground effects because of how the cars needed to be setup & how dangerous they were if the ground effect was interrupted in any way or if the floor got damaged. You could clip a kerb or debris & damage the venturi tunnel immidiately losing more than 50% of your downforce resulting in you flying off the road at the next corner.

    I just think that people hyping ground effects up as the savior that will immediately produce great racing are setting everyone up to be hugely disappointed as i honestly don’t expect things to change all that much overall.

    1. The results they get in the wind tunnel & CFD simulations are largely irrelevant (…) even if that does prove accurate that doesn’t necessarily guarantee the racing will be better (…) I honestly don’t expect things to change all that much overall.

      This is the Debby-Downer type of attitude that I dislike in the F1 (fan) community. Complaining about everything without coming up with alternative ideas and then, when someone does make an effort to do so it’s immediately labeled ‘pointless’.

      This is not a direct attack on you personally @roger-ayles, it’s just something I notice in general.

      1. @jeffreyj Agreed

        @roger-ayles Have to disagree completely. You are singling out ground effects only, which is just one aspect of what they are tackling. Then you are using 35-40 year old style of ground effects to make your claim. So, not only is the ground effects they’re working on going to be done very differently, they are also addressing simplified wings, and they are also addressing cars to make less wake to begin with. Nothing they are working on for 2021 can be related to the late 70’s, especially since all this new modern work they’ve been doing on these modern new cars will combine to make for something incomparable to anything we have ever seen in F1.

      2. @jeffreyj, to be fair, the former designer Frank Dernie has also expressed a rather similar line of thought to @roger-ayles, and his professional opinion has been that too many have treated “ground effects” as a panacea without considering some of the wider questions about what generates the necessary difference in performance that is required to make a passing move possible. I would say that there is a difference between a “Debby-Downer type of attitude” and offering a critical appraisal of the situation, and I feel that Roger’s post is more towards the latter category.

        1. I guess that makes the cars designer a Debbie downer!… that is of course if you give two splitters what Jeffreyj has to say.

          F1 fans like to think theyre more technologically advanced than say, a nascar fan. But every day, every single day I see more than a handfew of RaceFans comments that just blatantly over simplify f1.

          I don’t give two damns if it’s a “Debbie downer” comment. The cars designer knows better than us, and if you think this car is 2020’s spec car, or even close to what will show up Albert part, you are a fool. The same fools KNEW that Ferrari was faster this year due to winter testing times…

          This is a car designed to not give off dirty air, NOT TO BE FAST around a track!

          Come on guys, we are better than that…

        2. Well put Anon.

          Whilst I’m encouraged by some of the announcements, I’m comfortable with critical appraisal and certainly take statements from Symonds in particular with a certain amount of scepticism given it’s his job to “talk up” the future.

          I’m sure there will be some improvement in some areas, but equally sure that designers will be doing their utmost to ensure that their particular car retains an advantage over the field. That can, and generally does negate some of the originally intended improvement.

    2. Loved all the comments, especially the Debby-Downer ones (are we even allowed to say that these days?!).

      @roger-ayles is right. I read an article that talked about this a few years ago on Autosport (I believe) that pretty much raised all the same points.

      Having said this, although law’s of physics haven’t changed in the last 40 years, I’d like to go in with eyes open and see what they come up in 2021. If they can follow each other closely, perhaps it may lead to drivers making more mistakes from being put under pressure for long periods? Will there be DRS?

      1. @anon @dbradock What exactly of any substance has @roger-ayles prevailed upon us? Just his personal doubt as far as I can see. Nothing factual comparing then to now. What has 40 year old technology got to do with the combination of changes they’re about to make 40 years on. He speaks of damaged Venturis and suddenly losing 50% of downforce like that will be a given to this day, after 40 year later modern knowledge and technology is applied, like the undertray structure will be similar. Destined to be fragile. Like they couldn’t possibly learn from 40 years ago and assimilate as much as they need glean from then, given how massively different the cars are now, Not to mention simply applying their modern wind tunnel influenced knowledge and experience to the matter without even much more than a peep at the old way. No mention of new and different wings, nor a whole-car concept that will make less wake, and how those things will also affect how ground effects will work and feel, and a vastly different ground effects than ever before at that.

        Such a great number of most ardently thought through changes to come, how can one simply single out 40 year old ground effects in a stats-less comparative and a negative that portends to negate all that is about to be?

        Btw…what better then? Given the doubts, what should be done differently than they have coming down the pipe? Rather than just armchair warnings without the current Brawn wind tunnel reports at hand, what would be the more appropriate thing(s) to do to achieve their goal of closer racing? Personally I’m chuffed at what they’re doing.

        1. Simple really. What we’ve been suggesting is that the wind tunnel simulations, which I’d assume would cover way more than ground effects, whilst encouraging won’t necessarily be anywhere near close to reality once the hundreds of team engineers apply their collective talents to the regulations once they actually appear.

          You should also remember that wind tunnel simulations are just that and that every team finds that there is often quite a difference between their wind tunnel data and the reality of the same once it’s applied to a car on a track.

          Nobody’s said it won’t be an improvement, we’re just suggesting that some caution be applied to expectations of improvement.

    3. Good points. Ground effects definitely make the car more susceptible to aerodynamic damage but at the same time modern tracks are extremely forgiving and no track has high kerbs like we had in the 80s. Only places like monza’s first corner could we run into potential issues with the speed bumps and even then I’m 100% those will go away if they damage the cars.

      It is also important to remember that the current cars are the most sensitive to dirty air than anything else before by huge margin. Never before has f1 had this much downforce and this much downforce generated from such fragile wings in terms of airflow. So even if you go from 50% to 10% loss of downforce when following the end result is still somewhat similar relatively compared to what you’d expect from a simpler car with less downforce.

    4. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      23rd August 2019, 16:36

      Its highly unlikely the venturi tunnels will be damaged by hitting kerbs.

      Are you are thinking of the old style ground effect skirts? True when these were damaged there could be a dangerous sudden loss of down force. However I believe the 2021 cars will have skirts which will not touch the ground and will not be fixed to the sprung part of the car and therefore damage will be less likely and have have less effect on down force.

      Also the because the skirts will be suspended from the wheels/axles, the distance to the ground will be more consistent, meaning more consistent safer down-force.

  7. Sounds really great!

    Hope they don’t spoil everything with introduction of stock aero-package…

  8. It only takes one brilliant Adrian Newey idea to break down the entire house of cards.

    It’s a noble effort, but these engineers get paid the big bucks to find loopholes nobody thought about before, and there are what, at least 30, 40 amazingly overqualified aero engineers in F1 (if you assume 3-4 per team), pitted against a few on the FIA’s side.

    I am cautious about the move as well, because they have this idea of a design in their head that the teams will follow, but we saw with the step noses (2012) and the (insert dirty word here) noses (2014) that performance trumps aesthetics every time, there will be another idea that wasn’t intended with the new rules that will break our hearts.

    And the fact that they are asking input from the teams themselves regarding this, is going to hurt more than it will help. If Newey stumbles upon something amazing in terms of performance but also an increase in dirty air (say resulting in 30% loss of downforce instead of the projected 10% maximum) – within the rules – he sure as hell ain’t going to reveal it before Melbourne 2021.

    1. @ho3n3r I think you’re going to find that the combination of aspects they are tackling will not allow any ingenious idea, even from Newey, to suddenly make that much more wake than the rest. If he somehow does, they’ll regulate that out, because they want the new F1 to include close wheel to wheel battles.

    2. @ho3n3r this guy gets it… cotd.

    3. Ross Brawn asked questions about the diffuser in the regulation change meetings, leading up to the 2009 season. Look how that turned out for “open and honest” sharing of opinions lol

  9. Also, lets not forget that there is a significant competitive or defensive advantage to have your car create more dirty air behind…..

    You may be slower than the car behind, but if they cant get close enough to start a move, then you have the advantage

    1. No f1 team is going to make their car slower just to produce more dirty air. With the limited amount of cfd computing time available nowadays it doesn’t make any sense to spend that resource on making your car slower when you could use it make it faster. In the end the easiest way to make you car harder to pass is to make it faster. Not slower with more dirty air.

  10. Looks great, I was wondering if anyone knew if the cars are going to be shorter as a result of the changes? Since the cars have become wider they have stayed the same length, giving so much free space at the back. They are huge now which can’t help with overtaking.

    1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      22nd August 2019, 16:35

      The drivers don’t seem to think the length or width of the cars make that much difference when overtaking. Speed differential is what matters.

      Though I think its true to say the cars would look much better a couple of feet shorter.

  11. Sneaky FIA. They desperately need a change in order and Ferrari to not get spanked by Mercedes come 2021, so instead of using a Ferrari wind tunnel which would make headlines they use the next best thing, Alpha Romeo.. For sure this info has already gone to Ferrari and unless all teams are receiving this information today this gives them a little jump on Mercedes. Why not use an independent wind tunnel so it is fair for all?

    1. “According to F1 the “general results” of the test will be shared between all the teams. The test was run by Sauber’s consultancy group, not its F1 team, in order to prevent them gaining an advantage over their rivals from the knowledge of the test.”

      Ops I missed the last sentences.. Hopefully that is full disclosure to all teams… :)

  12. Sounds great. Time to get rid of DRS then..

    1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      22nd August 2019, 16:40

      I think keeping DRS on the cars as a backup for at least one season would be prudent. It should remain disabled to start with and only switched on if there wasn’t enough overtaking with the new rules. Hopefully there will be and DRS can be consigned to history.

  13. And were the people who designed this car top F1 engineers attempting to squeeze every thing they can from the rules without regard for the airflow behind the car? If not, this is just a pointless marketing video with a vanilla car.

  14. Hamilton has more grip than his rivals. What are they doing to even up the tyre issues all the other teams suffer with? I’ve never liked forcing the drivers to race on one of the other compounds that don’t suit the car.

    Also F1 is big and clever enough to bring these new regs in next season. Swathes of empty seats in all but two races this year and if it wasn’t for the mad Dutch it would be worse. Motorsport in general is dying.

  15. It looks and sounds good. Keep on working, Mr. Ross Brawn, as you are one of the most the bright-headed in F1.

  16. Just bring back 1989-1990 rules.

  17. Are the cars getting quicker? The quicker they go the more they rely on aero. Wings look big to my eyes, ugly, especially high rear wing. Looks a bit too 89 90 to me ugly.

  18. Shane O Laake
    23rd August 2019, 0:09

    Sure teams will try to find clever loopholes, but the key here is that straight up ground effects are better than any (known) loophole. All the recent aero rules failed because they disallowed the nirvana of ground effects and the clever engineers tried to create what they could with double diffusers, blown diffusers, holes, undercuts, etc… No guarantees, but offering the most efficient form of downforce will make most tricks irrelevant.

  19. Is this what Paddy Lowe has been doing for the FIA!

  20. This design is ugly and dull……

  21. Because they have ross brawn (an actual aerodynamicist and engineer) doing these test I hope the numbers are what they say they are and not some misleading nonsense like like running unrealistic front/rear balance or minimum downforce or whatever. I also hope that they can make the ground effects work consistently without the floor being extremely sensitive to ride height. Of course it is not ross himself doing the tests at the wind tunnel but I’d like to think they are doing their due diligence making sure their numbers confirm their own calculations and not just to appease the fans who want to hear it is going to get better.

    5-10% compared to current 50% loss (which I’m sure is an exaggeration in both cases) is still respectable but a lot remains to be seen how much downforce are they planning to have and how the concept works in reality. Car looks pretty long which is probably given how the floor is used downforce generation. Because of the tall tunnels under the car the center of gravity is going to be higher which will also have its own negative effects on car handling and especially on managing the floor ground clearances. Also weird to see mirrors on the car. For sure it would be time to put cameras and lcd displays on the car as is common already in gt and lmp cars. I’d guess it is a weight issue (sigh)..

    1. @socksolid, all of the LMP and GTE cars have conventional mirrors – the cameras and LCD displays are not supposed to replace the use of mirrors.

  22. I don’t see any 60% scale driver in the car complaining about how hard it is to follow, so I can’t trust the wind tunnel output.

  23. Ground effects have already proven to NOT increase battles, just a procession of really fast turning cars.

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