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Disagreement over impact of 2019 regulations

NEWS STORY
02/11/2018

It is a common misconception that when F1 fans say they want to see better racing, that they mean drivers constantly challenging and overtaking one another.

Not so.

F1 fans do not want IndyCar oval overtaking fests, what they want is the possibility to overtake; one driver attacking and another defending, like boxers, both using all their skills in order beat their opponent.

In recent years however, the aerodynamic regulations have made it increasingly difficult, stacking the odds very much in favour of the hunted, as the hunter, in addition to finding the right time and place to make his move, has to deal with the added handicap of loss of downforce due to dirty air.

With the following car thought to be losing as much as fifty percent of its downforce as it closes in on its prey, it is easy to understand why drivers have to hang back rather than hang on to the rear end of their opponent.

Almost since the day they bought the sport, Liberty Media has made no secret of the fact this it wants to level the playing field, ensuring that it is not always the 'big three' that take the podiums and fill the first six points-warning places.

While the sport's powers-that-be attempt to find an acceptable solution to the financial side of things, ensuring that all the teams receive a fair amount of prize money and are restricted on spending, along with the FIA they are seeking to come up with a suitable set of rules that will improve the racing.

Ahead of a major overhaul of the rules for 2021, the powers-that-be have come up with a stop-gap solution for 2019, albeit just a couple of years after the previous re-set of the aero regulations, which, though producing faster cars, actually worsened the effect of dirty air.

"The front wheels of an F1 car produce a very dirty wake and teams naturally want to push it to the side to get nice, clean air flowing over the rest of the car," explains Pat Symonds, Formula One's chief technical officer in Auto, the FIA magazine.

"They do this by producing specific vortices with the front wings and brake ducts," he continues. "If you look at the current front wings, there are a lot of appendages and elements sitting on top of the wing. Each one is designed to produce a vortex, to control that wake. Unfortunately, when you start pushing the front wheel wake out a long way, you create a very wide area of low-energy air behind the car, which reduces the downforce on the following car."

In an attempt to improve the situation, next season the cars will feature a revised front wing shape and simplified brake ducts, which in recent years have become as 'artistic' as the front wings as they are increasingly used to generate more vortices and channel air out through hollow wheel hubs.

"It's quite a heavy rule change that's being introduced for the front wing," says Nikolas Tombazis, the FIA's head of single-seater technical matters. "It will be reduced to five elements only, and we've put in place rules that will only allow these elements to change shape gradually and smoothly across the span without the discontinuities, extra profiles and fins on the top surface that create the strategic vortices that push the wheel wake outboard today. The end plates become much simpler and underneath the wing teams will be limited to a maximum of two fences.

"The rear wing helps us when we're trying to promote closer racing," he continues. "It has two strong trailing vortices, which pull the flow up from close to the ground into the 'mushroom'. This mushroom is pushed upwards quite violently and quickly, allowing clean air to be pulled in from the sides to take the place of the turbulent air being flung upwards. This clean air tends to be higher energy, which has a beneficial effect on the aerodynamics of the following car. We want to increase that mushroom effect and make it stronger, but also put more of the dirty air into its vicinity to push it up and out of the way."

While eight of the teams have already run favourable simulations, a couple of teams, most notably Force India, tested 2019-spec wings at the post-Hungary Grand Prix test.

"It was a significant step backwards," admits Force India's Otmar Szafnauer, when asked to compare the difference to this year's aero rules. "We've got aggressive targets, I don't know if we will be able to hit them. We're trying to predict the future as to what we can find, but yeah, it was a massive step back for us."

"The same for us," says Toro Rosso's Franz Tost. "I discussed it with the people in the wind tunnel and as it looks currently they do not believe that overtaking will become much easier, which means there is less dirty air behind the car. Therefore I'm not sure that this regulation change will end up where we expect - that overtaking will become much easier. I think that at the beginning of next season the teams will have reached a similar level on downforce as nowadays."

Williams technical boss, Paddy Lowe, who formed part of the Overtaking Working Group which came up with the last major overhaul of the aero rules in 2009, however is a fan of the 2019 regulations.

"It's well known that Williams supported this set of regulations," he says. "Having understood a lot of the history and been involved in the past with developing regulations for better car following, I've appreciated the work that's been done recently.

"I was not a fan of the 2017 regulations which, I thought, were a backwards step for overtaking," he admits. "I feel that not doing anything now would mean we'd have several years of a worsening situation as the teams develop more downforce.

"The FIA and FOM were correct to act at this point and do something different for 2019 and 2020. I've got quite a high confidence in the technical aspects of what's been done, that it will take us back in the right direction."

However, at a time some claim the 2019 regulation changes will not result in a significant improvement, Tombazis disagrees.

"We consider the critical position to be around 15 to 20 metres between the cars," he says. "That's the distance we'd expect to see between cars running half a second apart approaching a medium-speed corner. With the current generation, the following car loses about 30 per cent of its downforce in this scenario. We hope to reduce that by 10 per cent.

"It's difficult to provide an exact number," he admits. "What I would say is that there is a general trend for teams to develop more downforce, which would exacerbate the problem. If we had not intervened, we feel that 2019 would be worse than 2018, and 2020 would be worse than 2019. We now believe that 2019 will be better than 2018, but no one is expecting F1 cars to be fighting like touring cars."

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by imejl99, 05/11/2018 13:59

"According to the science, turbulence is measurable. Set maximum values for 10 m behind and that`s it.
As long as a car doesn`t generate more than allowed, let it run with contemporary sculpture attached ;) "

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2. Posted by TokyoAussie, 05/11/2018 3:35

"Any change in this direction is worth it. The change may be small or even negligible, but the current fiasco is a fiasco."

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3. Posted by Tombstone, 04/11/2018 17:47

"I'd allow only single element wings with unbroken surfaces, front and rear, with span, chord, angle of attack, and profile, kept with tightly prescribed limits."

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4. Posted by *TestaRossa*, 02/11/2018 19:42

"Let us hope for Ricciardo and Hulkenberg that Renault finally can get their act together but their good history in F1 engines is not a guarantee , remember how Porsche never got their V12 competitive and reliable in the nineties."

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5. Posted by Spindoctor, 02/11/2018 17:08

"The introductory paragraph up to '...beat their opponent.' should somehow be fixed in the brains of all the grandees who have the power to influence these matters. "

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6. Posted by *TestaRossa*, 02/11/2018 14:53

"And now also steel brake discs please ...so much more roadcar relevant what FIA wants ( they say ))"

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