Site logo

FIA reveals first glimpse of 2021 car in wind tunnel


The FIA has revealed video footage of wind tunnel testing of a 50% scale model of the proposed look for F1 cars in 2021.

According to the sport's governing body, ahead of the German Grand Prix, a model of the latest 2021 iteration was put in the Sauber wind tunnel.

The test followed a debut run in January, when a 2018 60% model was used, and a second run in March, when an iteration of the 2021 car was tested with 13-inch wheels.

Though the general results will be shared with all teams, Sauber's independent consultancy group ran the wind tunnel ensuring that their F1 team gained no advantage.

Elements such as the sidepod areas and rear wing are expected to remain the same in the final iteration, however the front wing will evolve as development continues.

In the video, fans get a rare glimpse into a wind tunnel with the 2021 50% scale model running for the first time with 18-inch tyres.

There is a rake moving up and down behind the car to measure the airflow behind the car allowing F1 and the FIA to monitor the wake as they bid to improve a car's ability to follow another.

"Typically teams would not use a rake in this position because teams don't really care about the wake of the car," explains FIA Head of Single Seater Technical Matters, Nikolas Tombazis. "That's not a criticism; teams are simply trying to maximise the performance of their own car, which is completely understandable. We, however, are more interested in what happens behind the car. The fundamental point of all of this is that we are trying to reduce the losses that the following car would face."

Pat Symonds, Chief Technical Officer at Formula 1 adds that while the bulk of the development work taking place has been conducted using CFD (Computation Fluid Dynamics) the wind tunnel tests offer a real-world validation of the modelling carried out in the virtual space. "While the CFD tools we are using feature some pretty advanced techniques which aren't commonly used by the teams, we want to back up the virtual simulations with a physical simulation," he said.

An advantage of using the Sauber wind tunnel, which is available for commercial hire, is that the Swiss operation has a very good automatic rake system.

"The rake features an array of pitot tubes with yaw sensitivity, so they can measure the direction, pressure and the velocity of the flow, mainly the velocity components and the pressure," adds Tombazis. "In that way we can make sure that what the CFD is predicting is correct.

"The simplification of the leading car's aerodynamics also helps for wake performance because on the one hand the front car doesn't have as many methods to control its wake. On the other hand the following car, not having all these little, very sensitive devices is less susceptible to disruption."

Traditionally 100% scale cars are not used in a wind tunnel as their use was banned some years ago due to the huge cost of producing the model. Most teams have moved to using 60% models, but F1 and the FIA have opted to work with a 50% scale.

"We also chose to use a 50% model rather than a 60% model and we chose to run that model quite a long way forward in the wind tunnel, so this gave us the opportunity to best inspect the wake of the car," adds Symonds.

"It takes up less room in the tunnel and therefore it allows us to look, in terms of car lengths, further behind. If you imagine you have a full size car in there, you could only look at a tenth of a car when it is behind, so 50% is a good compromise in that we can still get a good level of detail on the model but we still have distance behind. It is true that teams have tended to go more to 60% these days. There are advantages to that, in modelling, but modern manufacturing techniques, particularly additive manufacturing methods, allow you to make very accurate 50% models these days."

Asked why a second car wasn't placed behind the front car to test the wake, Symonds said that it was "not necessary".

"We did do that in 2008, with the overtaking studies we did then for 2009, and for that, we had to go down to a quarter scale model which really is getting too small," he explains. "That is what negates us doing it. Even in a big tunnel like Sauber's, you could only really run one configuration with the cars really very close. What we're trying to do is use CFD as our real simulation tool and this is just the correlation."

One of the chief targets of the 2021 rules is to see more overtaking. To do this, there is a push to find a way to allow the cars to follow each other more closely, which is why there has been so much research into reducing the wake.

Asked what have months and months of CFD testing and runs in the wind tunnel have revealed, Tombazis said: "That fundamentally the CFD was correct. There have been no major surprises. So there is a 5-10% wake disruption, compared to the current levels of 50%, although it depends on the exact configuration you are testing and so on."

The results are "actually beyond what I thought we could achieve when we started the project," adds Symonds. "With the configurations we have got at the moment, the results are exceptional."

The FIA and F1 are working hand in hand on the research and development to finalise the 2021 regulations in time for the October deadline – but that doesn't mean they are excluding the teams. In fact, it's quite the opposite, according to the FIA. The teams have been invited to help with the gathering of data and the development process, with the FIA allowing them to do the testing outside the number of hours they are allocated for their current projects. Those who have the resource and capability to do that have done so. Those who don't still get the information.

"The teams have also contributed across the board on the CFD side," says Tombazis. "Normally teams have a limit in how much CFD they can do but we've periodically offered them the option to do some work outside the limit that contributes to certain topics related to 2021 rules. Quite a few teams have contributed and they have to then share the results with the FIA, with Formula 1 and with the other teams."

A large part of the focus of the FIA and F1 has been on trying to reduce the effects the wake generated by a leading car has on a chasing car's ability to follow, in order to provide closer racing and improved overtaking opportunities.

This, of course, runs counter to the aims of an F1 team, where their only desire is to beat their rivals. And if part of the victory is obtained by disrupting the stability of a competitor then that's a target to be chased.

Consequently Tombazis, Symonds and their respective teams have started trying to break their own rules.

"We are trying to see where the rules we have written are robust and where they might be a little weaker," says Symonds. "I'm sure ultimately the wake characteristics of a fully developed 2021 car are not going to be quite as good as we have got running at the moment, but I think they will still be very good, and it will be massively better than a 2019 or a 2020 car. I'm absolutely certain of that.

"There are certain areas we know already where you can add performance but in doing so you damage the wake, so we have been quite prescriptive in those areas, because we've been trying to break the rules. There are other areas where we feel the design is robust so we've been less prescriptive in those areas.

"We're trying to look for the loopholes, look for the unintended consequences. That's actually a difficult thing to do when you have written the rules. That was my experience when we were working on the 2009 cars. Because I had been involved in writing the rules, I found it difficult to think of the loopholes as I knew what was intended. That was a lesson learned, we have taken it on-board.

"We're trying to forget what the intention was and looking at what we have actually written down and see if we can put our team hats on."

"We are trying to find things that make the car go faster," adds Tombazis. "If a team makes their car faster but the wake doesn't get any worse, we don't have any problem with that. But if a team makes the car faster and also hurts the wake, then clearly they will do it if the rule permits it. We can't ask them to be benevolent. But we want to know about it so we can see if there are any fundamental weaknesses in the rules, any loopholes.

The process also aims to identify areas where the FIA and F1 see scope for performance gain by teams, areas where innovative thinking by teams can provide a competitive advantage without impacting on the goals set by the governing body and F1's promoter for improved racing.

"We want to safeguard the wake performance but we don't want all cars to look the same or to be exactly the same," says Tombazis. "There are some areas of the car where performance can be found and not worsen the key parameters of the following car and we want to encourage those areas to be a bit freer."

"There's a lot of work going on the front wing at the moment to improve some of its characteristics and also to make it look a bit less square," says Tombazis.

There will be two further wind tunnel sessions. The first will take place in October with a further test planned for December following the publication of the regulations, a timeline Tombazis says provides for adjustments to be made in line with the governance of the sport.

"As with any set of regulations it is a constantly evolving process," he says. "In October we will publish a full set of technical and sporting regulations which will come into force in 2021, and will not fundamentally be changed. If we do find an area where we feel some updates are necessary to maintain our goals for better 'raceability', then this is something that we will be able to do working with the teams within certain time constraints."

Finally, Symonds adds that beyond the tests aimed at the drafting of the 2021 regulations work will continue in order to monitor exploitation of the rule set.

"It's not our intention to just stop at that point (December). We will continue to investigate, continue to develop, continue to try and exploit the regulations, in the same way the teams will and from time to time next year, we'll go back in the wind tunnel to check out results."


more news >



galleries >

  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images


or Register for a Pitpass ID to have your say

Please note that all posts are reactively moderated and must adhere to the site's posting rules and etiquette.

Post your comment



1. Posted by Paul C, 06/09/2019 3:44

"Didn't Symonds do a short stint in NASCAR after some major F1 scandal? F1 needs a different approach. Fewer specs, just worry about the dimensions, engine displacement and number of wheels. They also might want to bring Chevrolet into the F1 fold to supplement Renault."

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by elsiebc, 26/08/2019 0:29

"You have a team of engineers, many who have designed cars as constructors. At what point do you suspect they'll say "that's a good starting point"? Or will they so enjoy the process that we'll end up with a template that all will have to build to, like in Nascar?"

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

3. Posted by MossMan, 24/08/2019 13:52

"@ imejl99, "I remember CFD designed F1 cars, VR-01 and MVR-02, 0 (zero) points over 2 seasons. That went south fast."

As someone in aerospace I rolled my eyes when whoever it was said that they had CFD so they didn't need to bother with a windtunnel. It actually shows how little they knew about aero.

Anyway... as this piece says; the point here is to *calibrate* their CFD modelling. That's a different thing. That means you reckon - through calculation - that you're going to get so-and-so effects by doing this-and-that. Then when you check in the windtunnel you find out your calculation was, say, 5% optimistic here, 10% pessimistic there... and that means you can adjust your model to account for its inaccuracy wrt. the real world. Then, even though your CFD is actually "off" by a fraction, you can still use it to test various ideas and adjust the results so they're very close to reality.

The stupid thing was thinking you could only use CFD - meaning all your results will be "off" all the time! (So your resulting design will also be "off"...)"

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

4. Posted by kdxrider, 23/08/2019 14:10

@Insane Reindeer. But, as I said, I could be entirely wrong about all of this, and with the help of Liberty the FIA could decide to make F1 the IndyCar World Championship and farm out fully built cars to be mated to a drive train by the teams. "

And there you have it, this was brought up in another topic sometime ago when the FIA was saying they were putting out bids for lots of parts to be 'standardized'.
Why actually bother with all this if the end object is to make the cars all the same. It will be the end of F1.
Have you ever watched an Indy race, the cameras are placed so you can't see into the stands but the time or two you do get a glimpse, there's no one in the stands.
And an article I read not long ago said that NASCAR were getting into the same spot, spectators weren't coming to the races and the officials are getting worried they aren't attracting more spectators."

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

5. Posted by aroutis, 23/08/2019 11:12

"FIA and F1 can be pushing as long as they want their own agenda, but truth of the matter is that the teams are not on board with the proposed regulations.
This video serves no other purpose than pushing the teams into an agreement.

Ferrari came on to say that they do not agree with too much standardization and I don't expect them to back down from this point of view any time soon.
Other teams have also expressed their disagreements on other points.
The deadline has already been pushed back and I can see this going back, again."

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

6. Posted by imejl99, 23/08/2019 11:09

"I remember CFD designed F1 cars, VR-01 and MVR-02, 0 (zero) points over 2 seasons.
That went south fast."

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

7. Posted by Insane Reindeer, 23/08/2019 8:49

"@elsiebc, I could be wide of the mark with all of this, and I cannot believe I am about to defend the FIA on this but, bare with me here.

OK. Why are they doing this? Well a lot of it has to be so they can generate those sort of visuals. They want the fans to see what the new cars will look like. Although how any true fan of F1 could not know what a single seat, open top, car would like when built around the principal of ground effect I don't know.

Secondly they need to build this so they have some sort of baseline as to what the shapes, sizes and functioning aspects of all that ground effect bodywork are. They are, after all the ones who need to police all of this. And they *know* that everyone is going to be pushing this new rule book as hard as they can to try and get a jump on their opposition. Especially the likes of Williams and McLaren!

Thirdly, they need to get a handle on how much all of this is going to cost. You could argue that for the likes of Williams this is even more important.

Fourth. Well. Sooner rather than later someone is going to need to start testing tyres on one of these. With all the grief over the bast few seasons about one driver/team perceived to be gaining an unfair advantage over others by being the one doing the testing, then, why shouldn't the FIA build their own test mule for once? Pirelli would be very much in favour of this too.

But, as I said, I could be entirely wrong about all of this, and with the help of Liberty the FIA could decide to make F1 the IndyCar World Championship and farm out fully built cars to be mated to a drive train by the teams. "

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

8. Posted by elsiebc, 23/08/2019 1:50

"So from 2021 on the Constructors Championship will be won by the FIA. Don't you just love how they always talk about preserving the DNA of Formula 1."

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

9. Posted by Insane Reindeer, 22/08/2019 18:31

"@Lapps if you mean the wings on top of the front wheels, well, I guess it is for the same reason they are doing the rest of this. They want to breakup as much of the turbulence as possible. Looking at the picture from the rear it seems as if that wing will force what little turbulence comes over the front wheel back down and under the car. There may be a version that will see similar ones on top of the rear wheels if they feel they can't use the bodywork in front of the rear wheels to negate any turbulence over the top of them.

On a purely personal note, great. As long as they are faster than they were last year and they aren't all lapping within a second of each other. "

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

10. Posted by Lapps, 22/08/2019 17:57

"What’s with the ‘mudguards’ on the picture in the wind tunnel?"

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

Share this page


Copyright © Pitpass 2002 - 2021. All rights reserved.

about us  |  advertise  |  contact  |  privacy & security  |  rss  |  terms