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Aero loophole compromising the racing, admits FIA


The FIA's director of single seaters admits that a loophole in the regulations which is being exploited by the teams is compromising the chances of drivers successfully overtaking rivals.

Despite the promise of improved racing and a more level playing field as a result of the 2022 rules overhaul, more often than not the changes have not had the desired effect. Indeed, despite the fact that it is still widely seen as a gimmick, DRS still accounts for the majority of successful passes.

While 2022's overhaul, which was intended to reduce the amount of dirty air and therefore allow cars to follow more closely, had an initial impact on the racing, as was anticipated the teams engineers soon began to exploit whatever loopholes they could find.

As recently as Abu Dhabi, Carlos Sainz claimed that drivers are using dirty air to impede rivals.

"As drivers, we know that if you do a corner two seconds in front of another car, one second or two seconds in front, you're going to make him lose a tenth or two in that corner," said the Spaniard.

"As the weekends have gone on, I see people relaxing a bit on that," he continued. "When it's tight in Q1 and Q2 I see people giving a bit of dirty air on purpose in some corners, to maybe make the others lose some time in corners.

"We don't consider it to be impeding because it's not like you need to lift," he admitted. "But you know you're giving him dirty air and you're giving him a bad run in that corner."

"Close following, let's say the wake, has definitely got a bit worse this year," says Nikolas Tombazis, the FIA's head of single-seaters. "We knew it would deteriorate a bit when people developed a bit more.

"There were a few particular areas of the car where some loopholes we didn't manage to close soon enough," he admits. "For example, the front wing end plate area was one of them, some of the wheel furniture area, brake ducts and stuff on the inside of the front wheel, these areas made the wake a bit worse.

"I think we've learned a bit how to do it next time around but overall, the wake did get a bit worse compared to 2022, still a reasonable amount better than 2021, but there has been a bit of a deterioration in terms of closeness."

Indeed, what were previously referred to a processional races are now somewhat euphemistically referred to as having suffered from DRS trains.

A side effect of the increase of dirty air has been tyre degradation, which has seen the like of Ferrari particularly badly affected.

This, according to Tombazis, is due to the lack of downforce that a car following another will suffer along with the obvious lack of cooling, all of which means less grip and therefore the tendency of overheating tyres.

Unfortunately, with the next rules overhaul not due until 2026, there is little that can be done.

"I don't think it's going to get much worse for next year because I don't think there's any other loopholes to scrape though, the front wing area, and so on," says Tombazis, his fingers tightly crossed no doubt.

"I expect it's going to stay very similar. I also don't think it's got worse during the year, I think it was just this year versus last year."


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1. Posted by trackrecords, 10/12/2023 10:11

""@Givememychoice, don't forget @kenji is upside-down and so the water will flow the other way around...

@kenji, light is energy but it is also a waveform, so has a more defined path, whereas wind is more of a large pressure on an area. Ground effects rely upon changing - constant - air pressure, and not an intermittent - varying - airflow.

Anyone who doen't realise the 'beauty' of unassisted - non-DRS - overtaking, then watch some top kart racers in action on YouTube, "FIA Karting World Championship" where it's all done under braking and spotting a gap into a corner/out of a corner.

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2. Posted by givememychoice, 07/12/2023 9:46

"@kenji, i suspect nobody but us is now reading these comments!
Have a look at this picture car designers base their design on the left bit where the air is all red and pretty stable. When following they end up with the weird vortexes on the right which unsettles the car. Its one of the reasons planes fly relatively far apart on landing or take off. There have been many cases of the vortexes being enough to down a following plane.
The larger and faster the vehicle, the bigger the vortexes (as a rule, things can be done to reduce them through wingtip design etc), so a big 787 will have a much bigger effect than an f1 car, but an F1 car is potentially more sensitive. Wake from planes can last a couple of minutes!
Simple example, put some dye in a sink of water. swirl it about quickly. Notice how it keeps swirling after you leave it. But it gradually slows down.
Its the same basic principle. (its all part of fluid dynamics. Air and water are both fluids so actually act very similarly in this environment)"

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3. Posted by kenji, 06/12/2023 23:27

"@Givememychoice....after an onvernight contemplation I am still unable to reconcile the 'leaving turbulent air' at a corner as stated by Sainz. I'm sure this topic must be boring posters so I'll leave it there and continue my quest for a better understanding of 'aero matters' away from the site. Thanks for your input."

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4. Posted by kenji, 06/12/2023 12:16

"@Givememychoice...Thanks for your lengthy explanation. Yes it does help add to the debate but I will take time out to digest. I'm still fascinated at the dichotomy of this aero question. Thanks again...."

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5. Posted by givememychoice, 06/12/2023 11:44

"@kenji. Air does indeed have mass.
The tow is actually composed of two aspects:
1. The front car punches a hole in the air pushing it largely up. If you throw a ball up in the air, it takes time to come down. Due to its density, it is quite quick at coming down. Air takes longer to come down. Thats why the effect is greater the closer you are to the car in front. You are driving into less air which means less air resistance.
2. The second aspect is that as that air is coming down, it is being pushed by the higher pressure (denser) air into areas with lower pressure. Which is where the following car is. That means as the air comes back down, it is pushing forward, so its like running with the wind at your back.

Now, thats with a simple wing.
The complex arrangements they have these days are such that its not just a simple wing. There are surfaces directing the air in specific directions as to how they want it to go over the rest of the car. Moving to ground effects reduces the need for the big wing on the back, as the differences in pressure of the air moving over the car means that the car is pushed down onto the road. Where does the air go? Well, thats largely in control of the aero designers. The Old simple wing sent the air high up helping the car behind. these new aero setups are much better at keeping the air relatively more static. Which means the air is in the vicinity of the following car. Exactly where is critical as venturi tunnels require certain levels to give the differential pressures for them to act.

As for the changing conditions of natural forces. They absolutely play a part, however, they are relatively constant. air pressure for example changes in the range of 1% for about 18C temperature (rough to give an example). So, quite a big change in ambient conditions only equates to a small change. The pressure change caused by an f1 car passing at 220mph is far more significant.

For a dead simple test, blow a light ball on a table with you mouth wide open (so basically breath on it). It will move very little. Now, do it with your mouth like its whistling. see how much further the ball goes. Finally, get a narrow straw, and the ball will go further yet, all as a result of focussing the flow of air.

Hope this helps in some way"

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6. Posted by kenji, 06/12/2023 1:21

"@ Burton...I think Tombazis is anything but.

@ how does a tow work in this turbulent air? Does there have to be an almost oerfect positioning that enables a car to benefit where in lots of other cases it works to the detriment of following cars?

@ Mad Matt...Thanks for the response. I am aware of those points that you make. Unfortunately I'm still bereft of knowledge re my original questions. Air has mass therefore there is volume which needs to manipulated to achieve desired results in a competeitive sense. I am more intersted in the turbulent/dirty air 'corner positioning. If one takes the broader outlook then the entire race is run in turbulent conditions which are constantly changing due to track positioning of all cars plus the ambient natural forces such as wind/temperature/light. Light is energy therefore it has a calorific value and as such contributes to the conditions. Trying to sort my very very basic understanding of aero is trying especially when it has become the prime input into all cars performances."

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7. Posted by Burton, 05/12/2023 16:41

"So they're not doing anything before 2026 because...Tombazis is a credulous fool?"

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8. Posted by Superbird70, 05/12/2023 16:04

"The turbulent air issue also occurs at airports. Big planes leave a large wake during take-offs and landings which affects the following planes. Smaller aircraft can be especially affected so they are held back for a specified period to allow the turbulence to dissipate. "

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9. Posted by Mad Matt, 05/12/2023 13:07

"@kenji I'm not answering as an aero specialist but in case it helps:
My understanding is that the lead car pushes air out of the way, this creates turbulence/wake but also a low pressure zone behind it.

In a straight line that low pressure zone helps the car behind as it has less to push out of the way itself and so there's a feeling of being pulled along by the car in front. I think that's what we see in the classic Mini races on BTCC where one car 'drafts' the other so on a lot of tracks the one in the lead on the last lap almost never wins... I digress...

In a corner that low pressure is less helpful as it robs the following car of downforce so it slides and can't corner as fast... plus the air flow is disturbed so it's not flowing across the surfaces as the designers hoped for.

... but I'm no aero specialist so this is just my primitive understanding....

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10. Posted by kenji, 05/12/2023 12:03

"A pity that we don't have a resident aero specialist.The points I raised and sought answers to have borne zippedy doo dah!!! Am still looking for simple answers. For example another point is that often commentators suggest gains being made when one car is following another but are 100/150m apart...getting a tow. How does that work? They say the lead car is punching a hole in the air!!! How can that be? There can be no such thing outside of a vacuum. All the molecules need to be somewhere don't they? Obviously I am missing something or else it's all a hoax hahaha."

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11. Posted by didaho, 05/12/2023 2:02

"If outwash is the problem then put a direct fixed limit on it - require the teams to comply with appropriate parameters in simulation (angle, position, volume). Teams wouldn't be losing that much of their allocated time attending to it as it's already a focus (for maximisation)."

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12. Posted by Superbird70, 05/12/2023 0:53

"Get rid of DRS. Due to its frequent use it has now become a movable aero device, which I thought had been banned.

Make the wings, front and back single element only, with no end plates.


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13. Posted by NS Biker, 04/12/2023 19:20

"Any driver undertaking a passing move will use DRS if it is available. Why wouldn't you.?
But there are and have been many passes completed without DRS is areas of tracks that required a significant display of chutzpah. See recent exploits of Fernando A. That had me jumping up and cheering.
Yes the FIA gave us DRS, but now, the unintended result, DRS-Balking to prevent getting re-passed and the use of DRS to benefit a following driver to the detriment of other followers. Gotta luv this stuff.
Lots of chatter about "dirty air", but in this era of optomized cooling and aero efficiency, how often do we hear, on the team radios, "You must cool the car". This is not necessarily dirty but hot air off the car in front. Something that I doubt the FIA could or can do anything about.
The biggest contributor to dirt air and turbulence is likely the rear wing. Can't see then banning rear wings any time soon. Would be nice.
Just wait for 2026 and a whole raft of moveable aero surfaces. That will be nuts.
78 days and counting."

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14. Posted by Editor, 04/12/2023 18:06

"@ elsiebc

So sorry you found the statement to be "assinine".

What I find to be asinine is the (expensive) introduction of a whole raft of new rules aimed at levelling the playing field and thereby improving the racing, but which ultimately didn’t really work, meaning that not only are we left with DRS but talk of extending the zones and even having the gimmick available throughout the race and throughout the circuits.

Thankfully, I grew up in an era - pre-2011 - when overtaking was possible without such gimmicks and instead relied on big balls or errors… indeed a world where DRS did not account for the majority of successful passes."

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15. Posted by Tyrbiter, 04/12/2023 17:21

"We seem to be going round in circles. Some time ago qualifying was done with a single car circulating at a time, that didn't last. A long time ago Bernie ran Brabham and the fan car spat stones at the people following. It was withdrawn, but not banned.

Air is a fluid, if you use it to create downforce of course the available energy in what's left has been removed.

Perhaps the answer is to go back to pre-1968 with no aerodynamic parts, all grip to be mechanically derived.

I'd quite like to see the drivers at work too, but I assume we can't go back to the days before seat belts and steering wheels almost the width of the car.

The tyranny of an over-specified formula is upon us, and bizarrely the powers that be wish to be ever more prescriptive. Be careful, next season Max may win every race."

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