Archive for August 13, 2007

Overtaking Plan Near Agreement


Formula One teams are edging closer to agreeing on a future car
design that will improve overtaking following the latest talks at the
Hungarian Grand Prix, has revealed.

The Overtaking Working Group held an evaluation meeting at the
Hungaroring and have now agreed on the design of a diffuser that could
be introduced as soon as 2009.

The configuration was rubber-stamped following extensive wind tunnel testing during June and July.

The next focus for the group will be on selecting a rear wing
design, with the group accepting that it is going to be difficult to
give an aerodynamic advantage to following cars.

However, it hopes that it will be able to reduce the negative impact
that pursuing cars suffer from in closely following rivals. One
possibility being looked at is for a switchable front wing, which could
be extended when following another car.

The group is working to introduce the revised aerodynamic rules,
which will also outlaw flaps, chimneys, winglets and bargeboards for
2010, but there is the possibility of bringing the designs forward a
year if progress continues to be as rapid as present.

The OWG is chaired by McLaren engineering director Paddy Lowe,
Renault director of engineering Pat Symonds and Ferrari consultant Rory
Byrne. The group is being assisted by F1 aerodynamicist Jean-Claude
Migeot, who has run the wind tunnel operation.

In the sport’s attempts to improve overtaking we have been facing some ‘solutions’ for a while, even some funny ones such as a ‘boost’ button, like in A1GP (but we don’t want to lower the pinnacle of motorsport to that do we?). The most obvious backlash that aerodynamics has brought in F1 is the development of so called winglets and flaps (air flow around the car) and chimneys (air cooling).

They are hugely dependant on helping improve straight line speed, downforce and balance, however in terms of racing they are the biggest culprit. This is because of the dirty air the car infront passes onto your car. You need clean air to be able to have it flow on and throughout the body of the car, which therefore enables picking up more speed and downforce. Due to the arrangement of the winglets and flaps on the car infront, this air flow is unbalanced. This turbulance results in displaced air flow around your car and the aerodynamics are completely useless because they are performing inconsistant with the laws of science.

The F1 cars, especially between very similar and competitive cars such as McLaren and Ferrari, find it difficult to get close, let alone try an overtaking move. Slip streaming, where you gain speed from having no air resistance, only works when you are within a certain distance, close enough to be free from the dirty air as it just passes around you and not head on. We see this all the time, mainly between cars in the middle and lower end of the grid. But between cars in the front like McLaren and Ferrari, it’s quite a task to achieve from the ‘black area’ where you’re literally stuck, but it’s possible to catch up through braking and cornering.

So, with the removal of winglets and flaps and huge chimneys and therefore the dirty air, overtaking would be much easier. I’m against driver aids but even the greatest in the sport in the recent years have had difficulty getting within the zone to be able to overtake, unless their car is massively competitive and aerodynamically different from it’s rival. For example Kimi’s last lap overtaking move on Renault’s Fisichella was a breathtakingly quick swoosh, but getting within the slip streaming point was taking place over a course of 7 laps. It was exciting to watch of course, but this season there is simply no way unless you risk your whole car and valuable points. In the last race at Hungary, Kimi gave it everything. But due to the slow corners and dirty air consistantly in his face, he had no chance. But the fact that he set the fastest lap, much faster than winner Lewis Hamilton’s, and was not able to pass leaves an even bigger reason to sort this aerodynamic ruling.