Aerodynamics of Formula One Racing

Have you ever thought of cars having wings? As it turns out, this is possible. Airplanes are not the only one crafted by aerodynamic design to utilize wings but cars as well. More specifically, Formula One racecars.

For airplanes, wings have been designed to help lift them off the ground as they ascend. It is an aerodynamic design, which literally enables them to fly. By directing airflow around their wings, airplanes are lifted off the ground and gradually ascend them off the runway.

F1 Aero

On the other hand, F1 race cars use wings for a different reason. Speed is the main point of F1 racing and this is derived from aerodynamic design on which millions of dollars have been spent on for research and newly updated discoveries and innovations. In F1 racing, aerodynamic design focuses on research that helps decrease drag while at the same time creates a down force that keeps the tires on track. This down force aerodynamics also has an effect upon a racecar’s cornering ability.

Using wings in F1 racing was first seen back in the late 1960’s. The early version of wings was moveable and had higher mountings than the recent ones. Although the wings proven themselves useful in increasing speed, they otherwise posed a threat during races as they became reasons for the occurrence of accidents. Because of this, the FIA established regulations to control the safety of these wings. In the mid-1970’s, engineers tried methods which utilized the low-pressure area beneath the race cars for creating “ground-effect” as down force. This in effect served as grounds for the FIA to change current rules and adapt them to limit the effects of the said down force. At present, the aerodynamic force, which recent F1 vehicles can create, is so great that it can theoretically drive cars turned upside-down.

Mclaren F1 Aero Tunnel

Nowadays, wings are configured to suit each Grand Prix location. For a racecourse like that of Monaco, a race team uses an aggressive design and wings are placed to create maximum down force. A Monaco-type of road would require much down force to keep the vehicle on-track especially when turning around corners. On a high-speed circuit such as this, it is important to decrease drag when on the long straights so nearly the entire wing is removed from the racecar for this particular race.

Wining an F1 race is just as important as determining its aerodynamic wing design. Wind tunnels are used to determine and study the amount of drag that each racecar can produce. In this way, new designs may be created and even decrease air turbulence, which causes slowing down for racecars.

Helmets also rely on aerodynamics prior to their production. Since the driver’s helmet is exposed throughout the race, the helmet itself may cause turbulence, which in effect add to possible causes of decreasing speed while racing. Through the use of aerodynamics, problems like such can be given a better alternative.

Ferrari Aerodynamics

Lastly, engineers are also concerned about making the racecars not too aerodynamic. Since F1 racing engines run at very high temperatures, airflow must be structured to dissipate heat from the engine and decrease the possibilities of overheating.

In all of these, the FIA still monitors and continues to regulate the use of aerodynamics and wing features in Formula One racing. As this science progresses, F1 enthusiasts should also expect continuous changes in regulatory measures to be conducted by the FIA in ensuring that safety would never be taken for granted.

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