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The FIA Might Clip Some Wings

According to an F1-Live story, the FIA is considering a ban on the winglets and flip-ups that have sprouted from F1 cars over the last few years. This has to be a step in the right direction, considering the strange growths seen in testing in Barcelona, McLaren’s over-the-nose wing and Honda’s bunny ears.

Renault rear view

The big problem is going to be in defining what is an aerodynamic protuberance and what isn’t. As can be seen from the above shot of last year’s Renault R26, there are bulges and extrusions all over the outer surface of modern cars, most of which are primarily aerodynamic in intent. But some are caused by what lies underneath – the blisters above the rear suspension mounting points on the Renault are an example. So how are the FIA to draw a line and say that’s the limit?

All those obvious winglets on the body would have to go but the flip-ups are more problematic; at what point do they cease to be a necessary part of the body and become aerodynamic extensions? Barge boards and the increasingly-complex additions to the front wing could perhaps be outlawed – but who is to say what is part of the wing and what is an addition?

It could be a thorny problem and has the potential to involve the governing body in complicated discussions for years. But they are right in that something needs to be done. Although aerodynamic extensions have increasingly been sprouting from the cars over the years, this year’s engine freeze and consequent saving of money has ensured that the extra cash goes into aerodynamics instead. The result is an acceleration of such developments and yet more problems with overtaking as the cars become completely dependent upon clean air to function properly.

I have been saying for some time that it is not the car that needs to have its wings clipped – it’s the science of aerodynamics. Extend the flat bottom to eliminate the raised nose, consider getting rid of wings completely, and you leave the aerodynamicist very little with which to work. That may be what the FIA will be forced to do in the end, instead of trying to define what bits are allowed where and how big they can be. Simplification is what they should be aiming for, not endless complication.

5 Responses to “The FIA Might Clip Some Wings”

  1. I’d love to see the wings and gadgets go. Just look at photos of the F1 cars of yesteryear, and you can see how clean and beautiful they were. Now, in Formula Ford, one sees the clean lines that seem to declare that it’s the driver who is important here, not the computer geeks in the home shop. There’s too much influence from managers and strategists and not enough dependence upon the nearly super-human individual in the cockpit.

    If they want to slow the F1 cars a bit for safety, take off all the downforce clutter, put on wide slick tires, and let the fun begin.

  2. I agree with you, Barry – there was a time when F1 cars had a simplicity and purity of form that spoke very eloquently of their function. I can remember how horrified I was when wings first appeared on the cars.

    Yet I am somewhat torn, too. I find the science of aerodynamics fascinating and have had thoughts on it from the beginning of my interest in the sport. It may seem like boasting but I was thinking about the flow of air underneath the car in the sixties, long before Chapman invented ground effect.

    So I will lose all that if the FIA succeeds in seriously limiting aerodynamics in F1. But I recognize that it has to be done if we are ever to get back to real racing. At the moment we witness a battle between scientists, not drivers.

  3. I have just come from another site whoose owner has been producing a fine series titled “Banned……..” banned ECVT transmissions, banned turbine engines, banned six wheels, banned four wheel drive, etc. Isn’t it ironic that had any or all of the above NOT been banned F1 cars would have evolved differently and no doubt the reliance on aerodynamics (which SHOULD have been banned) would not be the issue it is today.
    Aerodynamics does play TOO much a roll in todays cars and the photo of the Renault makes my point. If I were a pit worker I’d have to be careful I didn’t snag myself on something !!!! With this many wings isn’t it time we installed a RUDDER?
    Some additional thoughts…..MadMax Mosley in his zeal to slow the cars and cut costs changed us from V-10 to V-8 engines, the change did neither.
    Now lets imagine he contrives a way to reduce or eliminate “wings”…..wings today are used to CONTROL airflow over and around the car but that control comes at a cost …….DRAG. Without drag could wingless cars become even FASTER? Food for thought……….

  4. Faster on the straights, slower in the corners, presumably.

    You are quite right about the over-eagerness to ban anything new in F1. I believe that some innovations, such as six-wheelers, would have been abandoned naturally as they proved unable to provide the performance gain hoped for, but others would have stayed and been developed, perhaps into something we can’t imagine. I have said in other posts that I think the FIA is regulating areas that are none of its business and the number of cylinders is a case in point. They should set the capacity and that’s all – if someone manages to make a V-16 or something equally exotic that actually works, then good luck to him. Limiting the formula to V-8s is against the spirit of technological competition.

  5. [...] The FIA might clip some wings – Winglets to be reduced? Surely it’s high time downforce on F1 cars was slashed. [...]

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