Trending this month

February 12, 2011

Formula1 Aerodynamics In Action

What do we really understand by aerodynamics in Formula One and why can a small impact make the difference between success and failure? To answer these questions, According to F1 expert on Aerodynamic Group Leader, John Owen.( of

Put simply, aerodynamics deals with the flow of air and how it reacts with bodies in motion. A windmill and an aeroplane are both examples of aerodynamics in action. In the early days of Formula One, teams were solely interested in streamlining their cars. In other words, they would seek to reduce the cars’ resistance to the flow of air, otherwise known as drag. The less drag a car has, the less power is required to push it through the air and the faster it goes.

This remained true until the 1960’s, when F1 teams started to dabble with the phenomenon of downforce. The engineers started to understand that by increasing the downward pressure on the tyres, they were able to increase the friction between the tyre and the road and generate more grip. This is because the adhesion is roughly proportional to the downloading on it. They learnt that not only could the car
corner more quickly, but it could also transfer more power to the road without generating wheelspin.

The creation of downforce relies on two age-old theories: Newton’s theory that energy cannot be created or destroyed, just transferred; and Bernoulli’s principle that relates an increase in flow velocity to a decrease in pressure.

“Formula One reverses the principles behind an aeroplane wing,” explains Owen. “In simple terms, an F1 wing is designed so that air flows more rapidly over its lower surface than the upper. This creates an increase in pressure on the top surface compared to the bottom. The resulting pressure difference creates a downward pressure, which we call ‘downforce’.”Read More on How Aerodynamic affects F1 Drivers