What are the basics behind a F1 car’s wing aerodynamics?

Posted: February 15, 2011 in Automotive AD

A layman may think that what the hell is a wing to do with a car…cars are just meant to run on roads…it is not a flying bird…it is just a piece of metal with wheels…etc etc…. 🙂

So first let me clear this fact in your mind that since 1960s every race car has an indispensable part i.e. WING (rear and front wings). So let’s talk about the race car wing aerodynamics.

A basic question why the wings are used in F1 cars? And the most basic answer to this question is suppose you are running very fast and then you feel as if you are losing the control of ground and you apply an extra thrust to the ground for better traction and hence you don’t fall. So the same concept applies to a F1 car i.e. when it is running at greater than 300 kph then it is actually experiencing a tremendous upward lift which results into a very high steering instability. Hence to reduce the effect of this undesired lift wings are used and just see the beauty of the simple concept that is using the wing but in a reverse fashion of an aircraft i.e. if a wing can lift around 350,000 kg Boeing-747 then it can easily give gigantic downforce to a F1 car at high speeds if used aerodynamically 🙂

As a basic concept air flows at different speeds over the two sides of the wing (by having to travel different distances over its contours) and this creates a difference in pressure, according to the famous Bernoulli’s Principle. As this pressure tries to balance, the wing tries to move in the direction of the low pressure. Planes use their wings to create lift; race cars use theirs to create downforce. A modern Formula One car is capable of developing 3.5 g lateral cornering force (three and a half times its own weight).

…..damn this is so cool!!!

First let’s talk about the FRONT WINGS:  These wings operate very close to the ground, resulting in a massive increase in downforce for example at 300kph approximately 5500 N of downforce is generated i.e. around 8 full-grown men could step on it without causing any visible deflection. This phenomenon is known as the wing-in-ground effect, which, interestingly, is favorable for the performance of both ordinary airfoil creating lift and inverted airfoil creating downforce. Of course, the effect does not come freely because a similar increase in drag is observed and to counter effect that wings are assembled as low as possible.

FRONT WING EXAMPLE

Finally coming to the REAR WINGS: In a F1 car these wings have very small aspect ratio (span/chord ratio) and that results into high drag. This penalty could be reduced by adding very large end plates, seen on most race cars, which indeed improve the lift-to-drag ratio. In a nutshell we see that it is all about the game between air and geometry of an object which makes the world to witness the velocity…the acceleration…the awesome miracles of aerodynamics 🙂 🙂

REAR WING EXAMPLE

So I hope you all have enjoyed this article…waiting for your replies 🙂

-Ashutosh Pandey

BITS-Pilani

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Comments
  1. Rishi Bigghe says:

    Nice piece of info in a layman’s language..

  2. Anuj says:

    Bahut khoob Pandey :)….
    Thoda wings aur detail me explain kar sake toh dekhna…

    • thanx buddy…..I will try sometime to explain more abt wings…but in the mean time you can look to some good literature available on net…and discuss that with me on this blog…
      so that others also get the benefit of that… 🙂 🙂

  3. Amandeep says:

    Good piece of information. Illustrations can be used more effectively… 🙂

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