The Role of Aerodynamics in F1 Cars

Updated: Jan 9

Author: Dalin Try

Editor: Kira Tian

Artist: Gianluca Zhang

To those who are not familiar with Formula 1 (F1), it is a yearly motor racing competition where drivers from different automobile companies compete to see who is the best driver and best constructor. The race is held at different locations across five continents known as the “Grand Prix.” More specifically, the race takes place at circuits that have already been approved and licensed by the F1 committee; these circuits feature straights, tight corners, speed traps, Drag Reduction System (DRS) zones, and a pit lane. Depending on which circuit they are racing that weekend, teams would need to come up with strategies and optimize their cars in order to undergo the grueling circuit and accommodate potential rain. What makes F1 a unique sport is its combination of engineering and racing: for a team t

o win, it would need not only a good racing driver

but also a good racing car.

As technology has advanced over the years, so did the components of an F1 car; aerodynamics became more significant in the production of F1 cars. Aerodynamics is the study of the resulting motion of an object when it travels through air, involving the four forces of flight—lift, weight, thrust, and drag. These four forces affect how the object moves up and down and at what speed. An important feature of aerodynamics in the car is downforce, the downward lift force created by the car. By creating downforce, the car can travel faster, as it creates a vertical force on the tires that can increase the tires’ grip. More

grip means more speed, acceleration, and braking that can all lead to quicker lap times.

Although aerodynamics play a crucial role in what separates a championship-winning F1 car and a regular F1 car, it is quite hard for engineers to design cars that provide a consistent and predictable amount of downforce at all times. Aerodynamics involves a lot of analysis that uses complex computer programs and simulations of race cars in wind tunnels. You can tell the difference between cars’ aerodynamics systems by looking at the front wing of the F1 cars where different wing flaps create different levels of pressure around the tires.

Overall, as technology continues to advance, more fierce competition between rival teams on how they design the best cars through using aerodynamics concepts will be inevitable.

 

Citations:

Dunbar, Brian. “What Is Aerodynamics?” NASA, NASA, 12 May 2015,

www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/k-4/stories/nasa-knows/what-is-aerodynamics-k4.html.

“Formula 1: The SECRET AERODYNAMICIST Reveals Design Concepts.” BBC Sport, BBC,

www.bbc.com/sport/formula1/47527705.

Miles, Joe. “What Does DRS Stand for in Formula 1, and When Was It Introduced TO F1?” The Sun,

The Sun, 4 July 2021, www.thesun.co.uk/sport/6704754/f1-drs-drag-reduction-system-

explained-meaning/#:~:text=DRS%20stands%20for%20drag%20reduction,car%20may%20

activate%20the%20DRS.

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