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Aerodynamics of F1 race car

By Lokesh Patil

With much less of left to research in engine development Formula one racecars are all about aerodynamics.Reducing air drag and gaining downforce have become the key fields which almost define the technical aspect of these race cars. The modelling is nowadays so complex that some teams have more than hundred people employed to design aero bits to improve the car's efficiency . All teams are continuously introducing updates, even for gains as small as hundredths of seconds per lap. Such small gains are currently designed and modelled with CFD software, running on ever improving computer grids.These virtual models are then manufactured and tested in wind tunnels.

F1 cars are mainly concerned with the following things: Gaining downforce(or negative lift) Reducing aerodynamic drag Maintain an cooling flow

AERODYNAMICS IN F1 RACING Aerodynamics is the science that studies objects moving through air. It is closely related to fluid dynamics as air is considered a compressible fluid. Nowadays, aerodynamics is the utmost important factor in Formula One car performance. It has even nearly become one of the only aspects of performance gain due to the very marginal gains that can currently be made by engine changes or other mechanic component development. This downforce can be likened to a "virtual" increase in weight, pressing the car down onto the road and increasing the available frictional force between the car and the road, therefore enabling higher cornering speeds.



Front Wing and Nose cone assembly(Red bull F1 car)

1 Chassis 2 Central pillars 3 - Endplates 4 - Upperflap

The front wings of the car can produce 25-40 % of the downforce.Front wing basically comprises of the following elements Mainplane Endplates Nose Mainplane is the section that runs throughout the width of the car.It is generally made of two adjustable aerofoils which are the main downforce producing parts.Here the main purpose of adjustabilty is two allow driver to have a suitable downforce and hence traction according to his need.For eg , on a rainy day due to loss of friction max downforce will have to be needed inorder to compensate. The height of the wing flap near the nose is reduced so as to allow air passage towards the radiator. If the wing flap maintained it's height right to the nose cone, the radiators would receive less airflow and therefore the engine temperature would rise.

Variations in Front wing

As desinging of F1 cars developed,the track of the front wheels reduced and came closer to the chassis.This led to simultaneous development of the front wing where its width also decreased along with changes in the endplates. Figure below shows two main variations in the front design.

Many teams introduced sculpted outside edges to the endplates to direct the air around the front wheels. This was often included in the design change some teams introduced to reduce the width of the front wing . The complex design process of front wing has led most of the team with different designs.

NOSE CONE AERODYNAMICS Alterations for nose cone height need some thinking about complete car body.At first sight an higher nose cone would push less air up over the nose causing less downforce,but surprisingly neither is its aim to do the same. Rather the high nose cone is designed to let the incoming air directly pass below it instead of bending it thereby reducing drag and also allowing the front wing to expand its wingspan all over the width.

Also at the same time all the air that goes below the nose is guided under the car straight to the diffuser. The more air you get under the floor and the faster it can exit out of the diffuser the more downforce will be generated.

WHEELS-Largest drag producing elements The wheels of the F1 car probably induce the largest amount of drag compared to any other parts. Unfortunaltely,not much can be done to cure it because of regulation that does not allow the tires to be covered. Inspite of this,teams have managed to solve this problem to a little extent by desinging the front wing such that it deflects the incoming air around the tires.

SUSPENSION MEMBERS In recent years, suspension members have been streamlined into an aerofoil shape. According to the rules however, they are not allowed to produce downforce, and are simply shaped that way to reduce drag, and to keep the flow heading for the sidepods relatively undisturbed.This is done to reduce the drag on the suspension arms as the car travels through the air at high speed. In the lower diagram, A, represents an unstreamlined suspension arm, the lower one, B, a suspension arm with an aerodynamic covering. Both have roughly the same cross sectional area, but the lower case has a drag force ten times less than A.

BARGE BOARDS These devices were first seen in 1993 and their purpose is to smooth the airflow around the car and into the radiator intakes. They are most commonly mounted between the front wheels and the sidepods .Their main purpose is to direct relatively clean air into the sidepods.Clean air is from the low section of the front wing where airflow is fairly unaffected by the wing and far away from tires, which may throw stones and debris in to the radiator.

BRAKE COOLING INTAKES Brake cooling is vital in todays Formula 1, because of the extreme heat produced.Modern racecar brakes can heat up until they are red hot. Temperature of the brake disc can reach upto 1000oC and can easily be destroyed at such extreme temperatures.This is where aerodynamics comes into play with the addition of small air intakes to bring cooling air to the brakes.These intakes actually change between races, since the braking requirements of each track are quite different.

REAR WING The rear wing is also among the major components that produces around 35% of the total downforce while weighing just around 7kg.A typical rear wing consists of two sets of aerofoils connected to each other by the endplates.The upper airfoil usually consists of three elements producing most of the downforce.The lower airfoil usually smaller produces comparitively less downforce.However it creates a low pressure region just below the wing to aid the working of diffuser,thereby creating even more downforce.

Rear wing is varied from track to track because of the trade off between downforce and drag.More wing angle produces more downforce and more drag.So when the car has to race at a track where there are many steep turns and less straight paths,wing angle can be increased. DIFFUSER It is usually found on each side of the engine and gerbox and located behind the rear axle. The diffuser consists of many tunnels and splitters.It is designed to carefully guide and control airflow underneath the racecar. Essentially, it creates a suction effect on the rear of the racecar and pulls the car down to the track.The suction effect is a result of Bernoullis equation, which states that where speed is higher, pressure must be lower.Therefore the pressure below the racecar must be lower than the pressure at the outlet since the speed of the air below the racecar will be higher than the speed of the air at the outlet.Racecar engineers must carefully design the diffuser, since its dimensions are limited by the racing regulations and its angle of convergence is somewhat restricted

CHIMNEYS Chimneys are an aerodynamic feature recently debuted during the F1 2000 season.Many of the top teams like McLaren, Ferrari, and BMW Williams have experimented their use.As seen in Figure the chimneys are mounted on the cooling sidepods.The primary function of chimneys is to provide additional cooling to the engine. The increase in speed of the air over the chimney creates a low-pressure region that sucks out air from the sidepods to aid the radiators in cooling the engine.

THEORY Aerodynamic devices such as wings and ground effect tunnels are able to create down force by manipulating the speed of the local airflow and consequently the pressure it exerts on these devices.According to bernoulli principle,velocity and pressure can be related as follows This suggests that by changing the flow velocity, the pressure on a given surface can be increased or decreased, resulting in a net force being applied to the body. The net force can be expressed mathematically as a pressure coefficient multiplied by the dynamic pressure and the area of the wing. Resolving this into perpendicular components yields separate expressions for the lift (vertical) and drag (horizontal) forces and their coefficients as

The coefficients and are relative measures of how much lift and drag a particular shape will generate.


The flow around a model of the Red Bull Sauber C-20 Formula One (F-1) racing car is studied in this example. Modern F-1 cars are capable of reaching speeds in excess of 350 km/hr. Cornering in these conditions is possible because of the large negative lift, or downforce, generated primarily by wing structures at the front and rear of the vehicle. When combined with wind tunnel tests, CFD can be used to understand the effect that these wings have on the vehicle aerodynamics.

To explore the complex flow around the F-1, a half-car model of the Red Bull Sauber C-20 was simulated. An unstructured hybrid mesh was used for the turbulent, 3D, steady-state simulation. A free stream velocity of 69.44 m/s (250 km/hr) was set at the inlet boundary of the solution domain. To complete the simulation of the car motion, the ground plane was given a velocity equal to the free stream velocity, and the tires were assigned a corresponding rotational speed. Modelling was done in CATIA and then imported in ANSA for meshing. The surface mesh on the driver's helmet and cockpit area is shown below.

Pressure contours on the surface of the car in Figure 15 show high pressure regions (red) at the upper surfaces of the front and rear wings, indicative of the strong downforce generated by these components. Low pressure regions (green) indicate areas where the air velocity is highest.

CURRENT RESEARCH Overtake maneuver is currently one of the most researchable field which teams are following.Teams are using CFD and Wind tunnel technology to the maximum extent so that their car performs well aerodynamically, even during the maneuvers.These kinds of time dependent flow simulations can ultimately bring new insights into the aerodynamic interactions of competing race cars running at various conditions.


1.) ,Nose cone,Rear wing designing of F1 car 2.),Aerodynamic features of F1 car 3.)SAUBER PETRONAS ENGG ,Formula 1 external aerodynamics 4.)Larsson T., Sato T., Ullbrand B, Supercomputing in F1, SAUBER PETRONAS Engineering AG


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