"Really engaging and enjoyable. The F1 specific content put the principles into context and everyone who answered questions were very knowledgeable. The large chunk of Q&A was very useful and I'm glad a lot of time was dedicated to it. Thanks!"
"Thank you everyone, it was a really interesting module that allowed me to learn more about F1 aerodynamics, through technical information and practical examples that I couldn't have found anywhere else."
"As a fan of F1 and an engineer working in the automotive industry, I found this module absolutely valuable as it creates an opportunity to meet with professionals in the sport and ultimately bridges the gap for people outside the F1 bubble. It has really fuelled my interest for looking at an opportunity in motorsports. Looking forward to the next modules!"
How teams use F1 aerodynamics to win
Why is downforce important?
To maximise speed in the corners, you need to increase tyre grip. In F1, the majority of this grip comes from the downforce generated by the aerodynamics package. This load forces the tyre into the track’s surface, increasing the tyre’s contact patch and available grip.
Without downforce, F1 cars only have enough grip to corner at lateral accelerations of around 1.5G. Whereas, a high downforce set-up can achieve up to five times more at 7G. This allows drivers to push much harder in the corners, resulting in much higher cornering speeds. It’s this hunt for downforce that has led to large wings, complex underfloors and intricate winglets.
What about drag?
Unfortunately, the first rule in aerodynamics is an increase in downforce leads to an increase in drag. It’s the job of the F1 aerodynamicist to design legal parts that extract downforce yet minimise drag.
The drag vs downforce trade-off is a key part of base car design and the set-up compromises on race weekends. The relationship between the two is usually referred to as efficiency or the lift to drag ratio (L/D). Lift in this case is a negative value representing downforce. More downforce increases cornering speed, but the accompanying increase in drag decreases straight-line speed.
Each track has a different efficiency requirement based on the corner types and the amount of straight line running. The break-even efficiency is the point at which adding more downforce doesn’t give you a faster lap time. The time gained from more downforce is exactly the same as that lost through a lower top speed on the straights. Monza demands a high L/D car configuration, achieved by sacrificing downforce to reduce drag. Monaco’s L/D requirement is very low so car set-up is all about downforce.
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