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Our F1 Aerodynamics Online Module
took place 30 September

Topics and tutors covered:

Trackside aerodynamics and the future of F1 Aerodynamics
Delivered by Dominic Harlow

  • Understand the elements of aerodynamic performance trackside in F1.

  • Explore how the future 2026 regulation changes will impact F1 aerodynamics and what you need to be aware of as an engineer.

Vortex flow and generation
Delivered by Matthew Schofield

  • Discover how gurney flaps work and the pressure distribution effect.

  • Investigate vortex flow generation and why it is so relevant to F1 cars.

  • How vortices impact the aero maps of the car.

Flow field and wind tunnel model
Delivered by Willem Toet

  • Adding a new element into an existing flow field – how do you decide what you want, where it goes and what shape it should be once you have an objective.

  • The design of a wind tunnel model.

  • There are many great jobs in an aero group – one example is working in facility development/maintenance – to illustrate the example, we will look at the creation and installation of a wheel tracking system to be installed into a moving ground system.

Plus Q&A sessions throughout the module!

Dominic Harlow - Head of F1 Technical Audit - FIA
Dominic Harlow

Head of F1 Technical Audit - FIA

Matthew Schofield - Principal Aerodynamicist - Red Bull Advanced Technologies
Matthew Schofield

Principal Aerodynamicist - Red Bull Advanced Technologies

Willem Toet - Aerodynamics Specialist - Sauber Technologies
Willem Toet

Aerodynamics Specialist - Sauber Technologies

Tutor details:

Willem Toet
Willem Toet

Aerodynamics Consultant

Willem Toet - Aerodynamics Consultant

Willem Toet is a renowned aerodynamicist who has headed aero departments of 4 F1 teams including Ferarri and most recently Sauber. With over 30 years' experience in F1, Willem not only knows all the aerodynamic tricks used in racing but he's pioneered them too!

Dominic Harlow
Dominic Harlow

Motorsport Engineer

Dominic Harlow - Head of F1 Technical Audit

Dominic is part of the engineering team at the FIA who are developing F1 regulations. He has also worked for BMW in DTM, Williams F1 and Force India as well as other leading Race Engineering roles.

Matthew Schofield
Matthew Schofield

Principal Aerodynamicist

Matthew Schofield - Principal Aerodynamicist

Matt has 15 years of aerodynamic development experience, having worked for Alpha Tauri, McLaren and Sauber F1 teams through various changes of regulations in both aerodynamics and CFD. He is currently working for Red Bull Advanced Technologies on a broad range of projects.


"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!" 

Our previous F1 Aerodynamics online module took place on 15 July 2023 and included:

Session 1 - Aerodynamic Theory
Delivered by Willem Toet

Understand how air molecules behave and interact with each other to generate downforce and drag.

Learn about Reynolds number, Bernoulli principle, Strouhal number, Brownian motion and boundary layers.

Session 2 – Experimental Aerodynamics
Delivered by Paula Garcia Ruiz

Understand how the wind tunnel works and the process of testing aerodynamic
devices in the tunnel.

Session 3 – Aerodynamic Set-up
Delivered by Willem Toet

Understand the optimum aerodynamic behaviour of the car throughout different phases of a corner and the tactics teams use to achieve this.

Session 4 – CFD Analysis
Delivered by Wouter Remmerie

An overview of CFD modelling and the main stages of running an accurate CFD simulation.

Session 5 – Aerodynamic Measurement
Delivered by Paul Crowhurst

Master how pitot tubes, pressure scanners, kiel probes, pressure rakes and other aerodynamic sensors work.

Discover how F1 teams install these devices to minimise the impact on airflow but maximise accuracy of the measurement.

Willem Toet - Aerodynamics Specialist - Sauber Technologies
Willem Toet

Aerodynamics Specialist - Sauber Technologies

Paula Garcia Ruiz - Aerodynamicist - Alpine F1 Team
Paula Garcia Ruiz

Aerodynamicist - Alpine F1 Team

Wouter Remmerie - CEO - Airshaper
Wouter Remmerie

CEO - Airshaper

Paul Crowhurst - Director - Evolution Measurement
Paul Crowhurst

Director - Evolution Measurement

How teams use F1 aerodynamics to win

Today’s Formula 1 cars are some of the fastest in F1’s history. In 2020, Lewis Hamilton set the record for the fastest average speed 264.36km/h (164.27mph) during a lap in Monza. Although previous cars have reached higher top speeds, Hamilton’s record highlights the impressive cornering speeds of modern F1 cars.

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.

Mercedes F1 car cornering

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.

Mercedes F1 W11 rear wing configurations
Mercedes W11 rear wing configurations. CREDIT: Motorsport Images

Aerodynamic development

To optimise aerodynamic performance, teams run wind tunnel programmes and CFD studies alongside track testing. However, to control costs, the Aerodynamic Testing Restrictions (ATR) limit the amount of wind tunnel and CFD time a team can utilise in every eight-week period. For 2022, the lowest ranked team in the 2021 championship are allowed 320 wind tunnel runs and 6.0 Mega Allocation Unit Hours (MAUh) of CFD. Find out the latest ATR limits in Article 9.3 of the FIA Sporting Regulations.

The power of CFD

CFD is fundamentally a mathematical model based on the Navier stokes equations. The internal and external aerodynamics of a detailed 3D CAD model can be simulated without the requirement for physical parts. This can save time and a lot of money for teams when compared to the infrastructure and manufacturing needs of a wind tunnel programme.

As processing power and the modelling of complex phenomena such as turbulence and vorticity has improved, the importance of CFD has increased. One of the biggest benefits is the ability to interrogate flow fields in much greater detail then with physical testing. This has been a game-changer for the complex aerodynamics of F1 cars.

Coefficient of total pressure CpT slice of an F1 car
Coefficient of total pressure CpT slice of an F1 car

Wind tunnels in F1

CFD is the tool of the future, but is still not capable of running enough configurations or test points in a sensible timeframe. Until the processing power exists, wind tunnels remain the key tool for developing aerodynamic performance.

Closed-loop F1 wind tunnels provide carefully controlled air flow speed, humidity and pressure to allow very precise drag and downforce measurements to be made. Teams run complex 60% scale models through a range of ride height, yaw, steer and roll attitudes to compare development parts. Runs are carefully planned and run to maximise the amount of work that can be done under the requirements of the ATR.

Formula 1 wind tunnel test
A 60% model of a 2022-spec F1 car in closed-loop wind tunnel. CREDIT: www.formula1.com

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