One of the primary problems a Formula 1 design engineer faces is how to create sufficient downforce in a wing while at the same time reducing the drag that the downforce ultimately creates.
The downforce helps the car negotiate the turns at a faster speed, and the drag slows the car and reduces the top speed down the straights. It was thought by many that a team cannot have both. Most teams spend a lot of time and money deciding how much downforce to use verses how much time is lost to drag.
Has Ferrari found a partial solution to this problem?
According to observers of the Mexican Grand Prix, a side-car view of the left front wing showed a lot of flexibility in the multiple elements that make up the wing section.
On lap 30 of the race, the telecast showed the sidepod view from Sebastian Vettel’s car forward to Daniel Ricciardo’s Redbull. It also showed the wing section as well as the speeds of both cars at the bottom of the screen as they both exited slow turns and reached maximum speeds on the straights.
As many have seen, as the speeds increased from around 100km/h exiting the slower turns, the elements of the Ferrari wing stayed seemingly ridged and more upright until around 250km/h when they appeared to begin to bend and become more in-line with the oncoming air.
Then as the speeds reached upwards of 355km/h, the same elements were folded back and the Ferrari’s speed was some 10km/h faster than the Redbull.
While the DRS for both cars is shown to be activated at this point, the Ferrari was still faster than Ricciardo, and one has to wonder that if the wing were more rigid, might the top speed of that car have been slower due to the increased drag?
This may be one way many of the teams have designed their front wings to alleviate the conflict between needing low-speed downforce and reducing high-speed drag, hopefully working well within the spirit and intent of the rules.
Or, have the teams found a loophole in the regulations? Might we see more attention paid to this design area of the cars at the Brazil Grand Prix? Tune in and see.
This is what is written in the rules:
3.9.8 Any part of the trailing edge of any front wing flap may deflect no more than 5mm, when measured along the loading axis, when a 60N point load is applied normal to the flap.
3.9.9 In order to ensure that the requirements of Article 3.8 are respected, the FIA reserves the right to introduce further load/deflection tests on any part of the bodywork which appears to be (or is suspected of), moving whilst the car is in motion
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