A modern Formula One car is a technical masterpiece. What Formula 1 does is prove the technology is possible. Aerodynamics, electronics, materials and suspensions are just some examples of how F1 has driven technology. The style of Formula1 racing and the endurance, engineering innovation and strength aspect has changed significantly.
A modern-day Formula1 car has almost as much in common with a jet fighter as it does with some ordinary road car. Aerodynamics have become key to success in elevating the sport to another level. Every year, teams spend tens of millions of dollars on research and development.
The aerodynamic designer has two primary concerns: the creation of downforce (to help push the car’s tyres onto the track and improve cornering forces) and minimizing the drag that gets caused by turbulence and acts to slow the car down. Formula1 race car wings operate on exactly the same principle as aircraft wings, only in reverse. Air flows at different speeds over the two sides of the wing. Planes use their wings to create lift, Formula1 cars use theirs to create downforce.
Every single surface of a modern Formula One car, from the shape of the suspension links to that of the driver’s helmet has its aerodynamic effects. In recent years most Formula One teams have tried to emulate Ferrari’s design, where the rear of the car is made as narrow and low as possible. This reduces drag and maximizes the amount of air available to the rear wing.
From the year 2000 till now, regulations revised several times to facilitate overtaking more easy by altering the design of a car. More interesting change was the introduction of ‘moveable aerodynamics’, with the driver able to make limited adjustments to the front wing from the cockpit during a race.
That was usurped for 2011 by the new DRS (Drag Reduction System) rear wing. This too allows drivers to make adjustments, but the system’s availability is electronically governed – it can only be used in one or two pre-determined zones making the sport more interesting by enabling easy overtaking.
Redbull Racing dominated the sport for the past couple of years due to their superior aerodynamic design. However, 2014 sees Mercedes AMG to dominate the arena so far.