Front wings on a F 1 car are aerodynamic devices that suffice two main functions:-
a) Produce Downforce.
b) Direct the airflow towards the rest of the car.
Now, I know you may be thinking what is downforce? So, first I will be detailing about the basics of downforce and then coming onto more detailed parts.
In simple words, it is basically the force generated by the aerodynamic bits on a car, pushing it towards the ground. To understand it in more detail we first need to be clear about Bernoulli’s principle.
Bernoulli’s principle states that as “within a stream of fluid, pressure decreases as the speed of flow increases, and similarly pressure increases as speed of flow decreases.”
Applying it in the context of wings, first let’s take an example of an aircraft wing.
An aircraft wing is designed in such a way that the top surface is curved while the bottom surface is flat as seen in the picture above.
When air rushes over the curved upper wing surface, it has to travel further and go slightly faster than the air that passes underneath. Applying Bernoulli’s principle, fast-moving air is at lower pressure than slow-moving air, so the pressure above the wing is lower than the pressure below, creating the lift that holds the plane up.
Coming back to F1, the principle applied is effectively reverse of what is used in aircraft wings. So, wings on an f1 car allow for increased airflow beneath the car compared to above the car. There are basically airplane wings turned upside down.
The end result is that f1 wing generates a negative lift, which is called as downforce.
Configuration: The downforce configuration changes from track to track, say in Monza the teams run very little downforce on their cars as there are lot of straights which require less drag.
So, the circuits which are high speed and involve many straights, cars run less downforce while on circuits where there are lot of twisty turns and high speed corners cars run a high downforce setup.
The setup can be changed by altering the wing angle.
As we are now clear about the principles involved in generating downforce, we can now move on to knowing how the front wings direct air around various structures on an f1 car.
The front wing is the first aerodynamic device which comes in contact with the clean air so the way in which it directs the airflow over the rest of the car is very important for optimal aerodynamic performance by other components such as the side pods.
Parts of a Front wing:
a) Main flap
b) Cascade flaps
c) End Plates
The main flap of a front wing is an upside down aircraft wing, and it’s the main component responsible for producing downforce.
Mechanism of Action: The air while flowing over the main flap encounters the flap resistance
The air molecules increase in density over the flap ,decreased speed of airflow.
This leads to development of higher pressure above the flap,
while the lower end of the flap allows air to flows without any resistance through the flap at a higher speed, thus there is little accumulation of air molecules beneath the flap
causing low pressure when compared to the pressure above the flap.
Cascade Flaps: These are set of flaps which are mounted at the front of the wing slightly higher to the main flap.
Their main function is to channel the air above the tyres and the suspension rods, as these are poor aerodynamic components which create a lot of drag.
End plates: These are mounted at the side of the wings and their main function is to direct the air around the tyres instead of it flowing through it, again tyres are very poor aerodynamically so effective management of air around it is very crucial for optimal aerodynamic performance of other components especially the side pods.
Nosecone: The main function of the nosecone is to allow for smooth unhindered flow of air beneath the car and to the diffuser.
In the last few years, a lot has been talked about so-called “Flexi-wings”. So, what are these?
Flexible wings were introduced in the sport by red-bull in 2010, though the idea of creating a flexible wing was used by various teams in the past without any success.
Essentially all wings flex, otherwise the aerodynamic load would sheer the entire wing apart. The difference in what red-bull pioneered was the extent to which the wing could flex, this allowed the wing to get very close to the ground especially in the high-speed corners creating more downforce much to the annoyance of their rivals.
New FIA Directive regarding front wing flexibility:
The FIA has issued a new directive regarding the “flexi-wings”.
“[The] FIA intends to introduce a further load/deflection test on parts of the bodywork forward of the front wheels,” it reads.
“A 60N point load will be applied to any part of the trailing edge of any front wing flap, the load will be applied normal to the flap at the relevant point.
“Under the load, the deflection may not exceed 3mm when measured vertically at the trailing edge.”
This season some teams particularly Williams and toroRosso have designed their front wing flaps in such a way that when at higher speeds say on a straight the wing flaps straighten out thus reducing the drag generated, and when the drivers brake the flaps again jump back up to their normal shape giving back the downforce required .
So, with this clever piece of technology the teams are able to create wings which flex under huge aero loads such as those seen on the high speed straights while in the FIA tests as the load created on the straights cannot be simulated, the wings don’t flex to that extent, thus passing the tests.
The FIA has thus issued this directive to seal the loophole.