Science Behind F1 Aerodynamic Features

Engineered with perfection, the loud and aggressive Formula One (F1) racecar is the ultimate racing machine.Its reputation has been defined by its amazing speed and handling characteristics, which are for the most part, a product of its aerodynamic features.The success of these features relies primarily on the appropriate and efficient harnessing of drag and downforce – both of which are ruled by physical principles explained by Bernoulli’s equation. 1.1Bernoulli's Equation Investigated in the early 1700s by Daniel Bernoulli2, his equation defines the physical laws upon which most aerodynamic concepts exist.This now famous equation is absolutely fundamental to the study of airflows.Every attempt to improve the way an F1 car pushes its way through molecules of air is governed by this natural relationship between fluid (gas or liquid) speed and pressure.There are several forms of Bernoulli's equation, three of which are discussed, in the succeeding paragraphs: flow along a single streamline, flow along many streamlines, and flow along an airfoil.All three equations were derived using several assumptions, perhaps the most significant being that air density does not change with pressure (i.e. air remains incompressible).Therefore they can only be applied to subsonic situations.Being that F1 cars travel much slower than Mach 1, these equations can be used to give very accurate results.1

Low speed fluid flow along single or multiple streamlines is interpreted in Figure 1.The presumptions regarding the application of Bernoulli's equation to this scenario are listed in the figure.In this situation, there exists a relationship between velocity, density and pressure.As a single streamline of fluid flows through a tube with changing crosssectional area (i.e. an F1 air inlet), its velocity decreases from station one to two and its total pressure equals a constant.With multiple streamlines, the total pressure equals the same constant along each streamline.However, this is only the case if height differences between the streamlines are negligible.Otherwise, each streamline has a unique total pressure.

Mathematical and pictorial explanation of Bernoulli’s Equation as applied to fluid flow through a tube with changing cross-sectional area.2 As applied to flow along low speed airfoils (i.e. F1 downforce wings), airflow is incompressible and its density remains constant.Bernoulli's equation then reduces to a simple relation between velocity static pressure.1

fuel strategy. Lift according to the application of Bernoulli’s Equation Drag The remarkable speed of the F1 racecar is achieved from the careful combination of its powerful engine and expertly crafted aerodynamic body features. and for a given engine power.Due to this phenomenon.Integrating the static pressure along the entire surface of an airfoil gives the total aerodynamic force on a body. has noted that "Top speed is determined other factors [car weight.8A product of this event is either lift or downforce.Applicable engine technology had far exceeded the maturity of vehicle aerodynamics. and causes one of the three types of drag. but is consequently slowed down by the nonmoving particles on the surface. researchers of aerodynamics have found the 'teardrop' shape.Another factor that plays a role in aerodynamic efficiency is the shape of the car's surfaces. the smaller the frontal area of a vehicle.As the layers get further away from the surface.If a fluid flows around an object at different speeds.(pressure) + 0. the slower moving fluid will exert more pressure on the object than the faster moving fluid. and thus the less energy required to push through the air. each of which is dependent upon the positioning of the wing's longer chord length. appears on every surface. The force required to shift the molecules out of the way creates a second type of drag.Those historic years embodied a simple algorithm. Speed was nearly a direct function of horsepower. more will go into moving the car along the track. the smaller the area of molecules that must be shifted. but the main factor which separates the victors from the valiants in this area is aerodynamic performance – too much drag and you're pulling unwanted air along with you One form of drag occurs as air particles pass over a car's surfaces and the layers of particles closest to the surface adhere.Although still improving almost annually.The layer above these attached particles slides over them.The object will then be forced toward the faster moving fluid.Lift occurs when the longer chord length is upward and downforce occurs when it is downward.5(density)*(velocity)2 = constant This equation implies that an increase in pressure must be accompanied by a decrease in velocity. to be most efficient at propelling through air while providing a suitable surface for the air to easily . Skin Friction Drag. Components of lift and drag can be determined by breaking this force down.Air prefers to follow a surface rather than to separate from one. Form Drag.The shape over which air molecules must flow determines how easily the molecules can be shifted. engine performance levels among the cars of each racing season today have comparable performance – record speed achievements now hinge on a different design issue – aerodynamics and drag plays a major role.The layers above this slowed layer move faster. they slow less and less until they flow at the free-stream speed. and vice versa.In the early years of F1 design. and good low-end engine power].The area of slow speed. In order to discuss lift and downforce. it may be helpful to provide an additional explanation of the relationship that occurs with the above form of Bernoulli's equation.With less engine effort being taken up in the moving air. round at the front and pointed at the back.F1 aerodynamics engineer. the car will travel faster. the engine was the primary variable in determining the racing success of a car.Interestingly. Will Gray. called the boundary layer.

unlike family sedans. engine power is increased if possible. especially since the importance of other factors (i.It travels up from the high-pressure region to the low-pressure region on the top of the wing and collides with moving low-pressure air.It is noted as such because it is caused by or "induced" by the lift on the wings.It occurs on wings of standard or inverted position. sharp curves or sudden directional changes in a shape should be avoided since they tend to cause separation. .move across.With this shape there is little or no separation. for example.Lastly.In order to make up for the speed losses due to drag. aerodynamicists typically find it sufficient to estimate an overall coefficient of drag for these cars.Resultantly.83 with corresponding CdA[m2] values near 1.Therefore.Frontal area V. The F1 racecar is a complicated aerodynamic system – composed of skin friction. whereF .Object velocity Interestingly. open cockpits and running exposed wheels).Coefficient of drag D. drag coefficients are allowed to be somewhat large.1 These values are approximately double of those for the modern Ford Sierra.In fact. is used to determine this data. which increases drag The final type of drag is Induced Drag. an ordinary family sedan. the potential of displaying induced drag exists for all bodies that exhibit opposite pressures on their top and bottom surfaces. The following equation4. downforce) takes priority.e.Air density A.2.The second reason is likely due to be the fact that F1 cars rely on a balance between drag and downforce in which drag is often sacrificed for necessary downforce. Induced drag is an unfavorable and unavoidable byproduct of lift (or downforce).e. low fuel consumption is not a paramount concern.Wingtip vortices are a result of this situation.Aerodynamic drag Cd. F = 0.These vortices occur on both airplane wings and F1 car wings even though end plates may be used to prevent this type of drag . rounded ends.In the case of induced drag on F1 cars.The first is that regulations specify features that deter from the ability of a designer to achieve relatively low drag coefficients (i. which incorporates the effects of all three drag types. air from low-pressure regions has a tendency to curl upward around the ends of a wing.It should be noted that the kinetic energy of these turbulent air spirals acts in a direction that is negative relative to the direction of travel intended.It is important to note that sharp frontal areas.Being that air prefers to move from high to low-pressure regions. form and induced drag.This is primarily due to three reasons. modern F1s are reported to have Cd values of about 0.5CdAV2. the engine must compensate for the losses created by this drag.

Airflow over an F1 downforce wing Downforce is necessary for maintaining speed through corners. The teardrop shape.9 0.8 CD Downforce.0 1.8 .3 0.This pressure difference causes the net downforce. previously discussed.2 .3 0. or negative lift.1. design attention has been focused on first perfecting the downforce properties of a car then addressing drag.As air flows over the airfoil.5It is accomplished by use of an airfoil mounted such that its longer cord length is facing downward. displays ideal aerodynamic properties in an unconstrained flow and is well suited for aeronautical applications.This is due to the simple fact that these . pushes the car onto the track. it is subjected to constrained flow.47 0. creating a downward force.0.6 0.7-1.5 0. when this shape is incorporated into the design of an F1 vehicle.However.1 0.8Due to the fact that the engine power available today can overcome much of the opposing forces induced by drag.DRAG FORCE ON A ONE-SQUARE FOOT SQUARE PLATE Horsepower Required to Overcome the Speed Drag Force Aerodynamic Drag 0 mph 0 pounds 0 hp 100 mph 33 pounds 9 hp 200 mph 133 pounds 71 hp 300 mph 299 pounds 239 hp Typical Values of the Drag Coefficient OBJECT Streamlined body Sports Car Sphere Typical Car Station Wagon Cylinder Racing Cyclist Truck Motorcyclist Downforce 0.A high-pressure region then develops on the upper side of the wing. which causes different flow behaviors. as seen in Figure 6. a low-pressure region is created on the under side of the wing.

The presence of the ground prevents the formation of a symmetrical flow pattern (See Figure 4).cars are very close to the ground.Fortunately. the downforce created is highly valuable and the increased drag can be overcome with array of aerodynamic strategies .1The results of this flow behavior are an unfavorable increased drag coefficient and generation of a very favorable down force.

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