Aerodynamic Changes in F1 2022

Credits: Gameranx, F1 2022 Manager

The Formula 1 2022 season will bring many changes, and with it, hopes for more close and exciting racing. Most notably, these cars have undergone a myriad number of aerodynamic changes. These have been implemented to allow for closer racing since so much of the performance of F1 cars is heavily contingent on aerodynamic effects. The greatest challenge faced by the cars up until 2021 has been that several of their aerodynamic devices create turbulent air, mostly in the form of vortices, that hinder the performance of trailing cars, especially in corners. This is because turbulent air can’t be manipulated as intended in order to gain downforce, cool the engines, or reduce drag. It can also make a car more unstable since turbulent air is much less predictable. 

A common scenario in racing that illustrates some of these issues is when a driver seeks to overtake. The driver will place himself right behind a leading car to reduce downforce and thus induced drag. This, in turn, allows the driver to quickly close the distance between them which proves to be beneficial on straightaways, but not so much on turns since the whole purpose of downforce is to increase grip on them. As a result, drivers have to maintain a bit of a larger distance in order to avoid hurting their performance or in some cases, even going off the track, as has happened to some drivers on the exits of turns.

One of the most notable design features that have been changed in order to address these challenges is the underbody. The cars used to have a simple flat surface at the bottom, but now these have been redesigned to allow for tunnels that channel air and reduce its pressure as it flows under the car, effectively increasing downforce. The added and deliberate benefit of this is the fact that the airflow is smoother since it isn’t the result of a vortex generator or a wing device since those devices generate vortices that are inherently turbulent, as mentioned earlier. The barge boards from last year have also been eliminated in order to make room for channels that direct airflow under the car.

Additionally,  the front wing has been redesigned in order to avoid creating a set of vortices that go from the nose along the length of the car’s body in order to create an artificial seal that keeps the surrounding air from entering the car’s underbody. The air underneath must flow at a faster rate and must not be interrupted by the surrounding air at a different speed since its increased speed is deliberate by design, with the goal of increasing downforce both through a net pressure difference from the surrounding air and the acceleration, channeling, and exit of the air flowing through its diffuser at the rear. There have been elements that have been removed in order to make the unit less complex, but these usually vary from one vehicle to another as seen in pre-season testing at Barcelona and some car reveals. Winglets have also been added to the top of the front wings in order to ensure cleaner airflow from the much turbulent air that stems from the tires.

The rear wing has been reshaped, when observing the car from the front, into a V-shape of sorts. This means there are no longer straight, simple endplates at either end of the wings since they contour or taper into where they attach to the chassis. The trailing edges of the wings now roll upwards in order to direct air upwards and away from the trailing cars.

As is evident, the goal of much of the design of the car is to eliminate the devices and mechanisms that create turbulent airflow, also known colloquially as dirty air, and create downforce in a way that doesn’t disturb chasing vehicles. These were some of the general changes, but, as seen in the recent car reveals, there have been a lot of variances in the design of each, such as Ferrari’s F1-75 thin side pods or Aston Martin’s exhaust louvers, which are now allowed again this year. Whether the design changes successfully allow for closer racing this season remains to be seen. 

Chain Bear – F1 Aerodynamics

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