Saturday, May 3, 2008

Understanding Formula One Wings

The most visually obvious of the car’s aerodynamic features are the front and rear wings affixed onto the car’s chassis. These wings work on a principle similar to that used on aircraft wings – except Formula One wings are upsidedown and provide downforce instead of lift. If air passes a longer distance over the lower surface of an object than an upper one, it creates a downward pressure. The wings are shaped so as to create this effect, pressing the tyres into the ground.
In increasing downforce the wings also create a lot of air resistance, slowing the car in a straight line (a Formula One car without wings would be able to reach around 300 mph rather than the 220 mph it can currently reach). If the wings could be lowered into the body of the car until they were needed, you would see a big performance gain. But moveable aerodynamic devices are banned and have been since 1969. The angle of the wings can be set to varying levels of effectiveness, and changing the balance between front and rear downforce is a key way of adjusting the handling of a car.

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