Formula 1 Insight

Movable Aerodynamic Extravagance

Max Mosley has sent a letter to the F1 teams reiterating the cost-cutting measures agreed so far. The intent is to ensure there is no misunderstanding regarding the exact measures to be implemented in 2009 and 2010 but also to remind everyone that further economizing is necessary. As such, there is nothing new in the letter although it does provide a handy summary of the agreements so far.

Juan Manuel Fangio
When drivers drove - Juan Manuel Fangio in a Maserati 250F

This comes just as FOTA members sit down for a meeting to discuss what other cost cuts could be made. There is more to it than that, however, as "it is believed...that high on the agenda for the meeting is Mosley’s proposal to investigate the possible future use of further moveable aerodynamic devices, in addition to the adjustable front wing that is allowed in 2009." Pardon me for saying so but this idea illustrates very effectively the contradictory and muddled thinking of the FIA President.

The FIA is pursuing several aims at once with all the new regulations being promulgated, one being to cut costs so that the sport remains affordable, another being to make races more exciting by increasing the amount of overtaking. Neither are bad intentions in themselves but they must work against each other to some extent when they require drastic changes to the cars. And movable aerodynamic devices are a case in point - they must inevitably involve the teams in more costly research and development.

It seems to me that the way to cut costs and reduce aerodynamic influence on overtaking at the same time is to take things off the cars, rather than insist they have new stuff added. This is true of KERS and it is true of movable wings; it would be much simpler and cheaper just to outlaw such additional development. We already have a regulation banning movable aerodynamic devices (and for good reason) - now it seems they are viewed as the magic wand that will solve F1's perennial overtaking problem.

It is so unnecessary. The reason why the cars cannot follow each other closely enough to allow for overtaking is the development of sophisticated aerodynamic downforce systems which do not function well in disrupted air. Surely the way to solve this is to get rid of the systems, rather than invent new complications intended to lessen their effect? If the aim is also to save money, it makes much more sense to me that unhelpful components be thrown away. How much was expended on removing all the winglets, lumps and bumps from the bodywork for 2009, for instance? Far less than would have been needed to hone the silly things even further, I suspect.

Consider, too, how all this added complication affects the driver. He already has more complexity stuffed into the steering wheel than he needs to be able to drive the car; now he will be expected to operate the movable wing as well as everything else. That might be a fine test for a world jugglers championship but it has nothing to do with driving skill. This insane compulsion to add more and more controls to the driver has to stop and now is an excellent opportunity to take a few away from him.

We may admire the F1 driver's ability to cope with so many inputs and adjustments required during a single lap but we are not actually applauding driving skill in that case - we are really in awe of multitasking ability (as an aside, this does increase the chances of female F1 drivers becoming a reality - they are better at multitasking than the male, after all. But is that our sole aim in the whole thing?). The concentration on giving the driver control over so many aspects of a car's behavior detracts from the actual business of driving and leaves him in the position of button-pusher while the car does everything else.

Years ago there was only one input required by a driver and it was called "the seat of the pants". That is where the difference lay between the good driver and the great - effectively, the masters had more sensitive and intelligent backsides than the others. With a finely attuned bum, the great driver could know exactly what his car was doing and what adjustments to the wheel, brakes and accelerator were needed. That is what we need to be getting back to if we are genuinely interested in having a driving contest.

So simplification is the answer, as always. Simplify the cars and we get back to the real business at hand: competition between drivers to establish who is the best. The engineers will have their say too but will have to do so without the benefit of all the aerodynamic add-ons and the wind tunnel tests. I have complete confidence that they will always out-think the regulators, no matter what the rules.

There is no chance whatsoever that the FOTA meeting will reach the same conclusions as mine, of course. The F1 world is not yet ready to chuck out its darlings of the last fifty years, the front and rear wings. That day may come but, in the meantime, I can hope at least that they will do the sensible thing and tell Max that they want nothing to do with movable aerodynamic devices and the cost of their development. Let us take the easy way out for once.


Dave Spurr
The big problem with allowing continued development in aerodynamics was pointed out recently when someone said, sadly by whom I can't remember, something along these lines:

"If the cars behind start getting advantages from being behind then aerodynamic development will shift to ensuring that the airflow of your car doesn't allow this advantage."

If you introduce movable aerodynamics into the picture I can imagine you'd easily be able to get up to all sorts of mischief to stop the car behind you from being able to get close to you.
Date Added: 08/01/2009

Dave Spurr
Also on the maddening flip-flopping of the FIA (well Max really), I've just read that he's of the opinion that he's thinking of outlawing battery-based KERS.

If you ran a company that way you'd be bankrupt quicker than you could say KERS.
Date Added: 08/01/2009

Steven Roy
Spot on as usual Clive.

It is beyond me that someone who is trying to cut the use of wind tunnels and CFD is at the same time introducing insanities like this which means tests have to be carried out with each iteration of the wing (and any other aero part on the car) with the wing in two different positions and with it translating in both directions. So you now need to run four times as many tests and the tests with the wing moving are massively more complex than anything ever tested in F1 before.

You are correct that the wings should be binned. That was the view of Gilles Villeneuve. I have often quoted his comment that the problem with modern cars is that as soon as you get close to the car in front the front wing loses downforce a and you have to drop back. If you can't get close in the corners you can't pass on the following straight. The only answer is to scrap the wings. Not reduce them. Rip them off and put them in the bin. It made sense in the early 80s and it still makes sense now.

Max's recent comments about batteries in KERS are stunning. The man behind the cost saving initiatives wasnts to ban something no-one would have spent a penny on had he not introduced it. The FIA should be forced to refund every penny anyone has spent on these devices. It is gross incompetence to have done what he has done and in any other business would be a sacking offence.
Date Added: 08/01/2009

Mosley cannot leave well enough alone. The introduction of KERS has accelerated the development of the technologies related to it. It is absurd to suddenly claim one technological avenue is not worth pursuing.

It is equally absurd for Max to claim investments in infrastructure are immaterial. An investment, by definition, implies the goal of achieving a payback in the future. "Having recently invested in an expensive facility is not an argument for retaining it," Mosley states. I read, "I don't care what I told you last year, last month, last week or yesterday; you were foolish to base your investments on what the FIA allows." Of course he is talking about recent investments in wind tunnels.

He then contradicts that position by asking the teams to think about developing new aerodynamic devices... Dave's counterpoint of the teams shifting their focus to taking advantages away from their competitors shows the depth of aerodynamic research associated with this proposal. Teams would need CFD models and wind tunnels more than ever.

Clive is right. If the goal is to save money, take technologies away, and leave the rules alone. If the goal is public relevance, then at the very least, give the teams time to develop the technologies recently introduced (to recoup their investment).

There may be nothing new in Mosley's letter, but reading it got my blood up just the same.
Date Added: 08/01/2009

Nick Goodspeed
Somewhere there must be something in the bloody rule book to justify impeaching Mosley???? Why must he dictate or force things down the teams throats? During the Cosworth years there was a rule allowing 4cyl. turbo engines. It had been there for years if I'm not mistaken and nobody had found it a plausible solution until Renault figured out how to implement things. Why not leave KERS as an option? When someone figures out how to use it to advantage it's time will have come.
For the last year, or few years, it would seem as though every time Mosley does anything, it is poorly thought out. He has become the incarnation of "Uncle Buck" with the likable part exchanged for sado-masochistic perversion. He is a joke and his utter ignorance is becoming hideously embarrassing.
As Dave Spurr says, can you imagine giving a driver a little button to take away downforce of another car who is trying to get past? Why not just give him 007's oilslick maker while they're at it?
Date Added: 08/01/2009

Dave: Good point - I remember reading that comment too. And, come to think of it, I'm sure I read somewhere an admission by an engineer that they were already looking at ways to get the wake of the car to disrupt any following car as much as possible...
Date Added: 08/01/2009

Steven: My understanding of Max's latest pronouncement is that he wants to ban KERS systems that store the energy in batteries. This would leave only the flywheel-based systems as legal and it would also hand an enormous advantage to the one team (Williams, I think) that has invested in such a system. As you say, it is a classic example of how swiftly Max's ideas are proved to be poorly thought out, unhelpful to the sport and requiring all sorts of adjustment before they are even workable. It most certainly would not be allowed to continue in a commercial operation.
Date Added: 08/01/2009

Marc: That one quote from Mosley's letter is an astonishing admission - "you were foolish to base your investments on what the FIA allows". What else are the teams to base their development on if not the FIA regulations? He is openly admitting that F1 is no longer a competition in which the rules are clear and resilient - everything depends upon his whim and trying to predict the future regulations and to prepare for them is a mug's game. The man is raving.
Date Added: 08/01/2009

Nick: The rule allowing supercharged engines was inserted at the end of the 1.5 litre era as a sop to those teams unable to build or find a 3 litre engine before the advent of the new formula. At the time, it was not worth pursuing, the weight of a supercharger cancelling out the power gain achievable in the 1960s. It was the rise of the turbocharger in the 1970s that suddenly turned the sop into a loophole but only Renault noticed. the rest is history, as they say.

But note that the number of cylinders was not specified. Back then it would have been thought unthinkable interference by the FIA to specify how many cylinders a power plant could have (and I still think it is unnecessary meddling). Renault used a V6, for instance, whereas the later BMW turbo was based on a stock block straight 4. Diversity - one of the glories of F1.

As for buttons to prevent others from passing - shhhh, Max might be listening...
Date Added: 08/01/2009

Peter Boyle

More moveable aero will NOT assist overtaking. Quite the opposite.

At present wing level in corners is limited by the need to
not compromise straight line speed.

Allowing the wings to be movable (e.g. electronically) will
allow to *increase* cornering wing (more difficult to follow in
corners) and decrease straight wing (less tow effect in straights).

All Max remembers of his physics degree is the egotism that
some truly good physicists just about get away with.
Date Added: 08/01/2009

I should clarify: Max's letter as reproduced on PITPASS stated "Having recently invested in an expensive facility is not an argument for retaining it,"

My interpretation of that comment is, "I don't care what I told you last year, last month, last week or yesterday; you were foolish to base your investments on what the FIA allows."

Putting my poor writing aside, Clive's point rings true, "...He is openly admitting that F1 is no longer a competition in which the rules are clear and resilient."

Reacting to the rules is as risky as not reacting to them.

Date Added: 08/01/2009

Björn Svensson
I is really becoming more clear in each passing day that Max has done his time at FIA. There's nothing he can do to better the competition more than leave as soon as possible.

And reading through this last post, and all the comments, it is sounding to me as KERS will probably become the CURSE of F!. Having teams to invest six-figure sums of cash just to gain some advantage or at least keep up with the competition, just to hear a few months later that your new expensive FIA-imposed trinket is going too be outlawed bu that same organisation. IS THAT COSTSAVING?!

And the wings, oh, those horrible wings. Ban the wings, ban any other aerodynamic devices added to the chassis.

And by the way, why not have the teams just give the entire specefication of the car to a videogame developer and have the races ran virtually? In that way there would not be any polution. No expensive travels, no driverhazards, no cheating, no need for expensive drivers (maybe there would be some anyway, to find the best gameplayers, but htere would not have to be all those thousands of persons involved in the staff and engineering today).

That to me, sounds like some real costcutting, and there would not be any real losses. The sport today is becoming more and more like a videogame anyway. Just IRL.
Date Added: 09/01/2009

Nick Goodspeed
I wonder where Mosley's jurisdiction begins and ends vis-a-vis telling companies what research they may and may not do. As far as I can see nobody has the right to tell a company they are not allowed to do R&D work unless there is a national or civil reason to do with safety or disturbing local residents. I seriously doubt that he can prevent Ferrari, McLaren or anyone else from learning things. If one of these companies wants to build a prototype to test various aerodynamics to advance their theories, how can he possibly prevent them from doing this. They are private companies. What they do with there engineers and tools is their business. If the racing cars meet the specs, they must be legal. What the teams do behind closed doors is their own business so long as they are consenting adults, isn't it? By all accounts Mr.Mosley would appear to be delusional!

Date Added: 09/01/2009

Steven Roy

re your comment when someone finds a way to use KERS to their advantage.

McLaren did about ten years ago. Max banned it after they had spent a ridiculous amount of money on it and spent who knows how many days running it at tests. Then Max decides he needs some great green project for F1, remembers KERS and decides he can spin that as a green project. I believe that was the limit of his thought process and the idea that batteries storing 60 bhp might actually be a safety hazard never entered his empty little head.

At around the time McLaren were testing KERS Williams had a CVT system just about ready to race. DC was the Williams test driver and spent day after day pounding round Silverstone testing it. When it got close to being race ready Max banned it. The reason DC was able to step straight into Senna's seat was that CVT program. If by chance Williams gain through Max banning electrical KERS systems he is only giveing them back an advantage he robbed them of 15 years ago.

I still can't believe he is talking about teams only running wind tunnels 5 days a week and 8 hours a day. These things consume so much power that teams are not allowed to switch them on or off without the permission of their electricity supplier. No electricity supplier is going to agree to them being switched off and on, on a daily basis. They may not be allowed to use them but they have to run 24/7 regardless of whether there are models in them or engineers taking measurements. How environmentally friendly is that? How much cost saving is it going to result in? Teams like McLaren have their whole factory built round the wind tunnel and it interacts with other parts of the plant so they have to run it or spend money re-doing various parts of the plant. How much economic sense does that make. I guess they should not have been dumb enough to invest in something just because it was legal and they would have been totally uncompetitive had they not done so.

If you follow the logic that teams should not expect a return in investments that they have already made because things can be chamged in nano-seconds it means that team should not expect a return on future investments because the same could happen. Therefore any investment anyone makes in F1 could be rendered valueless at any time. Therefore no-one should invest in F1. Therefore teams should set up and run their oen championship where they can guarantee that money invested today won't be scrap metal tomorrow. I like that logic.
Date Added: 09/01/2009

Steven Roy,

Max's logic is: Your investments have to be flexible - i.e. regardless of any rules changes, they'll make sense. It can be logical if you want it to be, but it's not feasible.

Unfortunately, the teams can't set up an open championship without approval from Bernie. So in effect, they're tied to Bernie, who's tied to Max. If they leave F1, they leave themselves open to getting sued - which Honda nearly was for withdrawing.
Date Added: 09/01/2009

Alianora La Canta
I feel duty-bound to inform you that the FIA posted new Technical and Sporting Regulations for 2009 today. Talk about doing stuff at the last minute...
Date Added: 12/01/2009

Good opinion, but I respectfully disagree.

While this is not necessarily true in Formula 1 so much as you've mentioned, one of the big differences between today's driver and yesterdays is that there are too many driver's aids, that is, too much is done automatically. I respect anything that requires the driver to think.

I agree with you that moving aerodynamics and KERS are not the answer (nobody cuts and generates cost at the same time quite like F1,) but if you have a look at the cars prior to the wings and ground effects eras, you'll notice there are certain things that had to be done manually in the cars that we didn't even need to think about, like the clutch, the mechanical gearshift, and the manual choke.

Try to watch and listen from about 2:00 as one of the best oversteers his Mini Cooper:

The other aspect I take exception to is from the musician part of me that has to put up with people that think programming a synthesizer is not playing a musical instrument: at its roots, all driving is crazy button-pushing. Think about what a car looked like when nobody knew what a car was; I suppose "driving" then meant moving herd animals. I'm not offended, don't worry.

Where I agree lies in the comment that having aerodynamic or any other development be okay only with big brother FIA's approval is detrimental in a sport where sportsmanship and the safety of self and others are often compromised. I don't think the current regs are going to allow for the kind of aerodynamic shenanigans that Dave predicts, but everyone knows well that all ambiguities in the regs will be exploited, sparing no expense.
Date Added: 13/01/2009

Nick Goodspeed
Chunter: Thanks for the Austin Cooper clip! Brought back delightful memories of many Minis. Programming a synthisizer isn't playing a musical instrument any more than tuning a piano is. It's considerably more difficult than playing. Adjusting an old analog Korg MS while playing is good sport though reprocucing the same performance twice is all but impossible!!
The adjustable wing idea is pure folly. It adds more complexity, thus more chance for breakage or error.
We can't expect improvement in any facet of F1 with fools running the show.
Date Added: 13/01/2009

Alianora: Thanks for that - and to the FIA for managing to publish the regulations before the season starts! ;)
Date Added: 13/01/2009

Chunter: You have to remember that I am both old and a European. Over there manual transmission is still the order of the day and so we regard the ability to change gear faster as still being one of the skills a driver needs. The video illustrates perfectly why we hate the idea of driver aids - all that sawing at the wheel and "tap-dancing" on brake and accelerator, those are the real skills. Of course, it's rallying and rather different from F1 therefore; the rally boys delight in the kind of driving I did in my youth, all sideways and sliding, car always in control no matter where it's pointing. That amount of oversteer would see your lap times ruined in F1 however.

I understand your point about synthesizers in music and have always supported the electronic groups against accusations of merely pushing buttons. There is creativity in handling the more complex musical instrument that is a computer and synthesizer too. But driving is slightly different in that too many driving aids turn the driver into a passenger or a juggler at best. I think the thing must be driven, not programmed, and the fewer aids given to the driver, the better.
Date Added: 13/01/2009

Nick: Programming a synthesizer is not like tuning a piano or any other musical instrument, because tuning a piano does not cause it to play. (Yes, old synths can have intonation problems, but we can take that to the appropriate forum some other time...)

Clive: So, to make sure I understand correctly, the reason why there should not be controllable wingflaps is because it is a driver's aid, albeit a manual one?

(I chose the rally footage because it was something I have seen before that illustrates my point well. It's hard to see the feet of a single-seat driver.)
Date Added: 14/01/2009

In my view, yes, Chunter. There are other reasons such as cost and complexity, of course, but the driver aid thing is one.
Date Added: 15/01/2009

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Date Added: 18/05/2009

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