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The Flexible Rear Wing

February 1, 2011

During today’s Formula 1 test at Valencia, several teams tried out the new flexible rear wing.

The top level of the wing, which will be usable at any time during practice and qualifying, flattens somewhat, thereby removing drag and allowing the car to pick up higher speed on the straights. It, of course, has pros and cons.
Firstly the wing (along with the re-introduced KERS) will potentially allow for truly remarkable top-end speeds. However, utilising the flexible rear wing will also require spreading gear ratios, especially when in 7th where a very long may be necessary to garner the ultimate speed. There may be other complications and benefits that I have not considered.

For the Grand Prix themselves, the wing can only be activated on particular straights and only when the car following is within one second of the machine they are attempting to overtake. The chasing car will be notified electronically as to when they are close enough, at which point, the top level of the wing may be “flattened” – the driver in front cannot use this device to defend his position. The flexible rear wing cannot be used in the opening two laps of a race.
Whether this makes racing any better remains to be seen; however earlier today the FIA announced that should overtaking become too easy, then the rear wing elements may be “fixed” to keep some level of difficulty in place. It is a good move indeed.
Overtaking should never be easy – make it so and soon passing becomes even more dull than twenty races at the Hungaroring or Barcelona and when everyone is overtaking all of the time, who will care?

The video, below, is footage of Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi deploying the flexible rear wing of his C30 machine at various points around the Valencia circuit.

From → F1

8 Comments
  1. Bassano permalink

    The pedant in me says that this isn’t a flexible wing but a movable or adjustable one. Not to be confused with flexi wing accusations in previous years where the main plain flattened out under load

    Nitpicking maybe, but an important point I feel 🙂

  2. I’d agree with Bassano there. “Flexible” to me implies that the mounting points are fixed, but that the wing automatically changes shape due to the forces imparted on it. I’d call this “adjustable”, as it is able to be changed at the behest of the driver.

    Anyway, I wasn’t expecting such a vast difference in angle of attack from one setting to the other, and in fact, I kind of gasped when I saw the upper plane flap up like that. Now, I really wonder if we’re going to have an F1 version of NASCAR restrictor plate racing, since the drag between those two settings is bound to be huge. In a sport where a few pounds of drag here and there are many times the difference between positions on the grid, I can only imagine how much difference a few hundred pounds of drag will make on straightaway speeds.

    • Leigh O'Gorman permalink

      OK, OK… I’ll leave up the “flexible” just to show that even I can occasionally be wrong.

      Regarding the restrictor plate comparison, it’s an interesting one and something that I had never considered. Another potential addition (and I hope this never happens) is the possibility of using the wing as a “success” penalty device.
      As I said, I hope that never happens – this is supposed to F1, not Touring Cars.

      • Boy, you said it there. It’s hard to take touring cars all that seriously when cars run at differing weights, just due to how recently and how much they’ve won. Not to mention the WWE- (that’s American professional wrestling, by the way, in case you’re confused) -style non-rules for contact and running off the road in order to gain position (I’ve been watching a lot of the 2010 BTCC season on the DVR lately, and doing a lot of screaming at the TV for the lack of penalties given out for blatant rules violations), and I seriously hope for F1 and at least a few other types of motorsport to maintain a higher level of purity. I know that racing is supposed to be entertaining, and it needs to be so in order to keep people from flipping to reality TV shows or whatever, but I guess I’m one of those crazies that prefers it to remain a sport, where the rules stay relatively constant over a season of play.

        The jury is obviously still out on the F1 rear wings, but I can’t say that I really like where this is going…

        • Leigh O'Gorman permalink

          Personally, I wonder how long the rear wing rules will last. Formula rulemakers are like tetchy teenagers – what’s cool today will wreak lame tomorrow, especially if the effect of the rear wing turns out to be minimal.

          My faith in Formula 1 was restored somewhat when I saw how Renault designed their exhausts. If it works, they’ll be genius’; if it doesn’t, it go into history as one of those great ideas that never quite came off.

  3. I wonder if adjustable rear wings are going to be like adjustable front wings, lots of fuss before the season but they end up doing very little at all. Maybe a few clicks on the speedo. At least you can see the difference with these!

    • Leigh O'Gorman permalink

      This has a huge potential to be a damp squid. It was impossible to know when the front wing was ‘turned on’.

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