A look at the physics behind wider tires and front wings.
Formula 1 is where you can see the future of cars racing against each other. Historically, what shows up in F1 cars, like steel disc brakes, eventually end up on the road. However, that technical bravado can turn F1 into a battle of specs sheets, which can turn away viewers who aren’t hardcore. So, F1 has been refocusing those specs towards whats drives viewers: faster and more aggressive racing.
Real Engineering takes a look at the changes F1 has made for the 2017 races.
The width of the cars have increased, for one thing, mainly focused around larger tires. Bigger tires mean a bigger contact area with the ground, which increases traction. These wider tires spread out the friction of the car, which allows race teams to use softer, quicker materials on their tires.
These wider tires require a wider front wing to manipulate the incoming air. Tires moving at Formula 1 speeds can create a not-insignificant amount of drag, so the front of these cars keeps the air moving in an orderly and controlled fashion, which turns out in vortex stemming out of the tires.
The changes have been working, for the most part. F1 cars are going faster than before. But Newton’s Third Law says that everything has an equal and opposite reaction, and that’s proving to be the case here. The superior aerodynamics of these cars has also created dirty air behind them, making it difficult for cars to challenge their competition. F1 is a constant struggle between forces as complex as the physics driving their cars: tradition, drawing in new fans, how to create the best racing experience. The search for the perfect driving experience continues.