Next season’s technical regulation changes mark the first steps towards Ross Brawn’s vision of what Formula 1 cars should be from an engineering perspective.

While the dramatic overhaul of the aerodynamic rules in 2017 were invented purely for aesthetics and speed, the 2019 regulations are aimed at improving the on-track spectacle, although there is expected to be a small resultant speed penalty.

Unlike previous occasions, the following regulation revisions are born out of extensive research into the dynamics of F1 cars following each other. Brawn’s engineering team have utilised CFD and wind tunnel data to assess what aspects of the car are causing the most turbulence, and how this can be reduced without completely rewriting the rulebook – that, of course, will likely happen in 2021.

Front wing

Brawn’s team have identified the front wing as being the key source of F1’s overtaking problem, or rather the lack of. Ironically, the seeds of this problem were first sown back when new rules were introduced to try to improve racing in 2009.

While the simpler bodywork and taller rear wings had their merits, the much wider and lower front wing allowed the teams to begin exploring the use of wing tip vortices to create even more front downforce than ever before.

There is certainly a benefit in keeping the position of the front wing where it is: they are far less affected by the turbulent wake of the car in front being that low to the ground. However, the adjustments to the rules that will be implemented next year aim to prevent complex vortex structures forming which add to the chaotic areas within the car’s turbulent wake.

The key dimensional changes are:

  • +200 mm wider – the wing is now the same width as the car (2 metres)
  • +25 mm forward
  • +25 mm overall height increase

The width change harks back to 2009 – it makes sense because the wing won’t have to work the air as hard to push it around the front tyre. There is also more surface area available to claw back any downforce losses from this year. Moving the wing forward slightly will also help, as the air needn’t be turned as aggressively ahead of the front tyre for it to pass successfully around.

As for raising the overall height of the wing – in the same way they have done with the rear wing, which will be discussed later – I see this as a way to increase the drag of the car to make the slipstream effect more powerful.

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Slowing the cars on the straight also increases the time the drivers can be engaged in combat, which is arguably why lower formulae produce better racing than F1. It will also offer more surface area to regain the downforce loss.

Aside from the primary dimension changes, there are a lot of carefully worded rules on other aspects of the front wing. So many, in fact, that there is probably enough discussion for two articles just on the front wing alone.

In my mind, the critical regulations that will determine the fundamental shape of the wings are:

  • Five elements maximum
  • Heavily governed area 400 mm from the car centreline outwards
  • Almost fully defined endplates consisting of a vertical fence and footplate
  • Maximum two under-wing strakes within a specified zone
  • Regulated ‘auxiliary components’, such as brackets, slot gap separators, flap angle adjusters etc.

Firstly, implementing a maximum number of elements really hampers how aggressively the air can be manipulated. We have seen as many as nine elements to the front wings in recent years, the multiple slot gaps designed to feed additional air to the underside of the wing and prevent stalling at high angles of attack.

Interestingly, the inboard section of the wing remains fairly open, and we will no doubt continue to see complex layering of intricately designed flaps to induce a strong Y250 vortex. From 400 mm outwards, though, there is little scope to be as creative. The extravagant designs along the outboard section of the wing will be obsolete, preventing aerodynamicists from creating finely tuned vortices rolling up and interacting with the air flowing over endplate.

Wing tip vortices have long been known to be detrimental to the lift characteristics of the wing. This goes for aeroplanes too, which is why you often see little endplates on the wings of passenger jets to increase their efficiency.

However, in recent years the motorsport world has since recognised that these vortices can be applied in a very desirable way to pull airflow wherever they please. These vortices also boost the suction effect of the wing and allow for greater angles of attack before stall occurs.

To stop this fad, the FIA have clearly defined what an endplate is in the new regulations, and how you can use the space in which they occupy. This ‘barrier’ will impede the development of wing tip vortices. Cascade winglets and turning vanes are also barred for next year, further preventing the development of such tip vortices as they can no longer be fed with additional airflow using such devices. The curvature of the endplate has been capped at 15 degrees and must fit in a space 910-950 mm from the car centreline, leaving an exposed portion of the footplate to fulfil the remaining width of the wing.

Multiple underside strakes have also been picked out as a problem with the front wing wake. There is now a zone between 500 and 800 mm from the car centreline for up to two strakes; each strake must fit within two parallel planes 20 mm apart, with a maximum curvature of 10 degrees. Even the relative proximity of the strakes have been defined.

 

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Front brake ducts

There has been a steady increase in complexity to the front brake ducts since 2010, the reason being that there is a grey area in the rules for bodywork to extend from the inside face of the wheel and influence how the air travels around the front tyre.

For 2019 the bodywork will be much simpler and will no longer branch as far forward into the oncoming flow; even the size and shape of the inlet duct itself is somewhat restricted.

On top of this, the FIA have moved to put an end to blown front axles, which worked in conjunction with the front wing ahead to generate outwash. This is to further reduce the wake width of the car, which results in turbulence dissipating over a shorter space behind and, in theory, allowing the following car to move in closer without being affected.

Bargeboards

Bargeboards play an important role in directing flow over the leading edge of the floor and manipulating the air around the sidepod; re-introducing larger bargeboards in 2017 has allowed F1 cars to reach speeds never seen before.

Next year will see their height reduced by 125 mm (~25%), and their curvature shallowed thanks to the introduction of regulatory longitudinal 4.5 degree line from the car centreline. Again, like with the front wing and blown axles, this is designed to reduce the outwash effect of such bodywork and taper off the car’s wake profile.

Rear wing

The rear wing is the second key area of the 2019 regulations from an aerodynamic perspective. Dimensionally, the numbers of interest are:

  • +70 mm higher overall
  • +100 mm wider
  • +20 mm deeper profile – although this does not have to be exploited
  • +20 mm DRS open gap (now a whopping 85 mm)
  • +100 mm length increase from the rear wheel centreline to the endplate trailing edge

These figures have been specified to increase the drag of the car and dictate the characteristics of the rear wing wake. Raising the wing’s overall height is designed to push the air up and over the car behind, even if the teams choose not to use the entire box area available to them – this is the space in which the two elements of the wing must sit in when viewing the car from the side. This is also why the width has been increased by 100 mm: a compulsory amount of drag, at least, has been added.

By adding drag and widening the opening when DRS is activated, the DRS effect is deemed to be far more powerful and should create a greater speed differential between cars on the straight. If the offset is too great then the DRS activation zone should be lessened accordingly.

It’s difficult to determine the purpose of 100 mm length increase, but in my mind there are two reasons: A) More advertising space (the endplate area has also been upped) and B) To manage the wing tip vortices.

This perhaps coincides with the prohibition of horizontal louvres in the endplate – banned to allow for uninterrupted sponsor logos – which lets air bleed across the plate to reduce the size of the tip vortex.

I suspect we will continue to see some lower slots in the endplate, as pictured in the illustration above, as the introduction of the uninterrupted bodywork only applies above the kink in the endplate profile. These slots aim to manage the air around the rotating rear tyre, preventing unwanted pressure gradients forming.

Driver weight/ballast

Next year the minimum combined mass of the driver and any required ballast is 80 kg. This regulation should have been introduced years ago, but we finally have it in 2019.

With the cars getting fatter in recent years the drivers have become extremely slender to meet the overall minimum weight, which has risen again to 740 kg. Taller drivers, such as Nico Hulkenberg, have an inherent disadvantage compared to the likes of Fernando Alonso, for example: every 10 kg of mass supposedly costs 0.3 seconds per lap, which is a huge amount of time to lose through no fault of your own.

All teams must emulate the effect of having an 80 kg mass strapped into the car by fastening any required ballast to the survival cell. This has greater benefits beyond neutralising this aspect of the sport: The heaviest drivers are normally between 70 and 75 kg, so even those who are a bit bigger will have some freedom in terms of their diet and how they choose to train. Drivers will be able to put on more muscle over the winter, which will allow them to sustain higher levels of performance for longer.

Rear view mirrors

Following on from the Ferrari mirror debacle early in the 2018 season, the FIA have sought to tidy up the regulations here too. This is to ensure that the driver has better visibility as well as reduce the chances of the teams exploiting the mirror housing for an aerodynamic effect.

The centre point of the reflective part of the mirror must lie in a specific region, and an enclosure has been placed around the housing to limit its size and shape. The placement of the mountings have also been defined to a certain degree, the number of which has been capped at two to stop teams using them as sets of turning vanes.

Interestingly, the FIA have not opted to close off any of the intricate vented housing designs we started to see last year.

Rear lights

Two additional LED light strips (120 x 30 x 5 mm) on the rear wing endplate will join the central tail light on the rear crash structure to improve visibility in wet conditions. Just so you get a sense of how powerful they are, the strips must be fitted inside an aluminium housing to dissipate the heat generated during operation.

And finally…

The little 360 degree camera on top of the monocoque is now compulsory!