Ground effect rules for 2021 to improve racing

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The FIA have revealed more insight into the 2021 regulation draft. That nearly finished draft, which is still being discussed among all stakeholders, looks set to focus on more ground effect to make it easier for cars to follow one another.

For some time drivers have faced difficulties in following or attacking a rival car, an issue that stems from the aerodynamic characteristics of current Formula 1 cars. In recent years, team aerodynamicists have become adept at channelling airflow outboard of the car, thus creating a large, disruptive wake of ‘dirty’ air behind the car.

This wake has the effect of reducing downforce on a following car making it hard to stay close to the car in front. The reduced downforce also has the effect of making the car move around more. This leads to overheating tyres, a condition that also forces a following driver to back off.

The aerodynamic regulations for 2021 are designed to address this by generating downforce in different way to current cars.

In place of the complex front wings and bargeboards, Formula One will pursue a ‘ground effect’ solution that will see downforce generated underneath the car, as FIA Head of Single-Seater Technical Matters, Nikolas Tombazis, explains.

“There’s a diffuser going right under the car, with a Venturi-type channel running through it. The tunnels go right from the front to the back,” he says. “[With the 2021 car] typically, we will go from about a 50% loss of downforce for the following car at two car distances [in 2017] to about a 5-10% loss. So we have a massive reduction of the loss of downforce for the following car.”

The Venturi tunnels will feed air back to a much higher diffuser than on current cars, and allied to other conditioning elements, such as the front wheel arch, the wake generated by a leading car will be narrower and higher, allowing following cars to stay closer for longer in ‘cleaner’ air.

“The two strong vortices we are creating take a lot of the wheel wake up and over the car behind. As a result what the car behind sees is much cleaner flow,” says Tombazis.

One element still under discussion is the final specification of the front wing. “There is further work going on with the front wing,” says Tombazis. “We are still not completely happy with it, both from an aero point of view and from an aesthetic point of view, so we are trying to make it better in both aspects. There are good reasons why the current wing is very wide aerodynamically, but it is not the best aesthetic result, so there is work going on there.”

After further refinement, the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship regulations will be presented and voted at the World Motor Sport Council of October.