The technical regulations governing the sport are all set for a major overhaul in 2021 with an aim to produce much more closer racing and to allow the cars to follow each other more closely.
The Current Scenario:
The problem with the current scenario and in all honesty this has been an age-old problem with Formula 1 is the problem of the wake.
Wake is the disturbed turbulent air generated as the air flows past the aerodynamic components of a car, This leads to a very turbulent air-flow hitting the car that is following, Because of this turbulence, The Aerodynamic's of the car following suffer, leading to loss of grip.
When we had the last major technical overhaul in 2017, The new rules then exaggerated the situation of wake, This was mainly because the technical regulations were changed to make the cars faster than ever before.
And, how did we do that? We added more aerodynamic components to the car which in effect produced more wake and more turbulence.
So, while we made the cars faster than ever, We essentially destroyed the ability of one car to follow another closely, thus destroying the show.
The minor technical overhaul that was introduced for this season which was mainly alterations to make front wing simpler, Changes to the rear wing to blow the wake higher up and so on were also aimed to improve the show.
Aim of 2021 Technical Regulations:
With 2021 Regulations, They have gone a step further and have now correlated the results of the new technical regulations both on CFD(Computational Fluid Dynamics) and in a wind tunnel.
The main area of focus as has been already said was to measure the wake, So to do so FIA has used a 50% model of 2021 car to see how the new aero rules are affecting the turbulence.
Here's what Pat Symonds, F1's chief technical Officer told official Formula 1 website:
“The wind tunnel testing we are doing is slightly different from what the teams might do.
“The teams concentrate solely on the forces on the car, through a variety of attitudes as they move the car around. While we naturally have an interest in what those forces are and particularly how those forces change as the car moves, we’re even more interested in what is happening to the turbulent air behind the car.
“For that reason, although we are doing most of our development in CFD, and that CFD is using some pretty advanced techniques which aren’t commonly used by the teams, we want to back up the virtual simulations with physical simulation.
" We also chose to use a 50% model rather than a 60% model and we chose to run that model quite a long way forward in the wind tunnel, so this allowed us to best inspect the wake of the car.”
Key Takeaways of new 2021 Regulations:
Simplification of the front wing, Already in 2019 we have had simpler designs and the FIA are continuing to work in this area to further simplify the front-wing especially by limiting the number of front wing elements i.e the vertical slots that you see.
Also, with 2021 they aim to reduce the out-wash that is created by the current front-wing end-plates and as a result reducing a fair chunk of wake.
As this is the first part of the car that comes in contact with the air there has been a considerable effort in making it less complex, The more complex it is more difficult it becomes to follow the car ahead.
Wheel Covers, All cars will now have to feature wheel covers, This is because the tyres hinder the smooth airflow to the back of the car generating wake.
Newer Sidepod Design with Simplification of Barge board Area, The barge board area is the space that you see in front of the two side-pods i.e in between the front wheel and the side-pod.
Already this year with rules demanding for simpler front-wings, teams had to come up with a new area where they could mount bulk of the aero parts.
And, if you have a look at any of the 2019 cars, You will see an incredible amount of aero bits some so incredible that they now have been named as boomerangs.
Actually, the barge board itself is there to streamline the airflow to the rear of the car. What they do is that take up the turbulent air coming off the wheels and push this air further off the car, this streamlines the air that is reaching the back of the car but since it creates an out-wash of the turbulent air from the front wheels it adds on to more wake for the car following behind.
So as described before with the new rules allowing for Covered wheels rims and tyre covers so we won't need a complex barge board to deal with turbulent air.
New floor design, Now you may be thinking we are taking all these aero bits that we currently have, so wouldn't this make the car slower as they will generate less of a down-force and eventually less grip? You are right, but to compensate for the loss of down-force due to simplification or removal of Aero bits, The FIA has come up with new floor design.
The new floor design makes way for several venturi tunnels, Basically producing more of venturi effect i.e When you pass a fluid through a constricted section, In this case, the fluid being air, There's a reduction in fluid pressure or here air pressure.
So, To make it simple, you have got venturi effect going on underneath the car, so as air passes through a constricted section, its air pressure reduces. And, now you have a situation where you have got higher air pressure above the car and lower air pressure below the car, What will that do? That will push the car towards the ground thus giving more grip and hey no wake is produced. So, it's a win-win.
New Rear-Wing Design, With the new rules we expect to see even simpler rear wings with a limitation on the rear elements and a new design to push the wake higher up.
What are the Results from the Wind-Tunnel?
Before testing in the wind-tunnel, the bulk of the work has been done on computers i.e on CFD, But it's still a computer, So FIA went to the wind tunnel facility of Alfa-Romeo(Sauber) F1 Team wind-tunnel facility in Switzerland.
The test was run by an independent consultancy group to prevent Alfa-Romeo from taking advantage of the findings.
The wind-tunnel test in itself corroborated FIA's CFD findings with a wake generation of 5-10%, compared to current levels of 50%, Now that is about 40% reduction which is a fair chunk.
But, the FIA has not stopped at it, Instead, they have a dedicated team of aerodynamicist and engineers who have been tasked with finding ways to break these new rules. This will help FIA refine the rules so that the teams have fewer ways to find loopholes.
The design that you see in the video is probably how the cars will look in 2021, with little to no work being done around the side-pod section and the rear wing. The FIA is still working on improving the front wing so there may be a change in that area.