Drag Reduction System and Formula 1
As a big fan of Formula 1, I have always wondered the technical specifications of the competing vehicles. Namely, the Drag Reduction System (DRS) of the rear wing.
For folks not familiar with Formula 1 racing, in designated areas of the track, drivers are given the ability to temporarily reduce the drag force caused by the rear wing with the press of a button to overtake the driver ahead. When DRS is enabled, a part of the rear wing rotates to create an opening that allows air to pass through and reduce drag. Consequently, by reducing drag, DRS also reduces downforce. Downforce keeps the car from taking off like an airplane.
It must be a secret.
I have always wanted to know the percent decrease in drag and downforce at top speed. I learned that there is no way to find out the official technical specifications of the car. Formula 1 is notoriously secretive. I did not find anything “official” online even by using my best “googling” skills. Trust me, I have amazing googling skills.
This lack of information on the web meant one thing. If I wanted to have this technical information, I had to design my own Formula 1 rear wing. And, I had to design it to the specifications/restrictions of the sport’s governing body: the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).
There is no way that I could design a precise, fully engineered, Formula 1 worthy rear wing. Especially without a team of experienced engineers, data, and wind tunnel access. But I still decided to move forward with a simple model to the 2018 season specifications of the FIA.
Designing with SOLIDWORKS
SOLIDWORKS automatically calculates the downforce created from the simulated air pressures experienced by the 3D model. I found that the drag caused by the rear wing is reduced by over 60 percent and the downforce is reduced but by 51.9 percent at 224 miles per hour. On a high speed straight, where DRS is allowed, a lower downforce should not be a cause for concern. It makes sense why the FIA restricts using DRS to certain locations. On a curve, or with side winds from the weather, the vehicle is prone to instability as the lack of downforce will cause loss of traction at the wheels.
Now, if pushing a button to go faster and overtake your competitors sounds like “cheating”, you are not alone. The FIA is considering forbidding the use of DRS for the upcoming seasons. I was happy with the results but now I’m wondering about the front wing! I guess I will always be curious about every square inch of a Formula 1 car!