Overtaking Problem - Limit turbulence
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An idea that I have been toying with in the back of my mind is that turbulence - not downforce - should be outlawed, or at least regulated. If teams were allowed to maximise downforce all they want provided that they leave behind a disturbance that will not affect the aerodynamics of a following car we will be most of the way there.
My only concern is: How can this be policed?
The only way I can see is that a model (probably 1/3rd) will have to be made and subjected to a wind tunnel test to ensure that turbulence is below the maximum allowed. Teams will then not be allowed to change any turbulence influencing aspect of the car without subjecting it to the same test.
This may sound like an expensive exercise, but if you consider that virtually all teams are already using models of that size in their current wind tunnel development, the only additional cost would be that of passing muster.
Please submit any comments you have on this suggestion below
Siegfried R from Belgium adds,
I don't think turbulent air isn't really the problem, because it's only
generated when the car is driving at a higher speed, in slower sections of
the track the car generates a smaller turbulent area behind the car but that
doesn't matter for the following car because here only mechanical grip
counts, driver skills and brake power. (see monaco)
Ian B from Australia adds,
It seems to me that we
might be missing the point. In the 'Good Old Days' when memory tells us
overtaking was more common (though never really as much as we think) part of
the reason was the variation between the cars and drivers. Some cars were
fast in a straight line, some had really good brakes, others cornered
better, some were quicker out of corners. All of these combined with drivers
of different styles, abilities, courage and even background to make the grid
much more varied than it is now after seeming endless testing to obtain the
smallest gain. Here is the idea- allow variations in the rules to bring back
the difference. What do I mean? Things like allow bigger brakes with a power
(rev) limited engine or smaller slick tyres with a fully flat floor (no diffuser) or ground effects without front and rear external wings! I know
that the teams would eventually find the ideal combination but at least
different car/drivers would perform better at some tracks than others so
there would be more variety and interest. What do you think and what
combinations would you think might work
Bill from USA continues:
Lets look at the subject this way. Which racers seem to have no or minimal problems passing. Well for starters, motorbike & pedal bike racers. Clearly they rely 100% (for argument sake) on mechanical grip and minimal aerodynamic force to enhance grip when cornering. And passing is unrestricted. They do however "bore a hole" in the air that a following racer can ride into & get a "tow" from & slingshot past if he is carrying a high enough gear & has enough horsepower. Even though the following racer who is trying to pass is in a turbulent low pressure "bubble" (which is now helping him as he has less drag to contend with, hence the term "getting a tow") his ability to pass is unrestricted as he has no inherent loss of aerodynamic downforce to contend with when following in the "bubble" of turbulent air. I believe long term fans will remember that passing was not generally a problem in F-1 or sports car racing till ground effects cars came into wide use. In previous days "catching a tow" was a common way to pass. Yes, there was severe turbulence behind a car you were trying to pass, but it didn't make any difference, in fact it helped you get around the car ahead of you as you could catch a "tow". Clearly if the passing car, or motorbike wasn't generating any aerodynamic downforce he wouldn't have any downforce to lose by lack of laminar flow over his vehicle as he drives into the turbulent "bubble". He would get the pass via mechanical grip essentially.
Today the situation has gone to the other extreme. Cars still have mechanical grip, but their real grip is aerodynamic grip. The down side of A/G is that presently it generates huge amounts of "wash" or turbulence behind the offending vehicle & car trying to pass loses downforce due to lack of laminar flow in the "wash". Good for the car ahead & not good for car trying to pass.
Band-Aid fixes (wider tires, slicks, bigger front wings, re-designed circuits etc, etc. cannot solve the problem (If you accept my hypothesis) as they do not address the problem of minimizing the bubble or, wake of turbulent flow off of the car ahead and keeping laminar flow attached for max aerodynamic downforce on the following car.
FIA should provide an incentive (carrot) big enough to encourage teams to solve problem themselves. Reward could be a guaranteed place on grid if the team could reduce bubble by X %, or whatever is enough to provide an incentive.
HOW TO POLICE:
Possibly size of bubble could be quantified with smoke photos in wind tunnel at max downforce (easily verified with telemetry). If car was found to have exceeded max allowed downforce in post race data exam impose a suitable penalty.
If it was thought necessary to confirm max downforce, or bubble size onsite at a race (a protest e.g.) perhaps offending car, or all cars would be required to demonstrate bubble size via a test, such as quantifying size of "bubble wash" with smoke, or thermal imaging camera as cars pass a background with a grid on it.
I know you seemed sceptical, but there are some very smart people in & about F-1 that could work out the kinks & make it happen. Provided the incentive was sufficient, of course. Chapman's old Lotus type 86/88 concept? ground effects car may have been an idea before its time if it achieved adequate aerodynamic downforce without much of a turbulence backwash. Maybe the Brabham fan car was a step in the right direction if it provided more downforce with less trailing turbulence.
p.s. American Stockcar racing is bumper to bumper with much passing. Having minimal downforce they just bore holes in the air & following car gets a nice tow & slingshots past for a nice safe pass as lead car breaks wind for them.
Bill from USA adds:
I think it from your aerodynamics discussion that the culprit inhibiting passing is clearly turbulent airflow or "wash" behind the offending car. If I were a F-1 designer one of my priorities would be to maximize this "wash" so that any following car would enter a zone of maximum turbulence & therefore be severely impeded in his passing attempt as he would clearly be losing downforce as he entered the "wash" zone.
So what to do? Rather than have the the FIA "wizzos" come up with "iffy" bandaid fixes, why not leave it up to the team experts to solve the problem with appropriate motivation?
What if the aerodynamicists were encouraged via a suitable "carrot" to work at reducing the zone of turbulence behind the car to virtually nil. Clearly those having the most success at minimizing the wash should get the biggest carrot. Success in this area of design should increase passing opportunities by allowing cars to close up entering braking zones especially for very fast corners as they would not be entering areas of turbulent air
flow resulting in lost downforce.
What kind of "carrot" might the teams need? Say if a team was able to show in a wind tunnel that the bubble of unstable turbulence was reduced by 25% (or whatever %)compared to the previous year they would be given an entry grid spot for the next season of racing. Or perhaps a team achieving a certain % of bubble reduction should be given bonus points or # of seconds reduced from their qualifying time.
This scheme would take the onus of solving the passing problem off of the FIA (who are probably unqualified to solve the problem & put it back to the designers who now have a reason to minimize the zone of turbulence rather than maximizing it.
With a suitable incentive perhaps the dreaded zone of turbulence could be reduced to a problem of the past
Marc D. from Canada adds:
No, testing a 1/3 model could not work because the wings are adjustable in many ways and although certain settings may prove to be turbulence free, different settings of the same car could produce major turbulence. There are to many possible combinations to check them all unless several benchmark settings could be established.
However, I do find the idea of regulating turbulence to be potentially the best suggestion so far. Lets not forget that F1 racing is also a test of engineering between teams, there must be room for innovations. It is good from time to time to challenge the teams with changes in the rules. It forces them to go back to the drawing table, gives a fighting chance to all teams and the resulting efforts are part of the race.
I therefore believe that it is a better suggestion to impose regulations that prevents affecting other cars then regulations that limit to much the possibilities of development. The FIA did a good thing by changing the rule with regards to the height of the front wing, because it forces the teams back to the drawing table so that they can try to figure out what to do to restore downforce to its original efficiency. It makes F1 racing this much more interesting.
What we must find are ways to prevent a car from affecting negatively another car on the circuit. Regulating turbulence is I believe the way to go. How to police this regulation... not an easy one to answer but worth pursuing.
I do not know if the 1/3 model testing could work with several benchmark settings. It might be impossible to set test settings because the values of the settings may mean different things between designs.
If there is any Aerodynamics expert out there, would it be possible to have some kind of FIA sealed device attached to the end of the car, close to the ground, that could measure turbulence ???
My comment also applies to the other suggestions. We should be careful not to limit the variations that can exist between cars. After all, F1 racing is also a competition between constructors.