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The Overtaking Problem - Move wings inboard 
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Move wings inboard.

I have for a long time believed that outboard wings (in front of the front wheels and behind the back wheels) are dangerous. I believe that it is a matter of time before a car loses a front wing in a high-speed touch, which is guaranteed to make the car fly and who knows where it is going to come down. This could kill a lot of people, not just the driver.

Moving wings inboard (ie between the wheels) and limiting the height of the wing above the road (so that it cannot be clear of the car’s turbulence) will reduce downforce and make the cars safer.

It will, however, change the appearance of a F1 car completely and that may not sit well with many.

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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

The Heretic replies,

I have often wondered what would happen if wings were limited to inboard of the wheels within current car height limitations. With the exception of under body or ground effect downforce, it would be a lot harder to get the same extreme downforce in the turbulent area over the body of the car.

Geoff H from Australia adds

2000, the year aerodynamics killed the spectacle.

Thanks for your informative article on overtaking, or the lack of it.

I suppose I am a fairly typical fan of F1, a mid 40's male with some competitive motorsport history, and it's getting harder to maintain the rage. The technology that makes F1 the premier league is killing its appeal to the fans.

Today's drivers are as good as any of the past greats, Schumacher is good enough that he would have been a champion in any era of the sport. Our best can only show that skill in qualifying though. The driver is becoming an ever reducing component of the team package. Like you I bemoan the lack of opportunity to overtake and, also like you, I have no idea how to best resolve the issue.

We cannot compromise the speed of the F1 circus, as that's what makes it the pinnacle of motorsport. I like the idea of inboard aerodynamic aids and I think that is one good place to start. Perhaps the ideal answer is to simply build up the curbs and put 2" of water over the entire track, no - on second thoughts, make that 1/2 the track.

The answer to putting the thrill back into racing (or racing back into the thrill ?) is to remove the dependence on aerodynamics and force a return to mechanical grip. How the powers that be achieve that is beyond me.

Please keep up the debate on this issue. Only by getting strong feedback will F1 abandon the processions and allow motor racing again.

Heretic's reply:

I am very concerned that this is going to spread to other formulas.

As power increases and straight-line speed advantages are lost in braking, cornering and acceleration, aerodynamic downforce will be employed more and more.

In Australia you are already seeing it in the complex $10,000 front spoilers of the V8 Ford/Holden battle. They are no longer the skirt-come-spoiler to stop air from getting in under the car, they are already full aerodynamic devices that generate a lot of downforce. In another season or two mechanical grip will lose importance and they will become more processional. In fact overtaking is already getting harder.

Everywhere else it is also starting to take effect.

You have put you finger on the problem. The skill of the driver is becoming less relevant and, as cars are perfected, he or she could even become a passenger. Today driver skill in F1 counts less than it ever did and if nothing is changed I can only see the importance of the driver declining.

Drivers show what they are made of during qualifying (if they are lucky. How many get baulked by circumstances out of their control?). Some get a chance during the race to shine if it rains or if some other factor outside of their control disturbs the expected pattern.

That alone is an indictment of the sport. Racing ability is now less important than keeping-your-position-at-all-cost-ability, overtaking ability is relegated to getting past back markers efficiently (big deal!) and being able to take that corner just a little faster than any other driver has become meaningless because it only works if there is no one in front of you (which is the only time it is really meaningful - outside of qualifying of course).

But, don't get me going. I will never stop.

Another possibility is to restrict the drag coefficient of the cars to say 0.8 for 2001 and reduce it by 0.1 every year thereafter until it is down to the average road car. That might do it, but again - it is radical.

Daniel from Australia adds

I don't think putting wings behind the front wheels will achieve anything. They will always find a way of using it to an advantage.  Plus the cost outlay of changing the F1 to such a degree and prove it is safe will cost too much time and money.  Top Teams can afford this but smaller teams cannot.  They will fold.  Also there have been people killed with losses of wings etc.  Roland Ratzenberger crashed in a wall at 300 kph and died, cause was the front wing broke. I have also seen rear wings break causing the car to go into a spin, although have not seen a death from this. When chapman invented the rear wing it broke soon after and sent his car spinning. Back then they wondered what they created. Do u also remember the Mercedes sportscar.  That became airborne 3 times, they then withdrew it from a race. Mark Webber was in this car when it flipped on 1 occasion his teammate twice.  No wing broke, it just wasn't set up right. Wings r dangerous but they r in the sport to stay.

Heretic's reply:

Unfortunately you are right. While cars are allowed to have more than just wheels and an engine the rest will be used to improve aerodynamics. It is a very effective science and it is here to stay.

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