Voice of the Fans – The last air bender

Voice of the Fans

Disclaimer: TheJudge13 provides a platform for Formula 1 fans to publish their voice on matters relating to Formula 1. The views expressed in Voice of #F1 Fans are those of the contributor and not those held by TJ13.

We hope you enjoy the effort from a regular of the comments section, Oddball presents his article on aero. Enjoy!

For years the designers of our beloved F1 cars have found ever new ways to make them go quicker.

One recent wheeze was to ask for tyres with bubblegum like texture that were made to grip for only 3 laps. Prior to this we had engines so highly strung and containing so little fluid that they exploded if pushed beyond a dozen laps.

But nothing has changed the F1 game as much as Aero did.

From the first fumbling steps of polished bodywork the teams now sculpt their cars exterior to near perfection. Each little twist and turn, every seam and join funnels the once lazy air across the exquisitely contoured bodywork and this is to achieve one thing – downforce. And one individual became the master of this dark art; a once little known engineer called Adrian.

Newey is of course now the Maestro of Milton Keynes, but Adrian began his long journey in F1 with a small team of highly passionate designers. Adrian began his sketching career with designs for Cart and Indy car before landing a chief designer role at the F1 old guard team, March.

His design of the 1988 March 881 was pure simplicity. The car was tightly packaged and had very simple lines but under the skin its DNA was revolutionary. Few designers can write on their CV, “changed a sport”, but this shy graduate of Southampton is one of the few who can.

Newey has been responsible for some of the most radical cars in F1 sports history. At Williams he devastated the opposition with the FW14 and then at McLaren he crafted the championship winning MP4/13. These eras were followed by Adrian’s Red Bull Racing years, where his creations domination F1 in a way no others had before.

So why are Newey’s designs so good? He has access to some of the best computer software available and some of the brightest young talent that our sport can produce – so could this be the key? Then again, most teams have all this and spend millions tweaking a fin on a end plate and even more on underfloor airflow. Wind tunnel time isn’t cheap and many of them now share the huge Toyota monster in Germany, but none of this explains why.

Mr Newey in fact works with a stool, easel and pencil – and for the younger readers, a thing called paper. At Goodwood a few year ago I had the honour of meeting him and I asked these questions: “Why are your designs so effective? and, do you solve all the problems in the design stage or just test the problem out?”

With a slight shake of the head and a hint of a smile I knew the answer immediately. Newey had no idea why his designs worked better than those of the other teams, it was just him doing his thing. At this Damascus road moment of realisation, I bowed and kissed the ground before Newey ascended to the sky. I think I might have thrown him that weekend because not long after a certain E type was no longer in existence.

So we turn to 2017 and another set of ‘new’ regulations. We are told the designs will become more slippery than ever but there will be an increased focus on the rear wing area.

Yes this will deliver pretty awesome lap times, but will this prove to be the right way to go? I am not so sure because if I was a ‘Newey’ designing these new beasts, I would be focusing my skill on how to sap the energy from the air that cascades from the rear of the car and so hamper the following competition. And so maybe next year we will be watching a revision of the infamous ‘Truli train’ making a come back.

20 responses to “Voice of the Fans – The last air bender

  1. Thanks for the interesting read!

    The main problem with aero now is that it is so invisible for the average fan. No-one can actually see what is happening to the air which makes it hard to pick what it is that makes a Mercedes faster than a Ferrari, or a Force India faster than a Manor…

    At least the early aero changes were more obvious…these huge wings sticking up where just a couple of races before there were none at all. It was interesting that the second time they raced at Montjuic in 1971 everyone was pessimistic about how much slower the cars would be from two years before because their wings had been curtailed. However, with changes in engines and tyres everyone easily went much faster. I think today they could simplify aero but improve engines and tyres which would give the cars more speed with less cost…

    • Thanks for that Jennie,my thanks go out to the TJ13 community,they deciphered my garbled ramblings and made it readable 😉
      Yes, I fully agree as its an invisible system,its only when the air is heavy with vapour we get to briefly view the work that it’s doing.
      If we could improve the mechanical grip of the cars we could get back to some very close racing,at the moment a car simply cannot follow another as the once smooth air is worked so hard from the lead vehicle. If we could could have a smoke trail like in an air show we would see the problem clearly. We have opened Pandora’s box and sadly it can’t be closed easily. This year we have seen that even motogp are concerned with this and the tea trays that have appeared on the bikes will soon be banned.

      • I often wonder if a return of ground effect would help following cars.

        P.S. Must be my age but I cannot cope with the idea of March being “F1 old guard team”. They are still the upstarts in my mind who would sell a car to anyone with the money and balls to race it. Now there’s an idea!?!

        • With a March chassis going for 9000 pounds and a Cosworth DFV for 4,500…you could probably fund the adventure just by selling your house…

          • Once knew of a long forgotten March chassis discarded in a back garden,sadly no engine but it did have an extra diff at the rear;)

          • And quite a few people did – remember we had plenty of cars on the grid, not like last year.

        • Reopening diffuser in particular would be helpful, tho I’m not a fan of EBD it does solve many a following problem. Also adaptable suspension to keep cars level in turns, tho FIA have banned this on cost grounds and to disadvantage Mercedes, not that it made much difference.

          • Yep,that is one way. I do have to laugh on the cost cutting ballsup the FIA have given us. Take the current situation, here we have a Merc team that spent well over the budget to get an absolute gem of a power unit but the other teams are all fighting back with their hands tied. Even if the powers that be allowed a sudden engine equality amnesty it won’t help for the next couple of yrs. Don’t get me wrong,it’s not sour grapes as Merc did a fantastic job,its the system that needs changing. Redbull and to some extent, Ferrari faced the same problem when their cars mullered the opposition but the game wasnt the same as the big teams could throw huge budgets at the problem we then had a race on our hands

        • @cassius42…ground effect would be a sweet return in my book but did it ever fully vanish?,it solved the problem of the huge air turbulence that happens at the front of the cars.Redbull have done something with their cars if you look closely. The rake of the chassis is so extreme that something is happening under the car that i cant workout. Lotus bought in the idea of sealing the underside of their cars in the 70’s but once flexible skirts got banned designers realised that air can be an effective barrier, the side details of the current cars seals the underside and so brings the low pressure back into play

          • True the rear diffuser is a poor man’s ground effect and all are trying to get the most out of it. The elegance of the true wing car was when they could take off the wings, particularly the nose wings, or at least drastically reduce them. But I am not technical enough to know how the wake is affected.

      • I just had a mental picture of smoke emanating from the top of the air box to go with the sparks from the titanium skin plate…all just for the show:) It would make it hard to tell if an engine had just blown up however…

  2. when the push for 2017 new increased aero rules was pushed out by the red bullies and Bernie as principal pushers, I said on here that formula one needs less aero and not more of it, I also said that an increase in aero will also increase the difficulty of a car following another.

  3. OddBall….

    The title of the article is perfect in every sense, especially when you realize that Newey and Ang from ‘The Last Air Bender’ shares some resemblance to each other…. 🙂 :-)….


    It’s also fascinating that in such a digital age of CFD and fluid dynamic computing, nothing beats the good ole method of pencil and paper. I did a bit of engineering drawing for 3 years in secondary school and i must tell you, it was one of the most frustrating and therapeutic thing i ever did and was probably the only class i looked forward to attending each week.

    • I fully agree with working the old ways(showing age here) take the designers of our road cars, they all begin in someone head and then maybe straight into the digital world but most still take weeks sculpting a clay model so that it’s possible to run your fingers over the curves,stand back and admire the contours and then tweek the model. It’s not done for ease or for a more accurate design,its done because something primitive is sparked in our minds,its the same thing you felt in your tech drawing class,I was the same and I am still guilty now,if you can see my desk at the moment there are drawing all over the place, notes taken and jotted down and not one on my phone or screen,yeah its easier and more efficient if the info is put straight into the PC but it’s instinct that makes me pick up the pencil.Newey probably gets the same feeling, just drawing from instinct like a gifted driver of our cars…they just know what works and can’t explain why it does.

  4. Is Air Bender related to Ariel Bender who played guitar for Mott The Hoople?

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