Brawn’s first failing: Overtaking now harder than last year

The new aero rules rushed in for 2019, decided by the feedback after the first race of the 2018 season, had been hoped would improve the issue of cars following one another, thus improve the ability to overtake.

Widening and simplifying the front wings had been the decision by the new technical boss for F1 working with owners Liberty Media, and rather impressively he managed to convince the team bosses to agree to this rule change at the 11th hour back in the spring of 2018.

So after the first test in Barcelona with the new front wings, it’s a rather unfortunate thing to reveal, but actually, the issue has worsened rather than improved. Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg described the situation when comparing last years to this year’s car “as if you had pressed the Copy & Paste button”.

According to Auto Motor und Sport, teams think that widening the front wings have ended up with the same result as 2009 when a similar tactic had been used.


The irony of this is mind-blowing to me. TJ13 recalls back in 2009, the FIA thought that the wide wings would improve a car’s ability to follow closer to the back of another, back then the teams employed the ‘in-wash’ concept – that is, air flow from the 2008 front wings was directed inwards between the wheels and the nose, and down toward the floor. This was achieved with small front wings.

The FIA mandated wide front wings for 2009, after recommendations by the now-defunct Overtaking Working Group.

Ross Brawn negated the problem of wide wings with inwash by famously by being one of the only teams to do the opposite with his groundbreaking 2009 Brawn GP car. By directing the flow outwards – therefore ‘outwash’ concept, his team were able to improve their aerodynamic performace. With this, along with the infamous double-deck diffuser, the rest is history with Jenson Button taking the drivers title and the Brawn team becoming manufacturers Champions on their maiden and only season. Their car was several seconds faster than anything else at the time.

So what does Ross Brawn do for 2019? Brings back wide 2009 style 2 metre wide front wings, and the result is that teams have increased their ability to outwash, worsening the issue of cars following. The outwash being the main problem the whole new regulation was trying to prevent.

The drivers report that nothing has changed. Driving behind and overtaking is at least as difficult as before. The engineers even fear a deterioration.

Thanks to the wider front wings, team engineers are able to direct more turbulent air around the front wheels, and with these turbulences meeting again behind the car, the following car cannot work it’s aero correctly when too close. To make things worse, the wide wings are less robust and are prone to damage in a race.

“Why did you make the wings wider again, if you thought years ago that these wide wings are the problem?” laments Sebastian Vettel during the test this week.

The front wing endplates are as wide as the front tires and also angled 15 degrees outwards. The rest is done by the aerodynamics with the arrangement of the flaps. For most cars, they are flatter on the outside than inside.

“It did not bring anything at all, just cost a lot of money,” blames Red Bull Motorsport Director Helmut Marko.

“Our drivers report that they still feel the same turbulence in the slipstream,” concludes Marko.

Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton showed on the third day of testing the proof that nothing has changed. Vettel drove for many laps behind the McLaren of Carlos Sainz, Hamilton had felt it an eternity sitting behind in the wake of Kimi Raikkonen. The Ferrari driver had previously caught up with Sainz two seconds per lap.

Vettel reported: “No chance to pass him. I just never got close enough to him.”

Red Bull’s Adrian Newey even fears that it will be even harder to stay in the slipstream of another car.

“You lose as much downforce as before. But it is still unstable because we now lack the vertical baffles in the front wing to control the flow.” says the Red Bull man.

Force India Chief Technology Officer Andy Green is not surprised that the overtaking committee’s efforts are going nowhere saying “We do not build cars that make driving easier for the rear car.

“We see that our car is as fast as possible. And to do this, the air must pass the outside of the wheels. As long as we see the chance to do that, we will do it.”

Armed with this knowledge, teams will rush to pursue their qualifying ‘party’ modes for Saturday, and we’ll again see that whoever wins on Saturday will likely take the race win on Sunday.



9 responses to “Brawn’s first failing: Overtaking now harder than last year

  1. Another boring season in prospect then. I for one will not be sitting throgh 2 hours of follow my leader. I may watch the highlights if there is nothing better on another channel. Something radical has to change in F1 soon. You can’t fool all the people all the time.

  2. I have huge respect for Ross Brawn but I really don’t get it. Why bringing back the 09 regs as they had proven inefficient, not really pleasing to the eyes and bad for wheel to wheel racing. At least it seems that the reg changes haven’t spread the field even more, which is one of the main issues of constant reg changes. How cool was 12 and 13 when 15 cars qualified in 1 second? The less ressources you have, the longer it takes to adapt the new rules. After Melbourne we’ll have, like every f year, lots of complains about the lack of overtaking. And that’s just because Albert Park is and always has been a difficult track to overtake on, just like Montmelo, Monaco, etc.. The amount of overtaking is absolutely fine. There are a lot of formulae where there are a lot of them, but no one cares because they’re slow as hell. A very fast car needs aero and following an other car will ALWAYS lead to a loss of it whatever you do. Just make the cars fast and nice to look at, this is Formula 1 for f sake, if you just want to see maneuvers watch Go Karts or whatever.

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  4. This was expected, let’s face it. Certain cars will have less of the effect, therefore they will be easier to follow. The big 3-4 teams will have ensured there cars are as difficult to follow and pass as ever.
    Maybe that was what Ricciardo experienced, one of the back markers who haven’t spent $50 million on extra time in the windtunnel to perfect it, although it would have been nice if he remembered which car it was so we could analyse it more.
    The front wings will ALWAYS be affected by turbulence as long as they have any kind of “addition” on them. Benign, flat wings are the best solution because they will “flatten” most the turbulence out as it strikes the flat surface. A vortex, or combined “wake” of many separate vortices, will only be further disturbed and create more turbulence as it travels over the umpteen different winglets and through the many “tunnels” on the current front wings. They create the problem as much as the car in front!
    Flat front wings, it really is that simple – but unfortunately, most people have come to love the “art” and “spectacular intricacies” of the modern aero “add-ons” which make the front wings look like a huge space age cheese grater.
    Making the aero surfaces of the cars look more flat and simple won’t satisfy the needs and wants of people who don’t care about the functionality of them when it comes to slipstream and passing. They just want F1 cars to look “space age” and spectacular. Even if they do all look incredibly similar and boring.
    It’s like a guy wanting a stunning looking, narcissistic, emotionless, selfish super model hanging off his arm … regardless of whether she has any endearing features – such as being loving, affectionate, articulate, having a warm engaging personality or generosity in the exchange of intimacy.
    Looks are everything to shallow people who don’t give a stuff about doing what’s right because they can’t see past the mirror!

    As for the rear wings, they are just as bad.
    I couldn’t help but notice that the sideboards on the Ferrari’s rear wings have many “flutes” or slots in them which angle directly outwards behind the rear tyre. That will be creating all manner of vortices which roll and twist their way into the wake behind the car and totally disturb the front wing of a car following close behind.

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  8. Indy cars pass each other at will; This is one of the reasons Indy car racing has become more interesting than F1. By rule all Indy Cars use the same chassis built by Dallra.

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