Discover Aerodynamics in Formula 1

The name 'Aerodynamics' came from Greek ἀήρ aero (air) + δυναμική (dynamics), which means the study of the motion of air around the solid objects. The concept of aerodynamics has been widely used in designing Aircraft, Wind and turbine propellers, Automobiles, Ships, Submarines, etc. Aerodynamicist uses the Wind tunnel- a testing method, where a test model is placed inside a test section and the air is passed over the model. Various instruments are used to determine the characteristics of the motion of air and forces acting on the model. To study aerodynamics, it is important to gather information about air pressure and Newton's third law of motion.

Source: Pinterest

Air pressure

Air consists of lots of molecules moving in space. In a fixed volume, they remain in continuous motion. In an air-filled balloon, the particles of air collide with a force continuously against the skin of the balloon. The force multiplies due to a large number of molecules. This increases pressure inside the balloon, and it remains inflated. When the neck of the balloon is opened, high-pressure air comes out rapidly. Such a movement of air is called aerodynamics. 

Newton's Third law of motion

Newton stated that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. It means if you push against something, it pushes you back equally. When a bird pushes its wing down in the air, the air pushes back on the bird in an upward direction, helps the bird to stay in the air without falling.

Source: GEU Motorsports

Talking about Formula One cars, the rear wing is designed to push the air upwards creating a high-pressure region above the wing. While the pressure below the wing stays low. High-pressure air above the wing forces it down according to Newton's third law of motion. 


Why downforce is important?

The downforce generated by wings improves the friction between the tires and the ground by increasing the traction. Traction assists the driver in accelerating, braking, and quick cornering. Formula one car uses downforce enhancing components like a front wing, underfloor, diffuser, and rear wing, where the front and rear wings provide more than 50% of downforce. 


Drag- The Resistive force

Drag is resistance developed due to relative motion between air and the object, which acts against the thrust. The function of drag is to drop down the acceleration of a car. Drag is controlled by designing a sharp nose and the wing covering a smaller area at the front. It lowers the race time, enhances acceleration, and reduces fuel usage. The coefficient of drag, which helps in measuring drag, ranges from 0.7 to 1.1 for racing cars.

Source: Racing Car Dynamics

 Thrust-The driving force

Thrust is a mechanical force required to overcome the drag and self-weight of a car. Fuel and air (charge) is combusted inside a 1.6-liter V6 engine having a power-producing capacity of 730-750 kW with a maximum speed of 375 km/hr. Formula one uses high octane premium fuel (95 to 102 octane number) for boosting the performance of a car. A higher thrust-to-weight ratio is an important parameter that enhances the performance of a car. The idea is to increase the thrust and decrease the weight to gain the maximum thrust to weight ratio.


Lift- An unbalancing force

When a car boost at a higher speed, it experiences a vertical lift from the ground due to the high pressure of the air beneath the car, which affects the stability. To negate uplifting, adding the weight will reduce the speed, and fuel consumption shoots up. One of the methods is using spoilers (works on Bernoulli's principle), which reduces the amount of lift but adds downforce and drag. Designers compute the lift to drag ratio where a car has enough force to make a sharp turn with stability. 


Wind tunnel testing


Wind tunnels are used to study the motion of air around the model placed in it. It has five sections - The Settling Chamber, the Contraction Cone, the Test Section, the Diffuser, and the Drive Section. The aerodynamicist placed the model of the vehicle inside the Test section. Various instruments are connected with the model to determine forces acting on it by the wind. Air with controlled pressure, temperature, and humidity gets passed over the stationary scaled model with the help of a fan. Air velocity can be controlled by changing the speed of the fan along with adjusting the angles of the blade. The Drag sensor and lift sensor attached to the test model provides data to the computer. This will help engineers to design the geometry of different parts of the vehicle. 

Source: Autoevolution

Wind tunnels can have low-speed or high-speed air. They are classified based on Mach number. Mach number is the ratio of the speed of air to the speed of sound. Types of wind tunnels are

subsonic- having Mach number less than 0.8

transonic- Mach number ranges from 0.8 to 1.2 

supersonic- Mach number ranges from 1.2 to 5.0 

hypersonic- Mach number greater than 5.0


There are two main types of wind tunnels used by F1 car companies. One type is “open-circuit" tunnels (air entry open to the atmosphere) Formula 1 team relies on the other type "the closed-circuit" tunnels. It generates a more uniform flow compared to the open circuit tunnels. Data obtained from testing helps engineers to design geometry for the parts of the car. These are low-speed closed-circuit tunnels where the air velocity varies between 10 and 100 m/s approximately. The same air is recirculated by turning the air stream by four 90° corners. The turning vanes are placed aside from each other, to prevent turbulence in the corners.

Back in 2010, BMW had developed the Aerodynamic Test Centre (ATC) of a 5-story building where they can test vehicles' performance at 300 km/hr of wind speed. F1 car companies spend up to 60 to 100 Million dollars for aerodynamic testing of the car in the factory.

In India, Wind tunnel testing facilities are available at the National Aerospace Laboratory (Bangalore), IIT Kanpur, Madras Institute of Technology (Chennai), Department of Space Engineering and Rocketry - BITM (Ranchi), etc. 

The World's largest wind tunnel NASA's Ames Research Center (ARC) is located in California. This subsonic tunnel is used to test planes with wingspans of up to 100 feet. Its length is over 1,400 feet and 80 feet high.

"Race cars are neither ugly nor beautiful. They become beautiful when they win." – Enzo Ferrari, Founder of Scuderia Ferrari


  1. Good one keyur bhai 🤟🤟

  2. Doing GREAT SIR🔥

    Aerodynamics are for people who can't build engine.

    A Lots Of POSITIVITY 😊

    1. Top comment! 😂😉
      It adds power to the vehicle in different way. Hahaha

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