F1 racing is a sport which tends to keep one buckled to their seats. The sheer speed and performance offered by a F1 car can simply make any onlooker a fan of the sport. Apart from the engine and the wheels, the interesting feature of the motorsport is the aerodynamics which comes into play when driving at very high speeds.
Aerodynamics of F1 car is essential but is very often accompanied by something that isn’t desirable to either the drivers or the fans – drag. Drag, especially aerodynamic drag, holds various disadvantages for an F1 car. In this article we will dig deeper into F1 motorsport and learn how this drag is minimised so as to offer the driver best chance of winning.
What is aerodynamic drag?
To understand the Drag reduction system, one needs to have a sound knowledge of aerodynamic drag. When we talk of drag in racing car, we usually refer to the air resistance i.e., a force acting opposite to the relative motion of any object moving with respect to the surrounding air. The object here is the formula 1 car. A characteristic feature of aerodynamic drag is that it is dependent on velocity. It varies according to the type of flow. For a laminar flow, drag is proportional to the velocity while for a turbulent flow, it is proportional to the square of the velocity. The velocity of the moving formula car will decrease if more drag forces act on it. In other words, if not properly taken care of during designing, aerodynamic drag will tend to slow down the car, a nightmare for any F1 driver. Thus aerodynamic drag is a major headache for any F1 driver.
The Drag Reduction System
Drag might seem to be a major challenge in car racing, but it can be overcome to some extent. The DRS does the same, it is an innovation in the form of a driver controllable rear wing of the car. Introduced in the racing world in 2011, it is used to reduce the aerodynamic drag so as to increase the top speed and boost the chances of winning. The system was appreciated in the Melbourne Grand Prix 2012. It also helps in sudden overtake of a competitor vehicle. This system works only in certain conditions. One of them being that the pursuing car must be within a second at the point the two cars cross detection point for the DRS to work. A signal showing “DRS Active” is sent to the driver as soon as this condition is met and the rear wings will be deployed. A speed advantage of 4-5 kph is usually seen when the system is activated.
How DRS works?
The DRS works on the principles of hydraulics and actuators. It is with the use of these components that the flap of the rear wing is controlled. When the moveable rear wing is deployed by the driver, the adjustable flap gets lifted 50 mm up so that it is flatter to the air. Such a resulting profile can reduce the aerodynamic drag and also result in lesser downforce. In areas of tracks with lower lateral forces i.e., higher grip, this technology works best as it combines lower downforce and reduced drag. In case of failure of the system, the flap is lifted about the trailing edge so that it falls into the default position. FIA, the governing body of motor sport handles the DRS and is responsible for the rules and regulations related to it. The future of DRS lies in how the FIA monitor the issues and address them.
By Akshit Arora