TECH TUESDAY: How the front wing on the all-new 2022 cars has been designed to improve overtaking

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When the 2022 cars hit the track to begin testing next month, we’ll finally start to get used to a radically new look and feel of F1, as defined by the revolutionary new aerodynamic regulations, the main purpose of which has been to create cars that retain grip even when following closely.

The starting point of the entire aerodynamic concept is always the front wing, as this is where the oncoming air first meets the car. So the 2022 front wing is radically different from what we’ve grown accustomed to, both in how it looks and how it works.

LOOK: Everything you need to know about the new 2022 F1 car

In terms of meeting the goals of creating a car with a much cleaner and less disruptive aerodynamic wake, the new wing’s number one priority has been to banish the ‘Y250 vortex’ that was used on the previous front wing, where the 250 gap mm between the nose and the inboard end of the wing elements was used to create a series of rotating air vortices that accelerated all airflow towards the bargeboards, with the aim of pushing it as far out of the car as possible.

Car 2021 vs Car 2022 16×9 FRONT.jpg
A comparison between last year’s front wing and this year’s concept, with the removal of the ‘Y250 vortex’, the name given to the vortex that comes out of the inner tips of the current generation of front wings, a key feature.
That way, it wouldn’t interrupt the flow of clean air to the floor. But that wide, turbulent airstream was a big part of why a trailing car would find aerodynamic performance so degraded, as its front wing couldn’t work effectively in the disturbed air.

ANALYSIS: Comparison of key differences between 2021 and 2022 F1 car designs

With the new wing, there is no longer any space between the nose and the elements, which run flush with the nose. There can no longer be a Y250 vortex which, along with the ban on bargeboards, means air flows across the wing in a way that keeps it directed within the width of the car.

Although the resulting full-width elements give a greater total wing area than before, they actually produce less downforce. The less downforce it produces, the less it will tend to disturb the air and the less sensitive it will be to interrupted airflow from the car in front.

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F1 TV Tech Talk: How will the 2022 F1 car improve overtaking?
So how did legislators manage to create a larger wing that produces less downforce (even in isolation, without even considering its effect on the rest of the car)? In addition to the total wing area, the other factors that determine how much downforce a wing will create are its “angle of attack,” the spacing and overlap between elements, and the pitch of those elements (what shape they are). These three factors are strictly controlled within the new regulations.

READ MORE: Aston Martin reserve Hulkenberg says more adaptable drivers will thrive early on with ‘quite fast’ 2022 cars

There may be as many as four wing elements (instead of five), but their outlines are very tightly defined by a series of intricate theoretical dimensional box sections into which the elements must fit. It allows elements to sag reasonably at the inside ends, but reduce to a very small bulge on the outside. The elements are limited in the angle they can be, and therefore the angle of attack of the entire wing is limited.

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The limited angle of attack affects the amount of downforce the front wing generates, while the overlapping elements improve the wing’s performance.
The spoiler creates downforce by the difference in air pressure its shape creates, with a lower pressure lower part and a higher pressure upper surface, effectively pushing the car down. The greater the “incidence of attack” (the angle relative to the ground) of the wing, the greater the pressure difference. The dimensional boxes in which the elements must fit effectively minimize their angle with the ground.

READ MORE: The Banned Features That Will Have a Big Impact on 2022 Wheel-to-Wheel Action

Another way to improve wing performance is to heavily overlap the cascade of elements, so that the rear of the lower element extends further back than the front of the upper element. This will speed up the air rushing into that gap between the elements, especially if the gap is very small.

The faster the air can be made to move, the more downforce is created. With the 2022 wing, the minimum space between elements is relatively large at 5mm. The overlap between the elements is limited to 30mm (much less than was usual before), which limits the effectiveness of the wing.

2022-F1-Car-Race-Service—Ryan-Davis-27.jpg
A side view of the 2022 wing
The corners of each element must curve through an arc of prescribed size so that they do not have the ability to create vortices. Only the top two elements can be adjustable and the angles through which they can be adjusted are limited.

Endplates are much smaller and simpler than the multiplane devices that had been developed under the old rules. Endplates increase the effectiveness of elements in creating downforce by restricting the amount of air below them that can move laterally and therefore filter downforce. But more importantly from the perspective of the purpose of the new rules, they reduce the wake turbulence that would be produced from the ends of the elements.

The shape of the nose is also more tightly regulated, and the tips of the thumbs, nostrils, capes, and anterior S-ducts have been banished.

WATCH: F1’s Head of Aeronautics gives us an exclusive look at how the 2022 car was designed

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The S-Duct, illustrated above on the 2016 Mercedes car, is an example of a key feature of the latest generation of wings that has been dropped for 2022.
This is all part of keeping the wake of the car as narrow as possible and minimizing the volume of air that is removed from the car. The front wing plays a crucial role in this, as well as being less sensitive to the effects of turbulence. With that, the drivers should be able to enter the straights just behind the car in front and therefore be better placed to try and overtake.

Let’s see how that plays out when the season kicks off in Bahrain on March 20.

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