There have been endless comments regarding the lack of overtaking in F1, processional races with the pole sitter in a start-to-flag win. Various schemes have been tried to improve "the show," (I hate that term). Now we have the latest harebrained idea: movable wings, wings whose use is tightly controlled by the ever evolving regulations.
Anyone who has watched F1 for many years, some fifty odd years in my case, will understand that in reality, there has never been a huge amount of overtaking in F1.Wheel to wheel battles rarely happen, as is the case in any open wheel racing series. The wheels and suspension are far to vulnerable for any “rubbin' racing” tactics.
It is true that F1 was more exciting many years ago. That was long before F1 cars became so dependent on aerodynamics. Mechanical grip was much more important before the advent of complex aero modeling.
Cornering speeds were slower but far more exciting and unpredictable, mostly due to driver errors, and errors were severly punished as there were not huge run off areas so common today. To run off usually meant your race was over. I fully understand the safety reasons for the run off areas, but drivers use them as a matter of course without incurring any real penality.
I can well remember when the first rear wings appeared, they stuck up on a pair of broom handles and fell off so often that the FIA promptly banned them.
1968 Lotus 49b
Naturally the man in the vanguard of this technology was Colin Chapman (RIP). As far as I remember, wings first appeared in 1967/8 or around that time.
This particular design philosophy came to an abrupt end after the 1969 Spanish GP. Piloting identical Lotuses, Jochen Rindt and Graham Hill had identical accidents on the Spanish circuit: wing failures while cresting the same ridge (both emerged without injury). Hill crashed first. Even before Hill could inform his pit of the failure, Rindt followed suit. Wings were banned completely following these copycat failures. They were allowed to return, in a limited form, shortly thereafter. But the technology was drastically restricted; the tall, movable wings favoured by the teams were banned outright.
But once the genie was out of the bottle, aerodynamics were developed at a frantic pace resulting in ground effect cars and ever more complex wings and eventually, further regulation.
The lack of overtaking has its root cause in the turbulence created by the wings. This results in the car trying to overtake being so unstable that its almost impossible to slipstream. The "dirty air" behind the leading car completely upsets the balance of the car following. Executing the classic “slingshot manoeuvre,” undoubtedly the most spectacular method of overtaking, is virtually impossible.
But F1 remains firmly wedded to aerodynamics and refuses to give them up. And now we have the ultimate irony of using aerodynamic "tricks" to negate the effects of aerodynamic influences.
Moveable rear wings are the supposed solution to the the "problem." An analysis of that effort will be discussed tomorrow.