Car being a drag? Get up to speed with aerodynamics and suspension adjustments
Looking for part 1? Go here!
Aerodynamics (or Aero for short) is all about finding the perfect wing setup for each specific circuit. The less aero, with smaller wings, makes the car quicker in a straight line but tougher to handle in the corners. If you increase those numbers, the car will become more stable and predictable in the corners, giving you more cornering speed, but at a cost of straight-line speed. Compare the speed of the Racing Point on the Monza main straight, first with the front and rear wing aero set to 1 wing and then set to 11.
With 1 front and rear wings
With 11 front and rear wings.
In the same equipment, with 1 part of the setup changed, the difference is 15mph on that straight alone. No wonder your team-mate is breezing by you on the straights.
Tracks that need low aero and high top speed:
Italy, Bahrain, Austria
Tracks that need high aero and lots of stability:
Hungary, Monaco, Singapore
Tracks that need a balance of both top speed and stability:
Britain, Canada, Spain.
Basic Suspension Settings:
Some circuits are based on purpose-built racetracks, with perfect surfaces and track evolution (like Bahrain). However, others, like Monaco and Belgium, have sections of the track that are mostly normal roads, used by commuters, Sunday drivers and wannabe racers all the same. This means uneven surfaces and bumps are the enemy for the Formula One teams and drivers.
Front and Rear Suspension:
Suspension settings, and getting the right ones, are the way for teams and drivers to make the track and its surroundings as easy to get through as possible, using all the track and the best racing line to do the fastest laps they can. Having softer suspensions on your setup helps the car deal with bumps on the track, but in big braking zones and harsh acceleration, it affects the aerodynamic stability of the car. Softer Rear Suspension gives better traction on acceleration.
Stiff suspension will do the opposite; protecting the cars aero under heavy braking and acceleration, but makes the car difficult over bumps and, with very stiff suspension, will make the car harsh on its tyres.
Anti-roll bars very much do what they say on the tin in that they aim to reduce body roll in the corners. Having stiff anti roll-bars will reduce body roll while turning into corners, however, front brakes will lock up more with stiffer suspension. Extra stiff front anti roll bars will increase likelihood of front lock ups on turn in. Softer front Anti Roll bars can improve cornering performance through long corners at the cost of initial responsiveness.
Formula One teams are always trying to make the cars as low to the ground as possible. Keep them close to the ground, and the aerodynamics can work best in keeping the car stuck to the track.
Adjusting your ride height to get the perfect balance is key. Too low, and you risk ‘bottoming out’, and having the floor of the car skimming the track. Too low ride height and you risk ‘bottoming out’, because the floor of the car skims across the track which will cost you top speed. This is because hitting the ground adds friction to the car. If you are running the car with a ride height that is too high, the profile and centre of gravity of the car is higher, making it slower in the straights and less capable of high cornering speeds. Finding the right balance is key to maximising your speed.
Next time around, we’ll be rolling out our look at tyres – stop off next week for more!