Thursday, 10 March 2011

Adjustable Rear Wings

For the 2011 Formula One season, the FIA have introduced Adjustable Rear Wings (ARW) - also sometimes referred to as Drag Reduction System (DRS).

The idea is for the driver to be able to move the wing - using controls on the steering wheel - into a position where it provides less downforce, therefore allowing the car to travel faster.

However, it is significantly more technical than this, as the FIA will allow just one part of the track where the DRS can be operated - this is expected to usually be on the longest straight. The wing can only be operated if a driver is within a certain distance of the car he is following, and the car in front cannot use the DRS to defend (unless he is also within a certain distance of the car infront of him!)
The measurements between the two cars are calculated by the computers at race control, and the wing physically cannot be used unless all factors are met.

The system was introduced in an effort to produce more overtaking, and to make the race more exciting and unpredictable.

Critics of the device do not believe it will have much affect on the racing with some - including Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel - suggesting that it may make the racing too 'artificial'.

However, BBC Radio5 Live commentator, and former Formula One driver Anthony Davidson claims that the DRS could increase the speeds of the cars by up to 15kph - which on a long straight could make a big difference!
Davidson believes that the tracks where drivers would benefit the most, are tracks where they would run with the most downforce:
"Circuits like Spa, Suzuka and Silverstone where you run quite a draggy car, in terms of downforce, for the speed of the circuit. Where you’re running a relatively high amount of downforce for the track that you’re on.
It will probably allow teams to run slightly higher downforce than they normally would have."

To read this interview in full, visit

The concern raised by some is what would happen if the wing had not returned to it's closed position by the time the car reaches a corner. The car relies heavily on the wing for handling and braking, so could this lead to more accidents and mistakes? The teams have been using the wing extensively during testing, so hopefully the drivers should all be at grips with it by the time the season starts.

The following video shows the Sauber C30 utilising it's DRS in testing. Teams given free reign of the use of the wing during testing, but in the race they will only be able to use it at a specific point.

Similar technology has been used in some high-end road cars for several years.
The following video shows a Bugatti Veyron, which features a wing which rises at speed, and then tilts when braking to assist with stopping the car.

What difference will the DRS actually make to the racing? It is not currently clear. It will certainly give engineers and teams more to work with, but only time will tell whether we see more overtaking!

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