The new look of the Formula 1 cars of 2009 has drawn widespread criticism – but team engineers hope that improved overtaking opportunities will help us get used to the unwieldy appearance of the machines.
Although the cars have lost many of the extra aero appendages that ruined their lines, the new narrow rear wings and wide front wings have created a peculiar unbalanced look. Many also think the front wings will be vulnerable to collision damage, especially on first laps.
Williams and BMW Sauber were the first teams to run existing cars with the revised aero package in testing, although the latter still had some louvres and cooling elements that will not be legal in 2009. Others such as Honda and McLaren initially ran just the new front end.
The rear wing is designed to create a wake that, when it strikes the front wing of the following car, allows it to run closer than would have been the case in the past.
“It’s absolutely for overtaking,” Renault’s Pat Symonds told Motor Sport. “You get a particular type of vortex, then you pick up that vortex with the tips of the front wing.”
But even an engineer like Symonds, who played a big role in shaping the rules, concedes that the cars might not be easy on the eye.
“We’ll get used to it very quickly. If you go back to the ’70s you’d say those rear tyres look big compared to the fronts. Fernando [Alonso] told me the cars look a bit different. I said when you’ve won the first four races you’ll think they look wonderful!
“All I hope is that the 2009 cars haven’t deviated too far from the work we did in the Fondmetal tunnel as the Overtaking Working Group, and we do have an improvement in overtaking. That will justify it.
“But until we get the cars out on the track in something close to real shape, we won’t know. It’s not something we assess in the wind tunnels ourselves. We had to go and do that special work to understand the wake stuff.”