2021: A vision of the future
 

This first stab at revolutionising the appearance of a Formula One car appears to be quite a lukewarm one, conservative in many respects and moreover an evolution of what we currently have.

It takes some of what we have now, inserts some of the DNA of the soon to be raced 2019 regulatory framework and then delves into some of the issues faced by a sport hooked on creating downforce.

The front wing is relatively similar to the one we will see in 2019, from its simplified wing arrangement to the contrived endplate geometry devised to reduce the enemy at the gate - outwash. However, they’ve potentially gone one step further in combating this foe by reducing the overall width of the wing, as they look to deter the designers from pushing airflow across the face of the tyre too much.

There has been much talk of Formula One adopting a larger wheel rim over the years and it seems from the concepts that’s very much a desire that’ll become a reality, with an 18” wheel rim the preferred option. A change in this respect comes in tandem with a reduction in the tyres sidewall, which also means there will need to be change in the suspension to cope with some of the bump and load characteristics that the tyre currently absorbs.

Moving to a shallower sidewall may actually improve the dynamic aerodynamic issues that the designers currently face - squish/squirt. This issue is caused by the deformation of the tyre, as it can lessen the performance of the floor and diffuser and is why we see teams with intricate floor designs ahead of the rear wheel in order to mitigate airflow being squirted laterally into the diffusers path. 

As a way of further reducing this issue the design show features a sticking plaster that a number of us have suggested in the past, a more outboard wheel wake deflector, placed in relatively close proximity to the front tyre in order that the wake generated by it be pushed away from the critical downforce generating areas behind. 

Next up we have the elongation of the halo, returning to the stylistic variant that was proffered before any real-world crash and load testing was conducted. I remain optimistic that the 2021 version of the halo will be a more visually appealing version than we currently have but it is still hindered by the same dimensional constraints that plonking it on top of the current safety cell poses…

Again, the rear wing, diffuser and general rear end of the car is pretty much a carryover of what we can expect to see as part of the 2019 regulation shakeup.

Moving onto ‘Concept 2’, or at least this version of it, we can see that this is a stylised extrapolation of the previous concept. Even going so far as to see that the designers/engineers have been influenced by previous designs from earlier eras of the sport (bottom left). 

It does little more to address the issue of ‘racing’ that the working group are intending on resolving - whereby a trailing car currently loses around 50% of its total downforce when a few car lengths behind it.

This more artistic overview goes to show some of the design flair cues that attempt to drive the appearance of the single-seater but highlight, to me at least, an issue that the sport is going to have going forward - retaining the engineering challenge. Afterall this is all just a fancy facade that shows only a glimpse of what the rulemakers intend the car to look like. Once a set of regulations land on the desks of the teams they’ll do their best to make their car perform, irrespective of the overall vision. 

'Concept 3' then can be seen as a teams interpretation of the regulations, with canards on the outer face of the front wing endplate, turning vanes mounted under the nose, a wheel wake deflector that’s integrated into the floor, arch shaped sidepod deflectors, rear wheel wake deflector and even a T-Wing. Having said that, the rear wing is certainly a stylised piece of equipment and not what I’d expect to see on an F1 car, even though McLaren may see echoes of the P1’s rear wing in there..

It also appears that Concept 3 is focused on an area that’s been of frustration to me over the last few years - wheelbase. Changes in regulations, including those to improve safety through elongated crash structures (the nose mainly) have seen the overall length of the car increase massively, which also has an impact on the cars proportions, so much so that you barely notice that the cars are now 2 metres wide, rather than 1.8 metres.

It’s also pretty obvious that the solution being looked at focuses a little more on underfloor performance, as they move away from a completely flat floor and add a little curvature, which in itself should provide solace to those who’ve previously hinted at ground effect being the answer to all F1’s ills.

The project is not one that’s being done behind closed doors either, in fact Brawn has suggested that resources are being pooled from all corners, with all the teams engaged in providing input, even to the point of CFD time being relaxed in order that they can study various concepts.

As a parting shot I’d suggest that whilst it’s generally entertaining to look at concept cars, they are just that, once you take into account real-world dimensions, physics and loads there are inevitably going to be compromises and things start to get a little watered down. The images shown here are perhaps just that, a slow march backwards from what were originally considered quite bonkers ideas. At least one can hope....

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