Aerodynamics are set to play a bigger part in Formula One with technical regulations for next year leaning towards more width in the front and rear wings, the floor, and also less restricted regulations on the curvature and angles around the suspension. This will allow a greater freedom for aerodynamic design which should push each team in a slightly different direction. The aerodynamic solutions will be a broader spectrum with these more lenient regulations, meaning that the cars could actually look even more different from one another in the future.
So what is an engineer working for an F1 team looking for in its design phase? Imagine the basic aerodynamic principles that keep a plane in the air. Wings, the tail-wing, the bullet-shaped hull, are all designed with the intention of manipulating and transferring airflow in a specific way that neutralizes the pull of gravity and drag against the forces of lift.
For a Formula One car, the aerodynamic objective is the opposite to the basic principles behind designing a plane. A Formula One car is designed aerodynamically to stick to the surface of the track, press against the surface with as more force as possible. This is down force – the thing that acts as a track-magnet, allowing greater mechanical grip and stability. Without down force, you get this:
Mercedes Chief Technical Director Paddy Lowe gives us some insight here into how aerodynamics are generated on an F1 car.