Formula 1 went big on downforce in 2017 in order to generate faster lap times and to break records, but at the expense of some overtaking. For 2018, IndyCar is doing away with downforce and going to a sleeker, more racy car. The downforce is still there, but unlike Formula 1, it’s to be generated from underneath the car.
IndyCar’s aerokit era is now over. The concept introduced in 2015 which saw Chevrolet and Honda develop their own aerodynamic parts for their respective teams ended last weekend in Sonoma, as IndyCar embarks on a new spec aero quest with a new, common kit for both manufacturers. Now, 60% of the downforce from the IndyCar is generated from underneath the chassis.
Essentially, it is the ground effect concept with the top aero minimized that stands to improve the racing. There is no denying that the aero kit era has seen racing on road courses harder to come by, particularly this year, with the aero increasing with all the flaps and wings added to the DW12. Testing of the new aero at Mid-Ohio by Juan Pablo Montoya and Oriol Servia has seen the new car run much closer than its predecessor can and thus the prospect of greater and more frequent wheel to wheel racing is certainly there.
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) February 24, 2017
If the concept works and improves the racing, it begs the question as to why Formula 1 has not thought about doing the same for the 2017 cars. Ground effect was last seen in the 1980’s, and was prominent on such cars as the Arrows A4 and Williams FW08. Drivers such as Jenson Button suggested in 2015 that it was a good idea for Formula 1 to consider it for this generation of cars.
“If you’re going to work with downforce it should come from the floor rather than the wings, because you can race closer and fight, and you don’t have as much dirty air from the wings for the car following.” – Jenson Button – 2015
Closer racing would have ensued and given the cars the record breaking speed that they were utilizing this year. What happened, of course, was F1 abandoned that idea, and went straight to top downforce and adding aero all over the place in a bid to make the cars faster.
— Team Chevy (@TeamChevy) July 24, 2017
Essentially, what has happened is IndyCar realized the issue, and did the right thing about it. Overtaking wasn’t as frequent so they went bold, brought in ground effect and it would appear to have rectified the issues. F1 went from thinking about it to going the wrong way entirely. The 2017 season has seen some great racing but on a less frequent basis than before, with races such as Canada and Belgium perhaps lacking the more frequent passing those race tracks are used to.
This was all done in the pursuit of faster lap times, and it appears the quest for better racing has almost left the FIA’s mind. It is going to be very interesting to see who has got it right during the new IndyCar first races in St Petersburg next year.
If the passing number goes up massively in America, they will have embarrassed F1, the series which is supposed to be the pinnacle of Motorsport. There is no denying the spectacle the new cars produce on a fast lap. But what we really want to see is close, competitive racing. Perhaps it is IndyCar’s turn to show the world what racing is all about.