© Reshavskyi/fotolia.com

“Driving will be more stressful”

Aero­dy­namics expert Dr. Jürgen Schöne on the rule changes for the 2017 season.

The most far-reaching change in the rules for the 2017 Formula One season has to do with the body. The cars will be broader, flatter, lower to the ground and more aggres­sive looking. The new “outer skin” will primarily impact the vehi­cles’ aero­dy­namics. Dr. Jürgen Schöne, Head of Aero­dy­namics at ebm-papst in Mulfingen – the offi­cial Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motor­sport team supplier – talks about the possible conse­quences.

In the coming Formula One season the cars will be broader, lower to the ground and more agres­sive looking. How will these changes affect the cars’ aero­dy­namics?

Dr. Jürgen Schöne, Head of Aero­dy­namics at ebm-papst in Mulfingen.

Dr. Jürgen Schöne: Overall, the changes mean that the vehi­cles will generate a higher aero­dy­namic down­force. This enables improved grip giving higher cornering speeds. Aero­dy­namic design has the goal of maxi­mizing down­force for the entire car and beyond. Making the front wings broader and the nose longer gives the teams the oppor­tu­nity to improve the design of the flow around the cars. This is an impor­tant aspect because the front wing influ­ences the overall aero­dy­namics around the vehicle. The air flows from the front wing over the front wheel, chassis and rear wing. This is why the front wing’s geom­etry must be designed to improve the flow over the remaining compo­nents. For example, the lateral wind deflec­tors are now larger. This measure has an influ­ence on the extremely turbu­lent flow coming from the front wheels.

Why does this make the cars faster?

First, we must define what we mean by “fast.” That mainly means the lowest possible time per lap. Whether the car has a higher total speed or is faster in the corners depends on many para­me­ters. In addi­tion to motor power, accel­er­a­tion capacity, drag and down­force, the driver’s skill plays a role. Aero­dy­namic factors make an impor­tant contri­bu­tion indeed. Faster lap times can only be explained and under­stood by all of these factors. In the coming season, the lap times should decrease by one to five seconds – a signif­i­cant amount.

Why do these changes make it harder to control the cars?

When vehi­cles generate more down­force, they can achieve higher cornering speeds. These stronger forces have an impact on the driver, whose fatigue increases during the race. This makes driving much more tiring.

Discover the changes to the car body:


Slide the arrows in the middle to compare the size of the car body between the 2016 season and the upcoming season.

Does the shape of the front wing play a role when cars are seconds away from each other?

When vehi­cles slip-stream during races, the aero­dy­namics of the last in line are heavily influ­enced by the ones ahead. Of course the nega­tive influ­ences must be kept to the minimum.
The front wing plays an impor­tant role since it is the first part of the car affected in situ­a­tions like this and must bear most of the force. The task is to find a geom­etry that facil­i­tates good down­force values despite the turbu­lence. Formula One engi­neers encounter this extremely complex problem with multiple wing solu­tions. The front wing consists of several elements that are offset three-dimen­sion­ally.

Let’s apply the rule changes to your daily work now. What does it mean when a fan’s wings become broader and longer?

These are very typical para­me­ters for us. When we have the space, we try to leverage it with as much wing area as possible. After all, more wing area leads to improved air perfor­mance at constant outer dimen­sions and speeds.

How do you meet this chal­lenge?

Our approach is not much different than the one used in Formula One. The engi­neers have a task with clear goals and specific tech­nical constraints. They have specific approaches and tools. In conver­sa­tion with them, we discov­ered that they use the same set of tools we use: simu­la­tion, tests and results from the field.

We use almost the same simu­la­tion tool as the engi­neers in Brackley. They carry out tests in wind tunnels while we go to the air perfor­mance test stand for ours. They take the vehicle to the race track and we use measured values from appli­ca­tions.

Required fields: Comment, Name & Mail (Mail will not be published). Please also take note of our Privacy protection.