fuckyeahphysica: F1 is more than just racing, it is an…

fuckyeahphysica:

F1 is more than just racing, it is an engineering battle. In this gif you can see the absolute control of wing tip vortices generated from the front wing. This is just an example to show the extreme aerodynamics that these vehicles are engineered for.

Have a great day!

* What are wing tip vortices ?

** Smoke angels and wing tip vortices

y250 vortex

One of my friends pointed out to me that this is known as a y250 vortex since the vortex originates 250mm from the car’s centerline and it is on the y axis.

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The y250 vortex is actually a single vortex but is formed from 3-4 cascades of blades on the front wing (see pic below).

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From the previous posts we understood about the role that vortices played in delaying the onset of boundary layer on a wing by using vortex generators. And we also learned that any wing generates a vortex at the tip.

This is the case with the front wing on a F-1 car as well. Here is a computation model that illustrates this.

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                               CFD model of the y250 vortex

To crudely put it, the front wings on a F1 car behaves like an inverted wing and contribute to 25-40% of the down-force produced.

But the most important function of the front wing is to aerodynamically redistribute the airflow to the various parts of the car. This begs the question:

What exactly does the y250 vortex do ?

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                                  PC(amazing gif): motor sport tv

This gif illustrates what happens to the y250 vortex after it leaves the front wing. It deflects the air flow from the front wing preventing its interaction with the back tire thereby reducing drag.

It also prevents unwanted air flowing under the floor of the car greatly increasing the downforce produced. And reduced drag and increased downforce in coalition with a lot of other factors yields faster lap times.

But why does the vortex follow the surface ?

Quite frankly the true answer is great design and engineering! But this can be attributed to the Coanda effect. Simply put it is the tendency of a fluid jet to stay attached to a convex surface.

The most popular example of this effect is the spoon in a water faucet

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In the case of vortices formed in a F1 car it just follows the surface of the car due to the Coanda effect as well.

Why don’t we see this vortex all the time?

If you have been following F1 you know that you are not the spectacle to this sort of display every race. 

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The vortex is a region of low pressure and only under the right track conditions water vapor in the air condenses giving viewers a sneak peek into the magnitude of engineering and fluid dynamics that has gone behind each ecstatic lap.


Aerodynamics and the vortices generated by the front wing is absolutely vital (and complicated) to the performance of a F1 car.

In this post we have taken a look at only one aspect of the front wing (y250 vortex). We urge you to check out the resources to quench your thirst for more.

Have a great day!

Resources :

* What on earth is a Boundary Layer ?


Red Bull’s Y250 and the Batchelor vortex

Basics of Front wing aerodynamics – (Link1)

Basics of Front wing aerodynamics – (Link2)

F1 air flow explained (gif source + amazing video)