August 21, 2007 Aerodynamics is now viewed by Formula 1 teams as the single most important piece of race car design the rules allow them to control. A good aerodynamic setup makes an F1 car slippery in a straight line, maximizes acceleration and top speed, and provides huge amounts of downforce to mash the car's tyres into the tarmac and add extra grip in the corners. Massive money is spent on tweaking the wings and body shape for that elusive perfect flow of air. Toyota's Head of Aerodynamics, Mark Gillan, explains further in the second part of Panasonic Toyota Racing's 'Inside a Formula 1 Car' series.
If you've ever stuck your hand out of a car window on the freeway, you'll understand that as speed increases, the flow of air around the car becomes a significant force to push against. Imagine the strength of that force at a Formula One car's top track speed of around 360kmh.
First and foremost, aerodynamics is the science of manipulating and making use of air flow. In Formula 1, ferociously high speeds mean the air is a formidable force and it can be used to the car's advantage.
Put simply, the bigger the frontal area of an object, the more wind resistance it will encounter, so a bigger object will travel slower than a smaller object with the same amount of power to propel it.
Read on, its pretty cool: