Aerodynamic Analysis of Grand Prix Cars Operating in Wake Flows

Joshua Newbon, David Sims-williams, Robert Dominy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The effect of the upstream wake of a Formula 1 car on a following vehicle has been investigated using experimental and computational methods. Multiple vehicle studies in conventional length wind tunnels pose challenges in achieving a realistic vehicle separation and the use of a short axial length wake generator provides an advantage here. Aerodynamic downforce and drag were seen to reduce, with greater force reductions experienced at shorter axial spacings. With lateral offsets, downforce recovers at a greater rate than drag, returning to the level for a vehicle in isolation for offsets greater than half a car width.

The effect of the wake was investigated in CFD using multiple vehicle simulations and non-uniform inlet boundary conditions to recreate the wake. Results closely matched those for a full two-vehicle simulation provided the inlet condition included unsteady components of the onset wake. Creating a nonuniform inlet condition allowed the wake parameters to be modified to test sensitivity to different wake features. Dynamic pressure deficit in the wake is shown to have the greatest impact on the following vehicle, reducing loading on the downforce producing surfaces. Wake up-wash and vortex flows are shown to have a smaller effect on downforce generated by the following car, but have an important role in diverting the dynamic pressure deficit upwards and over the following car.

Future regulation changes, aimed at reducing the downforce loss experienced when following another car, should aim to reduce the velocity deficit onset to the following car; either by reducing wheel and underbody wakes, or by extracting the wake using up-wash from the rear wing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)318-329
JournalSAE International Journal of Passenger Cars - Mechanical Systems
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2017


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