Vortices. We hear about them all the time in modern F1 design and it goes without saying that there has been a lot of development in producing and utilising vortices for aerodynamic performance over the past decade. This piece aims to cover what they are, how they are formed and why they can be both advantageous and detrimental.
What are vortices?
Vortices, the plural of ‘vortex’, can form in two ways however let’s underline just what type of vortices we are looking at for this piece. A regular vortex is a region of air spinning around an imaginary axis and can easily be formed by simply stirring your tea with a spoon or pulling the plug from a sink filled with liquid and watching it drain.
What we are looking into here are wingtip vortices – vortices induced by the natural properties of air as it flows over a surface. They can be seen as spirals of air trailing behind the tips of a wing, be it on an airplane on a racing car. Due to their rotation they are often the biggest cause of induced drag as they are turbulent and slower than clean, laminar airflow. Continue reading