Do The Fins Make The Cars Look Prettier?

Do The Fins Make The Cars Look Prettier?

Formula One cars should be awesome to look at. Yes, motor racing is more about the actual event of cars and drivers racing against one another, but Formula One chargers should also be sculptured to perfection and easy on the eye. It may be a bit of a shallow remark, but when millions of dollars are pumped into the designing and building of a bespoke car that is meant to be streamlined and ultimately fast, it really should be a work of art. But colour schemes aside, do the new breed of 2008 machines meet this criteria of mine?

The obvious answer is that in general, they do. However, Red Bull have been racing this year with a fin attached to the engine cover of their RB4, taking away the flowing line that used to go from the air box down to the gear box. Instead, the line from the air box goes almost horizontally backwards until the rear wing before cutting in and in an inversion of the previous iteration, curves down towards the rear.

On Monday, Renault arrived at the Barcelona test session with a similar design on their R28. The implementation of this is apparently mean to help the stability of the car under braking. With the standard ECU now policing certain rules regarding electronics, the effect of engine-braking is less and traction control banned. According to Red Bull earlier in the season, the fin helps keep the car more on-line as it enters the braking zone and limits the sliding under acceleration at the other end of the corner. Understandably, it is now present on the new STR, which made its debut today and is pictured above.

Also on show yesterday were Honda’s Dumbo ears, mounted on the front nose and presumably designed to help with front-end grip. I can’t help but wonder if Honda should be concentrating on the the rear of the car, but I’m not an aerodynamicist probably for this very reason.

So while these additions may be helping the cars go faster, do they actually look good? In the past teams have turned up to races with some extraordinary devices; the Tyrrell 025’s towers, later adopted by Jordan, the Arrows A22’s potato peeler…

Tyrrell 025 Jos Verstappen - Arrows A22

The ‘Bull fin isn’t quite as bad as some of the ideas of the past, but I can’t help but wonder if the designers are turning Formula One into a real-life version of Wacky Races.

Goodwood 2007 - Wacky Races
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Arrows image courtesy or The Cahier Archive.


  • Ollie — I absolutely agree with you 100% on the point that F1 cars should *look* awesome. I think the 2009 cars will look much better that there 2008 brethen once we lose all these vortex generators.

    I do hate the bmw viking wings and the honda elephant ears are vile. By the way, their principle effect is to help the back of the car. The may generate a little downforce but they’ll channel the air over the rear wing more efficiently largely through controlled vortex generation. Aero always starts at the front of the car because what happens at the front implicitly has a very large affect at the rear

  • they’ll channel the air over the rear wing more efficiently

    Of course they do. I don’t know what’s wrong with me at the moment, but I keep forgetting how closely related the front and back of the cars are, especially given the multitude of aero devices all over them trying to control the flow better. Good comment John.

    Oh, I certainly hope 2009 will see a return of better looking cars. Especially with slicks on, I hope.

  • Yes, they look should look awsome, but what’s more important for me is that different cars look different so we have something other than the paint job to tell them apart. Plus, the silly fins are all part of the fun. The upper bridge wings (or whatever you wanna call them) on the front wings was a great addition in my opinion because most teams came up with different shapes, so you can tell them apart to some extent from head on. Besides, aerodynamics are the most obvious (maybe only)update that gets noticed by your avarage F1 viewer, because you can’t tell what’s been updated inside the car.

    My fear is that without the design freedom for the areo boffins, there would be fewer variations for the fastest solutions. This would mean that the cars would be even more similar than ever. But these changes are made in the name of overtaking, so I’m not so upset.

    so long as there is more overtaking!

  • Only the really preposterous ones like the Arrows and Tyrrell ones you’ve shown bother me, but I think this year’s BMW looks awesome.

    I’m far less interested in the aesthetics of the wings and more bothered about what they do to the racing, which i think we’re all agreed is not good. I don’t dislike them, but they’ll be gone next year, so it’s all rather academic.

  • Here’s a good question: Where does the Red Bull fin fit into the new rules? Is it allowed, or disallowed? As far as I can tell, it doesn’t generate downforce, just aids the stability of the car, but not in a pressing down way. Will we see all cars looking like the ‘Bull, STR and Renault in 2009?

  • I like any innovations. Often people joke that F1 cars would all look the same if it wasn’t for the paint jobs. But as we have seen from the most recent aerodynamic innovations, this just isn’t the case! Mind you, I think those Honda ‘dumbo ears’ are horrific looking. I love the BMW bits though, and the Red Bull / Renault fin looks great as well.

    Thanks for the picture of the Arrows ‘potato peeler’. I don’t remember that at all! As for Tyrrell’s ‘towers’ or ‘X-wings’ as I seem to remember they were called at the time, they were adopted by almost half the grid in 1998 was it? For either Monaco or Canada I think. Even Ferrari ran them. But then they were banned for looking ugly. Who said F1’s rulemakers weren’t fickle?

  • Heh, ‘potato peeler’ is my term. Both items are ugly, but effective. I have to agree with the FIA regarding the ruling of the ‘X-wings’, banning for aesthetic reasons was perfectly reasonable. They were downright hideous.

    I forgot to mention the BMW in the post, but I think it looks better without the horns on the front. Just my view though, taste is different for everyone.

  • the fin provides bigger area for sponsor logos 🙂 not that it matters to Bull Rosso team, but ING probably will not complain too much

  • Haven’t yet decided on the fins, but the Finns certainly make the cars look better to me : )…

    honestly I try to be serious, but sometimes it’s just like low hanging fruit and I have to do it…

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