The 2017 regulations are allowing teams to trial some new ideas in their quest for downforce. One of the most notable additions to the 2017 cars is the T-wing, which has been trialled a Mercedes and a few other teams in testing so far.
Although they aren’t exactly attractive, there have been plenty of other aerodynamic appendages in the past that weren’t going to win any prizes for looking good. Here are six other ‘innovations’ in winglets that thankfully we don’t have to put up with any more.
Tyrrell were always trying out new innovations during their time in F1. Even towards they end when they were firmly a back-of-the-grid team they were still coming up with ideas.
One of those came during their penultimate season in 1997, when on high-downforce circuits the Tyrrell 025 appeared with a couple of extra winglets mounted high-up on stalks above the sidepods.
The ‘X-wings’ as they became known didn’t do much to change the fortunes of the struggling team (they were actually made of recycled bits of old front wings to save costs), but in 1998 other teams started to use them as well. By the fourth race of the year at Imola Ferrari, Sauber, Prost and Jordan had joined Tyrrell in using the hideous looking devices.
Thankfully following the event the FIA banned X-wings on safety grounds as one got torn off one of the Saubers during a pit stop, and the nasty-looking devices disappeared for good.
F1 teams are constantly trying to find new ways to find downforce, and at one circuit in particular downforce matters above all else: Monaco.
But despite fans generally having an appreciation for the solutions the teams find, Arrows and Jordan surely crossed a line when they turned up at Monaco in 2001 with some extra wings on the nose of their cars.
The Arrows featured a mini-wing mounted high up above the front wing in something that looked like it would have been more at home with the high wings used in the 1960s, while the Jordan had a smaller wing on a pylon located right in front of the driver.
Although both were perfectly legal the FIA thought they were potentially dangerous and so they were banned before the race.
When BMW Sauber turned up at the 2006 French Grand Prix its cars had a couple of new winglets – two vertical strakes, or ‘twin towers’ as they became known mounted above the suspension.
The idea was that they would direct airflow to more important parts of the car, but any benefit they gave was short lived. Following the race FIA banned them on the basis that they obstructed visibility – although the drivers didn’t seem to mind.
When ground effect was banned in F1 for the 1983 season, teams were doing everything to try and claim back the lost downforce.
Rear wings started extending forwards, sprouting extra winglets and generally becoming more complicated. Some went a step further and fitted basically a second rear wing!
For 1985 the rules were changed, and the complex rear wings went back to a more ‘normal’ shape.
F1 cars have front wings, F1 cars have rear wings, why can’t F1 cars have middle wings? That was the thought of McLaren, who extended their engine cover and plonked a wing on top of it with its MP4/10 in 1995.
It’s not entirely unlike what Ferrari have come up with this year with their SF70H, but for McLaren it couldn’t really elevate the team about the midfield. The idea made a brief appearance again the following year, but thankfully the concept disappeared.
The 2008 season was the culmination of years of a massive aero arms race before the 2009 regulations would dramatically alter the appearance of the cars.
As a result the cars were absolutely covered in all sorts of flicks, scoops, horns, and other appendages as teams sought to gain every last little bit of downforce they could. Although some cars looked aggressive and purposeful, some of the winglets were just downright hideous.