Enclosed Rear Wheels

Clinton

Rookie
This season's new Dallara IndyCar model features, as a safety measure, enclosed rear wheels. This is supposed to prevent the cars from being propelled into the air whenever one crashes into the back of another at high speed, which is a particular concern in oval races.

When this modification to the design was proposed, there was some concern that it would be an adulteration of open wheel racing; however, the front wheels are completely uncovered and the rear wheels are still visible at the top, so the appearance of the cars remains quite acceptable in this regard. In my opinion, the new IndyCars also look pleasingly graceful when in motion.

Although high speed front-wing-to-rear-wheel shunts are a relatively rare occurence in road courses, there are occasions - for example, Mark Webber's spectacular collision with Kovalainen's Lotus in 2010 - where such a design would improve the safety of Formula 1 cars. However, what is particularly striking about the new IndyCars is that this feature also facilitates close racing because, in conjunction with the fact that the Dallara appears to be built like a brick outhouse, the enhanced protection from race-scuppering damage to both front wings and rear tyres allows the drivers to take risks in their use of slipstreaming, outbraking and block-passing manoeuvres. Furthermore, since the rear wheels are now incapable of interlocking the drivers are able to race side-by-side in very close proximity without putting themselves at risk of being spun around by the slightest contact.

At least, that is the impression that I formed from watching this evening's superb Indy race at Barber Motorsports Park, which was devoid of any racing-induced failures despite there being an abundance of uncompromising duels and truels being fought throughout the field. I hope I'm not extrapolating too keenly from one race (there were signs of this improvement in last week's season opener, too, but that circuit is sufficiently inconducive to passing that there wasn't much in any case), but it seems that despite being open wheel these cars are to some extent capable of rubbin' and racin' like stock cars or go-karts.

The question I would therefore like to pose is, would F1 benefit from stipulating at some reasonable point in the future that the cars' rear wheels be enclosed in this manner? Are F1 wings too brittle to survive contact in any case? And might such a radical design transformation, following a long period of relatively little change in the basic form of the cars, provide a desirable infusion of unpredictability into the formula apart from whatever other benefits it affords?

 

The Artist.....

Champion Elect
This has been talked about a few times in f1 over the past 30 years - usually after a car has been flipped up in the air- there was a plan proposed in 1992 when Ricardo Patrese launched over the back of Gerard berger's mclaren... Of course, mark webber's crash has been the latest example of this... I suppose the big advantage of f1 is that usually if a car gets very close to the rear wheels of another, it's at a slow part of the track- whereas in Indy racing, inevitably, close running occurs at flat out speeds, so the rear wheels add more momentum to any car that is launched!
 

Clinton

Rookie
This has been talked about a few times in f1 over the past 30 years - usually after a car has been flipped up in the air- there was a plan proposed in 1992 when Ricardo Patrese launched over the back of Gerard berger's mclaren... Of course, mark webber's crash has been the latest example of this... I suppose the big advantage of f1 is that usually if a car gets very close to the rear wheels of another, it's at a slow part of the track- whereas in Indy racing, inevitably, close running occurs at flat out speeds, so the rear wheels add more momentum to any car that is launched!

I wasn't aware of that. However, given that the F1 management thought it worthwhile to specify that the cars should have low noses, I shouldn't think that enclosed rear wheels are out of the question. IndyCar borrows innovations from F1 (this season they have the backmarkers making way for the leaders before safety car restarts, and the tyres appear to have high degradation like the Pirellis), so it would be interesting to see whether, supposing that the new Dallara design continues to produce safe and exciting racing, F1 copies Indycar in turn.
 

no-FIAt-please

Champion Elect
Premium Contributor
We've managed fine so far. Of course you get those freak accidents in F1 such as Webber's crash, but safety really is to an excellent stanard in F1 currently. Of course motorsport is never safe enough, but I reckon the cars would look hideous and it's not as though we urgently require enclosed wheels.
 

RasputinLives

Leave me alone I'm on Smoko
Contributor
I would be inclined to say it goes against the principle of F1 racing however if you take a look back at some of the cars form the 50's - this one for example:



Its not actually too much different to that Dallara at the rear although I realise its not technically enclosed. I'll be interested to see how it pans out in the IRL. It does look like another piece of debris waiting to fly off at high speed as cars rub wheels though.

Design wise I'm easy with it - Safety wise I'm not sure its as important here in F1 as it is on the ovals (well 5 of them) of the IRL.
 

Galahad

Not a Moderator
Valued Member
I suppose my main concern is that F1 and Le Mans prototypes retain their distinctiveness. I've seen a rear-view photo of the DW12 in Autosport and it looked not-dissimilar to a prototype. The long-discussed bubble cockpits would be another move in that direction, of course.

If it makes the cars safer then I would support it, though I think we need to watch Indycars for a while to see if any downsides emerge. The designers would probably like it, since I imagine it helps them tidy up the airflow around the rear tyre - and possibly make the car faster in a straight line too?
 

KekeTheKing

Banned
Supporter
I hope this never makes it into F1. Cars being launched over each other has never been a big problem. Sure, its happened, C. Fittipaldi at Monza 93 and Webber at Valencia being prime examples, but to institute something like this would be a knee jerk reaction to something that is more of a problem in other series.

I don't mind this in IRL however, and I agree that the cars do look pretty sleek.
 

ExtremeNinja

Karting amateur
Contributor
I can't see any reason not to implement this if there are merits to it and no downsides. At the moment, I struggle to see any potential downsides other than making it easier for teams to hide the suspension and other bits and pieces at the back of their cars.
 

KekeTheKing

Banned
Supporter
The downside is that if you adopt this in the top class of open-wheel racing, then you have to adopt it into the lower formulae as well eventually, and then before you know it, there's no such thing as open-wheel racing anymore.

This kind of development should start at the bottom in the feeder series, not at the top with the best drivers in the world. They don't need it.
 

RasputinLives

Leave me alone I'm on Smoko
Contributor
No. The downside is that open-wheel racing ceases to exist.

Nostalgia then?

I think you're missing Keke's point. F1 is an open wheel racing sport. If that design comes in its no longer open wheel racing. Its not nostalgia its just fact so I see his point

It would be like changing the rules of Football so you use your hands instead because it was safer. Might look good and still be good but it wouldn't be Football anymore.
 

Galahad

Not a Moderator
Valued Member
There are a ton of series where cars can rub and bump each other. I happen to love the fact that F1 drivers have to race each other in extremely close quarters WITHOUT making contact. Driver skill is at a premium in open-wheel F1 racing. I'm not interested in reducing that burden.

I agree, but I think that particular horse bolted many years ago. On the basis that they're going to continue to use their cars as weapons, we might as well try to stop them hurting themselves.
 
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