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Did you know that if you were to take a Formula 1 car speeding at 100 mph and turn it upside down that it would stick to the ceiling? Someone needs to design a track so we can see that!


How’s this possible? Aerodynamics. Formula 1 cars are so aerodynamically effective that they can create enough downforce to make this possible! Downforce is the reason Formula 1 cars can take turns at over 100 mph. You can think of a Formula 1 car as the complete opposite of an airplane. While an airplane's aerodynamics are designed to create lift, an F1 car's aerodynamics are designed to stick the car to the ground (downforce).


Each Formula 1 team spends a tremendous amount of time on the aerodynamics of the cars. If the aerodynamics are incorrect for a specific race, the teams can see a dip in timing around the track as much as 0.3 seconds. Now that might not seem like much, but typically the difference between first place in qualifying and 10th place is less than a second. Lose three-tenths, and you’re not making it onto the front row of the grid.


Aerodynamics is the most interesting part of Formula 1, in my opinion. From wind tunnel testing to design and configuration of body work, teams are constantly working on aerodynamic packages that can give them an advantage for each race. Every race comes with its own set of obstacles with aerodynamics. Each track has different types of turns, different elevation changes, and long and short straights, which all affect the aerodynamics of the car. Throw in the weather and track temperatures, and you’ve got many other factors affecting the aerodynamics of the car that are extremely hard to predict. 


As you can imagine, data is a huge part of understanding the aerodynamic effect on the car. Wind-tunnel testing is a very important method of collecting data on the car's setup. While the tunnel allows the team to better understand the straight-line speed of the car, it’s difficult to simulate the aerodynamic effect of the car in a turn. There are also restrictions on usage of the wind tunnel, and the teams are not allowed to use the actual cars. In fact, they use models of the cars for wind-tunnel testing. 



Screenshot 2021-07-01 13.51.38.jpg



This is why free practice is so important to the teams. Free practice allows them to analyze how the real car is handling the immense forces around the track. The team can then make adjustments to the car as they analyze the data and figure out which setup may be best. Some adjustments can be as simple as slightly modifying the angle of the rear wing, while other adjustments can be as dramatic as using a completely different wing setup on the front of the car.


There’s also another major factor with aerodynamics that affects Formula 1 cars, and that’s called dirty air. As McLaren Racing explains it:


As air passes over a Formula 1 car’s surfaces it produces a wake of turbulent air that hampers the aerodynamic flow of cars directly behind it. This wake – nicknamed ‘dirty air’ – can be of benefit to a following car on the straight, as the car in front is effectively punching a hole in the air and doing more work.


Dirty air does, however, hamper the efficiency of the following car’s own aerodynamic surfaces, reducing downforce, making it slower in the turns, and limiting the effectiveness of the cooling system. 

McLaren Racing F1-Playbook


Dirty air can be difficult to factor into testing, practice, and qualifying, as cars don’t experience the dirty air in those sessions. Dirty air in some cases is what causes the “train effect'' in Formula 1, where cars just can’t catch the car in front of them. This is also why you’ll see cars swerve outside the apex of turns, or even move to the inside or outside of the straights, to minimize the effect of the dirty air.


If the aerodynamic packages are correct, they can have an effect on the tyre wear, fuel consumption, speeds in the corners and straights, the effect of the dirty air — and whether or not drivers have  big smiles on their faces as they push cars to their limits around the track.


Austrian Grand Prix

Red Bull Ring


The Styrian circuit is set in a beautiful landscape in Austria. The undulating hills tucked in between the mountain ranges make for quite a race track location and add another set of elements the teams must deal with. Wind and possible rain are always  factors here in the mountains, but didn’t prove to be that significant in the first of two races here in Austria.

Free Practice Recap

How to read: session#, best lap time, (time behind first place time) number of laps in session, best place finish in session.


Lando Norris #4

FP1 1m05.880s (+0.737s) 28 laps 10th
1m05.466s (+0.943s) 34 laps 9th

FP3 1m06.116s (+1.747s) 20 laps 17thd


Daniel Ricciardo #3

FP1 1m06.181s (+1.038s) 31 laps 12th
1m05.698s (+1.175s) 32 laps 15th

FP3 1m05.725s (+1.134s) 21 laps 16th


Qualifying Recap

How to Read: session#, fastest lap time, (tyre compound) best place finish in session.


Lando Norris #4

Q1 1m04.345s (Softs) 2nd
Q2 1m04.415s (Mediums) 5th

Q3 1m03.768s (Softs) 2n748s (+0.336s) 35 laps 2nd



Daniel Ricciardo #3

Q1 1m04.977s (Softs) 15th
Q2 1m04.719s (Softs) 13th



Race Recap:


The second race at the Styrian circuit in two weeks turned out even better for the McLaren Formula 1 team than the prior weekend. The team really looks dialed in and both drivers had a positive two weeks in Austria.


Lando Norris qualified on the front row in 2nd, and was able to do a great job of holding 2nd place through the beginning laps of the race. McLaren showed they can run at the front. This pace definitely rubbed off on teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who charged up the field in the beginning laps to 5th and battled all afternoon with Ferrari. 


As the race continued, Lando kept pace with the leaders, but was undercut during pit stops which pushed him back to 4th. Right out of the pit stop, Lando immediately put the pedal to the metal, working his way to battle back and regain position. Lando’s efforts were fruitful, as he was able to pass one of the Mercedes to finish 3rd. Daniel worked his tail off to finish 7th having been overtaken on the last lap by a Ferrari with fresher tyres. Daniel's race was great to watch. The battles with Red Bull and Ferrari were really fun to watch. 






The smile on Lando’s face on the podium was priceless. Lando looks like he belongs up there, and we hope to see Lando and Daniel continue this thrilling season of Formula 1 racing for McLaren.






Austrian 2021 Podium Points Drivers Championship Points Points Constructor Championship Points Points
Max Verstappen 25 Max Verstappen 182 Red Bull 286
Valtteri Bottas 18 Lewis Hamilton 150 Mercedes 241
Lando Norris 15 Sergio Perez 105 McLaren 141

Full F1 results


Next Race: British Grand Prix

Date: Sunday, July 18

Track: Silverstone Circuit

Dan Menke
Community Analytics and Operations Manager

Dan is the Community Operations Manager at Alteryx. From optimizing moderation processes, to exploring new engagement techniques, Dan spends his days supporting clients by cultivating great Community experiences.

Dan is the Community Operations Manager at Alteryx. From optimizing moderation processes, to exploring new engagement techniques, Dan spends his days supporting clients by cultivating great Community experiences.