Thursday, January 7, 2016

Jochen Rindt - An Open Letter to F1 (1969)

The following is a letter penned in 1969 by F1 driver Jochen Rindt.

It was an open letter, sent to all of the major motorsport publications of the day.  It has some very interesting observations about wings on Grand Prix cars and the turbulent effect they cause any cars following.  It is a particularly poignant letter given the circumstances of Rindt's death just one year later.

And the letter also relates strongly with the debate that is still raging about wings ... 47 years later.

This is an open letter to all people who are, interested in Formula 1 racing.  I want to demonstrate a few points about the aerofoils which at the moment are used on most of the F1 cars, in order to convince the so-called experts that they should be banned.

Basically I have two reasons why I am against them:

1. Wings have nothing to do with a motor car. They are completely out of place and will never be used on a road-going production car. Please note, I mean wings and not spoilers which are incorporated into the bodywork. You can say they bring colour to racing, and I cannot argue against that; but after all F1 racing is meant to be a serious business and not a hot rod show.

2. Wings are dangerous, first to the driver, secondly to the spectators.

When wings were first introduced to F1 racing at Spa last year they were tiny spoilers at the front and back of the Ferraris and Brabhams. They had very little effect except at high speed when they were working as a sort of stabiliser. This was a very good effect and nobody thought any more about it until Lotus arrived for the French GP at Rouen a month later with the first proper wing. Suddenly everybody got the message about what could be done with the help of the air; but unfortunately nobody directly concerned gave much thought to what could happen if the wings went wrong, and what effect they would have on racing.

First of all, it is very difficult to design a wing which is going to stand up to all the stresses, because who knows how big the forces are. If you make the wing stronger, it is going to be heavier and therefore produce bigger forces on the construction; you make it lighter and it all goes the opposite way. This is not my wisdom, it all comes from one of the most successful racing car designers. Nevertheless I am sure that after some time - and a few more accidents because of wing failure - this problem could be solved.

Now some personal experience gained by racing with the wing:

The wing obviously works via the airflow over it, and this situation changes rapidly if you happen to follow another competitor; he has the full use of the wing and you yourself have to put up with the turbulence created by his car. This could mean that the man in front is actually going slower than you, but you cannot pass him because after getting near to him, your wings stop working and you cannot go so quickly. This fact spoils racing to quite a large extent. On the other hand the turbulence can be so great that your car starts behaving very strangely and completely unpredictably.

This, I think, explains Oliver's accident at Rouen last year, and I personally have been in similar trouble very often, but luckily I have always managed so far. You will understand that these two facts stop close racing, which is one of the most exciting things to watch. Therefore it is in the interest of the spectators and the drivers to ban wings.

Let us have a look at the wing if something goes wrong with it. And they do go wrong quite often, but so far nobody has been severely hurt. My accident in the Spanish GP has been the biggest one so far and, through a lot of luck and the safety precautions taken by the Spanish organisers, nothing serious happened. Naturally I will always be grateful to the Automobile Club of Barcelona for lining the circuit with double guardrails and for providing such efficient marshals.
To explain the reason for my accident, I was happily driving round the fastest bend on the track when my wing broke and changed its downthrust into reverse. The back end of my car started flying, and I nearly flew over the double guardrail on the left side of the track. Fortunately I was flying about 10 inches too low and got bounced back into the road. I have got a picture to prove it.  Can you imagine what would have happened if the car had flown into the crowd? By next year we will probably have wings big enough to do so, and all the owners of the circuits will have to think about new crowd protection. You can also get lift instead of down-pressure if you spin the car at high enough speed and start going backwards.
Altogether I have come to the conclusion that wings are very dangerous, and should therefore be banned.