With a number of front wing adjustments being the only major rule tweak for the 2019 season, it was a known fact that one would be the prime area of focus in the next engineering battle, even before the covers came off.
The unsaid part was whether some teams, as speculated, would actually be able to proceed on a similar base to last year’s, despite FIA’s efforts. And that has turned out to be the case at the recent moment of car reveals, producing a partition in the paths chosen by the ten teams: the two paths are called ‘outwash’ and ‘upwash’.
Outwash was the predominant concept determining the shape of front wings in the last few years, the very problem the FIA intended to rule out to facilitate overtakes in 2019. Nevertheless, a way to sidestep the rule changes and maintain the same basic philosophy was found by the likes of Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Toro Rosso: thus, their wings will still deflect the airflow beside the tyres, still produce the vortices used as one of the scapegoats for the general lack of overtakes.
The solution the FIA found to clear up the overcomplicated front wings was supposed to induce the teams towards the concept of upwash, which in fact is what the majority of the field has embarked on, and what Mercedes has struggled to weaponize in the first week of testing. This path consists - roughly - in having a wing that kicks up the airflow so it can progress in between the tyres and along the car’s body.
Now despite Ferrari’s apparent early edge, Red Bull, in the words of Helmut Marko, is confident their own version has got “more potential” in the simulations. Mercedes, instead, said by Marko himself to be momentarily the third team in the fallible pecking order of testing, seems to be considerably concerned with its current aerodynamic situation as it hastens to ship a large new package to Barcelona to ascertain whether or not their chosen path is actually viable. Not that switching to Ferrari’s system would be a child’s play either.
Questioned by Auto Motor und Sport on the subject matter of the moment, another major Red Bull authority, Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey asserted: “You have to choose between the two wing concepts. There is no interim solution. We could change over to the Ferrari wing without major modifications, if necessary. Mercedes would have more problems there. You would have to change basic things about the car".
Interesting to notice is also that the likes of Racing Point, McLaren and Renault have shown a midway solution in this first week, meaning there is still no certainty over what will be one of the main points of interest for the opening part of the season, something which is bound to largely influence the championship in its entirety: who will come out on top in the clash of philosophies.