…McLaren’s wing addresses a paradox of racing: How to maximize downforce in the corners while minimizing drag on the straights. It’s always been a compromise, one that traditionally has required teams to continuously adjust the front and rear wing on a car during practice until they find the right balance.
Ideally the amount of downforce would be variable — increased in the corners and decreased on the straights. But F1 prohibits the use of movable parts to manage airflow, so no one’s been able to find a way to do that.
McLaren’s solution appears to combine an aerodynamic principle common in aviation with the mechanics of a flute.
Downforce operates on the same principle as lift, which is of course imperative to flight. At low speeds — actually, high angles of attack — airflow over the wing of an airplane begins to detach from the upper surface of the wing. When this happens, the wing is less effective at generating lift. That can impair control or, worse, result in insufficient lift to maintain flight.