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Shark fins, skate fins and the new Williams paint job

February 27th, 2009

Trulli testing the TF109 in BahrainIt seems like fins may be making a return to Formula One in 2009.

Renault’s R29 was launched with an elongated ‘shark fin’ engine cover and Toyota, despite launching their TF109 without it, have been using one in testing.

Now, at the launch of their final high-tech livery for 2009, Williams’s FW31 has grown a pair of ‘skate fins’ either side of the cockpit.

Red Bull was the first team to introduce a fin-shaped engine cover on their RB4 in pre-season testing at Barcelona last year and by the end of 2008 almost all the teams were using some kind of elongated engine cover.  Williams tested a shark fin but never raced it.

The shark and skate fins are intended to improve the quality of airflow over the rear wing.  This increases downforce and so allows the teams to run a lower rear wing angle, thereby increasing top speed.  It should also provide enhanced rear-end stability under braking.

Given the reduction in downforce levels for 2009 it is perhaps surprising that only Toyota and Renault have chosen to carry over the full-blown shark fin from last year and Adrian Newey, the man who first introduced it to F1, has shrunk the fin on the new Red Bull RB5 to a pointy little spike (stingray barb?)

The new aerodynamic regulations for 2009 have forced the car designers to go back to the drawing board and I expect we will see other teams finding holes in the regulations that they can exploit as the season progresses.

Pictures of the new Williams FW31 livery are below:

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