The F1 shark fins – Do they really provide extra ad space?

Red Bull Detail of the Fin

The shark fins spread like a virus. Only Williams and BMW Sauber haven’t tried them yet. McLaren are the only team who tested them but does not run them in the races. All the other seven Formula 1 teams are sporting this rather weird looking structure.

The shark fin fashion was brought to us by Red Bull Racing, probably courtesy of their design guru Adrian Newey. The aero benefits are not very clear. Some teams running the fin say it helps to clean up the air flow over the rear wing, some others say it helps the balance of the car, some say it does not bring as much benefit as some other not that visible updates. One thing most people agree on however is that the fin shaped engine cover provides nice advertising space. Let’s have a look at the fins and how the ad space is used by the teams (you can enlarge the photos by clicking on the thumbnail):


Red Bull – When looking at the fin it looks like they designed the shape to make the bull or the bull’s tail fit the car better. Who knows perhaps that was the real reason behind this fin design and everybody else got fooled and followed suit without really knowing why :-) .

Force India – Part of the extra space is taken by the kingfisher bird image.

Ferrari – They haven’t made any use of the additional area, the only benefit is that their tobacco barcode now is almost pefect rectangle.

Honda – Simply said, waste of space, but that can be said about their entire livery.

McLaren – They only used it at the test at Hockenheim 3 weeks ago and obviously did not bother about maximizing the ad space use.

Renault – Thanks to the fin they could enlarge the ING logo so perhaps it has been good for them. The lion has more room.

Toro Rosso – The way they filled up the space on the fin is quite natural but it is more about design than advertising. There are no logos on their car anyway (except small Red Bull and Bridgestone ones). Even if there were, no one would able to see them on that massive red colour bull background.

Toyota – All that the creative minds in Toyota could come up with is a bit of red splashed over the tip of the fin. It goes well with the overall boring design of their car but hardly brings them any added commercial benefit.

So, so much for the extra advertising space. Red Bull fits the bull’s tail better, Force India has more room for the bird and Renault for the lion. That is about it. If the fins do provide more room for advertising, someone should perhaps tell the teams, they do not seem to have realized that yet.

Photos: Force India F1, Renault/LAT, Red Bull/GEPA, Daimler Media, Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Racing F1

11 Comments Post a Comment
  1. meNo Gravatar says:

    williams have tried a shark fin:

    http://images.gpupdate.net/large/99611.jpg

    also, bmw made a token effort:

    http://tinyurl.com/5cpoyn

    you raise a good point though. i guess teams are wary that if they sell the space, it might get taken away from them at some point?

    • F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

      those 2 fins are not proper shark fins :-)

      some, who may not be sure if they run it or not, may be careful, but except McLaren all the others seem to be happy with the fins and they will likely stay for the rest of the season.

      and who knows, if they only clean up the mess and do not provide any downforce we may see them even in 2009 …

  2. hehe probably newey just did it for the advertising space and its just laughing of all the other guys that are trying to figure whats the aero benefit

  3. vonKNo Gravatar says:

    The fin acts as a stabilizer, like on an aircraft, to counteract the frequent tail happiness when powering out of a turn without traction control. This becomes more effective the farther the car hangs out its tail.

    • F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

      well yes, that’s the reason given by Red Bull when they launched the fin

      McLaren on the other hand said that the gains in one area seems to be offset by negative effects in other areas (crosswinds for example) and therefore they chose not to run it

      hard to say, some teams gain more by using, some less, but all of them get extra space for commercial use, they just do not seem to be able to use it

  4. SriramNo Gravatar says:

    Toyota do not need any commercial benefit!

  5. zblkhwkNo Gravatar says:

    If its just a billboard, its absolutely brilliant. What a great way to increase revenue.

  6. [...] The side views reveal the different designs of rear wings, engine covers, front wings, the nose section, the nose itself, the sidepods. I would say that at the height of the shark fin fever the 2008 F1 cars looked much more alike than the first three 2009 Formula One cars – see the shark fin gallery here. [...]

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