That little fin at the tip of the wing

Many airplanes have that little fin at the tip of the wings. Apparently it’s not just for stability. It saves fuel. Here’s the website:

Maybe that’s why McLaren (F1) has that horn shaped wing on the engine cover.

On a car, a spoiler would really only add stability (aside from a 16 year old with a 93 Dodge Neon with a 6’ wide spoiler on the back and a huge muffler.)

In most cases it increases drag, therefore reducing fuel economy. In the case of the McLaren, if you can afford the price tag, you can afford the extra gallons of premium you burn when launching to 60 in 3.1 seconds, and hitting 230mph at the track.

I meant the formula 1 car.

Its called a “winglet” and it prevents the vortex of air from spiraling off of the wingtip to cause the wing to vibrate at speed, limiting the wings efficency.

it works on straight and slightly cambered wings, but is not necesary on swept wings as the airflow is not displaced as violently

not sure about the horn shaped wing–tho…

The last decade has seen great advances in aerodynamics in racing cars. The Toyota GT-1, particularly, was a watershed in advancing aerodynamics from being about reducing drag and increasing downforce to being about both at the same time. It had some unique design details on the front fenders that improved the efficiency of the rear wing, for example. I’m betting the McLaren F1 cars do the same thing.

Interestingly, properly designed spoilers can reduce drag and lift in a car. The 911 whale tail for example did both.

For those interested, I highly suggest checking out Mulsanne’s corner. The best bit is that the website is run by an IDer turned aerodynamicist.

Winglets serve two functions, perhaps three.

  1. Induced drag reduction - Without the winglet, in the vicinity of the wingtip the vortical air from the bottom surface of the wing spills over onto the upper surface and disturbs smooth airflow there. This results in increased drag and reduced lift. Adding a winglet has an endplate effect and prevents much of this vortical air from spilling over onto the upper wing surface. The result is cleaner aerodynamics and less drag.

  2. Increases lateral stability - more side area typically equates into increased lateral (sideways) stability.

  3. Aesthetics - Most people think they look cool.