The Formula 1 Technical Working Group has voted to ban douuble diffusers, effective for the 2011 season and beyond. The move still needs approval by the Formula 1 Commission and the FIA’s World Sport Council, but this is expected to be a mere formality at this stage.
Double diffusers were introduced by three teams (Brawn, Williams and Toyota) at the beginning of the 2009 season, in an effort to claw back downforce that had been lost by the aerodynamic profiles mandated by changes to FIA technical regulations for the 2009 season.
The purpose of the regulation changes was to reduce downforce levels by 50%, and theoretically enhance overtaking opportunities, by reducing the amount of “dirty” or turbulent air in cars’ slipstreams. The controversial double diffusers, which exploited vague language in technical regulations, were estimated to enhance downforce levels by perhaps 30%.
When it was apparent that double diffusers gave cars a distinct performance advantage, the teams not using them launched a formal protest with FIA stewards. The matter was referred to the FIA International Court of Appeal, which ruled that the diffusers, according to the language of the regulations, if not their spirit, were entirely legal. In the wake of that decision, most of the teams who were not then using the trick diffusers quickly scrambled to rectify the situation.
The matter did not end there, however. As is always the case, F1 team engineers have been working dilligently to recoup lost downforce, within the framework of the current regulations. It’s now estimated that this season F1 cars will generate more downforce than they did at the end of 2008. In other words, the rule changes instituted for 2009 did nothing more than delay aerodynamic advancements for a year.
While most of the teams seem to favor the double diffuser ban, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner thinks the ban doesn’t go far enough. He takes issue with the piecemeal method to revising technical regulations, and believes a more comprehensive method should be adopted.
As Horner recently told Autosport, “I think the most important thing is to set clear objectives – as to what do the governing body and the promoters want F1 to be,. What do they want the F1 cars to be able to do? Then rather than cherry picking at bits and pieces, we can look at the package as a whole to encourage more overtaking, and to enable the cars to follow more closely. I think looking at components in isolation is often quite dangerous, so I think it is important that the overall objective is clearly defined and then worked on by the various technical groups.”
Image by Depista, licensed through Creative Commons.