Adrian Newey says banning double diffusers won’t help overtaking

Adrian Newey gave this year's Watkins Lecture

Adrian Newey gave this year's Watkins Lecture

Red Bull designer and top F1 aerodynamicist Adrian Newey believes the proposed ban on double diffusers in 2011 won’t make it easier for F1 cars to overtake.

Speaking at the Watkins Lecture at Autosport International he said:

I don’t think [double diffusers] affected the overtaking. It gave us more downforce and made the cars about a second a lap quicker. That doesn’t change whether the car’s going to overtake or not, there’s no difference in the aerodynamic wake which is what affects the ability of the car behind to overtake.
Adrian Newey

He said F1 should not slip back into the practice of introducing piecemeal changes to the regulations as it had during the “narrow track” era of 1998-2008:

The regulations we had for 2009 were the subject of a lot of research by the Overtaking Working Group. It’s questionable whether they worked or not, but the process, I think, was correct.

What’s now happening is we’ve gone back to these piecemeal modifications – banning double diffusers or getting rid of barge boards. For me, it’s very frustrating that it’s not being thought out. [It needs] a clear goal and proper research.

So often in Formula 1, things are changed with very little research.
Adrian Newey

He echoed the view of Sam Michaels and Paddy Lowe that the role of circuit design needs to be looked at.

Newey has similar concerns about the ban on refuelling during races:

I think the ban on refuelling is another example of that where… maybe it will be good for the racing, but it was not thought out. Some people thought “we could save a ??100,000 here by cutting the cost of flying the refuelling rigs around the world. But if that destroys the spectacle and the racing becomes more boring as a result of that and people start turning their televisions off, then that wasn’t ??100,000 well saved.
Adrian Newey

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59 comments on Adrian Newey says banning double diffusers won’t help overtaking

  1. beneboy said on 15th January 2010, 19:11

    Adrian Newey certainly knows more about these things than I do so I’m happy to defer to him on the specific point of double diffusers.
    I also agree that piecemeal changes tend not to work very well and that another step change in regulations would be better.
    With that in mind I’d like to see the OWT working towards a low aerodynamic downforce, high mechanical grip model for the future of F1 car design regulations. Let’s take the bull by the horns and finally rid the sport of the aerodynamic downforce obsessed designs that have taken so much of the excitement out of the racing.

    I’d also want to see the changes to the cars made before they start changing the tracks again, we know that there are already some great circuits on the calender (even if we don’t like the changes that have been made to them recently) so if we could get cars that perform well at Spa, Silverstone, Interlagos & the other good tracks we’d know that the underlying issue had been resolved and this would make it easier to get to the bottom of the track design problems.
    As much as some tracks really bore me these days I think we’d find some of them are actually quite good once the car design issues are sorted out, we often see some very good GP2 and Porsche Cup races that are then followed by boring F1 races, I think this has far more to do with the cars than it does the tracks.

  2. Prisoner Monkeys said on 15th January 2010, 21:54

    I’m sorry, but I am increasing sceptical of aerodynamicsts when they say that removing aerodynamic parts won’t increase overtaking. They may know their subject better than I do, but even I know that the more aerodynamic grip you apply, the faster you can go – and the harder it is for the guy behind you to catch up. To me, aerodynamicists will do or say anything they can think of to protect the prevalence of aerodynamic grip in the sport, because without it, they lose their advantage.

  3. theRoswellite said on 16th January 2010, 0:34

    Mr. Newey is an expert in aerodynamics, he is also an expert in its application to racing car design. Any comments he makes on this subject can be taken to the bank. Additionally, I’m sure he spends not one iota of time thinking about how he can protect his position within the sport by publicly commenting on the subject in the general media. His ‘job security’ within F1 would be hard to match.

    The passing problem is actually more of a dilemma.

    Wings provide incredible down force which equates to an equivalent improvement in cornering speed. They also disrupt the smooth laminar flow of air to a car following closely behind, which is, regrettably, an impossible handicap in cornering and braking. It is difficult to get close, and almost impossible to stay close, to a car just in front of you.

    The dilemma? As the down force is removed, the cars overall speed through the corners is decreased significantly…significantly, being the operative word.

    You can have cars that run close together with an increased potential for passing……….they just aren’t going to go as fast, at least not around corners.

    Perhaps the term “Air Craft” would be more appropriate than automobile, when it comes to our present form of racing.

    Unfortunately, even the legendary Mr. Newey can’t change the laws of physics.

  4. m0tion said on 16th January 2010, 0:36

    Wake performance testing measured in a straight line test with a small kite suspended towed instrument might be achievable at each pre race. If they were to breech the limit they could graduate the penalties. They could allow the reserve drivers to do the running to ease the programme burden on drivers and add to their familiarisation. And they could precribe a limit on allowable changes to dry weather aero setup after the test.

    • Nah…. Let’s give em all different coloured smoke generators like the Red Arrows have – now that would be interesting – then we could actually see all the pretty (normally invisible) patterns that are ruining the racing with the current rules – if it wasn’t for the off track goings-on things maybe pretty boring in F1 – and I’m a life long F1 fan :(

  5. Gusto said on 16th January 2010, 1:12

    Double Diffuser gave us a second a lap… but it didnt affect overtaking… did I miss something?. What about if the Car is a second a lap in front. If the cars are sychromeshing gear changes with there fingers there will be no driver skill involved in the accelaration zone, notice how the greats treat the braking zone.

  6. wasiF1 said on 16th January 2010, 1:53

    I don’t agree with Newey,but it’s true a lot of effort now needs to be put in track design.And yes refuelling was part of the show.If the racing becomes more boring now then the FIA & FOTA have themselves to blame.

    • Prisoner Monkeys said on 16th January 2010, 3:17

      What kind of effort? Tilke’s long-straight-into-heavy-braking-zone ethos has been a part of circuit deisng since the earliest races. AVUS had it. Le Mans has it. Even the Nurburgring Nordscheliefe has it – in fact, it has four examples of it.

      Changing the cars is cheaper and easier than changing the circuits; changing the circuits shoudonly be considered if changing the cars does nothing.

  7. A strong effort into track design is a must.

  8. Great article Keith!

  9. Insert_Name said on 16th January 2010, 8:52


    For those who do not know how the ground effect works (WHICH IS STILL USED, just to a lesser extent), the idea is to encourage a large amount of air to travel underneath the car, where it is forced to travel through a smaller cross-section, forcing it to speed up, causing a fall in pressure (Ventrulli Effect) and the car to ‘suck’ itself to the ground. The wake, in terms of ground effect comes from the now fast moving air from underneath the car mixing with the surrounding slow moving air at the rear of the car. A DIFFUSER HELPS by slowing down the air prior to it re-mixing and effectively reducing the turbulence when it does.

    The reason we are seeing far less overtaking now than in the past is due to the post Imola changes, which limited ground effect in favour of wings. I.e. replace high downforce, small wake ground effect with, high downforce, large wake wings. The ‘ugly’ looking rear wings currently on cars may be smaller than previous years however due to their high profile they cause a very large wake. Instead a wider, lower profile wing should have been used, a la 2008 Monza trim wing (which consequentially produces around the same as the current high down force trim wing but with far less wake.

    The 2009 changes were on the whole good, however they got a few things majorly wrong – larger and more complex diffusers should have been encouraged as they reduce wake; the rear wings should have been far wider, but had a very shallow profile. A good point was getting rid of the stupid appendages which just caused wake for negligible gain.

    • Why don’t the FIA just impose an element on every rear wing which leaves a nice hole in the air for the following car ? – Job done :)

      Then it will be down to the teams to concentrate on improving their mechanical grip to be better than the following car to negate this effect – therefore the greater emphasis will naturally focus on mechanical and not downforce to shoot them out of the corners quicker – or am I missing something here ?

    • Ok I have retyped a msg 4 times in response to this and well I give up.
      I cant say it with out swearing and I dont really want to write 5 pages as to how wrong almost every thing you wrote is.

  10. Seems I recall that 20 and more years ago there was overtaking. Now there is barely any. Also looks like the tracks are still the same. So, must have been the cars that changed.

    Now, how to fix the overtaking problem? Hint: the word “tracks” is not in the answer.

    Less aero, then less aero, and then reduce the aero, with intense increase in mechanical grip. That’s your answer. At one time cars ran the high speed tracks like Nurburgring, Charade, and others with no wings at all, at 180 or more. And passed each other! Yes, it’s true, really, as strange as it sounds.

    The fix for the overtaking problem is easy, and everyone in F1 knows it–they are reluctant to “go backward in developement”, as one paddock regular put it to me last year, so everyone just keeps on doing what they’ve been doing. Which ultimately gets us the same thing–no overtaking.

    Definition of insanity:Doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different result.

    F1 simply needs to decide if it wants fighter aircraft or racecars, and then design and equip accordingly. Personally, I vote for racecars. They are a whole lot more fun to watch than these computer-controlled things we have these days. 10,000 quid for a steering wheel, indeed!

    • here here ! :)

    • James said on 16th January 2010, 11:19

      The only track that has barely changed compared with 20 years ago is Monaco. All of the others which are on the calander now as well as 20 years ago have had significant changes such as:

      – Reprofiling of corners
      – Completely changing corners, or indeed removing them
      – Added/Removed Chicanes
      – Different tarmac
      – More run off areas
      – Some tracks are a bit wider

      The tracks are as much to blame.

    • Charley said on 17th January 2010, 1:12

      Formula 1 is kind of going backwards in development because they know that the old days were the good days. They’ve taken off all the winglets and fins they’ve already taken off alot of aero and they’ve gone back to slicks. Slicks provide much grip though so the lack of aero isn’t much of a decrease. The 09 cars look like the late 90’s chassis.

      And this diffuser thing could be true if you look at the first 5 rounds of formula 1 there was some passing but when all the teams put on a diffuser there was hardly any unless you had a KERS system or forced your opponent to a mistake.

      Lewis hamilton continues to pass anyone anywhere though and shows us that it can be done still and often.

      The diffuser messes with the nose of the car behind I think it will help passing now that it is banned. I wish mclaren used it instead of brawn. maybe if mclaren used it, It would be banned at australia Q2 or something in 2009 lol.

      Formula 1 is the pinnacle of auto racing. If a wheel is 10,000 so be it ;) .

  11. Charley said on 17th January 2010, 1:20

    I think formula 1 has enough technology and brains to find a chassis that won’t take all of the aero and still be able to go fairly fast. Maybe they could even look to gp2 as there is passing in there and the chassis look like the formula 1’s of 2000 . The new formula 1 chassis look like kids stuff. People miss the v10’s and the passing .

  12. I suspected as much in a previous post. The double diffuser ban won’t change the racing much and the fuel ban will likely make things more boring and predictable. For example, how likely would we have been to get the sort of result we saw in Brazil 09 where Hamilton started 18 and finished third…

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