The Formula One Teams’ Association is considering further restrictions on how much downforce F1 cars can generate as the 2010 cars are already producing almost as much downforce as they were in 2008.
The changes introduced last year at the urging of the Overtaking Working Group have not succeeding in reducing downforce levels.
FOTA is considering going beyond the banning of double diffusers in 2011 to cut downforce further in an effort to encourage more overtaking in F1.
Speaking during the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Phone-In the team’s engineering director Paddy Lowe explained why overtaking has become even more difficult for F1 drivers in 2010:
I think things are getting worse in terms of how close are we to getting to the intentions of the Overtaking Working Group.
Principally, that’s because the cars are generating much more downforce under the floors than was ever envisaged, and that’s driven by the opportunity you get with the double diffuser interpretation.
One of the intentions with the OWG package was the downforce generated from the floor should be much lower, and this helps overtaking for two reasons.
One, the cars have less downforce altogether, and there is a direct correlations between the amount of downforce cars have and the weight of the problem. That’s obvious because you lose downforce in the wake of another car, and if you have less to start with you lose less.
The second one is to do with where the downforce is generated, and generating it from the floor is a bad characteristic because of the wake it generates.
So we’ve gone in the wrong direction. Downforce in these cars is approaching where it was in 2008.
Not everyone agrees with Lowe’s analysis – Red Bull designer Adrian Newey claimed in January that banning double diffusers won’t make it easier for cars to overtake.
However the teams have already agreed to ban double diffusers in 2011 – and may go further:
We’ve agreed to ban double diffusers next year and also reduce the height of the diffuser, both of which will significantly reduce floor downforce.
That’s correct for the same two reasons: less downforce is better and less floor downforce is better for following cars and therefore overtaking.
We are looking at whether that is sufficient, and that’s an ongoing discussion as to whether even more should be planned for next year. But I think what we’ve already agreed are very big steps and absolutely correct for what we’ve learned from the OWG.
These are not the only changes being considered for the 2011 technical rules. The teams may also have to accommodate a change in wheel size from 13 to 18 inches which could further increase development costs.
Michelin are talking to the FIA, FOTA and FOM about a return to Formula 1 for 2011-2013 and 18-inch wheels would be a requirement. They feel those wheels are more contemporary in terms of appearance and technology, similar to high performance road cars.
It depends how we manage it as to how big a problem it could become. The teams, I hope, will agree to certain constraints so that we don’t expand the development into any envelope that’s freed up by that.
I think we can do it in a way that manages the cost.
Both changes could be positive for F1, potentially improving the quality of racing and making F1 more useful for tyre manufacturers. Do you think this is the right direction for F1? Have your say in the comments.
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