FOTA consider new 2011 downforce cuts

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

F1 cars are now producing almost as much downforce as they were in 2008
F1 cars are now producing almost as much downforce as they were in 2008

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.
Paddy Lowe

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.
Paddy Lowe

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.
Paddy Lowe

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.

Double diffuser ban and low profile tyres

Image (C)

179 comments on “FOTA consider new 2011 downforce cuts”

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  1. Just ban either the front or rear wing (keeping the other one juste to balance the car) !
    Or ban all the wings, getting back to what the cars looked like in the 60’s.

  2. Why not banning wings at all?

    1. that would be hard the PR and Marketing departments in the teams would riot because that is the biggest advertisment place on the car. Only the side pods are larger but many time visible for less time on the camera. :( Teams need money to race and to get the money most of them need sponsors and the sponsors want exposure where better to get exposure then the name painted on prominent positions on the car. Wings and side pods are the best places in that order based on viability during race on TV.

  3. Personally I think the aim should be to make it easier for cars to follow each other closely, and for someone who is not very technically minded like myself the solution seems to be to reduce aerodynamic grip.

    On an aesthetics point I hope they get rid of the side-pod deflectors.

    Ideally I would like the technical regulations signed off a year before the season they apply to, and if there are any spaces on the grid for new teams for these to be allocated at the same, to give the teams plenty of time to get ready. Although I appreciate deciding on who gets the final slot for 2011 will have to be done later than that.

  4. We keep trying to move the goalposts on downforce levels forgetting the closest and most exciting season of the past 20 years came in 2008 after a decade of relatively stable aerodynamic regulations. I have to say I’m starting to doubt that trying to regulate downforce can make a difference, especially when the teams are always one step ahead with new ways of generating downforce.

    When you look at 2008, like in most seasons the best races with the most overtaking were the wet ones. Considering wet races do not effect aerodynamics but do reduce mechanical grip from the tyres and increase the length of braking zones it may reveal where the real problem is in F1. I think Frank Dernie and others who argue against the downforce argument are probably right and we should concentrate on reducing mechanical grip and regulating brakes if we want to see better racing.

    1. Agreed – I think standardised, less efficient brake disks and thinner – grooved tyres and a more powerful KERS unit with a total race usage limit – say 20 uses, could be the best solution to the overtaking problem in formula 1.

      even with all that – you put the fastest guy at the front he’s gonna disappear into the distance during the race

      1. …I agree with the braking distances point*

    2. the closest and most exciting season of the past 20 years came in 2008 after a decade of relatively stable aerodynamic regulations.

      Not at Valencia, Shanghai, Catalunya, Bahrain, Sepang, Magny-Cours and the Hungaroring it didn’t – at least according to readers of this site:

      1. agreed, 2008 was no different than other years.
        The favourable outcome probably coloured the memory …

      2. I think we could probably play that game with every season and chose the boring races and ignoring classis races like the ones in Australia, Monaco, Canada, Britain, Germany, Belgium, Italy and the race of the decade in Brazil. There were also very entertaining if not classic races such as Japan and Singapore. Hungary was also good race with a stunning first lap move by Massa, Hamilton’s puncture, Massa’s engine failure and the Alonso-Raikkonen battle. Far from being a boring race it was actually quite a good one.

        The main point I was trying to make though was that in most of the classic races that year it was the lack of mechanical grip and not aerodynamic grip in the rain that made for great racing.

        PS. Gilles, I think its fair to so I’m not exactly Hamilton’s biggest fan and wanted Massa to win the title that year. So the outcome of the WDC certainly hasn’t clouded my view of the season.

        1. OK Ads21 !

          I’m not sure that mechanical grip is the main culprit: they’ve been curbing it for over 25 years and since then close racing has been gradually disappearing.

    3. The only reason that wet races offer more overtaking is because they tend to be a lottery.

      If drivers start having pit stops at random, changing conditions, cars flying off and other chaotic events, then sure you get cars in the “wrong” order and they will start overtaking.

  5. Am I the only one that is happy with the current overtaking levels in F1?


    1. haha, i think you’re not alone in feeling that F1 is far too obsessed with improving “the show”

    2. No, me too.

      People just need to get their facts straight and stop complaining.

      The problem is more the viewers than the racing itself. They want to see their idols overtake cars.

      When we see Hamilton, Alonso, Button and Massa fight for the lower end of the top 10 from the rear then we see a “great race”.

      In total there were 24 overtakes. In Bahrain there were 21 overtakes. Why do people claim Bahrain is boring and Malaysia was great?

      Was there a big fight for the lead in Malaysia? No, in Malaysia there was nothing happening at the front either. Had the camera’s followed the top 5 like they did in Bahrain then it would have looked just as “boring”.

      The problem is not in overtaking, but in people’s perception and in their desire to see their idols fight for position. Even if in the end they score hardly any points.

      1. It’s a good point, and one of the reasons I actually gave Bahrain a 7 whilst everyone else slated it.

        In football, a 3-0 win by a big team is praised far more than a 4-2 game involving two small teams.

        But in Bahrain’s case, it was just as much FOM’s fault as it was the fans’

        1. True. We simply didn’t much of the overtaking that was going on on our TV’s during the Bahrain race.

        2. Good point indeed.
          Personally, I don’t need 100+ overtakings a race either. Wouldn’t mind seeing them closing up on each other more though; the closer they are, the more chance of an overtaking.

      2. In total there were 24 overtakes. In Bahrain there were 21 overtakes. Why do people claim Bahrain is boring and Malaysia was great?

        In Malaysia the passes were spread throughout the race:

        In Bahrain we had a load of passes around the pit stops and with the lower runners sorting themselves out at the start but not much more the rest of the time:

  6. If they want to cut the downforce, fine. However, make sure you already have an alternative to make to cars go faster than today because I can’t stand Formula 1 becoming slower every year!

    The pinnacle of technology in making cars go slower. :@

    1. They should open up engine development again. The quality of racing really went down when they changed to V8s and then froze the engines, I refuse to believe it’s a coincidence…

      But I’m not really sure what they can or will do on that front between now and 2013, when they’re planning to bring in a new engine formula.

  7. I may sound crazy but is it possible to have all the cars with the same wing angle?

  8. I don’t think I have enough technical understanding to comment on the wheel dimension issue. One thing I’d like to mention, though, is that after even major aerodynamical changes, people always seem to be nonchalantly surprised to realise downforce levels quickly elevate to prior levels again over the course of the development of a season or two.

    That always gets me to think if it wouldn’t be a better, more permanently effective approach for the FIA to just regulate the maximum amount of downforce a car could generate – and set that value at whatever less than the present is considered worthwile and still safe at the same time. Potentially, this could be splitted up into different groups of the cars’ aerodynamics, so the diffuser wouldn’t be allowed to generate more than X, the front wing no more than y, the rear wing no more than z – like that.

    I’d expect much research would have to go into finding the right values for a model like that, but maybe, that could be considered an alternative to the – in my opinion also interesting – possible concept of making a larger switch from aerodynamical to mechanical grip.

  9. First, I believe we agree that returning F1 to the rules that existed whenever everyone first began watching, or whenever, would be a waste of time. As Keith pointed out, the reason we had, allegedly, better racing and less turbulence in name-your-era was because cars performed more poorly. They did not make efficient use of the tires and the airflow. The only way to “unlearn” these advances is to spec out the design. (Welcome to IndyCar/GP2, which must be for people who Love Racing rather than technical expositions.)

    Second, I simply cannot understand Newey’s suggestion that underbody downforce creates more turbulence than wings, espeically since the diffuser is fed with air only a few millimeters off the ground. If the idea is simply that lowering overall downforce, and the underbody is where most is gained, gives you less to loss from turbulence, then fine. He may be suggesting that diffusers ruin the airflow to wings, but this would be an argument for increasing the share of downforce coming from the underbody.

    Last I think it bears remembering that F1 cars are not like Group C cars or GT cars: an F1 car, with its open cockpit, big tires, and exposed suspension, has the drag coefficient of an ice cream truck. And thus so long as the cars generate some downforce for the underbody, wings, or body profile, they will suffer from turbulence. I therefore suspect that hurculean efforts to cut turbulence per se may be tilting at a windmill, because incremental changes in the ease of passing on the track is not what the sport most needs.

    1. Very good points. I especially agree with the 3rd remark. It’s the main reason why we see less overtakings in open wheel racing.

  10. Anyone who spends even a week on this suite and reads my comments will know my views, so I won’t get into that again (less aero, more mech).

    But I’m with Newey on this one. We shouldn’t be getting rid of underbody downforce, but (though I don’t think he said this himself) getting rid of the downforce produced by the front win and the top bodywork. If most of the aero downforce came from the underbody, wakes wouldn’t be a problem; turbulent air is only a problem when you rely on the front wing so much, which is what F1 cars currently do.

    Right reasons, wrong decision, once again it seems!

    1. Agreed. Double diffuses do not limit overtaking at all. they create more wake, yes, but why does wake limit overtaking? Answer: Because the front wing needs clean air to work. Romove the front wing, no issue, you are left with a better tow down the straight to pass, and you do not lose out on the corners.

  11. In the 90s, Mclaren Mercedes had an extra pedal – which enabled braking of the rear and front wheels separately. Why was this disallowed? Is it still banned with the current rules?

    1. We want turbos
      13th April 2010, 20:25

      Because Ferrari didn’t like it!!

    2. I believe it allowed splitting the reverse torque between the rear wheels. I kind of manual stability control. You can still adjust the front/rear bias on the fly, and Schumacher was a master at this.

  12. I know its not really on topic, but thanks for advising the indy race. Just started watching it on youtube. F1 could learn a couple of things, mainly from the amazing looking track and the cameras which can swivel to keep up with the action better.

    1. The yanks sure know how to market their products, don’t they !
      If indycar races were on at the same time as F1, and less on ovals but also on places like Suzuka, Spa and Interlagos (to add to Watkins Glen, Laguna Seca and Alabama); F1 would simply be blown out of the water.
      Indycar has a huge potential here as Bernie drops historic F1 tracks, they can pick them up again and go more global.
      When the audiences come, the money will come as well; leaving F1 firmly behind because of the on-track action and the presence of concrete walls next to the track.
      The cars might be not as quick, but who cares ? We want to see racing, not looking at the clock.

      1. Not so sure abut marketing there. CART dissolved, Indy isn’t that strong (financial and follower base), Nascar is but still have problems and dealing with some similar issues as F1. Don’t know of a racing series that don’t seem to have some fundamental flaws that they want/try/need to fix.

        This year MAJORITY of the Indy races are on street circuits and not ovals. One reason why it used to be Ovals only was because of FIA.

        “Up until 2000 CART was restricted by the FIA to only running on oval tracks outside of North America for fear of detracting from the Formula One series. They threatened stiff penalties to CART and it’s participants if they disobeyed that agreement. However, now all that has changed because the FIA, under pressure by the European Union (EU) for monopoly practices, finally recognizes CART as an official ‘World Championship’ series, which means it can race on road courses or ovals outside of North America.”

        Regards to Youtube and on board cameras. Indy does one thing right they provide FREE online race viewing (with commentary) where you can select main race (or on board cameras from 4 cars, you can even show two onboards side by side wish you could view onboard and main feed side by side).
        Also the pan onboard camera is bitching. Last race Taglianni passed two cars while I was viewing his onboard camera. As he passed the camera panned to follow the overtaken car. How I wouldn’t love to see that in F1 imagine to seen Hamiltons onboard camera from last race and have it follow the car Hamilton overtook.

        They want to spice up the show then bring back the BernieTV with “sensoring” which detected on track action and would automatically cut over to a car in the even of a crash or if it seemed a overtake was in the works add this with pan on board cameras and interactive selection (CangerooTV anyone?) all in HD quality… =) Alright the last might be to much to add some other sports only provide upcoming 3D viewing so HD might be to much for F1.. Also love the Germans slow motion capture. Would be nice to see that at other races to…..

  13. i don’t see the DD difuser ban as the right step (probably, i don’t know enough about fluid dynamics but…)
    if they limit the downforce generated by the difuser this will result in a lack of rear grip – compensated by a steeper rear wing angle which can only produce more turbulence in the wake.
    the smoother the car the less turbulent wake it will produce (i think this is irrefutable, at least on a simple level).
    the point that if you reduce downforce overall then the problem of it being disturbed by another car’s wake is reduced, still stands (gasp, what a dependent clause!), BUT it is the front wing that gets screwed the most by turbulent air.

    does anyone remember (and can think of a way to make use of the knowledge) the ground effect cars of the early 80s that had no front wing? surely they wouldn’t be affected by following another car closely.

    1. I do recall that the massively powerful Group C/GTP cars of the late 80s early ninties, with thousands of pounds of ground-effect downforce, had notoriously bad understeer. Many cars had steeply raked noses (wings were banned) to combat the issue. I’m not certain they could follow more closely, but I perceived that the massive tunnel-based downforce helped moot turbulence issues.

      Front wings are still banned in prototype racing. However, it is instructive to observe that, today, protype designers spend a mint coming up with ways to add front wing-like devices to the cars— and competitioers fight a running battle over whose front non-wings are legal. Acura even runs rear tires at the front to address the problem. This is what you would get in F1 if we tried to turn the cars into USAC Midgets with no wings and giant tires, as many advocate. Just as much silliness as now, but bad handling cars.

  14. How about this, skip all the regulation changes to tires and aero. All you need to do is install sprinklers at every track and turn them on at least half way through.

  15. The history of the FIA setting rules to try and reduce the downforce generated by the cars is a history of clever designers circumventing those rules. So why not set a maximum weight for cars for when they’re moving.

    All teams now have wind tunnels so they should be forced to install scales in them and the FIA should be able to check the weights of their cars with the wing settings they have used for any race. Perhaps after every race when the cars are in Parc Ferme conditions the FIA should note all the settings of the cars then arrive at the teams windtunnels on the monday morning to confirm the are no irregularities.

  16. How does one go about reducing downforce levels, and expecting teams to keep them at a low level, when to be competitive, a team needs to have a high amount of downforce. And thats exactly what engineers are expected and instructed to increase?

  17. I think that some of the most exiting races have been in low down force circuits, as drivers rely more heavily on the mechanical grip (monza, Spa to name a few). I think those should be circuits that serve as a base for new ones as we have seen a trend towards slower street circuits which can be processional because they either lack overtaking opportunities or because the cars cant follow each other that closely either.

    Now about the wheels and other tech, F1 should try to always be not only on the forefront but provide a platform on which sponsors can further gain knowledge on how to improve their products. So I do agree with the 18inch rims. as i have mentioned before it could lead to not only better design (performance wise) but also help manufacturers develop ways to bring us lighter, sportier, etc models to the mainstream market ( I dream of the day I can afford a set of carbon fiber rims, although I will first have to get a good car to add them on too).

    Although I am not a fan of standardized technology at times. Its racing for god-sake, the point is to develop a wickedly fast car that beats the rest. sure its great to see overtaking, but if its at the expense of ending with standardized monocoques, chassis, etc then the sport will have lost its purpose.

  18. An Open Letter and Request to Keith Collantine and JA@ another site

    Dear James and Keith,
    Your blogs / forums are the best things about Formula 1 nowadays.
    I read 7 or 8 sites but most are filled with drivel and excuses as to who did or didn’t do what, and I don’t bother to read responses to their articles.
    You both , however, are usually at least thought provoking, an usually very interesting and informative as well.
    I have been following Formul1 since around 1964. I’ve been lucky enough to see some of the great drivers race, although not in F1, except Long Beach the year Lauda came out of retirement.
    Most of the time I was at the Can-Am races at Laguna Seca.
    I am writing to you both as I have a suggestion/ request to you both, and if you either or both could somehow arrange it, I and I’m sure most of your audiences would enjoy it immensely.
    Ask for your readers to submit a list of questions, suggestions and concerns to you regarding things like aero, KERS, larger wheels, ground effect, down force, engine size and type, tires, brakes, and the publics’ view of f1 in their opinion and order of priority. The reason I ask this is that it seems to I recall that ground effect was banned because of high cornering speeds. There was concern that with little or no suspension, that a stuck skirt, broken suspension or puncture would be hugely dangerous.
    At the same time, I recall great battles that lasted sometimes for a lap or more (Gilles and Rene for example) during the Turbo- Ground Effect era, and this type of racing is sorely missed now. On top of all that I mentioned before, I started to notice that I not the only one that thinks these last few years have produced THE UGGLIEST F1 cars in history.
    With the present day cars producing probably as much negative lift now as they did back then, it seems to me that we need to return to the thinking of the not too distant past, as now, the floors and wings are the equal of ground effect, but don’t allow close following.
    I also think that Turbo V-4’s with Kers would be something relevant, with fuel changes over time to adapt to upcoming technologies.
    I personally think that with V-4’s there would be room for flywheel Kers, which would obviate the need for batteries, and the associated recycling. Additionally, reducing the fuel capacity by 40% would cause the need for a pit-stop and would open the window as to when it took place. No mandatory time stated. I also think limiting the amount of fuel for the race would be a good idea, but engine development should be allowed as necessary to develop better fuel efficiency.
    I think ferrous brakes should be required as the carbon brake don’t really have much use in day to day driving, and they are hugely expensive, and have made passing under braking nearly impossible, if for no other reason that the braking distances are now so short.
    Limiting the number of elements allowed in the wing to 2, with limited maximum camber, thickness, chord , span and area of end plates would be great in my mind.
    Then combined with ground effect with maximum tunnel volume specified, we could hope for cockpit adjustable rear wing sections that could assist both cornering passing and braking.
    All things related to great racing. Managed by the drivers. Pilots do it all the time, and aircraft have had ailerons , flaps, spoilers and speed brakes since the 1930’s.
    I love to have these Ideas/ questions put to a group of designer from the teams where there was 3-5 of them there to give the fans some understanding of their thought s on these and others ideas.
    Is this at all possible to do during a few race weekends?
    I’d absolutely love it
    Thank you both for taking the time to read this if you did. You’re my 2 favorite f1 people on the web.

    1. That’s ‘Game, set and match’ to Barry !

  19. Prisoner Monkeys
    14th April 2010, 3:06

    All I can say is … sense!

  20. Maybe one way to increase technology developement would be to allow any kind of engine but to limit the horsepower to about 800 like ALMS does by way of restricters etc.Also there should be a limit on how much fuel that can be used.Aero could be limited by using single plane wings front and rear with a limited width and depth venturi in the rear.Tires should be slicks of large size f&r to increase mechanical grip,with no limit on tires or type(hard or soft).

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