FOTA consider new 2011 downforce cuts

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

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179 comments on FOTA consider new 2011 downforce cuts

  1. Pingguest said on 13th April 2010, 15:09

    Why don’t they simply ban the diffusers? It would certainly improve the racing.

  2. Jameson said on 13th April 2010, 15:10

    Let’s be honest, Michelin want 18in wheels because they just want to bring over their Le Man slicks.

    • Cranberry said on 13th April 2010, 15:40

      There’s nothing wrong with that.
      Even considering they’d be tyres designed for endurance racing, I doubt we’d see options lasting over 40 laps.

      • Gilles said on 13th April 2010, 19:37

        They will still be black, don’t worry. Don’t really care which tires they have, to me that is irrelevant.
        I cant even remember which tires JB had while he was ploughing through the field in Brazil last year.
        Looking at pictures from the 70s era, wow those tires were gigantic !

        • Jarred Walmsley said on 13th April 2010, 20:23

          Also if F1 goes with the low profile tires then Firestone becomes realistic option as they can bring the Indy tires over which would reduce the costs and thus make it more attractive

  3. GeeMac said on 13th April 2010, 15:22

    *Bee in my bonnet alert!*

    At the moment I think the aerodynamic grip issue is a bit of a red herring. I am not for one minute downplaying the fact that the wake created by a modern F1 car prevents drivers from overtaking, we all know that, but I’m trying to point out other factors which add to the problem, and in my view there are two critical factors which, when added to the aerodynamic problem, make it nearly impossible for modern F1 cars to overtake.

    The first (and most important in my book) of there is the fact that the cars are limited to 18 000 rpm. How often do you see a modern F1 car get in the tow of the car in front, pull out, hit the rev limiter, and then fail to get past. It’s absurd. If teams were allowed to run unlimited revs (with the same restriction on the number of engines to be used during the season to keep things within reason) we would see cars overtaking again.

    The second factor that is standardisation and the rules which aim to make cars more reliable. All the cars must be powered by 2.4 liter V8 engines, KERS can only give you 80 bhp for 6,7 seconds, you can only use 8 engines per season, you can only use so many sets of tyres etc etc etc. If you give the teams options in respect of what type of solution they want to run in a number of areas you would end up with cars with varying strengths and weaknesses. This would result in interesting races as certain parts of certain tracks would suit certain cars and not others. Standardisation was part of the reason why KERS was such a monumental failure. What’s the point of investing 8 figure amounts of money in a technology which can only give you 80bhp for such a tiny amount of time? Why should you be forced not to use your system’s full potential? If you have a system that could deliver 150bhp for 20 seconds or 30 bhp for a whole lap, that should be to your benefit.

    When the engine rules are changes in the near future I honestly hope that the FIA doesn’t only give the teams one option. I honestly hope they give the teams a choice. Yes in time they will all probably end up using the same stuff eventually as they did in the Turbo era, but for a while we would get fantastic racing… and isn’t that the point?

    • macahan said on 13th April 2010, 17:04

      to be devils advocate here.
      Indycars produce some pretty exciting racing, they are rev limited to 10,500rpm, slightly heavier then a F1 car, bargebords are allowed, they have a overtake button that give them a whooping 9bhp additional power and they can only use it 20 times in a race (last race was 90 laps), and it only give that extra power for a short period of time and takes a few seconds to reset which means you might be able to use it out on a straight, car infront react in responds to hit his button and the overtaker might have a chance to hit his overtake button a second time before end of straight and the car being overtaken will not have a chance to hit his button a second time before breaking zone.

      Before anyone say anything else, this year the majority of the races are road race tracks and NOT oval tracks. On the oval tracks the rear wing is higher mounted then on a road track. On oval tracks Indycars can be as much as 20kph faster then a F1 car on the fastest straight. On the oval tracks there is a ton of overtaking I think the record is 53 lead changes because they can get a incredible tow and launch themselves a head which means often you do NOT want to lead the last lap unless you can break away from the car following you so you can break his tow. Can make for very exciting racing and very close finishing.

      On road course racing the wing is mounted lower to lower the aero performance and the wake behind the car.

      It seems in F1 between 08 and 09 the wing was allowed to be raced mounted at a higher position but this might just be an illusion I do not know for fact if there was a regulation change that allowed this or not.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 14th April 2010, 11:26

      I’m sure there’s more than one cause of the problem – but I suspect the rev limit is a much less significant cause than the aerodynamics.

      If cars are hitting the rev limiter while slipstreaming and passing then the teams need to adjust their gear ratios accordingly. If they were hitting the rev limit that we could tell by listening to the on-boards… and probably the drivers complaining after the race as well.

  4. Ranilom said on 13th April 2010, 15:26

    Why going trough a lengthy process of proposing a “new solution” to reduce downforce, wait for FIA, FOTA, FOM to agree, spend money to implement it. Than, in a year or so find out that was a bad solution.
    Wouldn’t be more economical and effective for FIA to test the solution, make sure it works, than impose the solution? (example: a standard undercarriage package)
    I really don’t get it.

    • Gilles said on 13th April 2010, 15:34

      Absolute right, Ranilom.
      In their defense, I think the 09 regs were actually working as cars were visibly closer to one another last year.
      I guess it depends on the people discussing it within the OWG: if Red Bull delegate Newey, then you can rest assured that wings will not be touched or at least still feature prominently within the new regs !

    • macahan said on 13th April 2010, 17:06

      absolutely what I been chanting for a bit about. No more paper solutions. Come up with a solution/option test it out and based on result make ratifications.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 14th April 2010, 11:23

      It might be more effective but at the moment making changes the way they do doesn’t cost the FIA anything.

      To do what you’re suggesting they’d have to get someone to lend them an F1 car or two, build the parts, hire a track to test them on and a couple of drivers.

      So there would be a substantial cost involved, and they’d have to find someone to foot the bill.

      I like your idea, but who’d going to pay for it?

      • Gilles said on 14th April 2010, 11:47

        How about the owners of the whole circus, isn’t that CVC or something?
        As I understood from the budget discussions of last year, half the money generated currently leaves F1. Surely, a bit less wouldn’t do anyone any harm ? It would be an investment for future revenues, if anything.
        Otherwise, they could check with Indycars and copy what they did. They face the same issues, being open-wheel racing.

      • Ranilom said on 14th April 2010, 17:06

        FIA knows how much money a team will spend to develop a new undercarriage, the diffuser, etch. Instead of spending ?? x 12 teams, the teams could contribute to ??/12 for the FIA to conduct necessary test. The aerodynamic engineers will have plenty to work on the rest of the car, and the modifications will be visible to us.
        If both the teams and the FIA are honest about cost reduction, they should be happy to contribute to a tested solution that will work and save money in the process.

      • There is a simple answer.

        There is currently an aerodynamic experiment that is about to enter its 6th year, which is being tested in front of millions of people. It’s called GP2 and it produces some quality racing.

  5. zplol said on 13th April 2010, 15:48

    If the technical freedom is restricted even more I am afraid the best of the best will just go find other challenges.

  6. Bebilou said on 13th April 2010, 16:04

    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.

  7. David B said on 13th April 2010, 16:10

    Why not banning wings at all?

    • macahan said on 13th April 2010, 17:09

      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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

    • 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

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th April 2010, 18:09

      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:

      • Gilles said on 13th April 2010, 19:41

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

      • 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.

        • Gilles said on 14th April 2010, 10:01

          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.

    • Patrickl said on 13th April 2010, 22:42

      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.

  10. John H said on 13th April 2010, 17:36

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


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

    • Patrickl said on 13th April 2010, 22:50

      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.

  11. Xibi said on 13th April 2010, 17:39

    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. :@

    • Rob R. said on 13th April 2010, 19:29

      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.

  12. wasiF1 said on 13th April 2010, 18:22

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

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

    • Xibi said on 13th April 2010, 21:51

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

  15. Icthyes said on 13th April 2010, 19:28

    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!

    • simon said on 12th June 2010, 8:31

      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.

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