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. 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?

    • We want turbos said on 13th April 2010, 20:25

      Because Ferrari didn’t like it!!

    • 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.

  2. matt90 said on 13th April 2010, 20:36

    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.

    • Gilles said on 14th April 2010, 8:32

      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.

      • macahan said on 14th April 2010, 20:19

        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…..

  3. tombo said on 13th April 2010, 20:41

    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.

    • 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.

  4. Nick said on 13th April 2010, 22:16

    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.

  5. jamesdobson said on 13th April 2010, 22:19

    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.

  6. Bikouros said on 14th April 2010, 0:40

    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?

  7. F1NATIC said on 14th April 2010, 1:54

    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.

  8. 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.

  9. Prisoner Monkeys said on 14th April 2010, 3:06

    All I can say is … sense!

  10. Mark said on 14th April 2010, 4:19

    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).

  11. DavidS said on 14th April 2010, 7:20

    There’s a lot of crazy ideas being thrown around, so here’s one.

    Bring back active suspension, even as a spec unit.
    More mechanical grip, which means less reliance on aero. If you mandate a minimum ride height in the design or the rules, you can limit the amount of aerodynamic gain from the underfloor. Teams on the spec package will be almost equal in performance, which means tighter racing.

    Also, it has implications for road cars. Incredibly smooth ride, grip and active safety are all possible with active suspension.
    With advances in technology from the 90s, it’ll no longer be archiac and prohibitively expensive.

    • Not crazy. I like it. We have a spec ECU, so why not spec active suspension or active damping? Also, maybe you can have a performance penalty by raising a car .5mm after every race it scores a podium, like Marty wants.

  12. Jay M said on 14th April 2010, 9:27

    Barry has some really interesting points that is deserving of an article itself!
    Only I don’t agree with one thing which I would like to harmlessly mention… I think the 2009/10 cars a beautiful and shark fins are fantastic!

    With that said, Why Don’t Formula 1 just chill about Aerodynamics for a while, because the clever ‘aero’ people will always find new ways of producing incredible grip via loop holes and creative thinking.

    So why don’t we go back to the fundamentals of Formula 1. Engines.

    Like Barry Mentioned, 4Cylinder Turbo KERS Powered motors? I’m not sure if that’s the correct way to go but it makes complete sense!

    I would only enforce that the KERS System be a Generic System (Possibly Mclarens because it seemed to work flawlessly) so that the teams are on an equal playing field and keeps the cost low.

    But the Drivers then would be able to use the KERS system to pass, while managing the Boost on their Turbo to conserve fuel and keep the car from overheating.

    It seems like the more sensible route to take.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 14th April 2010, 9:53

      With that said, Why Don’t Formula 1 just chill about Aerodynamics for a while, because the clever ‘aero’ people will always find new ways of producing incredible grip via loop holes and creative thinking.

      That’s true to an extent but the OWG research applies the same smart thinking to the overtaking problem and, if you read what Lowe is saying about diffusers, I think their reasoning for getting rid of them is sound.

      • The_Pope said on 14th April 2010, 11:07

        Here’s a “crazy” idea: if downforce can be measured (in KG I believe) is there any reason why the regulations can’t just stipulate a maximum level of downforce??

        There’s been a lot of talk about front wings, rear wings, mirrors, sidepods, floors and double diffusers; these all generate different levels as discussed.

        But taking the car as a whole, can’t they just stick the final chassis in a wind tunnel, run it at 200mph and measure the downforce, which would be regulation-limited to to 1200KG or some appropriate figure.

        How the teams spend their aero quota is up to them, but instead of trying to extra more and more out of control surfaces limited by dimensional area, why not just regulate the overall effect?

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 14th April 2010, 11:10

          if downforce can be measured

          It can, but unless it can be measured on the cars while they’re on track, then I don’t see how they could police it at a race weekend.

          • The_Pope said on 14th April 2010, 11:26

            Yeah, didn’t think that far ahead tbh. Was just thinking of like when they do the crash testing pre-season.

            Forgot they have their measuring template thingys to check the legality of body part each weekend.

            Back to the Think Tank :)

      • Keith,
        downforce per se doesn’t seem to be problem – the dependency on clean air to generate it is.
        Indycars have apparently put regs in place to curb this and seems to be working.
        From the past, we can tell that the wing-car era seemed to provide the closest racing. Maybe it’s time to bring them back as their dependency on clean air is apparently limited and downforce levels of that era have already been surpassed anyway.

        • When I watched the Alabama grand prix I heard no end to complaints from drivers that they could not get close enough to pass due to turbulence. The grass is always greener somewhere else. That race was a fuel strategy snooze-fest, BTW, with drivers backing off to save tires and then trying to pass on the pit overlap. Sound familiar? Hacking away at increments of turbulence is likely a fools-errand when dealing with very large, very high-drag cars that must derive some performance from aero downforce. If you want no aero downforce at all, then look for lap times below LMP cars—and see if people will cough up a grand to attend a race run by slow, spec-bodywork cars that pass a lot.

          • Gilles said on 14th April 2010, 19:30

            Hey, that does sound familiar !
            The grass could be greener because of the dung spread over it then, which I failed to spot …

      • Apologetic said on 14th April 2010, 20:28

        Until the Overtaking Working Group is TOTALLY INDEPENDANT of the teams nothing will really get sorted – I can think of at least 3 of the cleverest minds in F1 who are pretty much underutilised at the moment who could be recruited by the FIA to head up a TOTALLY INDEPENDANT Overtaking Working Group to out flank the teams everytime they find ways around the regs or ways to increase down force – Geoff Willis, Jorg Zander Ex BrawnGP aerodynamicist & Pat Symonds – (he could do it for free Community Service stylee for his sins against F1 ) :)

  13. MacLeod said on 14th April 2010, 10:36

    Over time the cars all got beter and much closer to each other you see that clearer the last 4 years.
    The best way is to reverse the start postions so who is 1st starts behind the field and so on. Make qualifing a small sprint for points overtaking garanted during the race. Simple solutions instead of rules changing we have way to many rules already. Removing the front wing should provide enough problems for the teams to coop.

  14. A Singh said on 14th April 2010, 11:07

    The cars do need another aero package. But this time the rules need to slash the aero to around 30% of what it is at the moment. Last year’s rules cut it to 50% but the teams clawed a lot of it back, so the cut needs to be more drastic.

    Also, the OWG needs to look at areas where the teams improve in aero that lead to turbulent wakes – these areas need to be restricted heavily, otherwise we will end up with where we are now.

  15. nemo said on 14th April 2010, 16:17

    i really dnt like the ideaof reverse grid.. it will just get nasty.

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