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. 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.

    1. 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.

  2. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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?

        1. 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.

          1. 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 :)

      2. 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.

        1. 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.

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

      3. 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 ) :)

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

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

  6. ban the fancy front wings – one flap only, and dead straight endplates. ban high shark noses too, though thats just cos i like drop noses better…

    i reckon if there were no radios or pit boards to tell drivers who was where/what tyres rivals are on etc etc etc we’d see them going all out. which would equal a few more do or die manouvers.

    radio communication limited to pit-in and emergency messages.

  7. Mandate a minimum speed through the speed trap in qualifying. If it’s 320 kph now, make it 360 kph, or even 400 kph. They’ll be forced to reduce the downforce (to cut drag) and increase the gearing. Less downforce means slower speed through corners means safety, and wider gear ratios might create opportunities for overtaking as drivers are caught in the wrong gear.

  8. Here’s an idea of mine, I like to call it the Tunnel Downforce System ;)

    It is like an airvent or scoop that has aerofoils inside the tunnel that creates the downforce and then shoots the air out nice and undisturbed, allowing cars to travel closely to each other. All With the benefit of the car not looking horribly bad style wise.

    I have no idea how to work a CFD Program but it would be nice to see if my idea would actual work.


    heres another one,

    my webcam is a bit crap so it looks a little distorted :P

  10. Sounds like a good idea but the OWG never seem to go far enough to improve the overtaking issue. Hopefully that will change. I guess standardising the undertray would be a step to far lol…

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