Much ado over blown diffusers leaves Formula 1 fans and media baffled
McLaren
Posted By: James Allen  |  08 Jul 2011   |  7:01 pm GMT  |  224 comments

This afternoon Formula 1 served up a war of words, which is hard to describe, much less explain.

It’s hard for even the specialist media to understand, much less portray to F1 fans. Nor does it do great service to the sport or to the people at the centre of the argument.

F1 thrives on intrigue and hype, but this is one confrontation which would perhaps have been best left behind closed doors.

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh and Red Bull boss Christian Horner got worked up and battled it out in an FIA press conference over how much percentage the throttle should be allowed to be open when the driver lifts off the accelerator pedal.

As sporting narratives go “off-throttle exhaust blown diffusers” are not exactly Ali versus Frazier or a Maradona’s “hand of god” goal. It’s a very obscure point in a sport which is already complicated enough to explain to the public.

In a nutshell, there are two methods of blowing the diffuser to create extra downforce worth around 4/10ths of a second per lap when the driver lifts off the accelerator. One involves introducing fuel into the system, which is the Mercedes way. The other does not, this is the Renault way. The FIA tried to impose a blanket rule on all engines that the throttle could be no more than 10% open, but Renault objected that this left Mercedes’ system at an advantage. The FIA then changed the ruling today to give Renault 50%, believing that this makes the relative penalty to both engines the same. This was a surprise to McLaren and Ferrari.

Renault argues that it needs to be allowed to have the throttles open 50% when the driver lifts off as it is an important part of cooling the engine and has reliability implications.

After the press conference I interviewed both men for TV and even they were having problems explaining concisely what the argument is about.

Horner was indignant, unhappy that the FIA’s change of ruling is being painted by Whitmarsh and others as a performance advantage for Renault and his team.

Whitmarsh said that the ruling was a ‘surprise’ to him and other teams and meant that they would have to follow suit, changing the way the Mercedes engine operates to allow them the same 50% throttle opening as Renault.

In fact, talking to engineers tonight, it seems that Mercedes is allowed to operate 68% open if it does not inject fuel, which allows for the differences in throttle mechanism between engines.

And it gets worse: these engines and maps are so clever that they switch from one method of blowing depending on the corner.

Whitmarsh describes today’s ruling as a “very substantial performance benefit” for Renault and compared it to asking the FIA to be allowed to run a car 100 kilos lighter because the brakes can’t cope with the loads.

Horner has a different view, “Let’s not make any mistake here,” he said. “Firing on over-run, the thrust that that generates through the exhaust, generates a bigger effect. Let’s just be absolutely clear on that.”

One of the most important things in any competitive sport is that whatever the rule, it’s the same for everybody. It’s hideously complicated for the FIA to try to regulate two different systems.

And mid season rule changes are never a good idea because they confuse the public.

To my mind, it would have been better for the FIA to avoid mid season changes and simply say that all blown diffusers are banned at the end of 2011 (which they are) and until then teams can carry on with what they are doing. No-one was complaining before about equivalence, but they are now.

It takes away from the championship if people perceive that it wasn’t achieved on a level playing field. That’s why this is a loss for Red Bull and a win for McLaren.

* Saturday update – After consultations on this overnight, the FIA has reverted to the previous ruling that only 10% throttle opening is permitted, much to the annoyance of Red Bull and Christian Horner.

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1

Yes there should realize the reader to RSS my feed to RSS commentary, quite simply

2

The solution is actually very simple…get one engine manufacturer – passenger car maker or not – to supply all cars on the grid!! Don’t forget that ECU has been standardized already.

3

Banning blown diffusers won’t make any difference to the championship or the likely long term domination by Red Bull/(Adrian Newey). This has been seen before in F1, remember the previous dominant Williams and Mclaren periods?..Mr Newey was involved with both I believe, what are F1 trying to achieve by doing this, with all due respect it will not change a Force-India into a red bull. I could understand if it was a fan car(Bernie)or something radical, but if everyone has it or has the opportunity to utilize it if they are clever enough, which surely IS the point of F1, what is the net gain in banning it? I suspect advertising revenue, keeping up public interest and a slight lack of engineering acumen within a certain team has a lot to do with it…keep um guessing…no not really when a decent driver gets to grips with a good Newey car I’m afraid. They limit down force and reduce wings so the engineers come up with wings etc that achieve the same down force but leave a lot of turbulence..then the cars cannot follow the car in front so overtaking becomes impossible then FIA come up with “artificial overtaking” rubbish like KERS and DFS. If you want to see real racing check youtube for the F1 period 1970 to 1989.

4

Banning blown diffusers won’t make any difference to the championship or the likely long term domination by Red Bull/(Adrian Newey). This has been seen before in F1, remember the previous dominant Williams and Mclaren periods?..Mr Newey was involved with both I believe? what are F1 trying to achieve by doing this, with all due respect it will not change a Force-India into a red bull. I could understand if it was a fan car(Bernie)or something radical, but if everyone has it or has the opportunity to utilize it if they are clever enough, which surely IS the point of F1, what is the net gain in banning it? I suspect advertising revenue, keeping up public interest and a slight lack of engineering acumen within a certain team has a lot to do with it…keep um guessing…no not really when a decent driver gets to grips with a good Newey car I’m afraid. They limit down force and reduce wings so the engineers come up with wings etc that achieve the same down force but leave a lot of turbulence..then the cars cannot follow the car in front so overtaking becomes impossible then FIA come up with “artificial overtaking” rubbish like KERS and DFS. If you want to see real racing check youtube for the F1 period 1970 to 1989.

5

James, can you confirm for me that cars running hot-blown diffusers would consume more petrol (than cold-blowing) during a race? If this is the case, then the ‘hotter’ downforce would be worth the additional weight of the extra fuel load? Love your work by the way… Cheers

6

Forgetting for a minute the intricate politics of what is going on..

What is telling on this blog, where fans get a voice, is the number of responses, and the consistent level of frustration, indignation over this latest row.

Thanks James, for giving us the opportunity to comment & vent.

It really shows the true effect of what has occurred and who it has really affected.

And it’s not the cars on the track, but the fans in the stands & lounge rooms around the world.

7

Quercus I have to disagree. This has now yet again has allowed F1 to descend into an unnecessarily complex technical farce. It would have been much simpler to ban these at the end of the season. This is what happened with the double diffusers and last year too with the rear wing devices. Banning things mid-season is just going to result in the teams and the fans of that team saying that their rivals are now getting an unfair advantage like Renault with the mass dampers a few years ago.

The real problem around this current system and especially this weekend in my opinion has been the seemingly leaderless approach of the FIA. You cannot restrict one engine to 10% function and then allow another team more. You certainly cannot then change the ruling part of the way thru a race weekend.

As far as I am concerned unless it is for serious safety concerns the FIA should not change the technical regulations mid-season at all… ever… period! It just alienates and confuses those watching the sport, in this circumstance even the hardcore ones.

8

Well I agree that mid-season rule changes are not wise and the rules should apply to everybody equally, but as someone who just recently started getting into F1 (last season) and, being a lawyer (not quite sure if I’m a barrister or a solicitor) the only thing I know about cars is how to start them, how to make them go and how to make them stop, I find all these tecnical discussions fascinating, as Mr. Spock would say. To me understanding the mechanics are part of all the fun and frankly what make F1 interesting and differentiate this form of racing from say, Indycar where all the teams must use the same the engines and chassis and the cars are only worth a damn if they go in a straight line with minimal curves. I mena where’s the skill in that, or am I way off the mark? Having gotten the technical stuff out of the way….VAMOS FERNANDO ALONSO and ANDIAMO FERRARI!

9

Why are there no clear cut answers as to what exactly Ferrari are doing?

We really want to know!

10

Spoke to Domenicali for you. He says he just wants to stay out of it. No particular gain for them as far as I can see

11

Sensible!

12

I am going to throw a different view and blame the teams, not (just) the FIA. The FIA gave teams plenty of time to bring up the reliability issues. This whole hot/cold blown diffuser issue came up weeks ago and the teams (specifically RBR and McLaren) had all that time to say that their engine would break and they might as well pack up and go home. I remember hearing RBR (Newey or Horner) mention a realibility issue a few weeks back but that’s it. None of this last minute business. To be fair, FIA should have allowed a specific consultation period (especially for a mid-season rule change) and then worded the final rule into stone (at which point you’re out of luck).

Maybe I missed part of the main issue and this actually did happen, but it seems like the rules changed twice on Saturday.

13

So… evidently, from the qualifying results, McLaren are the big losers in all this.

No wonder Whitmarsh was so testy about it all. It appears as though *they had the most effective hot blower!

14

So, looks like the FIA have spoiled the rest of the season.

15

So the FIA directive was released at 8.30am UK time and initial rumours suggest Renault have been advised that the 50% blowing is illegal and Mercedes are still allowed their over run. I think that’s the right decision when Renault only used 45% blowing before the ruling anyway. Hopefully we will get more details soon.

16
ricky woolway

I think the real question here is whats happened to Pure f1. The days when a driver got into a car and just drove it. No buttons to do this that and the other. I agree f1 has to have its technical aspect and yes it does make for more exciting races. But In this instance the cars doing the work not the driver. Ban it all I say give the driver a good chasis aero etc an engine a steering wheel brake pedal accelerator pedal a clutch pedal (yeah im feeling real old school this morning lol) and let them drive !

17

Just evolution. Technology is better and cheaper. Areas where you can find an advantage are fewer. This is why they fight for every inch. But this proves all along what we knew, amazing drivers were only that by having amazing cars with some tech advantage. I like to not think about it because it bothers me to know that very few drivers on the day had any chance of victory during years I spent watching. A fat guy in a Lamborghini will always beat a fit skilled driver in a Focus. Is that a fair race? These tech advantages aren’t far from this example.

18

In ‘MY VIEW’ it’s a fix

The only right & fair solution is to leave the rules as they were till then end of the season.

McLaren will be the loosers & Ferrari will be the gainers with RedBull staying around the same.

19

Cosworth teams were unhappy with the status quo before. But I think they should have left it as it was before Valencia and banned the EBDs next season

20

I’m not deciding who is proper. I am saying give the fans credit for understanding the issue!

A prawn sandwich (a la Roy Keane) wouldn’t understand it – would they?

To say I don’t understand what the real complaint is odd. I understand the technical issue and the arguments in some depth

Perhaps your definition of arrogant is different?

21
Tom in adelaide

I think we have to remember that a large number of fans are ‘casual’ by nature and don’t spend time reading about details etc. I’m an ‘above-casual fan’ and i dont fully understand this ridiculous situation. Few do, i suspect.

F1 desperately needs to get back to the best racing drivers driving cars with the best mechanical specifications in the world. Get rid of all the damn microchips, computer driving aids etc. They are great for road cars of course but awful for racing cars. And ban the simulators too, i want to see racing, not rote-learned perfection.

22

Are any of these F1 ppl actually friends, or are they *all cutthroat back-stabbers?

uh oh! Apparently *my exhaust is blowing way too hot: “You are posting comments too quickly. Slow down.”

This might be good advice for the Fools International Assn!

23

F1 is a racing series based on a formula which ideally should be determined and locked off before racing starts for the year. What we are seeing now is no different to what we have seen in the past with the likes of skirts, mass dampers, active suspension, launch control, traction control, F-Duct, oh my god I could go on forever.

Interpretation of the formula has always been the key to designing the best car. I am not a fan of changing the formula mid year as the FAI has the power to exclude any parts that do not fit the formula prior to any racing starting for the year. Do we all believe that good design should be rewarded by a mid year rule change? The advantage in Formula 1 has always been to exploit the grey areas of the formula.

I must say this year I have enjoyed the spectical. If we are not happy to see one driver dominate there is always the option of the lead trophy. (where the winner gets to carry and extra 50kg in the next race) I for one are not in favour of this in Formula One as it is pinical of motor sport and is not a one make series.

Next year the exhaust will be exiting out of the engine cowl and we will have a new set of controversial parts to argue over.

I have been watching NASCAR and this year at Daytona it was all about the best radiators. Each year I look forward to see what design innovations F1 produce. But, I must admit it makes life hard for teams with a small budget to shine.

I for one would love to see HRT develop a supercharged widget that would see them top of the podium.

24

Hi James

Question I haven’t seen:

What actual *propulsion* would the exhuast gases actually give? On all corners, engine at half-blast may give a couple of tenths for RB also?

25

If the drivers foot is off the throttle, you should have no fuel injected whatsoever (except to maintain engine idle). This is good for the environment.

Scrap the rules on throttle opening. Makes no sense having a throttle opening rules.

26

And btw, El Predicto the Psychic Armadillo says there will be a formal protest Sunday afternoon by one of the teams without a trick exhaust. Probably HRT.

27

FIA are bringing the sport into disrepute.

First there was the idiotic decision that the engine was a movable aero device.

Then they changed horses… I mean rules in mid-season;

Then it turns out several teams have ‘special’ rules just for them.

Just plain stupid.

28

Not the engine, the throttle body itself. It makes sense if you leave it there. They also didn’t change the rules mid-season, they enforced the rules as they were written. Where the whole thing has gone wrong is:

Rule clarifications with different dispensations for different teams;

Rule clarifications issued mid-session;

Rule clarifications apparently not announced to fans or other teams.

29

I thought Renault’s system still injected fuel with the throttle off, and this fuel was lit by the hot exhaust on its way out thus expanding/speeding up the air into the exhaust and out through the diffuser. And I thought Mercedes was adding a spark to the fuel instead of letting the hot exhaust light the fuel. Maybe I’m wrong, but I was pretty sure that’s how the systems worked.

30

Sounds like a big big mess – blame goes to FIA.

Imagine having to slow down Red Bull because if the championships over soon, who’s gonna watch the rest of the races.

Credit goes to Newey for being too clever for FIA.

31

James I think it is wrong to suggest they should have left this behind closed doors to make it less complicated for people. I know the press love their tidy little stories that bring page hits but as F1 fans we want more transparency on what is going on in the sport particularly with things like the FIA clarifications that are not made public.

I think the wide consensus is that Charlie was wrong to start dabbling mid season, but now that it has happened I hope to see it reported on accurately by the press and am very interested in how, or if, it effects the pecking order.

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