Radical changes to engine maps for 2012 give power back to designers
Posted By: James Allen  |  20 Oct 2011   |  11:47 pm GMT  |  86 comments

In the last 24 hours it appears that a clarification has gone out from the FIA’s Charlie Whiting to all teams regarding exotic engine maps, to the effect that they aren’t allowed after the end of this 2011 season.

Many engineers I’ve spoken to are rejoicing, because they feel that at last there is clarity on exhausts having an aerodynamic effect by continuing to blow over aerodynamic surfaces while the car is in corners. The feeling is they can all get on with designing a nice F1 car for next year, without worrying about how engine modes are going to factor into the aerodynamics.

Blown diffusers are already banned from next year, with exhausts set to exit above the engine cover, but the designers were still going to find ways to get the exhausts to blow across the lower element of the rear wing to generate extra downforce in the corners and now it looks like all exhausts will be allowed to do is blow out gas at high pressure when the driver has his foot on the throttle.

Whiting tried this summer to do something about engine maps and blown diffusers, but it got a bit diluted after Renault and Red Bull complained that it would affect their reliability. The situation evolved, via a messy one off arrangement at Silverstone, and ended up with a compromise, which was in the best interests of getting through the season.

But now a new wording has gone out for next year, which apparently simplifies things. Let’s hope it sticks.

It really has been amazing how much downforce the blown diffusers have generated, as the teams have perfected them; probably 20% more than was envisaged by Pirelli when they designed their tyres and certainly more than enough to take the cars back to and beyond the levels of downforce in the double diffuser days.

Meanwhile Mercedes have got everyone talking with what amounts to an F Duct front wing, which takes in air through the nose of the car and blows it out across the plane of the wing.

Other teams are not clear on the benefits of this line of development and may not leap in to copy Mercedes.

Interestingly, on the subject of front wings, what some teams have found recently is that, with the soft rubber from which Pirelli is making tyres, the “marbles”, or bits of loose rubber that shred off the tyres are forming in clumps in the gaps between the elements of the front wing, causing a loss of several points of downforce.

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"what some teams have found recently is that, with the soft rubber from which Pirelli is making tyres, the “marbles”, or bits of loose rubber that shred off the tyres are forming in clumps in the gaps between the elements of the front wing, causing a loss of several points of downforce."

Next year's arms race: building a wing that benefits aerodynamically from accretion of rubber on special "rubber catching" hooks. Not a *movable* aero surface... a dynamically growing aero surface!


That's a really funny comment. Yeah, so they start doing crazy stuff like painting glue on the wings to get a build up in a certain point on the wing. 😉


I don't think next year's arms race will be about a new f-duct. Surely the very fact that we know about this now completely invalidates the story James?


Maybe its being revealed now as a misdirection (eg, in the hope that rival teams waste some of their engineering time checking it out)


A different way could be to have surfaces that fall off when hit by the rubber, allowing the weight of the car to reduce, and then the drivers pick up "tons" of marbles on their tyres on the slow down lap.


About time logic was used.There's nothing wrong with say A Newey coming up with some new way to curb existing regs however there is something very wrong with the way its policed.Lets look at golf for instance,there is no grey areas in the rules,they are what they are for all & one.It makes a mockery of everything when the judiciary allows one team to have a 2 sec advantage over other team due to how one interprets the current regulation,kinda like Tiger using a 560cc driver when everyone else starts the season with the legal 460cc version.Innovation is what F1 epitomizes,& its a shame to nullify this but IMO you either shut the flood gate completely or throw the door wide open for everyone.Grey areas are for the legal fraternity to debate,not for sport,it just kills the show.

IMO its time to ditch the former driver adjudicating race decisions as well,half the guys used this season are young enough to still be emotionally tied to there decisions,ie friends with one of the protagonists.


There are huuuuuuge grey areas in golf, and golf has its equivalent of stewards to interpret the rules when those grey areas are encountered. The main advantage you have in golf is the provisional ball rule, which at least means that if you find yourself in a potential grey area between two rules you can often play both out and sort it out afterwards.

You can't have a meaningful contest between engineering teams and have no grey areas in the rule book.


A Newey? Good God - there's more than one of them? Have Red Bull cloned him - maybe their entire design department is all A Neweys which assures their success.


I think what he quite clearly meant was A for Adrian, hence why he used a capital letter


Ah, so thats how Lewis lost 10 points.


The clumps from the marbles are what slowed Lewis down in Korea. Atleast if the rules are clear and blown diffusers and engine mapping are banned full stop then they wont be an arms race at the beginning of the season to try and copy the team tht can stretch the rules to the limit


"Interestingly, on the subject of front wings, what some teams have found recently is that, with the soft rubber from which Pirelli is making tyres, the “marbles”, or bits of loose rubber that shred off the tyres are forming in clumps in the gaps between the elements of the front wing, causing a loss of several points of downforce."

James, do you think this could explain Martin Whitmarsh's observation about Hamilton losing supposedly 10 points of downforce in the early part of Korea?



I go back to one of my other question about possible new materials coming into the cars for 2012.

If you think back we had cast iron pots & pans, then along comes a new coating and presto we have non-stick pots and pans. Even the latest one is pretty good and has improved from a few years ago. So would this be a case of a team coming up with a surface coating, (that or there technical partners) which works like a non-stick pan, and the tyre marbles, just flow off, therefore no lost of down force


As I understand it, what's happening is that as the tyres are being used, the compound tends to be moved towards the edges of the tyre where it tends to hang around for a while till being thrown off in lumps/clumps/peices that are quite substantial and if a piece or pieces happen to land on the lower element of the wing it gets blown back but sometimes the bits are too big to slide between the two elements of the wing therefore building up more and more and finally effecting the efficiency of the wing. Different tyre compounds behave in different ways eg wearing away in dust or small particles but the currant compounds are having the currant problem.



They need to adapt that space age swim suit material that has been banned from competition and wrap a car in it! 🙂


Very good news. Perhaps this will affect Red Bull's charge next year, though with Newey at the helm, he may already be on to something new!


I wouldn't be too hopeful - McLaren lost more than Red Bull at Silverstone when the effect was scaled back, and in Korea, the low speed traction appeared to be better than Red Bull's too based on Hamilton and Webber. Since the diffuser is engine speed limited, to a degree its effect will be greatest at low speeds.

The McLaren high speed performance is still pretty good judging by the first sector at Suzuka, so it isn't all bad new for Woking.




James; I beg to differ. This year; even with the extreme levels of drag reduction provided by the DRS, and the KERS; the cars have not been on the pace of last year's cars in high downforce circuits.

While the EBD downforce gain is sizable; I don't think it's close to the levels of downforce produced by the double decked diffusers of yesteryear. Having said that; the level of grip the Pirelli tyres can supply is an unknown quantity; we don't know how much grip they have relative to the Bridgestones


The Pirelli's have good initial grip but its very short lived. We never get to see them at their best on low fuel during the race because innevitably the cars only have qualifying fuel levels on the last lap by which time the tyres "Kerry Packer'd" as my old mum would say.


Not to be forgotten is that the rest of the car chassis designs will have undergone through a reasonable rate of refinement - which usually is worth about 2 seconds or so


That's not my point. Tyre wear should be close to negligible if you're just talking of ultimate performance over a single lap.

On fast circuits with high downforce requirements such as Catalunya; the cars have not been able to achieve the same apex speeds this year on high speed bends/turns. Which is why I don't 100% buy the theory that the EBD supplies the cars with more downforce than the DDD


Doesn't explain the gap in qualifying


If the tyres are useless for low fuel conditions then why are so many fastest laps set in the last few laps?


Well, due to parc ferme regulations the cars qualify on a race set up so we never see the ultimate lap times from any car.


James, just focusing on your last sentence, could you explain what a point of downforce is.



Hi Ed,

I have got as far as confirming that a point is a measure of the ability of a wing generate downforce. It is independent of velocity (although this is not true in reality for F1 cars). The references I found suggest it is the coefficient of lift multiplied by the area of the wing. It says nothing about the drag produced by the wing.

Based on the dimensions of an F1 car, I am wondering if Luke is right and that it is just the coefficient of lift, as the underbody creates a large area. Looking at aircraft wings, in high lift conditions such as landing, they get up to a CL of 4.00, so an F1 car should be similar.

I've copied part of a post by Shelly from F1 Technical that will give you the maths. Looking at wikipedia on coefficient of lift is not a bad idea if you want to look a bit further.

"Downforce=0.5*(air density)*(speed)^2*(reference area)*Cl

Usually you don't work with Cl, but with [reference area*Cl], namely SCl.

SCl has the dimension of surface, i.e. m^2 in SI; typical values are between 2 and 5.

1 point corresponds to SCl=0.01m^2:

if your car improves from SCl=4 to SCl=4.30 it has gained 30 points of downforce.

Working with points is easier because you work with numbers like 5, 7, 30 instead of 0.05, 0.07, 0.30.

If in the formula for downforce you substitute air density=1.22 kg/m^3 and take into account dividing by 3.6^2 (conversion for speed from m/s to km/h) and by 9.81 (conversion from N to kg) you get

Downforce=0.0048*(speed in km/h)^2*SCl"

or to skip Shelly's slightly confusing final formula, in kg the downforce is given by.

Downforce = 0.000048*(speed)^2*points

I hope this is of use to you. I learnt something from it looking it up.




I think it is 0.01 of Coefficient of Lift. So adding 10 points of downforce to a car with -2.00 CL would give you -2.100 CL

Think being the main word here 🙂


Teams talk in terms of "downforce points", which as I understand it is a loosely defined term used by all the teams, but which means different things at different outfits. It just means some amount of KG of downforce. James do you know how much "one point" equals on average across all the teams? I would imagine with all the technician churn in F1 that there are no secrets between teams on units like this.


Newtons, I don't know how many...


I believe he means percentage points, loss of performance as a percentage of the total original downforce level.


Sorry I have to correct myself. According to this interview with Paddy Lowe, a "point" does have a fixed numerical definition:


with a typical car apparently having 300-350 points of downforce in total.


I don't think it's percentage points, more like one turn of the adjusting screw or whatever. The real value of a "point" will vary a bit between the different teams.


I may have missed it but I would love to see an interview with Charlie. More holistic than simply what happened with this or that issue. An insight into his weekend and also some of his most interesting races etc.


Whybthe FIA don't have an official front,rear wing and underbody kit (made by say Lola or Dallara) that the teams have to use I don't know. The savings in cost would be enourmous, and the FIA could fine tune performance year on year by changing profiles.


They said that about a stock tyre, and not having v12,v8,v6 and 4 cylinder turbo cars. Frankly if you want variety in car design you are about 40 years to late. About the only car it would be easy to spot in the carbon fibre would be the McLaren.

I remember the 70s and still miss the variety.


I for one am very glad that it’s not that way. The technical race is 1/2 the excitement for me. It contributes to making F1 an all-around team sport and increases the drama throughout the season. (ie, McLaren’s incredible pace of development during the last few seasons.)

Moreover, saving $$$ isn’t the most important factor either: F1 is about racing at the pinnacle of motor sport. Many of the teams are pushing the limit on spending with the current regs. And if a team can’t afford to keep up with the pace of development, they should seek to compete in a lower (and less costly) series rather than drag F1 down with them.


I don't think this would be good for the sport. Now there's some kind of designer competition which would be lost if the teams have to use same aero elements.


because this is formula one , not formula ford.

I for one want to see designers pushing things to the limits of the rules , coming up with new things ... its formula 1



I had to laugh at this comment, Formula Ford is pretty much the only other open chassis formula out there as well as F1.


lol .. sorry .. shows how much i know about formula ford .. or anything 🙂



This would almost defeat the idea of F1... It's a team sport in that each team designs and runs their own car - The best car\driver package wins. If you want to see everyone driving the same equipment you should watch GP2.


I am not sure about the gp2 or other series but even in karting, manufacturer & engine maker competition exists. Karters choose different manufacturers n engine base on what they think it's best for them obviously but sometimes it doesn't work out for them just like in F1 really. But of course in this case at least u dictate your luck more.


is mercedes not giving away to much to early ? i suppose they wanted to test it now to prove its worth continuing with the design over winter .. where others will not be sure if it works or not .. so they will have to take a risk...



They could be distracting everyone with a concept they know doesn't work. There's going to be a few dozen designer-hours put into this concept at every team now, if Merc are leading them on a wild goose chase it would give them an advantage.


It's certain that if they really thought they'd found the silver bullet they wouldn't be talking about it now.


I'm glad about this rule... No more nasty noises when the cars are cornering! Newey will lead the way again though, I love McLaren but I'd be prepared to bet a lot on RBR starting the season with the car to beat again.


Me personally, I think that Mercedes GP is throwing a huge smoke screen with their front wing f-duct... While everybody is focusing on the front now their new rear end is escaping scrutiny. Conspiracy theory at best I know, but worth considering since no one does give away any developments for next year this early?


Given your theory, you should change your screen name from "Chapor" to "Vapor" 🙂


I have enjoyed the technical nature of the blown diffuser this year. While I agree that a hot-blown diffuser is wasting fuel and should be stopped, using a cold blown diffuser does not have the problem.

I like the idea of all the energy in those hot gases being utilised - surely that is 'green'?


Well in 2014 it will be used when they bring in the turbo engines.


I have a feeling that blowing out gas at high pressure will have an impact on the following car. This is not going to make overtaking any easier even with DRS.


I think what's meant by this is that the exhaust can only 'blow' when the driver is throttling on, as in a conventional engine map. So no hot or cold blowing out of the top-exiting exhausts.


Well, where do you suggest they put the exhaust then, they have to get rid of those high pressure gasses some how?



In 2006 some electronic aid devices were restricted, like starting control and breaking with engine. Now from some articles seems like engine breaking is still returned (permitted). is this correct?


I don't think there was any restriction on engine braking. The downchanges are matched with engine throttle blips to match the revs. It is more about stability than pure performance as the cars have enough power in the brakes to lock the tyres. What the drivers prefer is a relatively constant load so that the back wheels do not lock unintentionally.


Is the Mercedes F-Duct a smokescreen? Why would they reveal such details at that stage of the season and not try to hide it as long as possible?

Could they be hiding some other radical innovation by diverting attention to the front wing? Or are they so desperate to try out the F-Duct concept this season to see if it's worth pursuing that development path?

Very curious!


With Ross Brawn, it will be very interesting to see what he will do. James, do you think there is a chance that they will come up with a car like 2009? I know it is wishful thinking from Mercedes fans.


Will this clarification now require Renault to redesign part of engine/valves? Could be an opportunity to improve reliability and potentially increase power.


In one of the after race videos from Korea, I noticed that the McLaren already has a vent at the front of its nose. Does anyone know what this is used for?

With regards to the "marbles" getting into the front wings; could this be why Lewis and Jenson suffered from under-steer during the race?


A lot of teams carry vents in the front of the car, it's mainly there to get some air inside the cockpit i believe.


Yep, they've been a common feature for donkeys years now!


I think Mercedes may have set the pace with their idea, both championships are gone, limited testing, lets bring what we have to the final GP's and test it to get a head start to next year.

I too would love to see an interview with Charlie it would be fascinating, and like the new rule, the designers can go back too making NICE looking F1 cars - where the best car and driver wins not the one with the most gimmicks.

Think the last races this year could see other teams try news items look at Ferrari with their front wing. Can't wait for India


@ Raymond U, Adrian Newey is on record as saying that the blown diffuser, when operating at its maximum, increases the overall downforce levels affecting the car slightly beyond that of the packages found in the 'bad old days'. Naturally, KERS and DRS negates the impact this downforce has on the vehicle behind, meaning they can still overtake with greater ease than the double decker years. However, the point I beleive James was making is that the blown diffuser was not foreseen (by the rulemakers or Pirelli) when the new regulations were introduced to reduce overall downforce levels, increase mechanical grip and increase the ease of overtaking and has become a massive and, I would say overall unwelcome, distraction.

Mark in Australia

Any chance if sone diagrams to explain further this front wing F-Duct, James?


Yes, I'll get my man onto it


There are already drawings and a description over on Scarbs F1.

(It's a totally different type of blog, so not in direct competition with this one. And I have no link to either blog.)




All this talk of losing 'points of downforce'. What is a 'point' of downforce? How big/small is it? Is a Red Bull point bigger or smaller than a Ferrari point? Do we talk about 'points of speed'? No, we talk about miles or kilometres per hour. Why can't we talk about downforce in terms of kilos per inch or whatever? Is there any generic way in which the downforce created by any given F1 car - or part thereof - can be measured?


The reason points are used is that the downforce varies with speed. Since the cornering speed varies with fuel mass, the speed is rarely a fixed variable either. Due to interactions between the wings and the tyres (primarily) downforce doesn't just follow a pure calculation of downforce based on the coefficient of lift. Post #8 has more detail.

The downforce is measured by load sensors, so in metric is measured in Newtons. To be relevant, a velocity is needed, e.g. 20000 N at 300 km/h. Within a team, when making a comparison it is easier to use a relative measure such as points, than an absolute measure. An engineer is more likely to say to Martin Whitmarch that Lewis has lost 10 points of downforce than 1000 N at 200 km/h, as the 10 points applies reasonably accurately at all speeds.


So if downforce levels are significantly lower next year then it will be interesting to see what effect that has on Pirelli tyres. Lower downforce has to mean slower cornering and less heat, so perhaps the overheating issue goes away? But with more reliance on mechanical grip will the tyres naturally wear out faster?

Pure speculation of course. If anyone has any insight then please enlighten me!



Yes, lower downforce will mean slower cornering speeds, but heat build-up comes from several factors. Downforce, even when a car is not sliding will bring surface temperature. Sliding will bring even more, but drivers will always drive at the limit when pushing and conserve occasionally.

Less downforce will usually mean more wheelspin, and this brings up the surface temperature really quickly.

The tyre distorting as it rolls is another large source of heat. Lower tyre pressures, increased camber and toe-in all make the tyres distort more, increasing heat build-up.

My understanding is that mechanical grip is not really an issue. The cars will have less downforce, and therefore less load through the tyres and because of that the tyres should last longer. As evidence for this, I'd suggest looking at the number of pit stops the fast cars in F1 make compared to the slower cars. The fast teams have more downforce (hence they are fast) and always stop at least as much as the slow teams during a race. The only exception that you find to this is with really slow tracks like Singapore where low speed traction is important to avoid wheelspin, and this dominates tyre performance.





I remember hearing that schumacher used to drive by balancing the throttle and brake mid corner, one of the reasons he was since fast. Several times this year in practice however he's been advised against doing this over team radio...

Will this new ruling have any effect in drivers being able to do this again??


Regarding Mercedes using a front nose F duct, very interesting if they do. I thought the front of the car had to undergo an approved crash test prior to racing so have they alreaqdy done this. Also the idea of the F duct was very simple but difficult to tune in to the car to get best results. Are Mercedes diverting resources in to producing a conventional nose andn F duct nose??

With the marbles issue, you heard it here first (I think)about some headline with "marbles stuck up nose" or "Mercedes has a blocked nose".


Regarding Mercedes new front wing, my theory is that there is some kind of pressure activated valve in the nose that will open up as the cars speed, and therefore pressure on the front of the nose, increases. Once a preset pressure is reached, the valve will be forced open and divert the air trying to enter through the nose slot over the front wing and towards the rest of the car. As the car slows down, the pressure on the nose decreases and the valve closes. The preset release pressure would be determined based on the speed the car will be going when they want the front wing to stall. In addition, the preset release pressure could easily be adjusted to accomodate different tracks. Given that there is no driver input required to activate it (by this years f-duct banning regulations), it is legal.

There would likely be issues with it working properly when following other cars, as the turbulent air would probably give inconsistent pressures? I'm not an aerodynamicist so that is likely an oversimplification.

However, wouldnt that pressure release valve (could be any type of valve) be considered a 'moveable aerodynamic device' as it opens to release the pressure and divert air over the front wing?

6 Wheeled Tyrrell


I have never understood how the F-duct is or has ever been legal, isn't it a moveable aerodynamic device that is actuated by the driver? why is this allowed and Renault's old mass damper was deemed illegal?

Best regards


Regarding the mass damper, I agree with you, Tyrrell, it shouldn't have been banned it was a clever inovative device certainly not associated with aerodynamics! Those who said it was were just twisting words/phrases/imagination etc., to suit their own end. Reno should have been given a pat on the back for dreaming the device up!



Actually the driver activates the movement of the top element of the rear wing, (which FIA allow/require cars to have), and when that element moves a passage is opened to a high pressure area in the rear wing which alows air to travel through ducting to be released into the airstream via holes in the front wing thereby stalling said wing and reducing drag. The driver is not moving the aerodynamic device (front wing), the movement of the rear wing (legal) is alowing movement of AIR to travel to the front wing. The aerodynamic device is not moving, the AIR is.



You know what?

i think they must bring back the v10 engines instead of focusing in the downforce thing,it is boring now,i want to see the cars reach 360km/h

6 Wheeled Tyrrell

I've just read that Mercedes' F duct is passive one and not directly activated by the driver.

Still it's a movable aerodynamic device...


Yeah but the only moveable bit is the top wing elament which is alowed to enable the DRS.



"Whiting tried this summer to do something about engine maps and blown diffusers, but it got a bit diluted after Renault and Red Bull complained that it would affect their reliability. The situation evolved, via a messy one off arrangement at Silverstone, and ended up with a compromise, which was in the best interests of getting through the season."

Who complained? I thought they reverted to the blown diffuser when they realised that the new rule did not hurt Red Bull but helped them (Silverstone)?

Has CW talked to Ferrari and McLaren before deciding on disallowing exhaust gases again? Perhaps he needs to make sure it won't hurt them? I mean, it would be too embarrasing for them if Red Bull wins again (which by the way they will do if it is all about aero).


It just goes to show how inefficient combustion engines are. There is all this energy being lost out of the exhaust which they have been able to tap into.

When they are allowed to scavenge energy from the exhaust with the new engine regulations they won't then be allowed to use special engine modes will they? Ideally when the new engine regulations come in I can see that it might be useful to have some off throttle stuff going on to generate electricity so you can use it to accelerate out of a corner.


I have to admit that because of my limited knowledge i got a bit confused.

You mention that "it appears that a clarification has gone out from the FIA’s Charlie Whiting to all teams regarding exotic engine maps, to the effect that they aren’t allowed after the end of this 2011 season."

Does this mean:

a) That the teams will have to use only 1 map for the whole weekend?

b) That a specific map will be provided by Fia that everyone will have to follow?

c) That an engine can operate without a map and that no maps will be used at all?


Yeah me too, I thought all teame were using the SECU supplied by McLaren Electronics! I've often wondered how they fiddle that.


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