Will Gray

Technical Talk: Diffusion confusion

Will Gray

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We have seen it time and time again when a step design change is brought in. As soon as the new regulations are revealed, designers painstakingly search for the loopholes in every area, working all the hours God sends to find that extra hundredth of a second.

And some react to their new challenges faster than others.

F1 design is a constant battle between the well-trained brains of the FIA and the eager minds of the team engineers. More often than not, the FIA wins - but on some occasions the designers manage to stay within the rules but think outside the box.

In this case, the design gurus in Grove and Cologne came up with a controversial solution to the diffuser regulations - the diffuser being the bit at the back of the car under the rear wing - that is certain to give their cars a competitive advantage.

It appears that a unique rear crash structure design on the cars in question enables the height of the diffusers to be greater than that allowed, enabling air to move faster underneath the rear wing therefore creating more downforce.

Not only does this issue draw interest from a design point of view, it also raises questions about potential competitive collaboration between the teams — with Williams using Toyota engines — considering only these two have come up with this solution.

The other teams, of course, dislike like being out-thought off the track as much as they hate being out-strategised on it and protests have already been mooted by teams fighting against the Williams and Toyota solutions.

For now, it seems, the FIA has given them the go-ahead, and Max Mosley admits the teams have been 'clever' in their interpretation of the wording in the rules — as was the case after a similar step change in the rules when cockpit head restraints were introduced in 1996.

Back then, Williams arrived in Melbourne with 'legality fins' which enabled their cockpit sides to be lower than their rivals', improving airflow over the car. They won. In fact, they finished first and second. And nobody could argue against it.

In this case, it is perhaps not so clear. And although Mosley is confident it is fine, the other teams could decide to wait patiently until Melbourne and then, if this new design appears to have gained a significant advantage, protest the issue formally to the race stewards. And they could have a different opinion...



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