Why was there a fight about diffusers and why were rules changed, then changed back in the space of a month – and in the middle of the season?
Words Mark Hughes
Main Image Andrew Ferraro/LAT
It was bordering on farce at Silverstone: the FIA ban on It was bordering on farce at Silverstone: the FIA ban on o;-throttle blowing of di;users had completely collapsed by Saturday morning of British Grand Prix weekend. Delegations of angry engineers and team principals had trailed back and forth to FIA technical delegate Charlie
Whiting’s o;ce throughout the previous couple of days,
each explaining why the latest in an ever-changing FIA
position would unfairly and adversely a;ect them.
By Saturday lunchtime we had the black comedy of
Whiting asking all the teams if they could agree to have the
rules of the previous race – i.e., with o;-throttle blowing
allowed – applied for the balance of the season. In other
words, “Could you all please agree to have it the way it was
before we tried to change it?” It was duly voted through and
so for the remainder of the year full o;-throttle exhaust
blowing of di;users is once more permitted, having been
restricted only at Silverstone. For 2012 though, a newly
prescribed zone for the exhaust will ensure it physically
cannot blow onto the di;user – thereby e;ectively
outlawing all blowing of di;users, on throttle or o;.
How did we get here? Using the exhaust gas to energize
airflow over the di;user to increase downforce is not a new
idea; it was first used by the Renault Formula 1 team in 1983
and has moved into and out of fashion
on a regular basis ever since, according
to the geometries of the di;user and
bodywork allowed by the regulations.
But its current vogue began with the
2010 Red Bull RB6. The team had tried
disguising it when it first appeared at
the final preseason test, with stick-on
exhaust outlets in their conventional
place and the real exhausts way lower in
the car’s dark, shadowy nether regions.
But that just alerted the opposition: why
had Red Bull gone to all that trouble?
By midseason, all the serious teams
had their own blown di;users. But the
sudden increase in grip you got when
you floored the throttle just made the
o;-throttle part of the corner feel all the
more unstable. There was more grip to
be found there…if only the exhaust
could continue to blow even when the
driver lifted his right foot.
Hence the advent of o;-throttle
blowing: keep the engine throttles open
even as the accelerator is lifted, reducing
the torque to the wheels by cutting the
“There was a feeling
among Red Bull’s
opposition that the
RB7 was gaining more
from this technology”