Formula 1 teams are closing in on a move to ban double diffusers in a bid to cut downforce and slow the cars down from the start of the 2011 season.
The introduction of double diffusers into F1 caused huge controversy at the start of last season, when rivals protested the concept that was used to great effect by Brawn GP, Williams and Toyota in the opening races of the campaign. The matter eventually went to the FIA International Court of Appeal, where the double diffuser was deemed fully legal and other teams had to revise the rear end of their cars to make the most of the extra downforce the design produced.
However, with downforce and overall speeds having increased since then – and the diffuser designs getting increasingly more complicated – sources have revealed that moves are now afoot to change the F1 regulations to outlaw them completely. Amid predictions that the downforce levels of cars will, this season, potentially go beyond what they were at the end of 2008, teams have decided to take action.
AUTOSPORT reports that technical chiefs discussed reducing downforce levels in a meeting of FOTA's Technical Regulations Working Group late last year, and agreed that the rules should be changed to effectively outlaw double diffusers. The teams want to create regulations that require the floor to be a continuous section if taken through a longitudinal or lateral plane – which if achieved will get rid of the "slots" in the floor that have made the double diffuser concept work. It is understood that efforts are now being made to sort out the wording of the regulations to ensure that there are no loopholes that will allow anyone to continue using a double diffuser.
Once the wording of the rules has been sorted, it will then be put to the FIA's official Technical Working Group for ratification prior to going through the channels required for it to get put into the 2011 regulations. It is estimated that the reduction in downforce caused by the double diffuser ban would result in the cars being slowed by around one second per lap.
Lotus' chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne confirmed to AUTOSPORT that the move was being made, and it was one he supported. "I think it is exactly right," he said. "It is what we should do, and it is what both FOTA and the FIA are looking at for 2011. I think it is very sensible and very easy to do – just tighten up the regulations and it is done."
Gascoyne did not believe that the double diffuser ban would have that big an impact in terms of increasing passing, though. "I don't think there was a reduction in overtaking [because of double diffusers], but the changes to improve overtaking didn't help," he said. "And, in fact, if you look at the numbers, it was never going to.
"But if you look at it carefully, what the [F1 teams'] aero group set out to achieve, it actually did, and if you take the diffuser away it will do exactly what it said on the tin. Unfortunately, that will never help you overtake anyone."
Although the majority of teams support the move, some outfits are unhappy about the prospective double diffuser ban because it will mean an expensive redesign of the entire rear end of the car, including the gearbox and rear suspension, for 2011.