Blowing hot air out of your…..exhausts

Posted: May 19, 2011 by thevillainf1 in Insights

This week’s big F1 story (besides Sutil going gangsta on Eric Lux of Genii capital in a Shanghai nightclub brawl) was talk of the FIA giving the teams a new technical directive banning off throttle exhaust gasses blowing over the diffuser. A testament to how awesome Twitter is, the story broke by a Mclaren engineer tweeting about it, it got picked up all over the interwebz and a few hours later the story was out…a few more hours later and the FIA decided to hold back on the ban, so the plan is on hold for now, but FIA do seem intent to ban it sometime this season and not wait for next year.

Like I said before don’t expect big engineering explanations from me since I’m hopeless when it comes to tech stuff (check this article by Scarbs for a superb technical explanation), but basically what EBDs (Exhaust Blown Diffusers) are is explained in the name, exhaust gasses blowing over the diffuser, giving a significant increase in downforce. Now, what is this banning all about? FIA does not want to ban EBDs itself (at least not this year), what they do want to ban is teams using intricate engine mappings which allow exhaust gasses to blow over the diffuser even if the driver is off the throttle. By doing this the cars generate much downforce when they need it the most, under braking and in corners. The exact reasons behind this proposed ban are vague, fanboys would say it is an FIA scheme to slow down Red Bull and prevent a boring Championship non-fight, others argue it is to boost the sport’s green credentials, and then there’s people like me that say it’s a matter of design philosophy that engines should not be used to enhance aero, to make it harder for drivers, letting the best ones shine through and reducing a car’s dependance on aero.

FIA is not talking about a total ban by the way, they suggested limiting it to 10% off throttle exhaust blowing, but let’s take a look at the three schools of thought (damned political scientist in me acting up again).

1. It’s a trap! FIA want to slow down Red Bull so the WDC is exciting and Vettel doesn’t run away with it (the Ackbar hypothesis)

Sure, Red Bull stand to lose downforce from this, but so do all the other teams using these EBDs and blowing exhaust gasses off throttle (according to Horner himself that is 90% of the grid). Perhaps Red Bull stand to lose a bit more from it compared to the competition, but nobody knows that for sure. Only Red Bull know what they stand to lose, as only Mclaren, Ferrari, Renault,…know what they themselves could lose in terms of downforce. Thinking this through, where is the Red Bull’s main advantage over its competitors? General consensus is that Red Bull’s strong point are high to mid- speed corners, corners where the Red Bulls can go flatout where others have to lift off.  Looking at it this way, Red Bull might even lose less downforce in these kinds of turns compared to their competitors as their exhaust gasses will still jollily flow over the diffuser in such corners, whereas the competition has to lift off…they lose the off throttle exhaust gasses…they lose downforce, they’re boned vs Red Bull.

2. Flower Power Tofu Eating No Job Long Haired Hippy Bastards on Sandals are ruining the sport (the FPTENJLHHBOS hypothesis)

It did raise some eyebrows when after the Australian Grand Prix Renault proudly boasted that their engines could use 10% more fuel than normal in the race to increase the flow to their diffusers and floors due to their good fuel consumption rate…that’s not something that goes down well with a sport that is trying to up its green credentials (and shows the insulated world some of these engineers live in). With the 1.6 Turbo engines due to come in 2013 and the reintroduction of KERS, the green image of F1 is important to the FIA (nevermind how hypocritical that is, but that’s food for another article), so there is probably some merit to this hypothesis. Nevertheless I do not think this is the main reason why the FIA decided to break out the banhammer.

3. Aero is King, Vive la Revolution! (The Bastille hypothesis )

Aero is the main reason why overtaking in F1 is so hard without fancy gizmos like the DRS and tires that fall off cliffs. I am pro-DRS, don’t get me wrong, but I’m only for it because it is the only  alternative we have at the moment to having less aero dependent cars that would enable closer racing without the need for such artificial devices. Engineers can’t ‘unlearn’ everything they have discovered about aero in F1 for the past 30 years since the first wings started appearing on F1 cars so it’s not as simple as just banning wings alltogether from F1 cars, but still the regulators have been desperately trying to curb the amount of downforce generated by aero, but more importantly, limit the turbulent air coming off cars that hamper anyone following close by.

There is already a lot of criticism on F1’s high reliance on aero and how it has negatively affected overtaking (or lack thereof), and this new step the engineers have come up with regarding EBDs takes the Aero dynasty yet again one step further. The FIA are like the angry French mobs (after all Jean Todt is French) trying to install a republic after years of totalitarian oppression by the aero king (aargh political science go away). The point is that by using the exhaust gasses to generate downforce, the engines themselves have effectively also become aero devices, and I believe the FIA just want to buck this trend.


Latest reports say the ban will come into effect after the Canadian Grand Prix, and I for one am all for it. Not only because of the rationale for an anti aero revolution (which I support) but  these overrun EBDs make it easier for drivers as they get more downforce under braking and in corners, and I believe taking this help away from them will allow the best drivers to shine even more than they do today. In the end that’s what it’s all about: who is the best one out there on pure racing skill, and anything that makes the car handling just that tad bit more difficult will open up the skill gaps between drivers. May the best man win!

  1. JourneyTH says:

    My, that “French Revolution reference” meter is showing severe overloading.


    I have no idea why they’d do it, myself. My best guess is, they’re NOT doing it to slow down RBR.

  2. nowonda says:

    Banning it seems the right thing to do. I have nothing against F1 cars going faster, but I do have smth against helping the drivers where they should really show they deserve the big bucks they’re getting. If they’re gonna allow this sort of car stabilizing gimmicks, they might as well un-ban traction control, electronic assisted starts to avoid wheel spin and clutch burning, the dozens of new and circuit specific aero wings & devices cars used to have and so on.

  3. Kazius says:

    Was funny watching the BBC F1 Forums after and seeing the guy from HRT threatening that if nothing is done before Monaco that they will protest. Now Charlie said they have the right to do it. Thing is, do the teams need to change there cars? I think so. Can they change them in time for Monaco? Not a chance. Unless the FIA just want throttle maps change so the engines go back to idle fuel burn amounts when off throttle.

    Funny thing is, they’d still be infringing on regulations (even more so in my mind). Instead of drivers lifting fully and still having higher amount of exhaust gases blowing there diffusers, they would then have to feather the throttle to keep enough exhaust blowing the diffuser to increase the downforce. In my mind, that is infringing article 3.15 more so than a full lift off the gas. Now a driver is actually pressing something to change aerodynamics. Technically if they are lifting off the throttle fully, and a throttle map is influencing aerodynamics, the driver isn’t the one influencing it.

    Thus, I’m pretty sure the whole blown diffuser concept will have to be banned all together. This means… New Floor, Repositioning of the exhaust system to where it was prior to 2010, new throttle maps, New diffuser.

    That is some major changes that take time to engineer and build.

    If the FIA chose to ignore what was going on from the get go even though they knew what was going on. Then they need to give those teams time to change. Make the decision, set a date for when changes must be completed by. But don’t go disqualifying 9 teams because they don’t have time to change. If this is what Williams, Virgin or HRT need to do to win a race, then it is a sad day for them indeed.

  4. nowonda says:

    That’s not gonna happen in 1000 years (banning 9-10 teams from the Monaco GP). If Colin Colles flexes his fatty muscles and files a protest against those 9 teams, FIA will just say – “ok, it’s not exactly legal, but it’s not really illegal also, it’s more of a gray area, a loophole within the regulations that will get cleared up. We have to make a clear decision about it and, while doing so, allow the teams to change their cars and so on”. I just can’t see FIA banning the likes of RBR, McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault etc from THE most glamorous race of the season just because some “barely within 107%” team files a protest over a loophole found in the regulations and exploited by those teams. Sure, it will get clarified, but not in such a dramatic fashion.

    Sure, something dramatic like this did happen at least once (remember Indianapolis 2005 and the Micheline affair?), but then the reasons were totally different (clear safety issues with the Michelin tires) and also, one of the beneficiaries was the Ferrari team 🙂 Not the case here, not gonna happen. Willing to take a bet on it, 5-1 odds seem fair? 😀

  5. Matt Ruda says:

    What exactly does Colin hope to achieve by protesting the decision? If memory serves HRT, Virgin, and Williams are the only teams not using off-throttle exhaust modulation insert tecnobabble here. Williams has the pace to be in the midfield, but have been hampered by technical faults and driver error. Virgin and HRT have no chance of getting out of the backmarkers in their current state even if the other teams had no KERS, DRS, and decided to run on half their cylinders.

    I’m willing to bet everything I own (don’t get too excited vultures out there) that the FIA will not ban 75% of the grid for any GP, but especially not for Monaco. And even if they did, HRT would end up way behind the Williams and Virgins. Is this symbolic, a small team trying to act big, or something else? Are HRT grasping at straws, trying to draw attention to themselves to get sponsor signings? Color me confused.

  6. thevillainf1 says:

    yea no way a HRT complaint in Monaco would be taken seriously. It’s some press attention for HRT I guess. Where the FIA really dropped the ball here was that it should have already been banned over the winter. Many teams were already doing this in 2010, the clever heads at FIA should have realized they would step it up a notch for 2011 if allowed.

    That said, it’s only banning off throttle, so the current layouts the teams have would not have to change that much, as they still would be looking for getting that performance gain when on throttle. They would ned to sink some resources into making new engine mappings, but shouldn’t take them that much effort.

  7. […] up for pole and the win. Valencia showed he’s finally getting to grips with the Pirellis, and as discussed previously on this blog, the EBDs introduced midway through last took away a key advantage Webber’s driving style had […]

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