Adrian Newey says banning double diffusers won’t help overtaking

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Adrian Newey gave this year's Watkins Lecture

Red Bull designer and top F1 aerodynamicist Adrian Newey believes the proposed ban on double diffusers in 2011 won’t make it easier for F1 cars to overtake.

Speaking at the Watkins Lecture at Autosport International he said:

I don’t think [double diffusers] affected the overtaking. It gave us more downforce and made the cars about a second a lap quicker. That doesn’t change whether the car’s going to overtake or not, there’s no difference in the aerodynamic wake which is what affects the ability of the car behind to overtake.
Adrian Newey

He said F1 should not slip back into the practice of introducing piecemeal changes to the regulations as it had during the “narrow track” era of 1998-2008:

The regulations we had for 2009 were the subject of a lot of research by the Overtaking Working Group. It’s questionable whether they worked or not, but the process, I think, was correct.

What’s now happening is we’ve gone back to these piecemeal modifications – banning double diffusers or getting rid of barge boards. For me, it’s very frustrating that it’s not being thought out. [It needs] a clear goal and proper research.

So often in Formula 1, things are changed with very little research.
Adrian Newey

He echoed the view of Sam Michaels and Paddy Lowe that the role of circuit design needs to be looked at.

Newey has similar concerns about the ban on refuelling during races:

I think the ban on refuelling is another example of that where… maybe it will be good for the racing, but it was not thought out. Some people thought “we could save a ??100,000 here by cutting the cost of flying the refuelling rigs around the world. But if that destroys the spectacle and the racing becomes more boring as a result of that and people start turning their televisions off, then that wasn’t ??100,000 well saved.
Adrian Newey

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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59 comments on “Adrian Newey says banning double diffusers won’t help overtaking”

  1. Great article Kieth. I do agree with Newey about the diffuser thing, but i think its banned to make the cars slower. But the no-refueling ban certainly wont make races boring.

    1. I will have to disagree.
      The fact and look at any CFD data you will clearly see how the DD diffusers wake interferes with the front wind of cars behind.

      The flow of air is downward and because its so focused it is also very long wake.

      Now to compare that to the wake of a car with no diffuser and a rear wing you will see VERY clearly how the wings wake / drag turbulence is an UPWARD flow and not that long. This wake or disturbance has very little to NO effect on the cars front wing. It may how ever alter the complete flow over the body of the car following.

      So to put it simply a high upward flow is more desirable than both a very focused long and low turbulence wake added to a high upward flow off the rear wing.

      While you will never fix ‘dirty’ air fully anybody who knows anything about ‘ sitting in the draft ‘ will know the car behind can use the advantage of the front car or bike to cut the air while escaping the majority of the drag by sitting close enough to the rear of the thing in front and allow that turbulence/drag to go over the top of them.

      If a f1 car is flowing another f1 car and doesnt have the ability to get with in the buffer zone to sit in the draft and gain the toe will of course still feel the effects of the wake to a degree.

      The degree is what we want fixed…DDD cause more than if there was NO DDD SIMPLE.
      Newey I love ya but how you can say this is beyond me………….

      1. Great short video on the rear wing.

        Over the car

        under car (not as good)
        But you can see how it becomes focused.
        While everyone carries on about no drag…you can not escape the fact the same amount of air you drag out from under the car HAS to go some where it just doesn’t evaporate!!!!

        if you design it right you can make the wake do stuff like this…
        Now tell me do you think that fia should mandate that there be a certain level of wake…registered by raw data and wind tunnel testing???
        As a designer I would want to make as much DF as I could but I would also not like to be over taken and would add a few bits to cause havoc behind me in my wake.

        Let the teams run any diffuser thy like but it can ONLY produce a certain level of wake…simple F1 is suppose to be cutting edge yer…plus the wisdom learned can be used on road cars to reduce emissions and fuel use.

        1. Accidental Mick
          16th January 2010, 10:12

          I agree with you completely. Designers will always be looking for loop holes in rules to get an advantage. That is, after all, why they are there. A simple measurement in a wind tunnel together with rigidly mounted rears wings (so they couldn’t be altered after the measurement was taken) would be transpaent and easily monitored.

  2. I’m sorry, but I simply don’t believe Newey here. This is like an American private health insurer saying a public option wouldn’t bring healthcare costs down; regardless of whether he’s right or not, he’s always going to be biased.

    Newey is an aerodynamicist (if that’s the correct term), so of course he doesn’t want the DDDs banned, because it’s an area of development he can show off in and potentially make his worth greater.

    Also, the evidence from last year is very much against Adrian. In the first few races, we had quite a bit of overtaking. You might say that was down to the tyre rules, except that rule stayed constant; the diffuser’s didn’t. We ended up with almost no overtaking, except for Interlagos which has always been a great aid to it.

    On refuelling, I fail to see how it will destroy the spectacle in the name of cutting costs. Newey has no special interest in this area though (before I paint a critical picture of the guy and imply he’s self-interested in everything), he probably just thinks it won’t work and is using the opportunity to air his view. Which is fair enough, but we won’t know anything until this year is over. I’m not sure why he says it “wasn’t well thought-out”, as the rationale behind it (even if flawed) makes a hell of a lot of sense to me.

    1. I don’t think Newey would be biased in favor of the DDD. You can easily argue he lost the title partly because of the gap Brawn built partly with the DDD, while RBR and others didn’t have it…

      In races, you can argue that the more teams adopted it, the less overtaking we saw as well.

      As for refuelling, while I do agree with you that refuelling is not a good idea, I can see why he may think that the ban “wasn’t well thought out”. More than a few F1 fans are saying the same thing as well…

    2. I’ve always sided with Newey on this point, being a Motorsport Engineering student I’ve looked into the aero side before and the whole idea of a diffuser is to better balance the fast moving, low pressure air flowing under the car to the ambient speed and pressure behind the car.

      If anything it probably improved the wake slightly.

      1. Yes, thats what I gleaned from the limited number of articles regarding DDD.

        The DDD was a win-win solution. The wake remained undisturbed, and downforce increase a lot.

        I also agree with Newey regarding the piecemeal changes. Small changes give teams a lot of time to find a solution and to perfect it.

        Infact, in 2004, any keen observer could see that half the updates brought by teams were introduced so that the wake disturbed and made the car behind slower (and did nothing to improve the speed of the car).

        A wholesome change allows for imperfect solutions. Thus at the start of 2009 we saw that the entire field (apart from Brawns) was bunched up in less than 1.5 seconds. Reason: Nobody knew what was the best solution.

        I disagree with his views on track design though. Car designs are fundamental to overetaking. While Herman Tilke’s tracks may lack character, and fail to draw crowds, it is his tracks which produce most action in the GP2 racing (where all chassis are same).

        1. absolute bolocks….
          Improved the wake and the wake undisturbed….

          This is a complete and utter lie.

    3. ” In the first few races, we had quite a bit of overtaking. You might say that was down to the tyre rules, except that rule stayed constant; the diffuser’s didn’t. We ended up with almost no overtaking, except for Interlagos which has always been a great aid to it.”

      In the first few races there were multiple mitigating factors though.

      (1) Very heavy rain in Malaysia
      (2) Reasonably heavy rain in Shanghai
      (3) One tyre compound that was simply hopeless (Melbourne)
      (4) The most amount of KERS cars, before they started dropping that system
      (5) Most unfamiliarity with the new cars/regs.

      It’s very difficult to make a comparison given these factors.

    4. We usually see more overtaking in the early races of the season.

      Drivers are not thinking about the championship, teams havent optimized their cars so lap times vary a lot from stint to stint, some teams cannot qualify well because they dont fully understand their cars on low fuel quaifying setup etc. In short, the cars havent been perfected.

      Overtaking in the early races last season doesnt mean that double diffusers hindered overtaking. Also bear in mind that tracks in the early season are more overtaking friendly.

    5. I don’t think Newey is saying the ban on refuelling will make the races worse just that the reasons behind it were the wrong ones and that it was not thought out properly, he is saying refuelling was banned to reduce costs rather than thinking how it would affect racing.

    6. After researching it a bit more, I climb down from my previous argument about the DDDs. I’m man enough to admit being wrong. Still, if people in the know say it won’t change anything, why did they ban it anyway? After all, the change must have come about from some kind of knowledge base. Or was it merely a cost-cutting exercise (I imagine a SDD, being simpler, has less scope for development)?

      I still think the ban on re-fuelling has a sound rationale behind it though. It’s annoying that these kinds of statements (“wasn’t well-thought out”) are made or selectively quoted without a reason for it being given or also included with it.

  3. Neweys right, while i personally think that both devices needed to be banned their should be a dedicated team of aero guys, mechanics and cheif technical blokes working on new regulations together with an eye to improving the racing. Every five years or so they present their findings to the FIA and the teams and the regs get changes enmass.

    1. The Overtaking Working Group only had a budget of $1 million or something tiny like that. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that theiur ideas didn’t work.

      In an ideal world, CVC and Bernie E would forsake 5% of their share of the TV money to put towards some proper research on aerodynamics. But F1 is never that sensible.

  4. I don’t see why the didn’t go with the idea of building two modular cars on which they could test this stuff and get actual drivers to provide the feedback. They could test any size or shape of wing, different sized engines, turbos, hydrogen fuel cell powered cars, cars with “turbo” buttons like Knight Rider that make them jump over cars in front… I hope Bernie Eccelstone doesn’t see that last one.

  5. This is bad news for Vettel, who will now have to come up with a new reason for only being able to win from pole.

    1. He still has the “I don’t have a magic button” one. Although, it won’t wash so much this year seen as nobody else has either $:)

  6. I don’t get it? Wasn’t the diffuser reg set out by the OWG after analysing the turbulent effects of higher stacked options (hence the critical horizontal line being defined for a diffuser).

    What’s Newey on about? He’s basically saying the OWG didn’t know what they were doing at all.

    1. Yes, I thought the OWG had originally designed the regulations to prevent double diffusers and barge boards but some teams found the diffuser loop hole while others found barge board loops holes, like using them as mirror mounts.
      How easy we forget? or am I just mad?

      1. Yes. That’s exactly my point. So why does Newey think that banning DDDs would have no impact?

  7. The problem with the OWG or any other similar future efforts in F1 is that teams are so secretive about their developments that will NEVER fully participate in common development initiatives. They’ll share some stuff, but then no matter what gets decided, they’ll find loopholes in it to try to gain an advantage….

  8. I thought the reasoning was:
    Ban DDD => Lower downforce => cars go slower while relying more on mechanical grip => wake won’t matter as much while trying to pass.

    Don’t see Newey refuting that.

    1. On the other hand: Lower downforce means lower grip in high speed turns and incidentally, less capacity to keep a non optimal line on the track (the man on the best line will be quicker, anybody beside him won’t make it)

      1. True, the cars will now be more sensitive to small changes in mechanical grip.

        Excellent point. Guess we can’t make the right tradeoffs here unless we can see the numbers then.

  9. It will be interesting to see what effect the refuelling ban has on the season. It wont be boring.

    1. Or maybe, to be more accurate, it won’t be any more boring than still having refuelling, which I had begun to find seriously dull anyway.

  10. Adrian Newey… What does he know?

  11. Finally, someone of importance has spoken up about the circuit design.

  12. Has anyone actually stuck 2 identical F1 cars on a track and bolted on different configurations of front and rear wings e.t.c. to see what configuration would best assist a car behind to overtake – I’m not saying to the degree whereby a car half a second a lap slower would be able to pass a faster car but at least equally fast cars should be able to at least have the ability to draw level on a straight with the use of slipstreaming – then it’d be down to the “Balls” of the drivers to see who brakes latest e.t.c. Ah la Mansell/Senna at Brcelona ’91

    or the little spoken about Mansell move on Berger in the same race: :)

    I don’t know why the FIA or Ecclestone don’t insist on additional testing days for the specific purpose only of improving the racing/spectacle – no body can be happy with the situation whereby a car that is half a second to a second a lap quicker cannot pass the car in front (unless your names Jenson Button of Course and you at Interlagos :) )

    Surely the Overtaking Working Group (OWG) could fiddle around on these days with pairs of identical cars and play with wings & tyres or bolt on steel brakes to see how that affects things or start with no wings at all so it’s all mechanical grip then gradually add wing(s) to increase downforce but without overly disturbing the air behind.

    I remember watching a CART race on Eurosport the Michigan 500 a the the Superspeedway oval some years back back when the CART “authorities” mandatedly introduced a rear wing update to all teams and they were passing each other 5 or 6 times per lap – now that was a little over the top and we wouldn’t want that in F1 but it did prove that it could be done – even if not to that extreme degree.

    Hey ho it’ll probably never happen but that’s my rant for the day (unless your reading this of course Bernie as we know you do ! :) )

    1. I’ve always thought that they should also think about re-introducing the Titanium skid blocks to the bottom of the F1 cars – the sparks they used to produce were always great to watch especially on overcast days – and with the current crop of day/night & night races on the calender it would look fantastic ! – I know the originals were gotten rid of on safety grounds because the cars bottomed out and lost all their down force causing them to fly off the track but they could be re-fitted to the cars and be “spring loaded” with recesses they could retract into as the cars porpoise to stop this happening. Again it would increase the spectacle although admittedly they would not increase car performance but if they were mandatory in the rules it would be the same for everyone and could be utilised as a way of adding ballast as well as fun – they have an additional 20kgs to play with this year as no teams will be using KERS which is what the extra 20kgs was added for in this years regs.

      1. Pat, you’re practical testing of elements, whilst being an excellent idea is far too sensible for the likes of F1!

        I’m not so sure of ‘manufacturing’ cars so that they produce more sparks however. This falls firmly into the show improving category for me I’m afraid. :)

      2. Hmm, a car that bottoms out for entertainment value, Iam sure Ayrton would have a think or two to say about that if he was still here comment.

        1. I may not have made it clear enough – although I thought I had – I do not subscribe to re-introducing cars that bottom out because that is plain crazy as… as I said.. “it causes cars to fly off the track” what I am suggesting is fitting the Titanium blocks that are spring loaded and can withdraw into recesses as the cars move on the vertical plane – so we get the sparks back but without the danger :)

  13. Expert opinion if you ask me. He also has the data to back up his point, unlike some here who don’t agree with him. :-)

  14. Newey generally knows what he is talking about, so I find it hard to doubt him on this one…

    It’s great that loads of people who know literally nothing about the sport believe that banning DDD will work, and yet when someone with such great experience, knowledge and ingenuity as Adrian Newey says it wont make much of a difference who knows the RBR and most F1 cars inside out, we all think he’s a loony?

    Back to your arm chairs people, I’m pretty sure Newey knows what he is talking about considering he made what was probably/arguably the best car on the grid this season…

    1. It is worth noting that the car that seemed to be able to follow closest behind another car last year was the Brawn – which, by everybody’s account, had the most effective underfloor.

      With everyone redesigning their cars around this concept for this year I believe we may see cars able to follow much closer than has been the case for the last couple of years.

      1. I think it’s more about cars following the Brawn, not the other way around.

    2. No saying that he doesn’t know what he is talking about but he might be biased on this.

  15. Adrian Newey is the man…

  16. Adrian Newey certainly knows more about these things than I do so I’m happy to defer to him on the specific point of double diffusers.
    I also agree that piecemeal changes tend not to work very well and that another step change in regulations would be better.
    With that in mind I’d like to see the OWT working towards a low aerodynamic downforce, high mechanical grip model for the future of F1 car design regulations. Let’s take the bull by the horns and finally rid the sport of the aerodynamic downforce obsessed designs that have taken so much of the excitement out of the racing.

    I’d also want to see the changes to the cars made before they start changing the tracks again, we know that there are already some great circuits on the calender (even if we don’t like the changes that have been made to them recently) so if we could get cars that perform well at Spa, Silverstone, Interlagos & the other good tracks we’d know that the underlying issue had been resolved and this would make it easier to get to the bottom of the track design problems.
    As much as some tracks really bore me these days I think we’d find some of them are actually quite good once the car design issues are sorted out, we often see some very good GP2 and Porsche Cup races that are then followed by boring F1 races, I think this has far more to do with the cars than it does the tracks.

  17. Prisoner Monkeys
    15th January 2010, 21:54

    I’m sorry, but I am increasing sceptical of aerodynamicsts when they say that removing aerodynamic parts won’t increase overtaking. They may know their subject better than I do, but even I know that the more aerodynamic grip you apply, the faster you can go – and the harder it is for the guy behind you to catch up. To me, aerodynamicists will do or say anything they can think of to protect the prevalence of aerodynamic grip in the sport, because without it, they lose their advantage.

  18. Mr. Newey is an expert in aerodynamics, he is also an expert in its application to racing car design. Any comments he makes on this subject can be taken to the bank. Additionally, I’m sure he spends not one iota of time thinking about how he can protect his position within the sport by publicly commenting on the subject in the general media. His ‘job security’ within F1 would be hard to match.

    The passing problem is actually more of a dilemma.

    Wings provide incredible down force which equates to an equivalent improvement in cornering speed. They also disrupt the smooth laminar flow of air to a car following closely behind, which is, regrettably, an impossible handicap in cornering and braking. It is difficult to get close, and almost impossible to stay close, to a car just in front of you.

    The dilemma? As the down force is removed, the cars overall speed through the corners is decreased significantly…significantly, being the operative word.

    You can have cars that run close together with an increased potential for passing……….they just aren’t going to go as fast, at least not around corners.

    Perhaps the term “Air Craft” would be more appropriate than automobile, when it comes to our present form of racing.

    Unfortunately, even the legendary Mr. Newey can’t change the laws of physics.

  19. Wake performance testing measured in a straight line test with a small kite suspended towed instrument might be achievable at each pre race. If they were to breech the limit they could graduate the penalties. They could allow the reserve drivers to do the running to ease the programme burden on drivers and add to their familiarisation. And they could precribe a limit on allowable changes to dry weather aero setup after the test.

    1. Nah…. Let’s give em all different coloured smoke generators like the Red Arrows have – now that would be interesting – then we could actually see all the pretty (normally invisible) patterns that are ruining the racing with the current rules – if it wasn’t for the off track goings-on things maybe pretty boring in F1 – and I’m a life long F1 fan :(

  20. Double Diffuser gave us a second a lap… but it didnt affect overtaking… did I miss something?. What about if the Car is a second a lap in front. If the cars are sychromeshing gear changes with there fingers there will be no driver skill involved in the accelaration zone, notice how the greats treat the braking zone.

  21. I don’t agree with Newey,but it’s true a lot of effort now needs to be put in track design.And yes refuelling was part of the show.If the racing becomes more boring now then the FIA & FOTA have themselves to blame.

    1. Prisoner Monkeys
      16th January 2010, 3:17

      What kind of effort? Tilke’s long-straight-into-heavy-braking-zone ethos has been a part of circuit deisng since the earliest races. AVUS had it. Le Mans has it. Even the Nurburgring Nordscheliefe has it – in fact, it has four examples of it.

      Changing the cars is cheaper and easier than changing the circuits; changing the circuits shoudonly be considered if changing the cars does nothing.

  22. A strong effort into track design is a must.


    For those who do not know how the ground effect works (WHICH IS STILL USED, just to a lesser extent), the idea is to encourage a large amount of air to travel underneath the car, where it is forced to travel through a smaller cross-section, forcing it to speed up, causing a fall in pressure (Ventrulli Effect) and the car to ‘suck’ itself to the ground. The wake, in terms of ground effect comes from the now fast moving air from underneath the car mixing with the surrounding slow moving air at the rear of the car. A DIFFUSER HELPS by slowing down the air prior to it re-mixing and effectively reducing the turbulence when it does.

    The reason we are seeing far less overtaking now than in the past is due to the post Imola changes, which limited ground effect in favour of wings. I.e. replace high downforce, small wake ground effect with, high downforce, large wake wings. The ‘ugly’ looking rear wings currently on cars may be smaller than previous years however due to their high profile they cause a very large wake. Instead a wider, lower profile wing should have been used, a la 2008 Monza trim wing (which consequentially produces around the same as the current high down force trim wing but with far less wake.

    The 2009 changes were on the whole good, however they got a few things majorly wrong – larger and more complex diffusers should have been encouraged as they reduce wake; the rear wings should have been far wider, but had a very shallow profile. A good point was getting rid of the stupid appendages which just caused wake for negligible gain.

    1. Why don’t the FIA just impose an element on every rear wing which leaves a nice hole in the air for the following car ? – Job done :)

      Then it will be down to the teams to concentrate on improving their mechanical grip to be better than the following car to negate this effect – therefore the greater emphasis will naturally focus on mechanical and not downforce to shoot them out of the corners quicker – or am I missing something here ?

    2. Ok I have retyped a msg 4 times in response to this and well I give up.
      I cant say it with out swearing and I dont really want to write 5 pages as to how wrong almost every thing you wrote is.

  24. Seems I recall that 20 and more years ago there was overtaking. Now there is barely any. Also looks like the tracks are still the same. So, must have been the cars that changed.

    Now, how to fix the overtaking problem? Hint: the word “tracks” is not in the answer.

    Less aero, then less aero, and then reduce the aero, with intense increase in mechanical grip. That’s your answer. At one time cars ran the high speed tracks like Nurburgring, Charade, and others with no wings at all, at 180 or more. And passed each other! Yes, it’s true, really, as strange as it sounds.

    The fix for the overtaking problem is easy, and everyone in F1 knows it–they are reluctant to “go backward in developement”, as one paddock regular put it to me last year, so everyone just keeps on doing what they’ve been doing. Which ultimately gets us the same thing–no overtaking.

    Definition of insanity:Doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different result.

    F1 simply needs to decide if it wants fighter aircraft or racecars, and then design and equip accordingly. Personally, I vote for racecars. They are a whole lot more fun to watch than these computer-controlled things we have these days. 10,000 quid for a steering wheel, indeed!

    1. The only track that has barely changed compared with 20 years ago is Monaco. All of the others which are on the calander now as well as 20 years ago have had significant changes such as:

      – Reprofiling of corners
      – Completely changing corners, or indeed removing them
      – Added/Removed Chicanes
      – Different tarmac
      – More run off areas
      – Some tracks are a bit wider

      The tracks are as much to blame.

    2. Formula 1 is kind of going backwards in development because they know that the old days were the good days. They’ve taken off all the winglets and fins they’ve already taken off alot of aero and they’ve gone back to slicks. Slicks provide much grip though so the lack of aero isn’t much of a decrease. The 09 cars look like the late 90’s chassis.

      And this diffuser thing could be true if you look at the first 5 rounds of formula 1 there was some passing but when all the teams put on a diffuser there was hardly any unless you had a KERS system or forced your opponent to a mistake.

      Lewis hamilton continues to pass anyone anywhere though and shows us that it can be done still and often.

      The diffuser messes with the nose of the car behind I think it will help passing now that it is banned. I wish mclaren used it instead of brawn. maybe if mclaren used it, It would be banned at australia Q2 or something in 2009 lol.

      Formula 1 is the pinnacle of auto racing. If a wheel is 10,000 so be it ;) .

  25. I think formula 1 has enough technology and brains to find a chassis that won’t take all of the aero and still be able to go fairly fast. Maybe they could even look to gp2 as there is passing in there and the chassis look like the formula 1’s of 2000 . The new formula 1 chassis look like kids stuff. People miss the v10’s and the passing .

  26. I suspected as much in a previous post. The double diffuser ban won’t change the racing much and the fuel ban will likely make things more boring and predictable. For example, how likely would we have been to get the sort of result we saw in Brazil 09 where Hamilton started 18 and finished third…

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