FIA may further restrict exhaust-blown diffusers

2012 F1 season

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McLaren's exhaust is designed to aid its diffuser

The FIA says the restrictions introduced this year to stop teams running exhaust-blown diffusers may have to be tightened next year.

FIA race director and safety delegate Charlie Whiting said: “Our objective is to prevent teams operating a blown diffuser, which under certain circumstances infringes Article 3.15.

“In combination with additional constraints on engine mapping, as described in technical directive number 36 and incorporated into the SECU code, it will limit designers’ ability to exploit exhaust gases for aerodynamic effect.

“However teams will not unlearn the knowledge they have gained and it is quite likely this area of regulation may need to be revisited again in 2013.”

Tougher front wing load tests

Whiting explained the other changes in the technical rules for 2012 in a Q&A released by the FIA.

F1’s front wing load tests have been toughened up for 2012 in a bid to stop teams running wings that flex. Whiting said: “The rules state the wings (as well as all other parts of the bodywork) must be rigid. We have halved the permitted deflection.

“Previously the wing was tested with a 1kN load and allowed to deflect 20mm. As a result of this the teams were testing wings until they found a design that deflected 19.9mm under a 1kN load. Our allowances are only a guideline for us and we felt the teams were operating outside the spirit of the rules and clearly designing their wings with flexibility in mind.

“In our view Article 3.15 takes precedence over Article 3.17 where the deflection limits are quantified. Article 3.17.8 allows us to introduce new tests if we feel our guidelines are not being following in an appropriate manner.

“The new test therefore moves the pressure point rearwards by 10mm and inboard by 5mm with the permitted deflection reduced to 10mm. We have also told the teams that we may apply the load to just one side of the front wing, an asymmetrical test.”

The FIA has also tightened up other measurement tolerances: “We used to measure tolerances across the flat bottom, the step and reference planes with a margin of 5mm [either way].

“The tolerances were there to allow for manufacturing discrepancies but teams were designing to the limit of the tolerances, contrary to the spirit of the rules. We have therefore reduced the allowance to 3mm [either way].”

Lower front noses

Most of this year's cars have stepped noses

The lowering of the front noses – which has contributed to most teams using stepped noses in 2012 – has been done to reduce the risk of injury in T-bone accidents, as Whiting explains: “The height of the survival cell in front of the driver was 625mm – and we wanted to reduce that to 550mm.

“Our intention was to ensure the nose is lower than the cockpit sides, to protect the driver’s head in the event of a ‘T-bone’ accident. Some teams complained that lowering the whole car forward of the cockpit would force them into a radical redesign.

“We agreed a compromise that the 550mm height would only apply from a point 1950mm in front of the rear edge of the cockpit template. This achieves the objective equally well, and without requiring the teams to fundamentally overhaul their suspension packaging. They do all look like ducks though…”

Cockpit sides have been reinforced for the same reason: “The panels were installed 100mm-500mm above the reference plane, they are now 100mm-550mm about the plane. The forward one was 400mm high and is now 450mm high. This change should improve driver safety in the event of a T-bone accident.”

Wheel guns

The FIA has also banned the use of helium in wheel-guns as a cost-saving measure. And wheel-guns will not be allowed to automatically disengage when they reach a pre-set level of torque: “We want the wheel gun operator to be responsible for the action,” said Whiting.

“Once the torque is applied he should be making the decision to disengage. The latest torque guns show a light when the correct torque has been applied. That is as far as we want to go – we do not want any further automation.”

2012 F1 season

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Image © McLaren/Hoch Zwei, Williams/LAT

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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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51 comments on “FIA may further restrict exhaust-blown diffusers”

  1. It’s a shame that so far there seems to be no evidence of the duck noses being gone for 2013.

    If you look at nearly all the 2011 noses none of them were ‘dangerously high’ in the first place (infact Ferrari’s 2012 nose is higher than their 2011 nose), the FIA added the rule in for 2012 as a preventative measure, but instead of writing it so you could still have 2011-just-as-safe noses you had to have ugly 2012-equally-safe noses. Makes no sense.

    Probably one of the dumbest things I’ve seen from the FIA and the teams have to be blamed too, this whole step nose fiasco.

    1. I read somewhere the FIA said they were gonna fix the stepped noses for next year..

    2. It’s not really a fiasco. It’s purely for aesthetics and safety and the teams, I believe, have reported minimum disruption to aero.

      I imagine that the teams will find a better way around the rules, similar to the MP4-27, for next year.

  2. Ban the whole system already and get done with it. I’m getting really tired of these incremental changes to the system. It’s gone to a point where I no longer understand what’s going on in those EBD’s.

    I like the idea of the wheel guns though. It might make pit-stops a little more exciting by bringing in a more human element.

    1. Ban the whole system already and get done with it.


      It’s pretty obvious the intention is to stamp them out, but writing rules that achieve that is clearly not that easy.

      1. They effectively banned the f-duct, couldn’t they put a sort of blanket ban on using exhaust gases to gain aerodynamic advantage? Also as with the double diffuser concept which was effectively banned. I can understand Charlie’s predicament that teams are finding more and more means to go around the regulations but if they could do it with the above 2 concepts they could achieve something to curb them.

      2. Why not make the exhaust point 45 degrees upwards or force the designers to force the exhaust gasses out below the rear wing and above the diffuser?

      3. It could be easy if they were willing to specify that the exhausts must exit at the very back vertical plane of the car at specified locations batween the beam and main wings and consist of two 75mm pipes the last 1500mm of which must be straight and parallel both horizontally and vertically to the car centerline.

        1. That could be a way of doing it, but remember the teams will want rules that don’t require them to make complicated and expensive changes to the cars – as was the case with the noses, as Whiting mentions above.

          1. True but two pipes starting in the area where the exhausts exit now and going straight to the back of the car without the possibility of any aerodynamic gadgets would not require expensive modifications.

        2. Didn’t the engine manufacturers fight that on the grounds that making exhausts that long would mean big changes to the engines?

      4. It could be easy…. All they have to do is “read” the mappings for each and every ECU before every race…. If they see anything “funny” then that ECU would not be accepted for said race…

        It´s easy to see if the engine blows when lifting in the MAPS. And another simple way is to go back to the periscope exhausts of 2003. That would be simple enough…

    2. It’s hard to just ban it, because the teams know the effect that blowing the diffuser can have, and they won’t simply forget about something that can give them such a huge performance boost.
      The FIA thought that they had essentially gotten rid of the technology by revising the rules, but the designers proved too smart for that to happen completely, and here we are.

      1. I thought that they were going to write a rule that the exhaust must face UP and out of the body work. And I was thinking to myself, yeah, here we go again. Why didn’t they just make it so that the exhaust must exit behind the rear axle? Surely they are smart enough to write it in such a way that the ONLY option for teams is to have exhausts that exit similar to a road car.

        1. The problem is that exhaust exit position is related to exhaust length, which is directly related to the engine performance. The exhausts are tuned for particular rev ranges, so if you force them to extend the length you dramatically alter the torque curve on the engine (longer exhaust is suited to lower revs, so I would expect it to shift power away from the top end)

          A lot of work goes into tuning everything to give the required performance characteristics. Exhaust length (and shape) is a large part of that and could throw years’ worth of engine development out of the window if it is fiddled with.

  3. I think FIA should take action or show their will much earlier than this. Now we’re facing season opener and rule changes would make some noise though I want them to strict blown exhaust.

  4. Tractor exhausts would do the trick ;)

    Theres rule that teams can run 5 extra sensors in practice, does that mean those extra bits from testing may appear?

    1. Tractor exhausts would do the trick

      Plus then we could have water splashes! :-)

  5. Stop bannig anything at least until season ends.

    1. Agreed.
      There is no reason to ban it at this point.
      All pre-season tests are over.
      Let the season get underway properly without ruining the tension with stupid and unnecessary restrictions on already restricted rules.
      Thats what i hate the most about F1.
      Why cant they make rules and let people be clear that they won’t be changed unless there is immediate safety hazards.
      When I think about F1, I want to wonder what the teams has come up with, what form their drivers are in etc.
      I hate to waste the limited brain capacity I have to think about whether one team has been effect more then the other by sudden rule changes after pre-season testing has begun.

      1. sorry for the rant. Seems like they will wait until 2013, in which case I can’t complain.

    2. @gzegzolek To be fair, the season hasn’t started yet. And he suggested further changes won’t come until 2013.

  6. Pleased about the refining of the flex wing regs, I think there were certain teams exploiting this way beyond the ability of others. There were certainly rumours last year Red Bull had developed materials that flexed rigt to the limit of the allowance, there must have been something to that for the FIA to close it. This whole EBD thing does my head in, ok Martin Whitmarsh was quoted as it giving 40 extra downforce points and that designers are to attracted to it just to leave it alone, but I can’t understand why it’s beyond the ability of the FIA to get to grips with, the problem is they have not explored all the obtions and not done their homework and have been caught out.

    1. The new tests will not prevent redbull style front wings as theirs apparently only flexes with torsional force applied (ie the pressure produced by moving forward through the air applying force to the front and top of the wing at the same time, twisting the wing downwards rather then pure flexion). The FIA need to stop simply putting weights on the wings and must start testing in the wind tunnels instead. Either that or simply use the TV footage as evidence of severe flexing.

    2. Same for me, @bigbadderboom, the wings were clearly way out of line from the spirit of the rule.

  7. It was bleeding obvious that the regs allowed for teams to blow the diffuser still. All this 10 to 30 degree nonsense. Now a week before the season opener we hear this.

    Why am I not surprised? The reg should have been 60 degrees or similar with no bodywork allowed around the exhaust exit. Now we have another farce, well done FIA.

    1. Well at least Charlie has said the changes will occur in 2013 and not half-way through the season like last year.

      1. I think there were 2 aspects with what happened last year.

        1) The EBD concept became an integral part of a cars design and so teams were against it being removed.

        2) However once regulations were put in place, the flip-flop that followed allowed it to become a farce.

        The way events panned out during Silverstone, led to the farce that we witnessed. Had it been done any other way, i.e. maybe say that after the mid season break there will be stringent engine mapping controls, I think the whole scenario might have panned out differently.

  8. Banning more efficient tools during a pit stop. I’d rather see cars on track racing then pulled over at pit exit missing a wheel.

    1. Yeah, seems pretty stupid to me. Explicitly shoving a responsibility (We want the wheel gun operator to be responsible for the action) back on people whose task directly concerns driver safety has nothing to do with racing spirit and all to do with the potential for some artificially produced extra drama in the form of lost wheels.

      1. It may have nothing to do with racing, but we must remember the wheel gun operators are employees there to do a job.
        I personally think it’s a good move, else we might as well have robots doing the pitstops.
        In fact, on the subject of automation, I say bring back the manual gearbox as well. Today’s drivers have it easy

    2. Not really. I think this is a good move. Remeber the weel nut not engaging for Button and TorroRoso and the wheel coming off? That is because they relied on the tool to disengage. If the wheel gun operator has to disengage the wheel gun then they will make sure the wheel is truely on!

  9. Why not just allow road car style exhausts that exit 100mm beyond the back of the car?

    1. @dmc And have incredibly hot pieces of metal dangling from the backs of cars waiting to be knocked off by someone’s front wing? I think I can see the problem with that one!

      1. Come on Keith, they were doing it not that long ago.Until ferrari came up with the periscope style in the late nineties.

      2. I agree that that would be pretty dangerous. Just think about Liuzzi collecting cars in front of him going sideways at Monza. Who knows where he could have hit those exhausts!

  10. Something to remember about the rule tweaks & such is something anthony davidson alluded to during his commentary last year.

    The FIA have a dozen people who look at the regulations & come up with the technical regulations.
    You then have hundreds of people at each team who have far more resources & far more advanced/sophisticated computer systems & simulations looking at the regulations & ways to exploit them.

  11. When did people start referring to the nose of the car as the ‘front nose’. Drivers, engineers and journalists are all doing it. It’s the Nose cone for goodness sake, where else is it going to be but at the front of the car? Calling it the ‘front nose’ is silly and superfluous.

    1. I second that. I also don’t want to hear about the back diffusers or top airbox.

  12. “Previously the wing was tested with a 1kN load and allowed to deflect 20mm. As a result of this the teams were testing wings until they found a design that deflected 19.9mm under a 1kN load. Our allowances are only a guideline for us and we felt the teams were operating outside the spirit of the rules and clearly designing their wings with flexibility in mind.”

    While sensationalist journalists and disappointed fans should use the term “spirit of the regulations” as much as they want to void their arguments, I don’t think it’s a phrase an official should use. So would a 10mm deflection when you have a 20mm limit be within the spirit of the rules? Because to me that simply sounds like some engineers simply aren’t doing their job as well as they should.

    Make a rule, enforce it. If you want it tighter, tighten the rule. If 10mm is the limit and tested under specific circumstances, don’t complain when teams consistently get to 9.9mm deflection, when the engineers should really be complimented for it.

    “The tolerances were there to allow for manufacturing discrepancies but teams were designing to the limit of the tolerances, contrary to the spirit of the rules.”

    Really, F1 engineers design to the limit? That is shocking since in the past, when everything was better, all the designers aimed for the middle. I don’t mind changes, most recent ones have been very solid (DRS being a notable exception), but the ‘spirit of the rules’ rhetoric really doesn’t fly with what F1 is about.

    1. Well said, they should be commended for doing such a good job.

    2. Agree 100%.

      If a fly lands on the wing it’s going to deflect downwards slightly because it’s impossible to make something infinitely rigid. That’s the whole point of defining a limit, the FIA know it’s unrealistic to enforce zero movement of aerodynamic surfaces and it’s the limit they impose that makes sure the teams follow the spirit of rule. They don’t want cars with aero surfaces that move to create an aerodynamic benefit but if you allow 20mm and 19.9mm gives extra downforce then they’ll do it. If you allow 1mm and 0.9mm gives extra downforce then they’ll do that too. They can tighten up the limits all they want but the teams are still going to go for the maximum if it gives a benefit, with or without the spirit of the rules.

      1. I agree too and am actually surprised at what is being considered against the spirit of the rules. I thought this is exactly why they design the rules in F1 the way they do, and have been doing so for years…to allow some room for innovation but to set limits to said innovation.

        My goodness, the list must be a hundred miles long of how each team at all times for every year in at least the ‘modern’ entity of F1 has operated outside the spirit of the rules.

        I mean, I do understand the concept of what Whiting is saying…we don’t want you to have flexy wings so here’s a load test…and in answer, the teams meet the load test tolerance, just, but still have flexy wings in the end, so that can be frustrating from Whiting’s standpoint…but as has been pointed out…make the load test way way stricter then, as they now seem to be heading toward, yet there are still tolerances, so I guess, Charlie, let the ignoring of the spirit of the thing continue?

        Same with EBD…they are much more restricted as to how they can shape and point their exhaust vs. last year, yet within those tolerances the likes of Red Bull et al are still trying to use what they have learned about hot gases creating rear downforce and apply that to the new restrictions anyway. Why wouldn’t they?

        Charlie…it is a romantic sentiment visa vie the spirit of racing and the rules to hope that changing load tolerances on potentially flexy wings means all teams will just concede and make a super rigid wing way more rigid than the regs insist on, or changing exhaust configurations will automatically mean no team will any longer try to use hot gases to create rear downforce, but it is not reality…never has been, apparently.

    3. the ‘spirit of the rules’ rhetoric really doesn’t fly with what F1 is about


      To me, the “spirit of the rule” is gone as soon as the rule is written down. Once the rules are written, there are only the rules, and the manufacturers work to them. If they find a way to exploit the rules to their advantage, they will do so (and should be encouraged to do so).

  13. Fan of everything but the thing about the wheel guns…

    Just because this is quite an important thing to get right for safety reasons… As long as it still is a completely* safe process, then I’m ok with it though.

    *Under predictable circumstances.

    1. No reason why it shoudn’t be safe as there just going back to the sort of wheel guns we had say 10 years back.
      However the one’s used then didn’t have a light which indicated when the specified torque had been hit so there actually safer in that regard.

      This would not be an issue really if there was less pit stops which i really think we need to go back to, races were far better when the racing was done on the track & not in the pits.
      Watching these old season review shows on sky & seeing how differing tyre strategies worked back then has just reminded me of just how stupid the tyre regulations are today with comedy tyres that wear stupidly fast & a gimmickey rule forcing you to run both compounds.

      They shoudl take it back to how it was in the past & let drivers decide what compound they wish to run & if they wish to stop. Watching the mid-field drivers try & no-stop & pull out a surprise run was something i used to love & the racing we got back then was truly exciting.

      Ban drs, ban pirelli (or make them make proper tyres & bring all compounds to every race), ban kers & let teams & driver run a race however they want with total freedom on tyre strategy.

    2. @mike I guess the FIA’s reasoning comes from Button losing a wheel in the pits at Silverstone and I think was it Buemi in Japan?

      It’s still going to happen this year, regardless of who or what judges the tyre to be fixed on correctly, but at least systems can be put in place easier with humans than they can with machines.

  14. Well if puts Redbull at a disadvantage why not right?

    1. @schumacherisboss Why do you want Red Bull at a disadvantage? Surely you would want the other teams to beat them on merit, rather than just beating them because Red Bull are at a disadvantage?

  15. It seems odd to me that people complain about some (eg. flexing wing) concepts not being in the spirit of the rules. As far as I’m concerned ‘make it go faster’ is the only way rules can be interpreted in F1. Engineers and designers are not paid to make average cars that all look the same and have equal speed, this is the Pinnacle of Motorsport and it should reflect it in every way. The best drivers pushing of best cars to the limit, which in turn were designed and built by the best engineers using their ingenuity to push said regulations to the limit. In my opinion that’s the only way F1 should exist. If one team comes up with an insane idea that works, good for them. If FIA bans it, so be it, but please don’t try to stop the designers from trying to make the cars go faster.

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