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GP Week : Issue 110
The ban on the innovative double decker diffuser over the winter has seen many radical innovations on the cars for 2011, as teams scramble to recoup the lost downforce. With no double diffuser to create extra grip, teams have had to spend precious time and money perfecting the way their conventional diffusers work to help extract every last tenth from the current regulations. A number of teams have taken radical steps to achieve maximum performance from their diffusers, all achieving the same aim but in different ways. Renault, Toro Rosso, Williams and Red Bull have all stood out from the crowd in 2011, while McLaren had been hoping to stand out with their innovative exhaust before pulling it from the car for Melbourne. The target for all teams has been to improve the airflow to the rear of the car, and hence diffuser, to ensure the speed of the air underneath the car is as fast as possible to create more downforce from the diffuser. By speeding up the air, the pressure is reduced sucking the car onto the ground and making it stick through the corners. Some teams have tried to speed the air up under the floor itself, while others have tried to suck the air out through the diffuser more quickly to achieve the same overall effect, albeit less efficiently. Let’s take a look at the major innovations for 2011, beginning with Renault’s radical exhaust. Renault Renault’s R31 features the most radical exhaust set-up of 2011, and one that caught many by surprise when it was first unveiled in February (main pic, previous page). Instead of exiting at the rear of the car, the exhausts are routed forward of the engine and exit under the front of the sidepods, blowing the high-speed gases straight under the floor. This gives more speed to the air going under the car, producing more downforce. Their exhaust route would have caused some major cooling headaches and is the main reason why other teams have not come up with similar designs. Getting the 900- degree gases to be channeled through an already cramped space under the radiator and near the fuel tank was no easy task, but the potential benefits are huge. The team’s performance in Melbourne suggests the car has the pace, but races with hotter climates such as Malaysia may prove less straight-forward. Highlighting just how beneficial Renault’s front- exiting exhausts could be, Mercedes GP team principal Ross Brawn said the performance advantage from it has the potential to be larger than the double diffuser. “It is a significant area and maybe more significant than the double diffuser in terms of performance and of course the teams are all working with their engine partners to work out how to get the most out of the exhaust energy so that is the new interesting area of development,” Brawn explained. Toro Rosso The STR6 is another radical car on the 2011 grid, featuring a so- called ‘double floor’. The design team have lifted up the sidepods to allow a clean flow of air above the floor to increase diffuser performance. (see pic above centre) Instead of having to go around, the air simply goes under the sidepods to enjoy an unhindered route to the diffuser. Having a cleaner airflow to the diffuser allows more air to be sucked out, increasing downforce. Williams Williams have gone radical with the rear of their car, focusing all their effort on a massively slimmed down gearbox casing. The innovation has allowed Williams to vastly improve the flow of air to the diffuser, by removing the highest part of the gearbox that would otherwise disrupt the flow and affect diffuser performance. There is now a large gap just forward and above the rear axle where the top of the gearbox used to be, a feature that would have dramatically affected the flow of air to the centre of the diffuser. It also allows a cleaner flow of air to the lower rear wing, the small wing just above the rear axle which also helps suck air from the diffuser. The approach will not be easy to copy if it is found to be effective however, as a brand new gearbox design 32