JULY 11, 2011
Analysis: Exhaust blown diffusers: the end of the matter?
BY TONY DODGINS
After a weekend of political toing and froing at Silverstone, it seems that for future races we will revert to the regulations in force at the previous grand prix in Valencia. Full exhaust blown diffusers will be permitted once again but there will be no special qualifying engine maps.
With varying concessions for different engines sparking controversy at Silverstone, the FIA announced that provided unanimous agreement was reached among the teams, there could be a return to the Valencia regulations for the remainder of the year.
A meeting of team technical chiefs and principals on Sunday morning at Silverstone was aimed at achieving that but was unsuccessful, with Ferrari and Sauber understood to be reluctant to give their approval. On the grid, however, Bernie Ecclestone said that agreement had been reached.
"That is my understanding too," said Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali after his team's victory. "This thing was not really good for everyone. We need to draw a line and now look ahead, because otherwise where we are going? Even if I don't agree with the process, for the benefit of the sport we should have action."
Some observers thought it interesting that Ferrari would agree to go back to the Valencia regulations after its Silverstone showing and that perhaps it was indicative of the current political climate in the paddock, with the teams still intent on presenting a united front.
Those of a more cynical disposition, however, suggested that there was no way Ferrari would support a reversion if it believed the off-throttle exhaust blown diffuser ban was a significant part of its Silverstone performance.
Domenicali said it was hard to know exactly how to rationalise Ferrari's improvement but the team's Pat Fry said: "Putting to one side the entire saga regarding exhaust gases, our performance today was mainly down to seeing the benefit of the improvements we have introduced race after race, especially here."
At Silverstone, Ferrari enjoyed the benefits of a revised floor, exhaust layout, top body and rear wing, with the latter believed to be particularly effective.
Post-race, however, Peter Sauber was reluctant to say whether his team had given agreement.
"After Montreal the FIA said this system is illegal and we change it," he commented. "And then we have a lot of discussion about saving the engine and all this rubbish. Everybody was looking out for himself, which is normal."
Pushed further as to whether he had signed, Sauber said, "I was not in the meeting."
But had his team signed?
"Speak again with Bernie or the FIA. You can ask me 10 times and I don't give you an answer to this..."
Asked what he believed the impact of the Silverstone revisions to be, Sauber said: "I don't know the situation with Mercedes but I think Renault is slower than before. That's my feeling. I think it was a disadvantage for the Renault teams, but how big a disadvantage, I don't know. We saw both Red Bulls still on the front row..."
It appears then, that we have agreement, with just the due processes to be gone through in the next few days. With the FIA technical department having declared their belief that exhaust blown diffusers are illegal, however, the results of future races would be open to protest if unanimity was not actually forthcoming. And Sauber's reticence must leave that open to question.
As someone put it on Sunday night, "it is to be hoped that Bernie has knocked a few heads together to ensure that there is no silliness."
Bearing in mind that Williams kicked the matter off in the desire to check the legality of exhaust blown diffusers before spending on them, one would hope that things are as they appear. But, this being F1, you never quite know.
As one conspiracy theorist suggested, "if the political agenda was to heap more woe on Jean Todt after the Bahrain and 2013 engine debacles, leaving the results open to protest would be a good way of achieving it."
Lets hope, for the sport's sake, it's not that.