One final blast for Red Bull?
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One final blast for Red Bull?

The European Grand Prix at Valencia will be the last before the FIA clamps down on the use of 'exhaust blown diffusers'.

india Updated: Jun 25, 2011 01:30 IST

The European Grand Prix at Valencia will be the last before the FIA clamps down on the use of 'exhaust blown diffusers'.

The technology, which continues to blow gases through the exhaust pipe even if the throttle is closed, is thought to have most benefited the Red Bull and Renault teams so far this season.

Back in 2009, teams began to use the blast of exhaust gases to the rear diffuser to generate more downforce and hence cornering grip.

However they had a problem. As the drivers closed the throttle the exhaust flow reduced and the back of the car became unstable just when drivers needed the grip most.

Engineers found a solution to the problem. Instead of closing the throttle to cut off the power, they instead retarded the ignition timing when the driver backed off the accelerator. As the pressures inside the engine remained high, so did the blast of the exhaust onto the diffuser.

Then at the beginning of this season, we began to hear a new, distinctive rasp from car exhausts as they braked for corners. Renault, who also supply engines to Red Bull, had taken the concept even further by continuing to spray fuel into the red-hot exhausts on the over-run.

As the fuel burned and expanded, this 'afterburner' boosted still further the airflow onto the diffuser. However the use of the technology provoked a clamp-down from the FIA.

"An exhaust system is there for the purpose of exhausting gasses from the engine and when you're off-throttle, it isn't doing that any more" explains FIA Technical Delegate Charlie Whiting. He believes therefore, that the exhaust is being used to influence the aerodynamic characteristics of the car, which infringes the technical regulations regarding the use of driver controlled aerodynamics.

From the race after Valencia, the British Grand Prix, teams will be limited to just 10% of the airflow in the cars' exhausts when the driver lifts off the accelerator. From 2012, the FIA plans to outlaw all use of blown diffusers, demanding that exhausts will exit upwards through the bodywork, well away from any aerodynamic aid.

McLaren's pace in Montreal raises the question though, even if Vettel's Red Bull diffuser is going to give him one last blast, will it be enough to give him the championship? For a precedent, look back to 2009, when Brawn GP's development of the 'double diffuser' gave Button six wins from the first seven races before the other teams could match their technology..

When his rivals caught up, after the Turkish GP at the start of June, the Briton never won again that year. However Vettel, Webber, Hamilton, Barrichello. split the points total between them allowed Button to clinch the title in Brazil with a race remaining. Ironically if the Red Bull's performance does dip Vettel might hope that not just McLaren, but Ferrari might start winning, to split the points from the second half of the season. Alternatively he could just prove us all wrong, by continuing his early season winning streak right through the year!

(Steve Slater is a commentator on STAR Sports’ coverage of the F1)

First Published: Jun 25, 2011 00:11 IST