Milestones Technical F1: The double diffuser and the story of BrawnGP

Milestones Technical F1: The double diffuser and the story of BrawnGP
3 years ago

Milestones Technical F1: The double diffuser and the story of BrawnGP

The 2009 season will always remain in the books of
history of Formula 1 as one of the most interesting, not so much
to level strictly sports, technical and strategic. The
master plan drawn by Ross Brawn -which was to give Honda its
first world title as a constructor – it ended in a very
different, but much more epic. And the catalyst of everything
it was the double diffuser
, whose importance in the final result of
that season can’t be understood in all its extension, without
learn about the history of how and why BrawnGP became the
team to beat

Revolution regulatory

In 2009, it was the first step towards a new Formula 1 through
a radical regulatory change. The FIA intended to limit the
dependence aerodynamics of the cars with a view to enhancing the
show on the track
, to which was added a nod to the new
sustainable technologies through the innovative KERS, a system of
recovery of energy that would provide additional power to
the engines in very short spaces of time.

To the simplification of the aerodynamic -forcing the teams to
starting from scratch in the design – joined the complexity of
work properly on the KERS and, especially, to optimize their
integration in the car, because of the lack of space, bound his
additional weight and complexity of manipulation. All of this led
in a dramatic increase in the costs
(only the development of the
KERS cost him a Honda 50 million euros and several teams had to
travel to united States to work in wind tunnels that
allow to simulate real-scale) and a subsequent change of hierarchy
in F1, powered by the predominance of the creators on the
engineers who, for years, had been limited to polishing cars
based on the stability of the regulatory.

Brawn started late in the preseason, but drew attention from the outset with its speed, reliability, and absence of sponsors. Photo: José María Izquierdo Galiot.

Brawn, Newey, Derney, Head and company knew how to take advantage
of your talent to guide the technical departments in a
better understanding and interpretation of the new regulation. the icing on The cake
the cake was the double diffuser, a concept used in the 80’s

some equipment used after discovering a hole in the regulation

Honda lost faith in Ross Brawn

On 5 December 2008 Honda Motor Company announced his resignation
to continue in Formula 1 with Honda Racing after having invested
more than 800 million euros in three years, and after having
achieved only one victory, one pole position and four podiums. Three
months and a day later, the Brawn BGP001 made his debut on the asphalt

in a lonely and cold Silverstone.

“Brawn took his time to get to know the state of the computer and, subsequently, started the conversion”

Honda has always enjoyed a great prestige in the world
of the engine but, in Formula 1, in particular, his fame was won
primarily by their engines and not by their competitiveness at the time
to build a winning team. After a first contact in years
60 (from 1964 to 1968), Honda went back to try their assault on the
throne of the F1 by acquiring the team BAR in 2005, with whom
worked as a supplier of engines from five years before.
investment was considerable from the start, but the results are not
came, the fruit of a technical department and a mediocre and a philosophy
japanese little chord
to the elasticity and speed required in the
world of Formula 1.

To alleviate all of this, in 2007, Honda decided to sign Ross Brawn,
that had left Ferrari a year before after the disappointment of not
having been chosen to replace Jean Todt at the front of the
Scuderia, a position that earned Stefano Domenicali. Brawn took his
time to get to know the real state of the computer
and, subsequently,
started a conversion gradual.

The Honda RA108 served as a test bench for the single-seater that was to take a Honda to the title. Photo: Mark McArdale

Two of their major decisions were to sign Fernando Alonso
(something that the pilot himself ruled out), and to employ all their resources in
to build a winning car face to 2009, year in which would
a regulation in force radically different. To do this, in addition to
count with the considerable budget of Honda, decided to use the
2008 season as a test bench for the car of the year
next, abandoning all hope of getting results with the
. But, with this movement, Honda ended in the ninth
plaza of the World of Builders, was too much for the council
management of the parent company, which prey on the fear of the
growing global economic uncertainty, decided to cut off the faucet
and leave the Formula 1. Nothing served that Brawn showed them the
impressive data obtained in the wind tunnel. As had already
in the past, could be wrong.

“Ross knew that I had to take advantage of the pull-up initial”

BrawnGP was born of the sale of the staff, facilities, and material
to Ross Brawn. For weeks, Ross and Nick Fry sought buyers
for the team with the goal of saving the project and, with it,
hundreds of jobs. But not only that: they knew that they had a
single-seater extraordinary, probably unbeatable. And they knew that
worth the fight by putting it on the track, even if they had to
take a risk and do it themselves.

When the moment of truth arrived and no one entered into the
purchase, Honda gave the property to Brawn for a pound, the team
it was renamed and launched with the budget inherited
the advancement of television rights, the few sponsorships
found, and the promise of Honda to contribute what is necessary to the
end of the season if necessary. Ross Brawn knew
the key would be to take advantage of the pull starting of the car

subsequently, enduring to the extent possible with the limited
development that the budget would allow.

the tip of The iceberg

The double diffuser took all the attention and was designated by
many as the key to the success of the BrawnGP. This element
provided aerodynamic load additional to the single-seater, without
it increase the levels of drag, for what was a clear
progress at all levels
. Ben Wood, a young engineer aerodynamic
he had worked in various teams of the grill with
previously, he came to Honda after the withdrawal of the Super Aguri team
supported by nippon mark). He had worked on the idea in Super
Aguri and Brawn was delighted to develop it for a Honda.

In march of 2008, Ross Brawn attended a meeting of the Group
Technical Working (TWG for its acronym in English) in which the
intended to delimit the final regulation for 2009. During the
of course the same, Brawn warned about the need of
realize the regulation in relation to the area of the diffuser and the
bottom of the car
, because it could give rise to interpretations
free that provide a considerable advantage to those who

unfortunately for themselves, his request was not honoured and
Brawn decided to develop its own interpretation and,
subsequently, to perform a query to Charlie Whiting (delegate
technical FIA) about the legality of the design. Whiting gave light
green to Brawn (as well as to the designs of Williams and Toyota, not to
the of the rest) and work already started months ago with the new
car ended up to be defined around the double diffuser.
Subsequently, many of his colleagues would argue that such
interpretation, while not in contravention of the wording of the
regulation, yes collided head-on against the spirit of the standard
The FIA, after several months of controversy, finally decided to
declare it legal and the rest of the teams began a desperate
race to implement it in their cars, something especially
complicated in the case of the Red Bull Adrian Newey, the use
suspension type pull-rod had less space to exploit
such a concept.

Much more than a diffuser

But, if the BGP001 had the double diffuser as well as
main protagonist of the story, in it were
multiple secondary players that were just as or more important to the
when it comes to understanding the success of the unique project initiated by Ross
Brawn. All of them needed to understand the outcome of a plot
worthy of being remembered.

The BGP001 was a revolution
in many ways, although many of them far from the view of
engineers and journalists and fans. Designed to exploit the
maximum the double diffuser, its design was, first of all, elegant and
. But the car that we saw on the track was not the Brawn
he dreamed of initially, because the circumstances forced to do without
of certain elements that would endanger the viability of the

Snout low, and a spoiler very worked for the time were some of the hallmarks of the BGP01. Photo: José María Izquierdo Galiot.

The most eye-catching was the KERS. Honda
it was the first team to put you on track the system in may 2008 and,
from the start, its development went on for a good way. Honda
it was one of the brands that institutional support provided to the
implementation of KERS in F1 and decided to use the system
mechanic, stopped battery and used a steering wheel
inertia. The bulk of the system had built-in ir on the box
changes, while the cylinder is vacuum sealed with the steering wheel
inertia in its interior would be located under the feet of the pilot, between
the monocoque and the bottom of the car. Such distribution, by
both, would be an advantageous weight distribution and it would be something
very beneficial for the rear tires
, which were identified
as one of the biggest headaches of the season.

But the development of the system
stopped in December when Honda confirmed its withdrawal, and the
main goal happened to be looking for a new engine and, as
consequence of all of this, the simplification of the car in order to
make it as reliable as possible.

“The biggest challenge was integrating the Mercedes engine in the gearbox of Honda”

With a limited budget of
less than 90 million euros, the negotiations to hire a
engine became vital. First, he negotiated with Ferrari,
to finish reaching an agreement with Mercedes. The propellant German
it was four kilograms heavier than the minimum allowed by
, which attempted to lighten the most of the chassis for
to be able to play better with the ballasts and compensate for the additional weight.
When the engine was received at the end of December, the challenge was
integrate it in the box of changes of carbon of Honda, which was a
great advance in all respects. To do this, we varied the height of
the suspension of four millimeters compared to the original design.

The BGP001 had several
main principles: lightness, handling and center of gravity
very low. The set consisted of solutions very intelligent, although
not as radical as those of the RB5, Adrian Newey. Your pontoons were
very close to take advantage of the absence of KERS in that area and their
distance between axes was less than that of its direct rivals, with
order to get a car as compact as possible
. To handle
more ballast, the center of gravity is decreased to the maximum with
solutions such as the morro low, which allowed for greater adaptation to the
different circuits on the calendar, as well as a geometry
suspension optimal.

Also adopted a steering column
very low to the height of the wishbones, brake calipers horizontal
(something that even today, many computers are not able to use for your
complexity, in terms of reliability) and it worked especially
on the front wing to maximize the flow management
aerodynamic and its interaction with the double diffuser. The result
it was a single-seater bright, full and neat, that, in spite of everything,
had two small limitations that put in danger your
: a chronic problem of generation of temperature in the
tires and a speed of evolution little as a result
the limited budget available after the departure of the house

stroke of genius

For many BrawnGP was a small team that put against the
cords the great, starring in an epic story of
overcome with minimal resources. It is true that the team faced
the season with a limited budget and with a portfolio of
sponsors very limited, but also what is that conceived of the 90%
the single-seater with resources very considerable

This circumstance was taken advantage of by Ross Brawn to the maximum, which
in addition to used the 2008 season as bench tests permanent
to prepare the single-seater, 2009, during his test of new
pieces in the Big Prize with the work in the factory and in three
wind tunnels different (though there was the comment that they were
five). Faced with the challenge of the new regulation, the team from Brackley took
initially three different ways of design, of which “two
turned out to be wrong, so the team only had to
, commented Alex Wurz, at that time, pilot
test of the mark.

Brawn, Toyota and Williams took advantage of the double diffuser to highlight in the first few races of the year. Photo: Eastkandar.

The phrase of the pilot himself austrian, “the most expensive car
built ever, and with the operating budget more under”

ended up taking body with the arrival of the required reduction of
template, which went from having 700 people to operate with only
450. It also minimized costs of construction to be manufactured
only three chassis, as opposed to the eight that were
available BMW Sauber and Ferrari. Despite all of the Brawn was, to
the end of the season, the equipment more reliable with a 97.2% of the laps
total completed
, and only an accident and an abandoned mechanical,
breakage of the gearbox.

Button started gaining

The first seven Great Prizes yielded six
victories and a third place for Jenson Button, which intensified
the debate over the legality of the double diffuser to the levels
unimaginable, even after the decision of the FIA to accept it as
legitimate. Meanwhile, Ross Brawn admitted feeling happy to see
“all the world is concentrated in the double diffuser, because that
indicates that you have not understood that there are other interesting solutions in
the car”

“The most expensive car built ever, and with the operating budget over under”

Meanwhile, Rubens Barrichello spent many hardships to get
feel comfortable with the brakes of the car, until finally
he changed his mark in the Grand Prix held at Silverstone. This
circumstance, joined to its greater ability to generate temperature in
the tires with cold environments, allowed the brazilian to plant
face your partner and to the Red Bull. But it was too late and
Brawn, a faithful follower of the doctrine Ferrari, soon realized that
things didn’t go so well for a long time and it was time to
bet for a pilot
or and support you until the last consequences.

The survival -or a good business – they depended on the achievement
of both titles and Brawn knew that I had to margin up their
rivals -and in particular, Newey – managed to adapt the concept of
double diffuser on their cars intended for a conventional one. To
from that moment on would suffer and, to minimize damage,
supported on the valuable experience of Barrichello at the time of giving
the car
-something that Button flojeaba – and in a reliability
test of pumps. In order to enhance the already scarce
development of the car, Ross decided to sacrifice the design of the
single-seater, 2010, and to dedicate all available resources to the current.

Rubens Barrichello, Ross Brawn and Jenson Button celebrate on the first of the four doublets of the season in Australia, the first race of the team’s history.

After six victories in the first half of the year -along with four
pole positions and eleven podiums-the team had to settle with two wins to
charge of Barrichello and four podium finishes in total over the
second half of the season. Enough, however, to
certify both world titles and, subsequently, sell the
team to Mercedes for 137 million euros

BrawnGP, one of the most fascinating stories of the F1 recent,
it is the story of a wolf in a lamb’s skin. A great lesson
signed by one of the most prodigious minds of the ‘paddock’:
Ross James Brawn.

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