McLaren technical director Paddy Lowe says he sees nothing wrong with the intensive development work being carried out by leading teams on the designs of their exhaust exits and related rear bodywork.
The FIA placed much tighter restriction on the location of exits ahead of the 2012 season, effectively outlawing exhaust-blown diffusers, but that hasn’t stopped teams finding ingenious ways to channel exhaust flow to boost downforce.
That has prompted some critics to suggest perhaps the restrictions were not tight enough, leading to an unnecessarily costly exhaust ‘arms race’, but Lowe disagrees. He concedes that things had got somewhat “out of control” in 2011, but believes the regulation changes have done their job.
“In my view the thing we should always strive for is clear regulations that can be very clearly written down,” he told a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in. “What we lacked in 2011 was that clarity in the application of the rule 3.15 which was very difficult to interpret.
“Over the winter there were constraints that were very clear - they are completely numeric, which means we’ve arrived at the situation where there is great clarity. There are no disputes out there in terms of what you can and cannot do this year, so I think that’s really good.”
“It has left opportunities to develop into. We’ve all done it - McLaren led the way in that, in fact, and we’re proud of what we’ve done. Does it cost money? Of course it costs money, but we’d only spend the money on developing some other part of the car instead. There’s no particular cost around exhaust development that is inherently more costly than any other piece of bodywork, so I don’t feel the situation is wrong in that respect.”
Exhaust flow management is believed to play a key role in the recent updates to Red Bull’s RB8 that have seen the team improve their form to dominate the last few races. Lowe stressed it is just part of the overall package, but insisted that regardless it’s just a natural element of Formula One racing.
“I wouldn’t single it out as being all down to exhausts - and were it all down to exhausts I’d consider it fair game really,” he said. “We’ve all been doing it - all the leading teams have been working in that area, as they work on all areas of the car. To me that’s part of the sport, part of the competition, and that’s fair game.
“If at the moment Red Bull have done a better job than us then hats off to them. In other parts of the season we’ve done a better job than them - in the first quarter and probably the third quarter we’ve been the leading performer. And you could say the same: that it was down to better treatment of the exhaust - which it was, but only as part of a larger package.”
Lowe revealed that the teams have already decided that tightening exhaust restrictions further next year is unnecessary and would only push up expenditure ahead of the major regulations shake-up in 2014, when the new V6 turbo engines are set to feature a single, central exhaust.
“It has been discussed at the TWG (Technical Working Group) whether there should be a further constraint this winter,” he confirmed. “All the teams agreed that it wasn’t necessary or appropriate, and to keep developing for another year with sight of 2014 when it will all change again anyway. One of the big drivers of cost is change itself, so if you were to change the rules and change them again it would only cause teams to incur further costs.”