Much Ado About A Hole in F1
By Norbert Ockenga
A hole. A simple hole in the floor of Red Bull's Formula One car is deemed illegal. That's what the governing body ruled before the teams hit Montréal. It sounds silly, almost ludicrous.
But put in perspective, the hole is not a minor affair – but a big scandal. You just need to press fast rewind to 2009 to understand why Red Bull is to blame for just plain cheating.
In 2009, Brawn, Williams and Toyota surprised the others with their double diffusers – which made their cars so superior that Jenson Button won the World Championship with ease.
The double diffuser was charged for its legality for races on end at the start of the season. The expression "fully enclosed hole" played a key role in this legal dispute. The teams who were doubting the eligibility of the double diffuser claimed it was fed with air through "fully enclosed holes" in the under tray, which were and still are not legal.
While it was always obvious that none of the three double diffuser teams had "fully enclosed holes" in their floor and the double diffusers were always going to be legal, the arguments about the expression and definition of holes bordered on the ridiculous. Sam Michael and Adam Parr, at the time leading members of the Williams F1 board of directors, explained to me with the example of a drinking glass what a "fully enclosed hole" really is. And at the same time, a fake document about a witness hearing appeared which made fun of Flavio Briatore's broken English and lack of technical understanding. It quoted Briatore, who at that time ran the Renault team: "You ask man on street in Rococo Islands, ‘what’s a hole?’ mean he gonna say, please let me check article 3.12.5 FIA Technical Regulations 2009? OF COURSE NOT!!! How you gonna run sport like this, eh??? Mean, NOBODY CARE and NOBODY UNDERSTAND!"
Not many people inside the paddock saw the humorous fake document. Many were afraid of Briatore's anger. But in the light of the current there's-a-hole-in-the-bucket discussion, I couldn't resist to drag it out again. One, because it's still funny. But more than that, it shows that "fully enclosed holes" and the relevant article of the rules were already a hot topic then.
Amongst the teams who hotly disputed the double diffuser was … Red Bull Racing. Does that ring a bell, anybody? The very team which just used a fully enclosed hole knew 100 percent well that holes are not allowed, because they used the same reason for their argument in 2009.
This, ladies and gentlemen, leaves a very bitter taste.
The World Champions not only acted as hypocrites. They knew damn well what they did was illegal – but they built it just the same.
This is no small issue. It's a scandal which ought to be punished in the biggest possible way.
What's that hole all about anyway? From a technical point of view, it is necessary to get air underneath the car to seal the floor and gain downforce through the stepped diffuser at the rear. The tires create huge wakes, which in turn interfere with the air that comes out of the diffuser. The wakes reduce the speed of the air from underneath the car, and thus works as a hindrance for the venturi effect of the diffuser. The quicker the air flows through the diffuser, the higher the suction which plants the car to the ground.
Add clean air from in front of the rear tires into the diffuser, and you accelerate the air under the car, which reduces the detrimental effect from the rear wheels' wakes.
It cures the problem which Red Bull has experienced with their unstable aerodynamics, a problem that made the car beastly to drive. As outlined in another article on GarageMonkey, Behind the Hot Blown Truth in 2012 F1, this goes down to a major construction philosophy of the RB8. This flaw had been cured with the holes between side pods and rear tires.
The punctured floor only appeared when the season was well underway. It turned the Red Bull RB8 from an also-ran into a winner, as Mark Webber proved at Monaco last time 'round. A cheater on the rostrum? No doubt if you put it into the perspective of history.
And then Red Bull's racing coordinator Helmut Marko, of Austria, tells the website autosport.com that the FIA ruling had no effect on the team for the Canadian effort as they were never going to use that very floor anyway.
Of course not! Now that the team had found a way to turn the car into a winner, why would they want to use it?
You've just got to believe him. After all, I'm sure you would believe me, too, when I say: I've just won five million in the lottery but I'm not gonna cash it in; I'd much prefer to return to my nightshift at the light bulb factory.
Or wouldn't you?