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FIA Moves to Reduce Downforce

FIA president Max Mosley has announced a new initiative for 2008 with which he aims to limit downforce in the interests of having more overtaking in Formula One

Speaking at Monza today, Mosley also announced AMD, the company behind the FIA's recent comprehensive spectator survey, as the governing body's new official technology partner.

AMD will make available significant computing power with the aim of achieving more overtaking in F1, something that 94% of the 93,000 survey respondents identified as a key wish.

Mosley said: "Various attempts have been made to solve the problem we've got, which is that the car behind needs to be something like two seconds a lap faster on the average circuit before it can overtake the car in front. The only way to solve that is with really original thinking.

"We first attempted to solve the problem by saying we'll run some simulations and see what we do to the downforce to make overtaking possible. And the answer was 90% less downforce and much bigger wheels and tyres, but I think everyone agrees that 90% less downforce, even with bigger tyres would make the cars too slow compared to other forms of single seater racing.

"Finding another solution means someone has to do something clever, and what AMD has done is to make available to us one of the most powerful computers in the world, which will enable us to run using computational fluid dynamics a number of programmes which would be the equivalent of turning up here with two F1 cars and a vast number of people who can make bits.

"All of that we are going to be able to do on the computer and all of it before the end of the year, so we will be able to publish these regulations before then. We think we know what to do. We have to validate it and then optimise it and the calculating power to do that is immense."

Mosley admitted that both the results of the AMD survey and recent consultations with the teams have led to some rethinking of the draft 2008 regulations published in July.    

"We are getting close to knowing what we are going to do," Mosley added. "We are going to limit downforce for the first time by quantity rather than fixing bodywork regulations and hoping we get it right. We are going to say that the car must never have more than 'N' thousand Newtons of downforce in any circumstances.

"That is a fairly dramatic change but the fact that it is necessary is perfectly illustrated by this year where we have new regulations devised by the Technical Working Group with a view to reducing downforce by 25%.

"By the time we got to the beginning of the season most of the 25% had been recovered but, worse than that, they recovered it by putting all sorts of little bits and pieces of winglets and tabs on the cars that make them even more sensitive to the wake of the car in front.

"So, we haven't lost the downforce and we've got an even bigger problem with the overtaking. It is simply the wrong way to go and for the last 38 years the FIA has tried to limit cornering speeds derived from aerodynamics by specifying the dimensions of the cars. We are going to do it in more logical way in the future which is specifying the maximum downforce and that will be the end of the discussions.

"In combination we already have larger tyres, slicks and more grip and the net result is that to achieve the same laptimes in 2008 as we anticipate in 2006, we will have in the order of 50% of the downforce levels that we currently have. 

"In combination with this, we will fit a high grip plank, that will stop people running the plank on the ground to get round the downforce regulation. That will also be a safety measure when drivers lose wheels with the new tarmac run-offs."

Mosley says he is confident that with the downforce limitations allied to the significant investigation into overtaking with AMD's help, he will have one of F1 thorniest problems solved by the end of the year.

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