The next few days in Formula 1 herald a flurry of new car launches, with Ferrari revealing their 2010 contender on Thursday, McLaren unveiling the MP4-25 at Vodafone's Newbury headquarters on Friday, and Mercedes displaying their silver Schumi-wagen on Monday. The major design novelties are likely to stem from the new requirement to accommodate a race-distance capacity fuel-tank, and a reduction in front tyre widths. Apart from that, there is an expectation in some quarters that many teams will pay Red Bull designer Adrian Newey the ultimate compliment, and effectively copy his RB5 design, the fastest car of last year.
However, whilst almost all the teams may imitate the protrusions on the front nose that Newey used to satisfy the letter of the dimensional regulations in 2009, it is far from certain that the other teams will adopt the pull-rod rear suspension, used to such fine effect on the RB5. The purpose of the pull-rod solution was to remove the suspension rockers, springs and dampers from the top of the car, where they otherwise restrict the flow of air over the top of the diffuser. As Newey himself explained to Alan Henry, the unexpected introduction of double-diffusers severely detracts from the advantages of pull-rod suspension:
"I thought it was an elegant solution to the single-diffuser car, but given the rule changes, it is much more difficult to make the pull-rod layout work satisfactorily in conjunction with a double diffuser.
"We took the decision to use the pull-rods because the start of the diffuser had moved from the front of the rear wheel to the rear axle centre-line. What the double diffuser does is, in effect, to completely circumvent that rule. So certainly the shape of the double diffuser we had latterly on the RB5 was compromised slightly by the pull-rod layout." (Autocourse 2009-2010, p35)
It may be that to maximise the effect of a double-diffuser, push-rod suspension still offers the best solution. The question is whether one can both maximise the flow through a double-diffuser, and use pull-rod suspension to maximise the flow between the rear wheels, and over the top of the diffuser. When the Red Bull RB6 debuts on February 10th, it will be fascinating to see if Newey's fertile mind has responded to this challenge with an exotic multi-storey diffuser, replete with multiple slots, channels, and branching points. A dendritic diffuser perchance...