Tag Archives: F-duct

Technical evolution of the cars in 2010 (Part 1 of 3)

In a 3-part series, I will look at how this year’s Formula 1 cars have developed technically, as well as new innovations on the cars. This is the first post, looking from testing to the 7th race in Turkey. The second part will be written up after the end of the European season (after the Monza weekend in September), and the final part will be after the season concludes.

F-duct

The F-duct is the most controversial innovation so far this season, and has already been banned for next year. The F-duct got its name, as it was located where the “f” on Vodafone is on the engine cover on the McLaren car. McLaren developed this invention before the season began, but it was really only first noticed in the first few races.

The F-duct will be explained in its original McLaren format, as it has been altered by other teams. There is a duct on the nose of the car, which takes air in and feeds it to the rear wing, which is perfectly normal. This air travels around the side of the car, and crucially, past the side of the cockpit. So, a driver had place their hand/wrist/leg on a hole on this tube, and stop the air travelling to the rear wing. This means that there is less air on the rear wing, meaning less downforce and less drag.

The F-duct is only applied on straights, as this is the only situation where less downforce is wanted. It is estimated that an F-duct is worth between 6-10km/h on a straight. Sauber were the first to copy this design, followed closely by Ferrari, then Force India and Red Bull. Each team has used a different configuration, such as Sauber’s duct beginning on the sidepod and not the nosecone.

While Force India and Red Bull are the latest teams to introduce the F-duct, neither of them ran it during the Turkish Grand Prix. Red Bull found their system to be inconsistent and difficult to operate, though it is unknown why Force India did not run the device.

Mercedes' opening of their F-duct

Mercedes' opening of their F-duct

Red Bull's more complicated F-duct system

Red Bull's more complicated F-duct system

The driver-operated mechanism for the Force India F-duct

The driver-operated mechanism for the Force India F-duct

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Mercedes’ airbox

At the start of the year, Mercedes GP had managed to avoid making its airbox design a structural part of the car’s rollover protection, and therefore wasn’t part of the chassis development ban. This meant that the team were free to change it across the season. Before the first race, a small slot was introduced behind the engine air intake, which improved aero efficiency at the rear of the car.

However, by Barcelona, the team had already introduced a radical new intake, which is much lower and further back than before. It is still not a part of the actual chassis, as it is part of the engine cover, meaning it can still be developed over the season. These changes ensured that airflow over the back of the car was cleaner, and helped the performance of the rear wing.

So far, no other team has attempted to copy this design, or at least we haven’t seen it in action yet. Having said that, it is an ugly invention, so I wouldn’t be sad to see this innovation fail.

Mercedes' new airbox innovation

Mercedes' new airbox innovation

Nico Rosberg running Mercedes' radical new airbox

Nico Rosberg running Mercedes' radical new airbox

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Ban on outboard wing mirrors

An outboard wing mirror is where the car’s wing mirrors sit on the outside of the cockpit, often on top of the turning vane. However, the problem with this design was that it was outside the drivers’ peripheral vision, which meant that it was not within their straight line of vision, meaning a driver had to look away from the road to look in the mirrors.

After many near misses and collisions, most notably Michael Schumacher, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso in Australia, the FIA sought to ban outboard wing mirrors, effective from the Spanish GP onwards. Though these mirrors were worth about one tenth of a second in aerodynamic efficiency, the teams were forced to move their wing mirrors to the inside of the cockpit, so they were inside a drivers’ peripheral vision.

Outboard wing mirrors, visible here on the Williams FW32

Outboard wing mirrors, visible here on the Williams FW32

Wing mirrors on the inside of the cockpit, seen here on the Red Bull car

Wing mirrors on the inside of the cockpit, seen here on the Red Bull car

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Diffuser starter motors

As with outboard wing mirrors, diffuser starter motors have been banned, in this case since the Australian Grand Prix. Under normal circumstances, a Formula 1 car’s starter motor is in the back of the car, which makes it easy for the mechcnics to plug in the starter motor. Remember, F1 cars do not carry a starter motor themselves. To accomodate this, a small hole or slot must be made into the diffuser section of the car, to allow the starter motor to be plugged into the car.

However, the teams began to see how they could exploit this section of the car. The slot was made unnecessarily large, and aerodynamically sculpted, so as to improve airflow around the diffuser of the car.

Once complaints were made, the FIA swiftly closed the loophole allowing these devices to become too large in the first place, by placing a size limit on diffuser starter motors.

McLaren's diffuser starter motor, which was one of the designs against the rules

McLaren's diffuser starter motor, which was one of the designs against the rules

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This was the first of a 3-part series. The second post will be up after the Italian Grand Prix weekend.

Teams agree to ban F-ducts for 2011

Sauber's interpretation of the F-duct system

Sauber's interpretation of the F-duct system

The Formula 1 teams have agreed to ban the F-duct devices on the F1 cars for 2011, despite pleas for McLaren to keep the innovation.

McLaren had taken the lead in the development of the F-duct early on, when they had their system ready by the season opener in Bahrain. All of the other teams have since been trying to catch up on McLaren’s advantage, by creating their own F-duct systems. However, since the teams’ chassis are homologated for this season, many teams complained that they were struggling to make their own devices.

Since Bahrain, Sauber, Ferrari, Mercedes and Williams have all managed to run blown rear wings, but the rest of the teams were concerned that these devices could go out of control next season, on cost and safety grounds. Therefore, at the FOTA meeting at Barcelona after the race today, a decicion mas made to ban the F-duct for 2011, despite McLaren trying to convince the team principals to keep it.

The CEO of Mercedes GP, Nick Fry, explained that the F-duct system was both dangerous and brought little to the sport:

"I personally think that it is sensible to nip in the bud 
technologies that, on the face of it, don't really have a relevance 
for use outside of F1.

By the end of the year I know we, and I am sure most of the other 
teams, will have an F-Duct on their car and that neutralises the 
advantage of having it.

The engineers have already come up with ideas for next year that are 
zany in the extreme, and it is difficult to see how they would be 
used elsewhere. Plus they would be expensive.

I know it is disappointing for those who invent these ideas, but I 
think what people have to get used to is, like the double diffuser 
idea, they may be fairly short lived.

You get your pay back for the year when you have got it and other 
people haven't - and if it isn't a useful technology then it comes 
off.

What we should be encouraging is stuff that we can be using 
elsewhere, and I am personally a big proponent of KERS because 
of that."

A very good move by FOTA here, in my opinion. If you were watching the BBC analyse qualifying and the race this weekend, you would have seen footage of Fernando Alonso driving dangerously, with both hands off the wheel at some points. His left hand was operating the F-duct, while the right hand was changing the brake bias, and looking down at the same time. I know that driving an F1 car is supposed to be an extreme challenge, but this is just stupid.

Anyways, it does bring very little to the sport, whatever way you look at it. The double-decker diffuser was banned (2011 onwards) on the same basis. Technical innovation, in modern F1, should be intended for environmental, high performance or “improving the show” (sorry) purposes. The only one of these the F-duct gets close to is performance, but since it really is an unecessary device, there’s no reason for it to be in Formula 1.

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