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LG Tech Report Part 1: McLaren wing, Ferrari wheels and cool fuel
LG Tech Report Part 1: McLaren wing, Ferrari wheels and cool fuel
Posted By: James Allen  |  11 Mar 2010   |  10:50 pm GMT  |  150 comments

Welcome to a new content feature on JA on F1 for this season.

In response to readers’ questions about technical issues in F1, we’ve got together with LG Electronics to produce a technical report which will appear at every Grand Prix, looking at the latest developments, key talking points and practical issues facing the teams. It will be written in layman’s language to provide a window into the often obscure world of F1 Tech.

I will be working with F1 insiders, engineers and a technical artist to demystify the technical story and to bring fans closer to the sport.

To kick the series off, we will look at some of the clever devices, which have got everyone talking ahead of the first race. We’ll look at some issues raised by the refuelling ban and examine what HRT will need to do first as they try to race an untested car.

Technical developments

The technical regulations for F1 have changed since last season, but not by as much as they did from 2008 to 2009. The aerodynamic regulations have stayed pretty much the same. The cars are in many cases longer and wider than last year to accommodate a larger fuel tank, which arises from the ban on refuelling. Instead of carrying a maximum of 90 kilos of fuel, cars will now start the race with around 160 kilos. This means that the weight distribution has to be reconsidered.

It makes for a fiendish challenge for the engineers when setting the cars up, because they need the cars to work the tyres hard on the first lap in qualifying but then, without changing the set up in parc ferme after qualifying, the car must treat the tyres gently over a long run in the race.

The slick front tyres are 25mm narrower than they were last year, but getting the set up right, so that the load is evenly distributed across the four tyres is as important as ever.

To help preserve the tyres, the Front Wing Adjuster will be very important during the races this year. It was made legal last season, but drivers rarely used it. This year those teams that have it are finding it very helpful, particularly with preserving the front tyres.

Using a servo, controlled by a dial on the steering wheel, the wing can be moved by up to 6 degrees and this affects the amount of downforce the front wing produces. It can be used twice per lap and will be used extensively during the race.

It is a difficult thing to get right, without movement you don’t want from the wing, but it counts for a lot and it’s something Ferrari were the first to master with the 2010 cars. By trimming it as the fuel weight burns off, the driver can keep the wear on all four tyres as even as possible.

Another major talking point arising from the winter testing is McLaren’s Rear Wing, which seems to have the ability to cut drag on the straights, giving the car additional extra speed. In Barcelona the McLaren was 5km/h faster through the speed trap than its closest rival.

This is achieved by passing air through a slot in the rear wing (the black line near the bottom of the wing in the picture left), which neutralises the rear wing, cutting the drag. Such a device would also reduce the overall downforce, which would be a bad thing. So switching it on and off when needed on the straights is the key. That is where the question of legality comes in.

The way it works is this: there is a hole in the cockpit to a duct through which the air passes. The driver decides when to open it and he does so with his knee. Air then shoots through the duct in the sharkfin engine cover and exits through a slot in the underside of the rear wing. This causes the airflow under the wing to separate from the wing and this cuts the drag.

The FIA’s Charlie Whiting inspected the wing on Thursday and is satisfied that it is legal, so it is something some other teams will be sure to copy. They are all working on their own versions of it now anyway. The problem is that they cannot make a hole in the cockpit because the rules say you cannot modify the safety cell once the season has started.

Ferrari’s wheel crowns
In a similar vein, Ferrari has also slipped in a clever idea which no-one can fully copy. Aerodynamic appendages attached to wheels, which help clean up the air flow, have been banned. But Ferrari has come up with an ingenious idea, involving two crowns on the wheels, which do part of the job the spinners used to do.

They are legal because they are made of the same material as the wheel. Ferrari only put them on the car at the final Barcelona test. And the clever bit is that, as the wheels are now a homologated item (along with the safety cell and crash structures), the other teams can’t change their wheels to adopt this solution!

Racing an untested car
The new teams have not been able to do as much testing as their established rivals and one team has done no testing at all. The HRT team was only rescued at the 11th hour and their car, built in Italy by Dallara, has yet to turn a wheel before Bahrain. So what will be the priorities for the engineers in those first practice sessions?

Cooling is the first thing to check on Friday morning. A car which overheats will not get far, especially in the heat of Bahrain. If anything the car is likely to be engineered to overcool; with all the uncertainty over this team, the design engineers are likely to have been conservative. However the general rule in F1 is that a car which cools really well is a slow car. Designers want to shrink wrap the bodywork over the car to get the best aerodynamics, so in a really quick car, the bodywork is often no more than 5mm away from the radiators.

Water temperatures typically run to 140 degrees, which is possible because the system is pressurized, while oil temperatures of 115 degrees are acceptable. If the oil gets any hotter than that it loses its lubricating properties and causes damage.

After the cooling has been verified, the engineers will begin the difficult process of learning about the tyres. This is what the other teams have been doing for the last month in testing. It will take HRT several Grand Prix weekends to learn how to set the car up, to get the load evenly balanced across all four tyres and get the correct balance between aero and tyre temperatures. There aren’t too many short cuts here and even very experienced teams can get it wrong. This is a problem Brawn engineered into their car in the second half of last season, for example. The HRT team has hired ex Honda technical director Geoff Willis to help speed up the learning process. Gabriele Tredozzi, formally of Toro Rosso and Minardi, is working for Dallara on the design side.

Getting the electronic systems to work will be another priority, the teams all use the same Microsoft McLaren Electronics ECU and getting that coded to work with all the the other systems on the car, such as the gearbox and the hydraulic systems. HRT will be helped in this by the fact that they are using the same Cosworth engine and Xtrac gearbox elements as Lotus and Virgin. But modern seamless shift gearboxes are fiendishly complicated things. The coding for programming one runs to 50 pages of A3, to get the timing and fail-safes working properly!

Cooling the fuel
One aspect of the refuelling ban which has not had much attention is the danger of the last drops of fuel overheating in the tank towards the end of the race. With the first races taking place in Bahain, Australia and Malaysia, this is an even greater risk. Hot fuel evaporates and in extreme circumstances you get a condition called cavitation, where the fuel boils and air bubbles get into the fuel system, damaging it.

In the days of refuelling, fuel chilled to 10 degrees would be put into the car at a pit stop. Without that luxury, the teams have had work on two areas; insulating the fuel tanks from the engine heat and working with their fuel suppliers to blend the fuel with additives which will stop the fuel from vapourising. Shell in particular have put a huge amount of effort over the winter into blending “cool fuel” for Ferrari, believing this to be a key area.

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Brushing with a motorized brush is not enough to fully clean.

If you are too busy to make to your dental and medical appointments during the regular work

week, you may want to consider going to a Saturday dentist.

And given that the self esteem is the anchor of happiness,

you know that when your self esteem receives a bruise, and a major one at that, you end

up at a risk of losing your happiness.


Hi James,

I don’t know where else to ask this but I have a question for you. Is the area directly behind the driver’s helmet homologated? Is it posible to put a hole there for the ‘F-duct’ that can be covered by resting the drivers head and open it by the driver leaning forward?

Thanks for your great site!



Hi James,

Superb column,

I’m sure we would all really appreciate a proper diagrammatic breakdown of the double diffuser and the updates since last year – I’ve never seen a diagram of the diffuser.

LG has very BEST company advertising since sponsoring this column. Thanks LG

Thanks James



Hi James,

Thanks for putting together such a well-informed website with your incisive comments to boot! Congratulations.

I have found so little of substance on the net, especially with regards to the more technical subjects, so your site is a breath of fresh air.

Keep up the good work!


Why is it that large diameter wheels and low aspect ratio tyres are synonymous with performance locally but F-1 machines do not follow this trend despite running on some of the smoothest surfaces known.



Another piece of great innovation from McLaren. I like the knee being used which is not part of the ruling. Quickly copy the concept and move on. FIA ruling has always had grey areas, but that’s where the genius of engineering comes through. True creativity has no boundaries. I often wondered if there are no rules, wow, can you imagine what we will witness in the art of engineering. But it’s only a dream.


For 60 years F1 has maintained a seemingly impossible balance between a technical contest and a human contest. Only by anticipating and addressing constantly changing imbalances can the validity of each be maintained. There will be deadends and progress in fits and starts.

Once it was realized that racing cars have to adapt to the air that they move through and, better yet, utilize it there was no denying that henceforth exploiting that science would be one of the ways forward. I think that prohibition of movable aerodynamic devices was a wise choice because it focused designers on fewer problems resulting in more refined solutions. Yes, the knee valve is ludicrous but stalling the wing to eliminate drag at high speed isn’t. More elegant iterations will follow but maximum downforce, minimum drag – that’s something for nothing, as Chapman would say. Like KERS this belongs on an advanced design. The bold ones will enjoy their advantage, the others will catch up, the rules and the engineering will coalesce before long and, with a new baseline, F1 will roll on.

F1 cannot be justified by its application to today’s real world. The fact that it’s a blast is enough.


great effort james.cant wait to see alonso and jeff gordon head to head on the track with ferrari. who do u think will win in the end?


James, you’re on pole position of racing journos!!!


I want to see close racing, so I am really frustrated that McLaren have found a loophole in the rules that will (we must assume) give them a clear advantage until everyone else copies it. What’s more, it makes no sense that eleven teams will have to spend money copying the McLaren system in order to restore a level playing field at a time when teams are trying to cut costs in order to avoid going bust.

I understand that lots of people are really impressed by what they see as innovative technology and that, for them, that is what F1 is all about. But I can’t see that there’s anything very high-tech or sophisticated about the driver having to block a hole in an airway while going down the straight with his knee. It seems to me a quite comical idea. If we really want innovative technology, it would be better to legalise moveable aerodynamic devices (not to mention active suspension).

This is just an example of brilliant engineers wasting their talent in an effort to evade the clear intention of a badly written rule book. As Mosley said last year, this sort of nonsense is totally irrelevant to the real world. We need to decide what F1 is supposed to be – either close racing or a no-holds-barred technical exercise – and then write a rule book that fits that vision. Meanwhile the FIA should apply the rules in the best interests of the sport, instead of taking a narrow, legalistic view as to what’s acceptable.


Thank you James!

Great to find an article that talks about McLaren’s wing without incorrectly talking of stalling. In every book or article I respect talks of stalling a wing increasing drag.

I have been expecting something along the lines of ferrari’s wheels for years – when they first started adding their discs the rules did say they were illegal but as they were on a red car first…

I have been asking about the fuel temp issue for weeks now and heard nothing. However I wonder what the implications are in terms of engine power when delivering fuel that could easily be 40 degrees higher at the end of the race.


So McLaren have gone back on their word by implementing this new concept and no ones bothered.

They may as well have brought a KERS equipped car because they agreed to ditch that too.


Awesome ! More of this sort of thing.


I thought the whole idea of F1 was to get the best out of what your given within the rules. What a great idea of a cost cutting measure to use the drivers knee!!


Brilliant! The first report which not only explains clearly the McLaren vent, but also has lots of other tasty tech too.


James, jut when we thought this was the best F1 website it gets better. Absolutely brilliant reportage.

You and your team/partners are doing incredible work.


It has been more than 45 years since I studied compressible flow and aerodynamics, but I think you have got the situation backwards. The flow to the bleed slot in the upper wing element (the flap) keeps the airflow attached to the underside of the flap to produce maximum downforce. If the flow is stopped or restricted, the flap will stall, reducing downforce and drag. There are excellent discussions on this on the autosport forums and on PS love your site. keep up the good work.


James, is it possible that you could get some figures and mathematical explanantions from LG with regards to aero?


PS – If some readers find maths daunting you could always host it on another ‘detailed’ page for the truly interested.


Hi James,

Excellent article, and kudos to LG for their partering with yoru website.

It is so surprising to learn that Microsoft is involved in the ECU programming with McLaren Electronics. Just hope the ECU doesn’t require the usual “CTRL-ALT-DEL” reboot, or doesn’t show the ‘Blue Screen of Death” while the drivers are charging down the straight at breakneck speed ;o)


Did anyone see Bob Bell on the BBC practice coverage today?

He was furious that the Mclaren wing was declared legal & his basis for this seems to be that there was some sort of agreement in place that they wouldn’t look at ways of stalling the rear wings.

Here is a direct quote:

“I think its totally illegal, I completely disagree with the FIA’s view on it.

Its fundamentally clear in all of the discussions that have taken place over many years that the sport did not want stallable rear wings weather is was through physical deflection or any other mechanism & the fact that somebody has turned up & driven a carthorse through the spirit of the regulations, the intent of the regulations & everybodys understanding is a complete joke.

It may conform to the letter of the rule but I dont think in an instance like this that thats sufficient, beceuase theres been plenty of precident for concepts where it has just quite plainly that the intention with the sport is to prevent the stalling of rear wings & this just flies in the face of that.

I think thats its ridiculous that in this era where were all trying to save money, you know where restricted now in the amount of people we can bring to the track, the mechanics are working ridiculous hours every night to prepare the car & there we are weve just opened another arms race & its going to cost us a lot of money, Its just a nonsence. I think the governing body needs to be more responsible in decisions like this.”


Excellent article, thanks!


James, off topic – sorry, customer engines! When the likes of Ferrari throw an engine in the back of a Sauber and Toro Rosso, what do Ferrari learn about the other teams cars? If anything?


Just want to say this is a very cool added feature to the site. Every story your write always gives me something new (even after I scout all the other sites) in this case the fact that nobody can copy Ferrari wheels is a mark of the genius of the team (even as a none red car fan got lots of respect for that)

Thanks, great site and brilliant article.


James, that’s the best explanation of McLaren’s trick wing that I’ve read. I finally understand exactly how it works.

PS. I really like my new LG washer and dryer.


And my LG phone — the best!

No really, I’m very happy with it. And I like it even better knowing that LG made this excellent article available to me.


And I have a full HD cinema and flatscreen system from LG. Excellent and full of innovation, unlike bernie who still drags his feet in HD in f1. It would be great!


It’s very interesting to read that both McLaren and Ferrari have come up with ideas that cannot be copied by the other teams this year. This makes both items very different to last year and the diffusers, the big question is how much of an advantage does it give each team.

One other point I must add is that James you are the only website I have so far read which makes this point about other teams not being able to adapt their cars so full marks for this and the excellant idea of doing a tech report for each race.


To be clear, no-one can copy the wheels because they are homolgated. You can copy the McLaren wing but you cannot make a new hole in your safety cell now as it is homologated. However if you have a vent for driver cooling or another way of collecting the air and channelling it to the wing, you can do it. But it won’t be as good as McLaren’s. I think many teams will do their own version of it.


Hi James,

First off, I just want to echo the sentiments of many here, this is a great article. Glad to see you’ve gotten another sponsor for this awesome website. Congratulations!

My question to you James, or anyone else who can answer, is regarding the McLaren wing. In yesterday’s article you wrote:

“To have any kind of mechanical device would be illegal. The solution? It is controlled by the driver’s body.”

James, what I fail to understand is how does Button or Hamilton moving their left knee affect the airflow without some mechanical component involved? I assume that they hit their knee against a button of some sort that then opens a flap in the shark fin? Is that not a mechanical device? Or am I missing something?

Some clarification on this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again James.


The Ferrari wheel appears to conform to 12.4.4 which contains the new exclusion zones on wheels. But unless the “rose” is an integral part of the wheel casting then it is forbidden under 12.8.1

12.8.1 The only parts which may be physically attached to the wheel in addition to the tyre are surface treatments for appearance and protection, valves for filling and discharging the tyre, balance weights, drive pegs, tyre pressure and temperature monitoring devices and spacers on the inboard mounting face of identical specification on all wheels for the same axle.


I think what both Ferrari (with their wheels) & McLaren with their wing is just what F1 is about, thinking outside of the box, moving things forward, innovation is key to what F1 is and I wish we could see more of it.

Why the FIA have to stifle the lifeblood of F1 is just beyond me, though maybe, just maybe Todt will allow the engineers to engineer & the designers to show us all why F1 is truly the pinnacle of motor sport.

Having just watched 2nd practice I am a little worries how Lewis’s tyres went off so quickly, I want to see him, Button, Alonso, Vettel & Schumacher at the front taking each other on and if his tyres are shot that early he won’t be able to mix it with them, tell me I have nothing to worry about James, tell me 🙂


Great Stuff James. Fantastic to see some original facts on the interweb rather than re-digested and interpreted team releases.



What stops a team patenting a design. For example if they could patent the special inlet design, then it would stop teams copying it?


The pace of devlopment is so fast in F1, and it takes so long to get a patent, that the usefulness of said patent may have expired, by the time the patent comes through. It is an interesting question though.


Thinking about it myself, I guess if a team came up with an idea and applied for a patent then the other teams would have the rules changed to outlaw it rather that be without it.


You cannot cut holes in your monocoque as it is homolgated.


Hi James,

I was just watching the new Mclaren dashboard they are running during testing. Lewis was consistanly hitting 306kph down to turn 1 whilst Jenson was only 302Kph. Is this because of Jensons smoother approach in corners?



Now I understand how that McLaren wing works! You’d think that among the thousands of F1 sites out there, one would have come up with a good explanation about how they worked by now!

Glad to get it from you first, James!

This is a great addition to an already excellent site!


Thaaat is just brilliant. Terrific stuff. I don’t know how to thank you. Just perfect.


James, thanks for this new feature. It’s really great to get information like this in terminology that is easy to understand! Look forward to more of the same throughout the season.


Really Interesting James…..I love the innovations. Think of all the brain power going into to tiny modifications.

I just hope they don’t fall foul of the inevitable protests.

F1 = Innovation

Lets keep it that way


Brilliant artical with great attention to detail.

This innovation is what makes F! the pinnicle of motorsport!

Big kudos to McLaren for coming up with that design. It was probably one of those eureka moments from one of the guys while sitting on the toilet!!

Good thinking from Ferrari also to incorperate the crowns into the wheel design.

Both teams have shown what it takes to be the best in F1!!

Fantastic stuff!!


One of the earlier reports into the Maclaren wing-stalling device said something like ‘speculation is rife as to which body part the drivers use to control the airflow’. I’m glad that it now seems to be ascertained that it’s the knee or lower down… 😉

I cannot see any case for it being illegal – in principle, it’s no different from the very regular practice of drivers ducking their head down in the cockpit on the straights to increase air flow to the engine, or indeed shifting one’s body around on a kart.

Clever stuff. I don’t though see this as surviving more than the 2010 season – it’s just all a bit Heath Robinson for F1, not to mention contrary to the spirit of limiting moveable aerodynamic parts.


Ah but it’s not movable. Are we going to have a reg which says the driver may not move his leg?

However I agree that it will go no further than this season. The reg specifically say that it will be banned after the season unless it “Adds to the value of Formula 1 in general”


2.5 New systems or technologies :

Any new system, procedure or technology not specifically covered by these regulations, but which is deemed permissible by the FIA Formula One Technical Department, will only be admitted until the end of the Championship during which it is introduced. Following this the Formula One Commission will be asked to review the technology concerned and, if they feel it adds no value to Formula One in general, it will be specifically prohibited.

Any team whose technology is prohibited in this way will then be required to publish full technical details of the relevant system or procedure.


Hi James

Wonderful article, nice and clear even to an arts student like me!

Enjoy your racing weekend in the sun.



I’m not one to plug other websites on your site, but I got an email from McLaren website saying they had launched their new site yesterday.

I went on this morning and they have some really interesting live (well nearly) telemetry feeds on Lewis and Jensons cars.

Your website remains my primary source of F1 information.

Great tech stuff and insights like this is what sets you apart from news sites.


brilliant. thank you james and LG.



I have been following your site from the beginning and I love it. Its my daily F1 fix.

But adding this is just great, I am very interested in the technical side of F1 and this feeds my addiction very well.

Keep up the great work!


James what’s this I hear that RBR have a actuator on their car to be able to adjust the ride height during the race? Supposedly as the car gets lighter they can reduce the ride as needed.

Shame I gonna miss your tweet Q & A please do more throughout the season!



This is an interesting area, everyone has a solution to this. Will do an LG Tech report on it soon



If RBR are able to adjust the ride height during the race – assuming that this was a driver or software operated device – to lower the car, wouldn’t this be interpreted as a mechanical device to change aerodynamics which would be illegal? But I suppose they could design a part to wear down, or weep fluid, at a controlled rate which would have the same effect without any direct interaction from the driver or ECU?

Excellent article, BTW!



Isnt that basically “active suspension” under another name? Surely being able to adjust the ride height is a form of active suspension?



Yes it contravenes both 10.2.2 and 10.2.3.

10.2.2 Any powered device which is capable of altering the configuration or affecting the performance of any part of the suspension system is forbidden.

10.2.3 No adjustment may be made to the suspension system while the car is in motion


I guess it would only be active suspension if the adjustment was automatic – if the driver or a pit mechanic makes the adjustment then it wouldn’t be active. That’s just a guess though! I’m very much looking forward to an article explaining it all.


Button 1 Hamilton 0 🙂


And Rosberg 1 Schumi 0 🙂


Brilliant, brilliant and brilliant!

Keep going on James, this is better and better. If I dare have a request, I would appreciate if we would get bigger draw files inside extra windows when click on them. They are a bit small and lacking resolution and sharp at the moment.

Now you explained it, I find McLaren wing even more smart and clever as I thougt before. It’s great design as it’s really a “global” concept. I think the main advantage they’ll gain with it is overtaking…

Might it not be difficult for Ferrari and Mercedes to get their own as their aeordynamic concept is no shark fine? Maybe this is part of the new package Mercedes is working on from a few weeks? We did not see much Ross Brown during the testiogs, so when the boss is in the factory, it means this is an important stuff to produce…

And thanks for explaining the Ferrari wheel too which I wondered how it was made… Is it magnesium made of or a mix of it?


As a software engineer by profession, I’m surprised that the code to drive a seamless-shift gearbox is only 50 pages of A3!! I’d expect much more. Mind you, if most of it is done by the McLaren ECU, and that’s just additional stuff, maybe it’s understandable.


Hats off to Ferrari and mclaren for some innovative thinking. This is what f1 should be about.

People thinking around rules and running their designs right at the edge of what is allowed.

Great design work by both teams.


James. This is excellent. Thanks a lot for this, much appreciated. Still miss your commentaries but I understand you will be doing some reporting for One HD in Australia so I am looking forward to that.




Wow, really? Sweet.


Great Post James!! Your website is excellent!!!


Homologation is going to kill the F1 I loved


only homologation. The f1 you love, it’s long gone.


Allowing an untested car to race is inviting disaster. If the FIA has to have HRT at Bahrain, then they should have given them testing time last week. If that was not possible, or if HRT’s presence at Bahrain is not absolutely necessary, then the team should not be allowed to participate, and should be allowed adequate testing time before the next race.

That said, good luck to HRT. Be safe!


Good information – so, looking at that drawing, it’s the side bits (plates?) of the front wing that move up and down 6 degrees and not the actual horizontal surfaces, like and aeroplane does?

Or is it the Entire Wing that can move up and down, as one unit?


The drawing on this page is of the rear wing which must not move at all. (apart from minimal flexing)

The rear wing provides massive downforce but also a lot of drag. Stalling the wing can reduce the drag allowing the car to go faster on the straights when the downforce is not so important.(but still needed) Think here of an aircraft wing stalling, it falls out of the sky until normal airflow over the wings is restored.

The FRONT wings have sections (flaps) which may be moved by up to 6 degrees twice per lap.

I suggest you go back and read Martin’s explanations above, all of them.


NO this is wrong!!

I read James’ article very carefully. It is the first I have seen that does not make the mistake of saying the McLaren wing stalls. When a wing stalls it INCREASES drag whilst losing lift / downforce. A stalled aeroplane recreates lift by reducing drag – allowing the wing to accelerate. James is correct in saying they neutralise the wing – it is the same as a plane feathering its props.


Given the Martin Whitmarsh has said that he thinks it will take time for the other teams to fully figure out the system, I’m not going to speculate too much.

The cars use multi-element wings in an attempt to increase the effective area by extending the length over which the flow stays together/laminar and non-turbulent. I haven’t looked at the maths, bur contrary to Murray’s reply, the speed variation induced pressure effect is much smaller than the conservation of momentum effect of changing the air’s direction (air goes up, car goes down). By shortening the effective height of the wing by disturbing the flow through the slot that separates the two main elements, the wing could still function, but in effect as a smaller wing.

What I’m trying to describe is that allow with the physical wing structure there is a trailing flow of high velocity air moving approximately along the chord line (the line from the leading edge of the wing to the trailing edge). This body of air has its own momentum (generated by the wing pushing it there) and in effect extends the size of the wing. The slot between the two elements works to keep the flow laminar and is more effective at doing this than a single element of the same size. Disturbing the flow through the slot, which is what James drawing seems to imply to me, would reduce the effective size of the wing.


Semantics. Lift is a product of the difference in airspeed in laminar flow over the convex surface against that of the less convex or concave surface. If there’s no difference, or if the laminar flow separates, the wing is stalled.


Note graph of drag vs wing angle, drag increases until the boundary layer separates and creates the stall, at this point the graph shows drag falling off.

Feathering the props is the equivalent of reducing the wing angle to zero.

Having said that I am aware that this is far more complicated and that you may be right. 🙂



Just a quick tech reg question.

With tyre warmers also banned this year, have you been given any feedback on time loss during the out lap?

I’m guessing it could be up to a few seconds.


No they are not banned, but confined to the outer tyre surface as opposed to last year’s warmers which almost totally enclosed the wheel and tyre. In fact this reg is very poorly defined, if by “outer”they mean only the the peripheral surface which contacts the track, they should say so.




Potential sponsors of this site should note that their prime targets,opinion-makers who have the last word on a subject, are those who are best informed. Take a look around … this is the motherlode.


Giday James, thanks for going to the trouble of setting up your new technical coverage and also to LG for their support. You must be a busy boy!!!!

I’ve been trying to figure out where to find out that sort of info.




Hi James,

Ur site is just too good, i totally enjoy reading your posts the first thing in the morning. Days when there is just one single post from you, something feels incomplete. So when i saw three today was smiling :)…

Am a die hard Schumi fan and believe that he is gonna make some of these young guns frown when he laps them as if they did not exist.. Just waiting for the replica of this years car to come up…

Two things am looking forward to this season, Schumi and your post … An awesome job my friend


Thanks for that


It’s also a surprise to me that the oil runs cooler than the engine coolant!


The water surrounds the cylinders trying to keep them cool. The oil that gets really hot tends be drawn past the piston rings and burnt and goes out the exhaust pipes.


Ahh, Reminds me of those old issues of F1 Magazine that used to break it down with Piola illustrations. No one does this properly for us fans anymore – until now.

82 does it on a regular basis…not quite so much detail, though.


This is excellent. Information and analysis like this really adds value to what was already an excellent blog. My view is that even if the airflow ducting fails to add raw laptime, that extra bit of speed on call will make passing a Mclaren or keeping one behind almost impossible allowing Mclaren some extra space on strategy. Its almost like a kers without any of the usage limitations. What is your opinion on how much of an advantage this would give McLaren for the rest of the season?


It surprises me that the default situation for the McLaren is having an open hole with a stalled wing configuration, because it would only be advantageous on the straights. That means that Lewis and Jensen are trying to plug the opening while dealing with the remainder of the lap. I would’ve thought it’d be easier for the drivers if the hole were open for the downforce configuration, and they only had to consider it for part of the straights. Sort’ve a deadman switch. I’m sure they would’ve tried to make that situation work first, so perhaps it’s not doable?


This is the case. They block the hole when there braking foot is not required. It’s the air moving through the system that causes the wing to lose drag and downforce


Great idea James. Thank you.

Would love to also see a JAonF1 tipping comp. 🙂


A good start to the series. Thanks!

The obvious follow-on question on the McLaren slot is…

Is that 5km/h (through the speed trap, but I’ve also seen it quoted as being worth 10km/h elsewhere) enough of an advantage to allow overtaking? Or help defend against overtaking.

In other words, is this equivalent to a KERS device?

I’ve just jotted down some calculations based on my O-level physics equations. These suggest that the time difference down the main straight (1090m long), a 10kph improvement could be worth 0.4s. At 300kph that is a gap of 35m. A 5kph difference is worth 0.2s, or 17m.

I recall that last year’s KERS was around 80kW, and was supposed to be around 0.5s per lap.


The KERS system was 60 kW for 6.7 seconds. So if we assume 560 kW of power from the engine, then a total of 620 kW would give a top speed increase of the cube root of 620/560, i.e. 1.0345 times (about 10 km/h in addition to a 300 km/h base), so in effect McLaren are getting rid of approximately 60 kW of drag force at 300 km/h. The difference is with KERS is that the 60 kW additional power is available at 150 km/h, whereas the drag saving is only 15 kW.

The upshot is that the new wing will be closer to KERS for defence than it will be for attack as KERS greatly aided getting into the slipstream, whereas this wing won’t really do that. The wing will probably reduce the slipstream benefit slightly as the drag is lower, which indicates there is greater pressure behind the car.

The KERS advantage was often quoted in qualifying where the car had the benefit of the KERS on the lap prior to boost speed on the start finish straight. I don’t think the race benefit was quite this high.


Thanks for the input on the power->speed comparison. Amazing how it comes out with a similar-sized answer.

My rough calculations suggested that cars would take about 16-17 seconds to do the main straight in Bahrain, spending half the time accelerating to top speed, and half the time at top speed.

KERS could only add the boost for about 40% of this time – and probably at the beginning of the straight. I agree it would have a bigger effect then, and help you punch through the aero-effects on the car in front.

The McLaren slot would have its effect nearer the end of the straight, rather than the start, and I agree would have less effect at helping the slipstreaming.

In terms of being just an aid to improve lap times though… the effects may be greater. That calculation was over just the one straight. Granted its one of the longer straights of the year though!



I think I had my physics a bit confused – the drag force goes up by the square of the speed – the power is a cubic function, so where I had 15 kW I should probably have had 7.5 kW (its been a while – I did some CFD stuff at uni in 1999, but elementary stuff, not F1 cars).

Looking at the speed trap data on the site, I suspect we’re not going to notice too much difference on the TV screen as the McLarens are only matching the Renaults in top speed and are 4 km/h quicker than the Farraris. Picking a 3 per cent variation across the field is tricky with a panning camera. Still if Lewis or Jenson get a good run of the car in front (if they aren’t leading) then it won’t help.

With KERS at Bahrain, I suspect the 6.7 seconds would have been used in about 4 or 5 spots in the lap. Hopefully with the new rules, the drivers won’t be aiming to achieve 100 per cent performance at every corner, giving greater opportunities to stuff it down the inside.

Zami from Melbourne, Australia

I must add to this discussion that the green light on the rear wing is rather surprising to me. As far as I’m concerned no movable aero part is legal. So, FIA has got this wrong for more than one reason in my book. Within a few races all the teams are going to copy this idea & most likely are going to spend fortune in developing the rear wing as well.

The Brawns had significant advantage because of the double diffuser last season; and in the 2nd part of the season belonged to RedBull because of the same device, but more effective one. There is no question on my mind that RedBull spent quite a bit on developing the diffuser. Surprisingly in next season the teams are not going to use the double diffuser anymore. Therefore, the narrow front tyres will have to be changed and the design of the car has to be more ingenious to maintain the high down force or the same level of performance. I can smell big spending on that already.

Zami from Melbourne, Australia

KERS had to be recharged lap by lap. KERS also produced extra horsepower and mostly been used in straight lines by the drivers. This extra 5kph is not like that. This particular speed is mainly aero related. So it is yet to be seen what that McLaren rear wing does in an actual race.

Comparison to KERS is a bit outrages because KERS increased the weight of the car by 70kgs. This aero upgrade is not going to change the weight of the car. Another thing is that the car will not be acting the same on every track. Especially on a physically demanding track like Monaco or Monza or even Silverstone understeered cars will not have much effect of that extra speed. And of course the speed will vary depending on the weather conditions as well as tyre degradations as well as fuel load. So I have doubt over that 2/10ths of a second. KERS didn’t act differently based on the other elements. Just to give you an example, think about Kimi’s win in Spa last year. Finding the extra 5kph or even 10kph would not have prevented him from losing the race to Giancarlo in those circumstances. KERS prevented that win. So as far the overtaking goes, this aero upgrade will not have much of an impact on either straight lines or around the corners. It will always be late braking and aggressive moves. But it will have impact on qualifying in my opinion.

If you think about the design of the McLaren this year it really frustrates me knowing that the whole car was completely built based on Lewis Hamilton’s driving style. The whole package has LH written all over it. So Jenson has got his work cut out before the season even started. So when I read JB’s comments about how equal they are in McLaren all I can say that “GOOD LUCK WITH THAT JENSON”. The car was built without thinking that there will be another driver in the team rather than Lewis Hamilton. We will see as the season goes on if JB is capable of adopting the new car and team, plus the team mate well enough. The points, no of podium finishes and the press conferences will tell it all.


KERS didn’t increase the weight of the car, it changed the weight distribution. The KERS cars last year still weighed 605kg with driver (or at least close to it) – they just didn’t have the luxury of a large amount of ballast to move around the car to adjust the handling in the way that the non-KERS cars did.


KERS increased the weight – but only within a car that still needed to be brought up to a minimum weight using ballast. So KERS wasn’t a weight penalty on its own, but was more of a penalty in choosing where that weight could be located.

I really only mentioned KERS as an immediate comparison – in that it too was a “magic” device that gave a few tenths of a second per lap, but we’ve already seen the effect of that on live racing.

It will be interesting to see the effect live.


Top Notch James, void of bulls@#*t & full of facts.

Simply the best F1 website, keep up the great work.


Great job. Its great you explain everything in plane English. This season should be the best since the good old days of Senna, Prost, Piquet, Mansell etc When the drivers would race a whole lot more. Cant wait.


Oh yes, agree with you!


James, congratulations on getting one of the coolest Chaebols, Lucky Goldstar, to sponsor you! Nice work.


Great article James and great of LG to get onboard and help it happen.

The clever technical/innovation side of F1 is what sets it apart in the world of motorsport and one of the aspects that I enjoy most, so to get a race by race insight on the latest developments will be fantastic. Can’t wait to read more as the season unfolds.

I can see a whole new section for your end of season book coming together too.


Great article and section James, thanks to LG too.


WOW!! Excellent article James!! Just what the doctor ordered.

Where do you think the other teams can position the inlet to copy McLaren’s rear wing?

Also, do you think there might be an advantage for Ferrari in using the wheel crowns at different stages in races?

Thanks James.


This is a fantastic addition to an already amazing sight! Even though I miss your commentaries during the races, the fact that you have been able to build up such a brilliant website certainly goes some way to make up for that! The growth of you site over the winter period has certainly helped pass the winter, giving plenty of insightful, engaging and well thought out material. Keep up the good work.



This is fantastic stuff! Can’t believe how excited I am about this first Grand Prix!

On another I ordered your book last year and it still hasn’t been delivered. I tried contacting CPI but the customer service e-mail address keeps getting bounced back… My order number was 742…

Anyway keep up the good work and really looking forward to following your blog through what will hopefully be the best year in my living memory!


Sorry about that. We will get that checked out. Thanks for buying the book


Love the idea of a tech report. The drawings are not very clear to follow, especially the rear wing story.


Love this new feature. Some interesting stuff


Very interesting, James. Thank you.


Awesome article!


I had been thinking over the last couple of days “What’s that James Allen up to? Not updating his site at a time like this…” You’ve made up for it in spades in the last 24 hours!


Perhaps flying to Bahrain and sleeping?


James, this is absolutly brilliant, I cant wait to read these for the rest of the season.

Does this mean that Mclaren were sandbagging during winter testing? As if they have such a straight line advantage they can run more downforce? Only a few hours till first practise and we find out!!!


More rear downforce will help traction, but increase rear downforce needs to be matched with increased front downforce. I suspect at most tracks the downforce is at a maximum as allowed by the current rules.

For what it is worth, along the front straight at Barcelona, the speed advantage is 1-2 tenths of a second, probably about 10-15 metres gained.


There is no limit on downforce in the rules. The idea is to try and get as much downforce as possible for as little drag. The Mclaren win allows the wing to create less drag making it more efficient. This could allow them to add more downforce for the same amount of drag as other cars.


Ross, in one sense you are right about there being no limit to downforce in the rules. However, the overtaking working group aimed to limit the total downforce of the cars to a particular level.

With this limit, and the general constraints within the rules, efficiency isn’t really a key driver these days. Maximising total downforce is the key. At most tracks the cars are running as much downforce as they can get. Efficiency becomes an issue at tracks like Spa and Monza, but at most tracks the relatively high power, low torque nature of the engines means that more downforce is always a good thing.

The McLaren wing will be little to anyone elses until Spa or Monza, where it may do something different.

I’m internally debating whether I’d call the wing more efficient, as in lower drag mode it loses much more downforce. Still a good idea.



Thanks for all that info James, Il admit to being a little clueless over the recent McLaren wing but thats probably explained it better then anyone else has.

Very clever of Ferrari & Mclaren with their innovations in the fact they really cant be copied until next season.


Brilliant piece of journalism! And kudos to LG for sponsoring the new section.


I’ve just had another thought about “hole-gate”…. given the height difference between Jenson and Lewis, could that have been part of the problem at the initial test when Jenson didn’t seem to fit quite right in the car and needed some tweaks to the seat fitting?

i.e…. his knee didn’t naturally fall in the same place as Lewis’s so he couldn’t open/close the vent as easily?


Great observation Martin, – I bet your bang on their, I did wonder why it took them so long to sort that out…


It came to me in a flash! Might be complete nonsense though.

But if there is some truth in it, it just shows that no matter what the engineers and team say about parity, even if it’s just subconcious, design features appear that are a natural fit for the incumbent driver they’ve worked with for years.


Great stuff James, thank you from Italy 😉


Great stuff… but I’m missing one piece of the jigsaw – it explains what the adjustable wing does but it doesn’t quite explain the how.

Am I right in thinking that if you adjust the wing within the 6 degree angle you can reduce the downforce, which in turn reduces the pressure pushing down on the tyres….which in turn reduces the wear?

Obversely therefore, if you want more grip for an overtake you can crank the wing the other way, get maximum downforce and effectively convert aero’ to mechanical grip because the tyres are being pushed harder into the track, increasing grip under braking?

I’m guessing if that’s true, then in an ideal world you’d start at the minimum wing angle and then gradually increase the angle so you’re increasing downforce to compensate for the reduced weight as fuel burns off?

Or am I completely misunderstanding it?!


The tyre temperature is an important part of the picture – too cold, the tyres won’t grip and the tyres will be damaged, and too hot the tyres progressively overheat and are destroyed. The increased wing angle will increase the load on the tyres and from that temperature. This helps moderate the front tyre temperature. From Martin Brundle’s comments, rear tyre temperature can be achieved initially through the right foot, but this isn’t a long term strategy.

The other part of adjusting the wing angle is tuning the car to remove any transient understeer or oversteer characteristics.

In the context of a 620 kg car and driver with another 2000 kg of downforce at 300 km/h, the pure mass of the fuel is less important than its effect on weight transfer during braking and turning. Compared to ballast, fuel gets forced sideways and up during cornering, increasing the weight that is transferred to the outside tyres, working these tyres harder.

During the course of a stint the front and rear tyres usually wear unevenly, so along with adjustable anti-roll bars, differentials and brake bias, the wing gives the driver a means to keep the balance neutral. With refuelling the set-up was less compromised so the wing angle was less relevant. Button said he used it a lot, but most drivers apparently didn’t. The change apparently wasn’t anywhere near enough to help most cars follow another car closely enough to overtake, although the Brawns were an exception.


Cracking explanation. Thank you.


My pleasure. From Button’s comments on Autosport, the rear tyres are dying first due to the acceleration loads out all the slow corners. Accelerating through bends such as the turn off the back straight (parallel to the pit straight), up the hill, are particularly good at wearing rear tyres. If the front tyres are near the limit the acceleration force combined with the lateral cornering can exceed the grip limit of the tyre, so the rear slides.


This new column is great JA! Technical innovation is so exciting in F1 and to have you do this every race will be fantastic.

Thank you!


You’re articles are getting more and more fascinating James. You just keep on out doing your site. Thank god i found it! This is probably my most visited website now a days.

Great insight into the McLaren, a beautiful bit of engineering by them.


Was going to ask you to explain the McLaren Snorkel in your Q&A tomorrow but now I don’t have to! Always one step ahead, Mr. Allen.


Really great work!


Absolutely stunning article James. Super informative, and just the sort of information that I want to know about. You are giving such insight into one of the most exciting F1 seasons of all time, please keep posting articles like this!


An outstanding article. It would seem HRT have their work cut out this weekend, and indeed this year. How much ground have they got to catch up on to be on the same pace as Virgin and Lotus? Seconds? Tenths? Hundredths?


Damn good stuff here…the way it should be…very cool


I seem to remember that fuel could only be 10 degrees below abmient air temperature when race refueling was allowed and not just chilled to 10 degrees as stated. This was the rule Williams almost fell foul of in Brazil ’07 that very nearly gave Lewis Hamilton the title that year.


Correct. This is covered by 6.5.2 of the Technical Regulations. 10º below ambient, not 10º.


Great feature James!

James Armstrong

Wow excellent article James. I’ve learnt more from this fascinating article than I have from reading countless 2010 f1 preview stories in the traditional press. Wonderful stuff!


Great article James. Exactly the type of insight I am looking for. Also, it’s great to see some genuine ingenius design again in F1 surely proving the rules should be less restrictive so we can see what the brilliant egg heads these teams employ can really come up with. It’s a sign of the times that the other teams thoughts are of protest rather than simply doffing their hats and trying to think of something even better!


You do keep few surprises up your sleeve James! I just love that! I am pretty sure in few years time there will be at least few future engineering gurus among your readers James, now as you came up with this brilliant idea! Interestingly it’s technically advanced High-Tech stuff yet digestible light which will earn it a huge success. And it reveals such multi-levelled complexity of that arms race technical chess. Checkmate!


All this not being allowed to adapt parts of the car once the season has started is ridiculous. the teams should be set free so the engineers and designers can innovate and shine.

The two innovations James mentions above just shows why Ferrari and McLaren are the two top teams and have been for many years.

F1 is much better with a strong McLaren & Ferrari, can McLaren do the same to this years car they did to last years? If so they’ll likely be champions come November, here’s hoping.


The homologation of various components such as the safety cell and wheels is for cost control. Without this cost control, the FIA would be more likely to ban the McLaren rear wing as everyone would have it, and the cars would be less safe (faster with less downforce). An article/interview with Adrian Newey mentioned the gearbox is being frozen for four years. The really smart engineers have designed a gearbox that works well with both single and double diffusers. There is the possibility that some teams that are strong this year will be behind for the next three…

Zami from Melbourne, Australia

Exactly, we are on the same page on this one mate. However, it has been all about budget lately. Therefore, FIA is trying to give the smaller teams as much even field as possible so that they can survive. Now with the cost cutting and regulations restrictions teams have to be more innovative about spending their money, but still get the same results. These two technical upgrades by Ferrari & McLaren are probably just 2 of many innovations have been introduced this year. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they spent mega bucks on those elements.

I wish F1 was like football. There’s always teams like Real Madrid, ManU, Chelsea in every country who can buy the best players in the world to win the major championships. However, there’s always room for upsets by the smaller teams like Stoke, Wigan, Sevilla etc. Jenson Button’s first F1 win Hungary was one of those. So was Vettel’s win at Monza on 2008 season. After all, it’s a sport for the fans where F1 is nothing but a business to the most teams.

By the way, McLaren will definitely be doing a great job in the 2nd part of the season like last year. But that doesn’t mean that other teams are going to just watch. The cars have been so close in terms of lap times you can only hope that McLaren is the only team to beat. Strategies this year will play a big part. Plus the driver’s ability to look after the tyres as well as engine & gearbox. As much as I love Michael Schumacher, it is fair to say that most likely it is going to be a RED season this year. I think it is going to be either 2 iconic and most successful red cars (Ferrari) or RedBull. The future of F1 is Vettel vs Hamilton vs Hulk Vs Kubica and whoever else comes along. So this is a RED year to me


All I can say is wow! I for one love the technical side of the sport, and this feature excites me greatly! What a wonderful addition to the site- I can think of no other site offering such rich content on the world of F1.

It’s great to see LG on the site; besides time and effort, I know that running a website (as popular as this one) is not cheap.

The McLaren innovation is very clever- I hear Martin Whitmarsh say that an individual came up with the idea, which was then developed. Must have been a clever chap!


Exactly the kind of feature I like to read! F1technical has gone some way towards describing technical updates, but they are often discussed in isolation, with little reference to other teams.

Looking forward to the race-ly updates!


Love this feature James, and kudos to LG for supporting innovative content on the web. Looking forward to more tech reports at future races.


James, a very interesting article, a welcome addition to what is already a excellent site.


Mclaren, you sneaky devils.


Well done James, an excellent addition to an already excellent website, thanks


This article is spot on. Great!!!!


Fantastic James…. Keep up the excellent work it is very much appreciated


indeed! love the ferrari wheels!!! what else is in store?!


James – I’ve not posted much, but do read everything. This is just brilliant. Yet again you’ve added so much more value to the armchair fan’s F1 experience than any other site I can think of. Top stuff and thanks; always enjoy what you produce. (Now looking forward to the arrival of Edge of Greatness – ordered it from amazon Tuesday night and they had 2 left!).

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