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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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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.

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