F1 Winter Break
Melbourne – the low down on the latest tech ideas
Melbourne – the low down on the latest tech ideas
Posted By: James Allen  |  26 Mar 2010   |  11:11 am GMT  |  80 comments

New tech on the cars in Melbourne
It may be the early part of the season, when the long distance flyway races make logistics difficult, but many teams are pushing really hard on development. There are quite a few updates on show this weekend in Melbourne. Several teams have new aerodynamic parts including new front wings for Red Bull, Renault and Ferrari.

The Ferrari wing has a new endplate with a smaller vertical fin, outside the end plates, featuring an S shaped vertical profile, instead of a straight one. It is about 5cm lower than the previous version. It’s main function is to give less pitch sensitivity. Although this wing gives slightly less downforce than the previous version, it causes less turbulence in airflow around and under the car and works better with the new wheel fairings.

On Friday in Melbourne only Alonso used it, but both drivers will use it for the rest of the weekend.

Tyre graining
Melbourne is a circuit where the tyres often “grain”, which causes them to lose performance and it is something all the teams will be guarding against in the race if they want to be competitive.

Last year the graining on the softer of the two compounds was very bad and proved a decisive factor in the race. Many teams found that after just six laps the rear tyres had grained badly and were losing two to three seconds per lap. This year Bridgestone has brought tyres, which are a step harder. So instead of super soft and medium, they have brought soft and hard.

Graining is where the rubber shears away from the top surface, caused by a high level of sliding at high loads, both lateral and longitudinal. Lateral comes from sliding in corners, longitudinal comes from acceleration and braking.

Temperature has a lot to do with it, probably more than any other factor. Imagine a plastic ruler left in the fridge – when you take it out and bend it, it will snap. But if you bend a warm ruler it will flex easily.

It’s the same with F1 tyres – if they are being used below their operating range the rubber will be less compliant and will shear off more easily. The hard tyre grains less because the compound shear strength is higher.

Another major factor is the track surface at Albert Park. It is quite old and has low micro and macro roughness, which basically means that the stones in it are small. The result of its age and smoothness is that the surface is very low grip and this means that the tyres grain laterally here because the car slides in the corners.

Watch out for the rear tyres graining from the inside shoulder towards the outside.

Ride height adjusters
A lot of talk in the paddocks of both Bahrain and Melbourne has centred on ride height adjusters on the Red Bull and Ferrari cars in particular, which means that they can optimise the aerodynamics in qualifying and for most of the race.

Up to a point, the lower you can run your car the more downforce it will have. But this year with refuelling banned, teams need to set the ride height so it works for a low fuel qualifying lap and then without changing it in parc ferme before the race, also works when the car has 160 kilos of fuel in it. Inevitably the extra weight will lower the car on its suspension and mean you will be running 3mm lower in the first stint of the race than in qualifying. As the fuel burns off the car rises. If you can lower the car a few millimetres at your first pit stop, you will have more downforce for the rest of the race.

It is perfectly legal as long as the car is stationary when the change is made and the gain is worth a few seconds over a race distance. Here’s how it’s calculated; every 1 mm of ride height you move is worth 5 kilos of downforce, which in turn is worth 0.05 seconds per lap. So if you pit on lap 18 in Melbourne, you can lower the car will have 40 laps of benefit, which is worth two seconds. If you lower the car by 4mm, which is realistic, you will gain 8 seconds. It is only worth it if you can make the change easily in the pit stop without losing that time.

Ferrari’s system is manual and very obvious. There have been suggestions that Red Bull has a more sophisticated system, which allows the car to run low in qualifying trim but then raises itself up when the 160 kilos of fuel are loaded in and lowers itself again as the fuel burns off. The key to that is making it legal.

Other teams are scratching their heads about how Red Bull might have achieved that, but one suggestion is that they may be exploiting the regulation that allows teams to re-gas pressurize the dampers between qualifying and the race. If this is the case then they would get the benefit of running the car low in qualifying and then raise it up when the fuel is added. Hence their stunning qualifying form.

More on the McLaren rear wing
The McLaren rear wing with its novel airflow arrangement via the sharkfin engine cover, gave the team around 4/10ths of a second per lap in Bahrain, because it meant that the car could travel down the straights 5km/h faster thanks to the rear wing “stalling” and thus shedding drag. There has been a lot of speculation about how this is achieved.

It is known that the air enters the cockpit via a duct on the top of the monocoque and passes down a channel. The driver raises his left knee to close off a gap in the channel which sends high pressure air through the sharkfin and out of the back of the rear wing, breaking away the airflow which passes underneath. But the clever part of the system is how the air switches direction in the engine cover. This is done using a Y shaped junction and a science called fluidics, which is where air can be made to have digital properties.

Sauber has become the first team to attempt to copy the idea, with a duct on the left sidepod of their car. But it is hard to see how it will be optimised to the degree that the McLaren is.

Ever wondered how they test whether the cars are legal? After every race the F1 cars have to be checked over to make sure that they comply with the regulations. But the pre-race legality checks are not carried out by the FIA, they are carried out by the teams themselves. It is up to them to make sure that their car is legal before the action starts.

FIA's Jo Bauer checks cars post race (Darren Heath)

The teams have to ensure that the bodywork fits the dimensional templates supplied in the FIA garage. The cars are weighed, the track width is checked, as are bodywork dimensions like the size of the front and rear wings and the front wing height. Teams have just 10 minutes for each car to check that it is legal. Typically they do this on a Thursday evening. And they had better get it right because once the action starts the FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer can check a car whenever he wants and if it doesn’t comply it can be disqualified.

All the FIA do pre-event is to check that the safety features are in working order, things like the monocoque, the electricity kill switch, the rear light and the fire extinguisher.

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I'm struggling to understand why teams spend Fridays running and setting up a "race set-up" for the cars, when in fact because of "Parce Ferme" after qualifying they actually start the race in qualifying trim - or are the changes they can make on the grid just prior to race start that "unrestricted" that they are allowed to basically change to a race set-up on the Grid ?


They race in whatever set up they qualify in, so they actually qualify with race set up and leave it there. On the grid they can only adjust the front wing and tyr pressures. I think!


They probably are trying to find a balanced set-up that works for both qualifying and racing without the need to change it.


Its all about a compromise in set up, either you optomise it for qualifying or the race or somewhere in between, based on about a million data points to get a happy medium.


Another excellent piece. On the McLaren, does the airflow go above/over the rear wing or beneath it?


It comes out of the underside of the second element, roughly 25% of the chord length from the leading edge; however, it is at such a high angle of attack that saying it comes out of the "back" of the wing, in relation to the car, could also be correct.


Out the back through a vent


I think it goes under the rear wing, stalling it apparently,


....explains all. In much more detail than I can understand. It's a genius piece of lateral thinking and entirely within the spirit of F1 in my opinion.



Your articles are among the very best on F1. But, a pedantic and minor comment on this one - you mean sheAr not sheer.


Brilliant post James, thanks.

I'm not sure I understand the direction change of the air in the McLaren's duct system though. My original impression was that the duct allows air to enter that's then ejected under the rear wing, causing a stall. When the driver's coming into a braking zone (or anywhere off the straight), he then pushes his knee up, simply closing off the duct.

Where does the y-shaped junction come into it? I'm really interested to know.


Most of the air which goes through the rear wing actually comes from the airbox. This air comes down the stem of the 'Y' and can either go down one branch to the rear wing, or down the other branch where it is vented somewhere out the back of the chassis.

The trick is to use the relatively small airflow from the nose duct to switch the air between the rear wing and the other vent. I think it is this switching which James refers to as 'digital properties'.


Brilliant explanation, thanks! I get it now.


Great James, thanks.


James this is simply brilliant. These articles are a great read. Well done.

Interesting reading the idea of 'digital air' with the McLaren...


I take it that the FIA might not check the car before the race (as you said the teams have this responsibility to make sure it complies with the regulations) but they (FIA) do after the race is done and if it doesnt fit with the regulations then they are disqualified?

Surely your not suggesting that the teams actually govern themselves and the FIA is just there to drop in any time they feel like and make sure everything complies??

Please tell me this is not the case?


That's the worrying impression I also got!


James I think that the Mclaren system is totally different to the Sauber one. I think that Sauber are using the vent to feed the slot in the wing to increase downforce. I dontthink the driver is involved in this system. The Mclaren one uses the airflow from the vent as a switch as you mentioned. It's not the air from this "F" vent that goes outthe back of the wing. The "F" air diverts air from above the airbox one of 2 ways. Out the wing when covered and somewhere else when open.

This is why Mclaren were tuning there wing in pre season testing with all the fancy measuring equipment. They needed to make sure their fluid switch was working as it should.

zidane the great

James, do you know is McLaren working on some sort of ride height adjuster of their own?

Shame they missed that.

This could be even more valuable than rear wing system because your don't have to compromise your setup between qualifying and race that much.


They've not got one yet and Button is pretty worked up about what Red Bull have


I can't understand why Button is getting worked up, good on RBR? Surely this would be very simple to do for any team, even if you had to redesign a damper with an added gas spring section?


I'm not surprised Button is worked up over it.

If the speculation of Red Bull's system using re-gassing turns out to be true, it seems to me even more against the spirit of the regs than was the extra large starter hole in the diffuser.


Proper loving the content James - great mix of technical but not too technical that it confuses you to the point you pretend to understand it.

Interesting point about the RB ride height - could be much more pivotal than the McLaren system given the importance of qualifying this season!


Great post! Keep up the work.

I was expecting to see some more details about the McLaren's clever Y junction and fluidics... a rough sketch or simple example will help. May be another post - James?? 🙂


A really interesting piece that you would never see on any other website. So riveting that it made me stop eating my hot sandwich. . . .which consequently went cold. Worth though I think.

Keep up the excellent work. This remains my first point of call for all info F1.



I realise that this is completely off topic, but since you're an F1 journo, I thought you might be able to answer this: Why was Schumacher neither punished, nor reprimanded for proceeding at unabated pace during FP1 when the red flag was waved? In many other cases we have seen drivers given grid drops, or even disqualified from races (Villeneuve in '97 springs immediately to mind) for ignoring flags.

Many thanks!


Good question, a lot of people here are asking the same..


The 1st of many I fear !


I saw this and it would have been extremely harsh to punish or reprimand Schumacher for this. When the red flag came he was rounding the final two corners which was past the the part of the circuit where Kobayashi's nose came off, there was no danger no cars were in front of him, and he probably had not had time to see the red flags. It would be arbitrary to punish him.


When you see the picture with a line of red flags waving directly in front of him, added to track debris, it's unmistakeable. I just think that F1 is in such a fragile state at present, many are trying to avoid anything that will bring conflict to the surface.

How many drivers have we seen trying to step back upon their initial responses after Bahrain. Someone's pointed out we are stuck with this format for possibly the whole season and they have to make the best of a bad job.


It's not for ANY driver to say, Ok there's no danger so I'll ignore the red flag.

A red flag is a red flag for a reason and ALL drivers should be punished equally should they ignore it and that include Schumacher.


Hopefully Michael isn't a little colour-blind, and had a hard time seeing the red of the flags...

But either way, if you go through a few corners without noticing marshals waving flags of any colour, something is wrong and you should be heavily punished.


Hi James

With reference to the differential in ride height you mentioned 3mm. This is less than 1/8" - did you mean 3cm?


It just goes to show how scientifically engineered the cars are when such a small change in ride height can, over the course of a race, have such a big effect!


I love F1 because of the great mix of Driver, technology, team play and Technology... yes I said that twice because that is what this sport is about the pinnacle of Motorsport technology and expertise.

So reading these articles is like the excitement I get when my monthly delivered penthouse turns up on the doorstep (whoops did I say that out loud!)

James, these make the GP weekend way more fun and interesting, thank you and I look forward to the next one.


Excellent work. Not wishing to be fastidous but when talking about physics and engineering stresses, the term is spelt 'shear' not 'sheer'. So it's shear stress and shear strength, as opposed to a sheer cliff face for example.

Again I'm not wishing to appear a pretentious k**b (and I'm not the one with an English degree from Oxford!) but I just wanted to point that out.


Some really good articles to compliment the new season.


Just want to say a Big THANK YOU to James Allen. This is by far the most detailed and well balanced site on F1. pls keep on writing :-))


James,when and how do they check the engines?


Engines are sealed. They check that when they want to


It was interesting to hear Andy Stobart from Bridgestone state on the BBC coverage of P1 this morning (Red Button) that the tyre compounds this year are actually much closer in characteristics.

So the technical compound difference between a Soft and a Medium tyre for example is much closer than the gap that existed last year


Yes but they are harder than last year


"It’s the same with F1 tyres – if they are being used below their operating range the rubber will be less compliant and will sheer off more easily."

I always asumed that using the tyres above their optimal operating temperature would cause more graining as the high temperature makes the tyres loose its sheer strength? Have I misunderstood you or am I just wrong from the begining?

Thanks for a great blog.


Eric, in my experience graining usually occurs if the tyre is subjected to high shear forces on a grippy track before it (tyre) has reached optimum temperature, but when a tyre's performanse falls off due to excess heat, it's because the compound is melting and becomming slipery, not graining.



Thank you, both PK and malcolm.strachan for expanding my knowledge.


Perhaps you were thinking of blistering? Tires that get far too hot can often blister.



Well my info comes from the F1 engineers themselves


Ok, thank you. You learn something new every day.


Excellent. This site is getting better, I used to mainly go to f1fanatic but that seems just to be pictures and obscure graphs these days. Great insight into the tech side James!


Awesome article.

THIS is what Formula 1 is about.

Thank you.


Hi James, First of all love your excellent info. Now Renault is granted to work on its engine for equalisation of power. Now my question is will Mercedes & Ferrari be allowed to work on their engines for fuel efficiency?


The Renault change is for reliability. Some changes were denied. This doesn't mean that the performance won't be enhanced...


Great piece and insight as always James. Thank you.

Maybe get your graphic artist to adjust the banner to have Lewis doing a donut on the road on the right 😉


Hi James. I've been following you on Twitter but this is the first time I've had the chance to delve deeper and read one if your articles! I loved it! Just the right mix of tech geek and layman for me! I know a reasonable amount of aerodynamics with relation to aircraft and so trying to apply it to the f duct started to confuse me a bit but then lo and behold you come along and explain it in a few sentences and clear the whole principle up for me!
Thanks James, looking forward to the next article almost as much as I am the return of actual racing in F1. Whenever that might be!


Very interesting and informative posting on the technical bits. It's really helpful to understand how these apparently small changes/evolutions, can have such significant gains or losses. The illustration of the front wing was excellent.


Interesting that they gave Alonso the new front wing to evaluate rather than Massa, don't you think? Mind you it's a 50/50 I suppose they had to give it to one driver or the other to do a back to back comparison. That brings me to another question, what do the Ferrari engineers think of working with Alonso so far?


Oh I forgot to mention, I saw a picture on the official F1 website that would suggest that Renault might have an F Duct inlet on the front of their car. If that's what it is? Check out picture 61 in the Friday Practice Gallery.

Also what's with Barrichello's new Williams-esc blue colour scheme? Does it have anything to do with Senna's 50th?

Many Thanks, great coverage as always.


It does looks like a vent of some sort. Unlike the McLaren or Saubers though it's central rather than to the drivers left hand side. So if it is an F-duct I would doubt it is driver operated. Also, the body work/engine cover doesn't connect to the rear wing like with the McLaren/Sauber. Perhaps some other type of innovative take on it?


Hi James,

Excellent article, as always! A bit unrelated, but this being the "LG" Tech Report I couldn't help myself...

There have been a lot of questions about when will F1 be broadcast in HD, and you promised to write about this. Today, Samsung started selling 3D HD TV sets here in Canada and I just wonder, how long do we have to wait to watch the technological pinnacle of motorsport that Formula 1 is in at least close to the pinnacle of TV technology? Is Bernie going to wait for 4D to come out to offer F1 in HD? And it better not be 720p!


Thanks for this post James - excellent, and very interesting, even more so than usual. Is it going to become a regular feature at every race? I certainly hope so...


Hi James, quick question and an idea about the tyres....

Over the single lap qualifying is the difference in lap time between the hard and soft compounds comparable from car to car?

If it is, can you give us a "tyre corrected" grid in the same way as we used to get a "fuel corrected" grid?

No one is telling us who's on which tyre - but at the moment Lewis appears to have the upper hand again. But if Jenson is on the hard and Lewis on the soft, the times suddenly look much closer..... which I'm sure is the same all through the grid.

Or am I missing something?!


Would mclaren have a addvantge in monza with the v duct or would teams have one on the cars?


James, with regards to the duct on the top of the monocoque of the McLaren, do you suspect all the other teams to follow suit?

People sound surprised that Sauber have copied this so soon... as in-genius as this devise is... its it complicated to copy?


Excellent article once again James.

On the ride height issue: I'm no mechanical engineer, but I'm sure I've read of a suspension system that resists more the stronger it is pushed into the ground. This would enable the ride height to remain constant no matter the force applied and would be a nifty solution. It's probably relatively simple to do even with some sort of pneumatic system. Are these legal though? There must be a way around it.


Thanks James. Have often wished that BBC or SpeedTV would hire you on. But, other than the video stream, your site is better than either of theirs anyway. Hope you're rewarded appropriately.


Big miss by McLaren on the ride height feature though knowing McLaren I doubt it'll take them long to come up with their own system.

I do feel if the Redbull system does indeed rely on their regassing their system I think this is bending the rules an awful amount, I am surprised no team has protested it as the FIA seem to now be saying the spirit of the rules matter !


Bravo James! Knowledgeable explanation of technical detail is harder and harder to find, with the teams so coy.


Another very nice article (as usual), James, but I think you're looking for 'shear', not 'sheer'.


I found it very interesting that Mercedes had Lewis Hamilton testing their tyres at around 9pm last night.

Love the blog James - watching you right this minute on Channel 10 too, great to see you back on telly


Ride height system: How about a pneumatic or hydraulic system the bleeds into a ride height raising chamber/cylinder over a period of about 18-20 hrs. You could activate it during qualifying, but during that short time period you would get very little ride height change.


re ride height - lol -back in the bad old days of

Nascar teams use to freeze the shock absorbers to get a lower ride height for qualifying. By the time the car re entered the pits the shocks had come back up to temp and the car cleared the ride height test plank.


Now everyone is complaining about those ride height adjusters,and even the system is different it reminds me of 1981.

How funny it was to see the cars going over every single curb once the race was over.

I thought that this was not allowed to do anymore,I can't believe teams wait so long to take advantage of this.


Does anyone know why the air inlet on the mclaren needs to be on top of the nose. The cars usually have an air inlet right on the front of the nose cone which could also have been used perhaps? If they'd used it, then the system would have been a lot less obvious and possibly not picked up on as quickly (like the 2nd brake pedal)



could you please explain us why the McLaren wing is not a moveable aero device?

thanks in advance,



Because it isn't moving. The driver's knee is the only thing that moves and he's not a part of the car


"And they had better get it right because once the action starts the FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer can check a car whenever he wants and if it doesn’t comply it can be disqualified."

And he does regularly,I'm sure,that's what you may not see.So no advantage can be gained,you will just get caught,DQ'd and FINED!


Two stage ride height system:

1) To raise the car after Qualifying, you use a pressurized hydraulic bleed system that is activated before qualifying but requires 20-22 hrs to complete the raising procedure.

2) To lower the car you use a hydraulic bleed that only functions when the car is on the ground. Again activated before Qualifying, but it will not have much time settle as the cars spend more time on the jacks than the track during Qualifying.

Both of these system work through a hydraulic cylinder attached to the torsion bar mount.

Brian Qualifying


For ride height adjustment, what about some sort of lever arrangement between the fuel cell and chassis? It should be possible to arrange some sort of cantilever in the cell mountings to transmit force, perhaps via steel cables to the suspension. Then as the fuel cell loses mass the tension on the cables would change and lower the ride height. If you were to heavily damp the levers then they would not react to bumps and undulations and only to steady state changes in fuel cell mass.

That’s how I’d do it. Anyone else think this would work?



Hi James,

You stated; "Ferrari’s system is manual and very obvious." in the OP.

Explanation please? - Does the jockey "hit a button" during the pit stop?

Craig - Rather than a mechanical system ("moveable aerodynamic aid"?) they may be able to do it electronically with load-sensors....




They insert a key and turn it

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