F1 Winter Break
End of season Technical Review
End of season Technical Review
Posted By: James Allen  |  23 Nov 2010   |  3:49 pm GMT  |  147 comments

The 2010 season was one of the most intense we have ever seen in terms of the rate of technical development. The leading teams did not rest, forever pushing themselves and each other to improve and get a competitive advantage.

Despite the introduction by the teams’ association, FOTA, of the Resource Restriction agreement, there seemed to be no limit to the new parts brought to the cars during race weekends. It was not uncommon to see boxes being wheeled into the paddock on Friday nights, even Saturday mornings with new wings and other updates large and small. Nor was it unusual to hear the sounds of grinding late into the night or shortly before qualifying, as teams worked to fit and adapt last minute changes.

At the height of the credit crunch in the winter of 2008, there were FOTA discussions about limiting the number of updates a team was allowed each season, but that was never voted through. So the well funded teams threw massive effort and resources at improving their cars on a race by race effort and the other teams did what they could afford to do.

Hispania was at the other end of the scale from Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull in that the team did not develop its car at all during the season. Ironically the core concept can’t have been too bad as the car was one second off the fastest Virgin car at the season finale in Abu Dhabi, having been 1.3 seconds off at Barcelona in May! This is despite Virgin bringing several updates to its car, especially at Silverstone.

Because of the total ban on in-season testing, teams were obliged to try out new parts during the three hours of free practice on Fridays even if they had no intention of racing the part that weekend.
And as most teams were forced to incorporate the season’s two must have gizmos – the drag reducing F Duct rear wing and the exhaust blown diffuser, they needed all the practice time they could get. These were complicated aerodynamic devices which tested the best engineers in F1 to the limit.

Fittingly, as the team that invented it, McLaren were still developing the F Duct rear wing right up to the last race. The original design blew the air out of the flap on the wing, but as the season went on and other teams like Force India and Renault found better results from blowing the air out of the main wing element, McLaren tried that too. They first tried it in Suzuka, but struggled to get it working better than the original and that continued until Abu Dhabi, where in Friday practice Lewis Hamilton ran the blown main plane version and Jenson Button ran the original blown flap wing.

Both drivers ended up qualifying and racing the main plane version (see Hamilton drawing below). This seems to have had a more powerful effect on straight line speed. But it didn’t help Hamilton much in the race, as he still could not overtake Robert Kubica with his similarly armed Renault.

The basic flow of the season was that the Ferrari was the fastest car in pre season testing, then the Red Bull proved fastest in the early races. On balance Red Bull remained the fastest car all season, as proven by their 15 pole positions. Both they and Ferrari were forced to copy the F Duct rear wing and Ferrari lost ground while trying to do that. Ferrari also had to incorporate the Red Bull invented exhaust blown diffuser and they had a crude version initially, before getting a more refined and effective version in Valencia. From that point on Ferrari kept refining the car and it was the second fastest behind the Red Bull for the rest of the season.

McLaren fell behind the other two while trying to incorporate the exhaust blown diffuser in early summer and from then on never really seemed to be able to close the gap again. Unlike 2009 where their car improved massively in the second half of the year, they came up just short this time.

Mercedes realised that they had a poor car early on and stopped developing it in the summer, but still found improvements from understanding the set up better in the second half of the season. Williams adopted the F Duct and the blown diffuser, but Rubens Barrichello said that the biggest improvements which made the team regular top ten qualifiers in the second half of the season came from improving driveability. He believes that this has been Williams’ weakness with new cars recently and expects that to be remedied in the 2011 car.

Meanwhile Renault brought many new parts to their car, especially front wings, from a revamped aerodynamics department. They claimed that the fully evolved R30, which did so much damage to Fernando Alonso’s championship hopes in Abu Dhabi, was two seconds per lap faster than the version which raced in Bahrain at the start of the season.

That gain is made up of the F Duct and blown diffuser, both worth roughly 4/10ths of a second per lap, depending on circuit, plus “ten front wing packages, five floors, two engine covers, six rear wing packages, seven front drum and duct packages, and three rear drum and duct packages,” according to the team.

Renault were late to the F Duct party, only bringing it to the car at the Belgian Grand Prix, round 13, but were able to make it work straight away. It was among the first of the F Ducts which stall the wing main plane rather than just the flap.

Overall it has been a very interesting year from a technical point of view and next year will be too. Things to watch out for next year are the return of the KERS , an energy regeneration system, giving a boost to the engine power; the adjustable rear wing, about which there are some misgivings from the drivers and the change of tyres to Pirelli.. We will not see the F Duct again, nor the double diffuser as both have been banned for next season.

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Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

Kewl you should come up with that. Exclenlet!


I’ve just read an interesting information about Ferrari in solving their outdated wind tunnel. Perhaps, Ferrari will be opening a new era on their cars…



James, do you think that the Red Bulls have gone one step further than the Ferrari this season because of Ferrari’s outdated tunnel?


Not sure that’s the reason, I think they just had better ideas


Does anyone think the secret of Redbull front will be revealed by winter testing? I mean will the team hint on how it works…


let’s see now..

F Duct – a method to change the drag coefficient of the wing, ingenious and clever.

Movable wing – a method to change the drag coefficient of the wing, ingenious and clever in the 1960s when Jim Hall did it. Now passe and of no possible value to road cars.

It’s easy to see what the pinnacle of technology F1 will chose.


I liked his “vacume cleaner” that sucked the car down to the ground! Now *there was innovation!

btw my only claim to “fame” in racing is that Jim Hall personally scared the crap outa me with his RS60.



I’ve got a question about resource restrictions. How is it possible to police it for a team such as Ferrari whose F1 Scuderia is embedded in its car production facility.

They could allocate some of their staff to do some general tasks (not highly specific) benefiting the F1 team. Ferrari has also a GT development program and they can allocate part time staff to F1 tasks in an indirect manner.

McLaren with its new production cars activity and the TAG activity can do the same.

Another way of hiding the extra-costs is to sub contract some activities which are not paid the right amount. For example Shell and FIAT are strong partners of Ferrari. What if they develop some activities for the Scuderia which are paid way below the actual price. The same can apply to Mercedes with its German headquarters helping the UK based team.


why are they getting rid of the F-duct, surely if it stalls the rear wing the following car will have less turbulent air?


Hi James.

Fantastic piece as usual..

A little off topic sidenote:

Anyone remembering the Lotus and Virgin bet?


LOL! I would really like to be on that flight.


Are there any safety concerns over the flexible rear wing. We saw static wings fly off a lotus this year. Flexible = acctuators = more chance to fail? Will it be used only on straights? A jammed rear wing might be dangerous through high speed corners..

And also the workload for drivers, which is already quite high, will be added to by KERS buttons, rear wing buttons / dials..

I think Rubens said this year that there was already too much to do while racing at the same time.


I think that a safety measure has been implemented in order to have wings stuck in the highest aero load configuration whenever the hydraulic activation system fails.


I stll reckon if the KERs system is supposed to be seen as an energy/fuel/emissions/environment-saving device, (at huge expense!), then the engines should be tuned to produce less power/revs/use less fuel etc.! Otherwise kers won’t be seen as an environment-enhanceing device worthy of costing quizillions in the developement of it.



With the active rear wing tweaks and KERS both available next year, is there a restriction on whether they can be used simultaneously? If yes, isn’t that a safety hazard akin to the driver operated F-duct especially when these devices will be likely used when passing?


I meant ‘If no’.


I noticed that coming to the end of the season,Ferrari were not bringing any major updates of the sort that Mclaren and even Redbull were.Could that give them a headstart next year?Did they spend more resources on next years car than the other reams?


Hi James,

Tenous link I know but feeding these developments into where they finished and looking at the two previously used points systems as well as Bernie’s medals one we can see the monumental effect the new points system had on the championship. . . . . . . . . .absolutely nothing worth talking about!


I think this gives the same message as some of the changes to the technical regulations. Can we stop messing with rules and regulations that make no difference to the racing now please!

Fascinating article by the way nicely summing up the technical side of the year in one go.


How do we know that the new points system hasn’t affected how the drivers approach the races? With the increased percentage gap between first and second, a win is rewarded much more; perhaps this inspired more spirited drives than last years system.

Also, like what others said, extending the points back to 10th was another reason for the change, now that up to 26 cars are allowed under the current rules.


I think that the new point system is more relevant for the lower positions in the standings.

In order to have a clearer comparaison between these point systems, you’ll have to apply them for many championships and see whether it makes a differnce. Concluding from only one year isn’t relevant in my view.


Hey Jo,

Apologies if my remarks seemed flipant. I wasn’t advocating changing back as that would be another knee jerk reaction. Yes admitedly any change needs to be assessed over as long a period as possible to assess if they are helpful and of course the points standing itself doesn’t take into account increased pasisng moves by drivers wanting that bigger advantage on points (would we have seen Vettel taking out Webber or Massa letting Alonson through without the bigger reward being present).

I was just using this to illustrate that these constant tweeks to changes in the regulations need to be a little more thought through. Barely half a season had gone before they decided to ban F Ducts, not much longer with double difusers. They just seem to constantly penalise innovative design.


“They just seem to constantly penalise innovative design.”

Yes they sure do! To quote myself: 😀 “anytime theres an innovation that works all the teams that didn’t think of it or cant make it work cry “its unfair unsafe unsightly ungreen” or something!”

Its FOTA that decides this nonsense, which seems completely anti-competitive.


The F-duct was banned for safety matters. Kubica said that he had a few hot moments when the car was twitchy and he had one hand covering the F-duct hole in the cockpit, so that’s one of the reasons FIA pushed to ban it.

Besides, if the F-duct were to stay, McLaren will loose any advantage gained by the invention next year given that every team knows how to make it work. If anything Renault application seemed the best at the end of the year.

As for the double diffuser I agree with the banning of any device adding extra-downforce as it will make cars less easy to handle and help the tyres degradation as races go on.


Jo, we tried to email you but the address you’ve left here isn’t valid. Please can you send us a valid address to james@jamesallenonf1.com and also re-register on this site with a valid address.


my email works given that I receive notifications from your blog whenever I send a post. I don’t understand


I think it was a Yahoo.com issue. Seems to have worked now. Thanks


“ten front wing packages, five floors, two engine covers, six rear wing packages, seven front drum and duct packages, and three rear drum and duct packages,”… and a partridge in a pear-tree? 😉

I have mixed emotions about all of this; I love the developments (always have done) – always loved seeing the new cars at the start of a season to see what was new and who had come up with “something different” – yes, I even liked the Honda’s dumbo ears – ha ha!. Yet, at the same time (and as I get older) I’m more and more concerned at just how much money the teams spend.


Brilliant steve…..

five golden wings?
Four world champions
Three French engines
Two driving gloves
And Chris partridge in the Williams f1 simulator (BBC)

Ok, it weakens towards the end I’ll give you that 😉

Oh dear, and on that note…


Interesting as ever, James, and thanks always for these insights you provide.

But whilst the technical side is surely half the show, the season-long collective refrain from many drivers about the expected car-updates for each next race is my vote for the DULLEST aspect of the 2010 season.

My dream compromise (if you’ll pardon the oxymoron) would be a, let’s call it “GP1”, race on the Saturday… how much would it cost for 24 extra GP2 cars to be shipped around to the European races? Last event Saturday afternoon, have the 24 F1 drivers, plus the top six from the Saturday GP2 race in their usual cars, race it out for an hour, and base the Drivers Championship on that. I’ll save you from the minutiae — there’s many a wrinkle we could all mention, but many a practicable answer in return.

Then with GP1 for the drivers, F1 could be solely a Constructors Championship and team orders unbanned and recognized for the legitimate stragetic calls they would be. Indeed, perhaps we would see teams employ split-strategies as a matter of course, mixing it up a bit more.

But like I said, a dream.



I understood that the driver operated F-duct was banned, but the passive F-duct is still within the rules?


Passive F duct?

Now what’s the chance that one of the teams will come up with a ‘passive’ ‘F’ duct that has a piece of flexible bodywork that bends under aerodynamic load, positioned within or around it to allow more air into the duct above a certain speed? My money’s on Red Bull; they seem to be pretty good at those sort of developments.


Correct, flexible wings are illegal. Unfortunately, they’re hard to catch. With the flexible rear wings of the past, the FIA was able to put a stop to it by mandating supports between the elements. The FIA could do a similar thing with F-Duct channels and inlets to prevent flexing. Of course, supports for a front wing would be much more difficult to mandate, so the current problem persists.

That aside, there are no flexible parts in a passive F-Duct. It functions solely by having different inputs from smaller streams of fluid to affect the output of the major stream.


I think that Mercedes F-duct is a passive one and I understand they had issues making it work generally and specifically in Brazil due to the low atmosphere pressure there.


Passive F-Ducts use the same Fluidics concept, but use static pressure differential (like in a pitot tube) to engage or disengage the F-Duct, rather than the use of a hand or knee.

Remember that Fluidics uses a small stream of fluid (the input) to direct the main fluid flow down one path or another (the output).

McLaren used the drivers knees to affect the small stream, whereas Mercedes used a differential in static pressures… but both teams used that small stream of fluid to affect the larger stream

There is no flexible material involved, as it is illegal in the rules.


You mean like flexible front wings are illegal, Malcolm?


but with tweakable rear wings, the F-duct is no longer necessary



Even if the flap adjustment was allowed all the time, it would still be an advantage.

F-duct separates air from the bottom of the wing. The top of the wing still has frontal area, so any air interacting with it will cause drag. Reduce frontal area, reduce drag (by reducing effect of airflow over the *top* of the wing).


the moveable rear wings can only be used when 2s or less behind the car in front. I’m sure the teams will also want to chase the time in other 90% of the race…


Seems to me it depends how the rules state the ‘tweakable’ rear wings can be operated. For this device to be really effective, the driver would need to tweak the rear wing downwards (?)(ie less downforce/drag) at the start of every straight and then tweak them back up (?) at the end of every straight as he hits the brakes. That’s almost as much work to do on the rear wing as on the steering wheel; and would, as Jo suggests, render the F duct pointless.

However, if the rules state a driver can only tweak his rear wing once on a straight for overtaking then the F duct will still have a large role to play in terms of lap times. So does anyone actually know how the adjustable rear wing be allowed to operate within the rules?


I read somewhere that wing adjustments will only be allowed when following within 2 seconds of the car in front. If that’s right then yes, it’s an overtaking device, and there could still be value in an F duct. I wonder if the adjustable wing might make that harder to implement though. I guess it depends which part of the wing actually moves.


That is also my understanding


Fascinating. Advantage Merc?


Good technical summary. I think another big success this year was the use of a driver in the Stewards room. There was a lot more restraint and measured response, on the whole, then in past years.


I concur…


Are the blown diffusers still around for next season?


Probably, kind of. The current openings in the diffusers will be banned so the exhaust can’t blow through the diffuser, but teams may opt to blow the exhaust over the top of the diffuser, which could still be beneficial.


What is the situation with the Resource Restriction agreement anyway? I remember Ross Brawn saying at the beginning of the season that Mercedes were already operating under a voluntary budget cap, and that this will be an advantage for next season etc, as they will not need to downsize, in contrast to the opposition.

Not so, it now seems.

Another question I meant to ask on the budget cap. What if a team in 2010 tests a component on Friday that is meant for 2011 (Mercedes did this towards the end, I think). Does this fall under the 2010 budget, or does it count for 2011?

Stephen Pattenden

I don’t get it.

In these cost cutting times why oh why have the two most costly developments of 2010, which most teams have spent millions developing, been banned for 2011?!

It just doesn’t make any sense.

What’s the latest with the return to early nineties budgets James? I’d be interested in reading an update from you on that during the off season…



Excellent article as usual and some great replies.

On a side note it would be interesting to see the difference between the car that started Bahrain and the car that finished Abu Dhabi, from a raw speed angle. Has this ever been done on track in previous years? I’d pay to see it!


An amazing season for the tech guys, some of the innovations and applications were excellent.

I think the tech team who really turned it around this season was Renault.

They got into that brilliant habit of putting upgrades on the car that just worked out of the box and the number of front wings they produced was amazing.

Its been very interesting to see the HRT guys, who have basically spent the entire season dialling the car in (I have to say it still looked horrendous in the last races) not seeing an increased gap over those that spent loads on aero.

I personally think some of that gap at the beginning was about not being as cohesive a team and inexperience of drivers in F1. Collectively though, they did well given the financial issues they’ve had to deal with.

For a non aero expert like me, could someone explain why the rear wing uprights are cut away at the back (like someone has taken a bit out of them – see the renault upright just above the n in bridgestone)…..is it to allow no interference after the air exits the back of the wing?


I think those “bites”, and the slits in the rear wing endplates are to control turbulence coming off the outer edges of the rear wing giving the wing a more effective operating width. Turbulence = inefficient airflow = drag/less downforce. A bit like those vertical fins on the ends of aircraft wings. They also push the turbulence out away from the wing tips, making for a more efficient wing which generates greater lift.


I bet once again McLaren will be the team which will invent something new that other teams will have to copy.


it’s not about inventing new things, it’s about building a quick car.

The Kitchen Cynic

But until this year’s bendy non-bending car (which is likely to have been the work of a composites genius rather than Newey), his trick has usually been to do fairly conventional cars, but just do them better than anyone else. It’s been the others that have to try something extraordinary to catch up.


Maybe.. but my money is on Newey over at Redbull – he seems to pull something out the bag every time, and although the F-duct was innovative, i don’t think it took off as much lap time as the blown floors and improved front wings – look at the Redbull for the first half of the year before they really got their version working – still whipped the field.


And once again Adrian Newey will be the guy who invents something that other teams can’t work out how to copy 🙂


Seems to me that the most influential development of the year was whatever Red Bull came up with that enabled their car to get round the rules relating to movable body parts to increase ground effect. I wonder when we’ll discover what it is?

PS: If anyone says it was legal because it passed the test, I’ll tear my hair out (only a bald man can say that).


I guess I’m bold


The wings were legal because they passed the test. (Couldn’t resist.)

Regardless, they contravened the spirit of the rules, but that happens all the time. A bit like the F-Duct and double diffuser don’t you think? Personally I think these are all brilliant technical solutions and a big part of why I like F1 over more restrictive open-wheel series.


Seems to me that, no, the bendy wing is not a bit like the F-Duct and double diffuser. Here’s why.

The F-Duct and double diffuser were both clever interpretations of the rules that the rule-makers had not anticipated. On the other hand the bendy wing is clever design that enabled the manufacturer to get round the test , but not the rule. If the front wing bends down towards the ground it is directly in contradiction with the rule that says aerodynamic appendages must not flex and the other rule that says there may not be any devices intended to close the gap between the bodywork and the road. That’s why the plank was added: other than the tyres, it’s supposed to be the lowest point on the car at all times


Agree there mate. The load tests are totally inadequate.

If you were to speed at 40 in a 30 mph zone and a speed camera failed to catch you because it was set to fire at 60mph does that make your speed legal?

They got away with it! A compound load test is needed.


To me it appears the flexing occurs under wind pressure. So could the fia put sensors on the wings to see if they get too close to the ground in any other circumstance that hitting a bump (which logically might flex the wing)?

What’s a compound load test Jonrob?


Well in use the wing has load applied all over it’s surface. The FIA test applies downward load at two specific points via an intermediate piece supplied by the team to accept the load at the top and conform tot the wing surface below. I propose splitting the load for each side of the wing into 3 or 4 parts via a compound cantilever or windscreen wiper type applicator. I would also at least double the current load. Ok the only real way is with a dynamic test with the car in a wind tunnel and the deflection measured at racing speed. BTW it is distance above the ground which is defined, the wing may deflect and the springs and tyres compress so that the minimum allowed clearance is maintained. Another method would be to use a a flat part of the track on the straight and calibrated side on photography. (loop in the track would read car identity and trigger camera)


James, did McLaren ever give the guy who came up with the idea for the f-duct the credit they promised to? I seem to recall they had some reason for keeping his identity secret but said he would be credited in due time.


Lets hope it wasnt Pat Fry…. 😉

It sounds like they think they have a couple of other tricks up their sleeve for 2011. We’ll see in February.


I suppose the reason not to announce it is that the other teams would then try and poach them.


I presume all cost cutting is now out of the window, with KERS back and new engines planned for 2013, the teams must be burning through the cash…

Also, I still think KERS is a silly attempt at trying to come over ‘green’ and will just distract from the racing- they should funnel the development cost straight in to the new engines where real ‘green’ issues can be partially resolved.

I still see aero as being the place for getting a real competitive edge.


teams are resisting the introduction of turbo engines in 2013. The FIA is pushing for these new rules.


I heard recently, that Ferraris budget is 400m pounds per season for F1.

If thats true, it is staggering, and certainly backs up your theory that cost cutting is dead/

Although I remember the turbo era engines which when turned up to full boost (1100 plus horsepower), apparently lasted 12 laps before a full rebuilt was needed……


Does this mean they were changing engines 2 or 3 times during a race? Just curious.


I know guys. I was just messing with Andy.


To add to what Andy said, the turbo-boost was adjustable. Drivers could turn a knob in the cockpit that would raise or lower boost. One lap to go and you’re just behind the leader? Crank the knob, gain 300 hp and hope it doesn’t blow! 😉


Clearly not zobra. It means that they didn’t run 1200 horsepower in the race.

If you look at the veyron as an example. If you run it at full speed the tyres last something like 20 minutes before they start disintegrating.

The amount if engines Honda used to bring to gps was massive. At one gp they brought 4 different specs of engine to try at a gp weekend.


true Ferrari do have a huge budget, but then they do make the engine and all the R&D that comes with that, unlike McLaren or Redbull…. Mercedes currently would be the only team that you can compare Ferrari to, in regards to operation and budget.

Talking of turbo tho, will be interesting to see how possible use of boost will be managed in the new rules… could replace KERS power boost really (assuming v4 with turbos is the way forward in the coming years)….

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