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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Hi great technical insight James. Your site is proving to be a unique educational platform for the F1 fans. Without this, we won't know what is going on. Honestly, you can't find any site like this as most mainly focus on political and entertainment side of the sport. Yes I am talking about driver bashing and hyping.

But still there are so many things I don't understand about the sport and do you mind if I ask a question please?

Normally, the development of this year car also benefits the next year right? eg. 2007 Ferrari and 2008 Ferrari. But when there's rules changes you have to throw away everything you have done this year and start from scratch which I believe was in 2009. Am I correct?

So how about next season? Do the teams have to start from the scratch just like they did in 2009?


I have a similar question James, do you think the rapid rate of development helped or hindered soom of the Rookie drivers, the likes of Petrov and Hulkenburg were never driving the same car from race to race (from session to session at times)?


They just needed some testing time to be able to compare them on a level playing field with the likes of Alonso and Hamilton when they were rookies


Not everything, of course. But certainly the double diffuser and F Duct refinements are gone.


How about the aero package? Since we got new tyres, will they use the same aero n improve it or start from the scratch?


Hi For Sure,

As others have alluded to above there was a long period in f1 of fairly stable rules regarding car design. In 98 they made the cars narrower and got the grooved tyres, nothing really changed car design/shape wise till 2009. The teams effectivley optimised that design of car. Ferrari nailed it early on and Schumi won everything. A few years back it wasnt uncommon for a team to race with the previous years chassis but with heavy upgrades (Mclaren & Ferrari I know did it in 03).

That was all thrown away in 09 with the radically different cars. Brawn nailed it because they had been working on it since early 08 whereas Mclaren & Ferrari failed because they were busy fighting for the championship.

The ruled did not really change for this year apart from the bigger fuel tank, many of the aerodynamic gismos (double diffuser, outwash frontwing etc) all remained from 09.

Next year as far as im aware the cars are much the same as this year apart from the moveable rear wing. Im sure the teams will keep good parts or good ideas from this years cars (i cant see redbull ditching their flexi wing ;). Mclaren & Ferrari will be calling on their knowledge of KERS from 2009.

As James original article on this thread states Mercedes and Williams gained a lot of speed by persevering with what they had and learning how to use it, whereas mclaren threw the kitchen sink at it and it sometimes didnt work.

So if they race next year with an updated 2010 chassis they will have the advantge of knowing how to get it working, this is important given the lack of testing.

But if a team goes back to the drawing board and comes up with an F-duct for example then it may pay huge dividends, but at a risk if it doesnt work.

Sorry Im waffling as usual...

Basically the teams will do whatever they think will give them the best package for next season. Whether that is starting with this years car and seing where they can improve it or going back to square one with a blank sheet of paper and making a brand new car.

Time will tell who gets it right....


There was a long period of time where the cars "evolved" from one year to the next, with no big changes. Ferrari got this right early and capitalised on that. Williams in the late 80's and early 90's also benefited from this (I think Newey was there then too).

At the end of 2008 there were massive regulation changes (I know not the detail, but it'll be somewhere on the net) which is one of the reasons Brawn GP won in 2009, as they'd stopped work on their "earth" project\car early and focussed entirely on making their new car work with the new regs (and to think Honda nearly ditched it all!).

Obviously this season we've gone to larger fuel tanks, but a lot was carried over, hence why Red Bull have been fast - their '09 car was the fastest in the latter half of 2009 which carried into 2010.

The teams won't throw away everything for 2011, there will be many developments that carry over into next season. McLaren, for example, will throw away their f-duct device, however they were acknowledged to have the best KERS in 2009, so that might help them in 2011.


It does seem a bit strange to me that Mercedes and HRT both gained time towards the end of the season on their respective competition despite being the teams that were not adding new developments to their cars! I wonder how much time the other teams actually gained from developments vs understanding their cars.

Also Virgin, what are they doing, sticking with the Xtrack gear box. They'll be outscored by HRT again if there not careful. Come on lads get a grip, dump the Xtrack gearbox, get a hairdrier and blow it over the car, stop using Nick Wirths iPhone as processing power for ur CFD and begg Rich Rich to dig a little deeper. It was embarassing to finish the season behind HRT......!


The F duct itself is a fairly logical development which can be seen in many "Aero" pages on the internet, but the clever bit was the method of switching it on and off. McLaren used a technique which I remember from "Tomorrows World" which was probably in monochrome at the time. It used a small airflow to change the direction of a big one, a sort of pneumatic transistor switching effect.

Next year movable rear wings should be able to create the same, or much better reduced drag effect. That is if we dont have stupid rules about being x seconds behind for 2 laps before they can be used. If the use is that restricted I doubt it is worth developing.

Obviously Red Bull made some pretty effective developments in materials characteristics in their bendy front wing this season.

Has anyone got a link to the 2011 regs please I cannot find them on the FIA site in the normal place.


Regarding the 2011 regs: I'm affraid that they have not been published yet. Read something about a WMSC meeting to be held before the end of 2010 in order to discuss new regs for 2011, inlcuding changes about team orders.

The meeting will be next December 9, according to the article "Todt says new tracks...", published here yesterday.

Any additional info will be welcome!


I think there was a talk of extending sidepods in order to improve safety.

Is it set in stone and how much will it affect next year cars?

I think Schumacher should campaign for rubber nose cones 😉 That would go down a treat at Red Bull.


The old regs stated very clearly that the cars for the following year must be built to comply with regs which would be published 18 months before the start of the season. Then the 2009 Concorde agreement was drawn up and all sorts of bits of the regs disappeared into it and became secret. So it is now a bit like watching a tennis match where some of the rules are kept secret and refer back to the Concorde agreement. Previously the FIA would have been obliged to publish the new regs long ago. However there was a period where the regs were revised several times in several months, notably those endowed with the prefix "Static" lasted very few weeks.

So perhaps to avoid such embarrassment again they have decided just to keep everything a secret.

Teams should have been scrutinising the regs for months by now looking for loopholes to exploit. What is the FIA playing at?


No mention of bendy front wings...??



Don't you think the "adjustable rear wing" is just a bit contrived? I'm ok with KERS as long as it's open and unrestricted, but the ARW is a bit much. The driver is restricted using it to it's full advantage and will be a sitting duck. Just my opinion after 37yrs of watching.


Fully agree, too artificial. What's next ... weight penalty for the podium finishers? Safety car when the field is too spread?

Best to do, throw new rules every couple of year and may the smartest team win... just my opinion after 40 yrs of watching...


Why would you spend half the race overtaking back and forth with another car for the lead, when you could just wait until very near the end of the race to use your flappy wing, meaning the other guy doesn't have time to overtake back?


Yes, from my understanding of it, I'm a little apprehensive about how it will effect the racing.

The fact that the following driver gets an advantage when they are really close to the car in front could potentially mean that it is TOO easy to pass, and if we start seeing too many overtakes (yes, that's possible) it will probably remove the joy that we get from seeing a well executed overtaking move.

Even more concerning is if it ends up being a situation where it gives such a big advantage that we see situations where it is strategically better to be in second place as you come onto the main straight on the final lap of the race rather than first place because you can then sweep past the race leader on the main straight to take the victory...

that's my main concern, plus the fact that the overall effect just seems a little artificial.


You're right in that (strange as it sounds) too much overtaking is definitely not what we want.

But neither do we want situations like those the weekend before last, I guess.

We can't expect every race to be a thriller, and the unfortunate thing about 2010 was that an exceptional season was bookended by some dull races.

I would dread to see anything resembling NASCAR or Indy when it had the Hanford device - overtaking becomes completely meaningless.

But let's see what effect this really has.


I don't get it either. I hope they change the rules so you can use it whenever you want or the whole thing will be artificial. I dunno what the equivalent would be in another sport. I guess it would be for tennis something like, when one player is in the lead, the player trailing gets to use a larger racket. In football, you get to bring on an extra man when your behind. Not sure it makes sense.


I still think the rules say "bodywork", not "rear wing."

This would seem to open up all sorts of other moving things would it not?

Somebody tell me I'm wrong!


I can see\hear Legard getting into a right "flap" 😉


Excellent review, James!!!

I can understand that F-Duct will be banned for the next season due to its unsafety; and it may come back in the future when the teams find a way to fix the issue. But how is about the double diffuser? I just know that double diffuser will be banned to create more chances for overtaking. However, all of the teams can make their own double diffuser. So why do they need to ban it?

Sorry for a noob question!!!



Because 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!

It has nothing to do with actual 'safety.'


To ban the F duct on the grounds of safety and replace it with a movable rear wing is rather like banning cigarette lighters and only allowing open dishes of flaming petrol to be used instead. All bets will be on whose rear wing fails catastrophically first, it could be very dangerous. But then again danger is what most of the drivers sign up for, also theoretically a variable rear wing is exactly what you want, provided it works, does not jam and does not fail. To have it restricted by unnecessarily complex and highly retrospectively contestable rules renders it a white elephant.

The double diffuser works too well, and in so doing, creates a huge updraught behind the car, in addition to the expected side vortices from the rear wing. I suppose that banning it in theory allows closer following whilst retaining downforce on the follower's front wing.


I was interested to read some comments from newey stating that he didn't subscribe to the thought that removing double diffusers will improve the ability for one car to run close to another.

Sounds like you've got a good tech understanding which I lack the finer details of.

I think half of the issue also is that the front outwash wings are so integral in putting the air where they want it on the rest of the car that any disruptive influence on the front wing has an even bigger influence on the rest of the car.

What I am clear on is I don't know how to solve it 🙂


"All bets will be on whose rear wing fails catastrophically first..."

My money's on Red Bull. They seem to cut things a lot finer than most and thus have less margin for error buil-in.

So here's my $5 on Red Bull: any takers??


Hello James:

Naive question: There is no double diffuser next year: does this rule also get rid of blown diffusers or are they distinct (technically, regulatory)? If distinct, which of these has had the biggest impact. I would guess the double had the biggest step gain. Doesn't seem to be much point in getting rid of the double since it no longer is a huge performance or even cost differentiator (since they all have them), but is this another attempt to reduce downforce and cornering speed?


Main reason is to limit downforce - the side effect will also be a reduce wake as mentioned by Nando.

As for the blown element, I believe that is still possible and will probably still be around as it improves airflow around the rear but the overall benefit will be reduced as the exhaust gases from the engine will not be feeding into a double but single defuser - but please correct me if i'm wide of the mark.


I think they're getting rid of double diffusers to reduce the wake to hopefully make overtaking easier.


Yeah I think so too, Nando, but I'm wondering why they still allow the exhaust flows to be discharged through/around the difuser! I'm sure that disrupts the airflow and effects turbulence behind the car.




to compare the improvements of the big teams, the easiest solution is to compare them to the team which brought 0 improvements namely HRT. To do so I compared the best qualifying time of the best HRT driver which is obtained on Q1 to the pole position time no matter which team did the pole (usually it's RBR) obtained in Q3.

By doing so, the HRT driver has the disadvantage of having to do less laps and to obtain his time on a greener circuit but if I compare the times obtained on Q1, we know that the big boys don't go for it on Q1 so their times aren't relevant.

I did the comparaison on 5 tracks :

Bahrain : on that circuit HRT came without not even a single test




Abu Dhabi

The result is absolutely stunning. The gap between HRT and the pole position was always between 5s and 7s. Generally the gap was above 6s though.

More stunning is the fact that the gap in Abu Dhabi after a whole year of development from the big teams was only 5,7s in a relatively lengthy track (5,5km). In a track as aerodynamically demanding as Suzuka the gap was 6,5s.

If anything the gap of the big teams (RBR, Ferrari & McLaren) to HRT (a team which brought no developments whatsoever) was if anything decreasing rather than increasing.

I remember reading Dominicali talking about a 1s worth update mid season and Witmarsh with his non stopping flow of last minute development.

The only smart opinion I heard came from Ross Brawn who said that with the testing ban rules nowadays the updates are a couple of steps forward and one backwards. As James mentioned, Mercedes kept improving pace wise when they stopped the developments only by optimizing the car set up and understanding how it works. The same way, Lotus stopped the developments early and kept ahead of Virgin till the end.

You can find with a better setup as much as 3 tenths or even more. If an update brings you a tenth but requires a different setup you must find in a limited time, you might loose 2 tenths at the end of the day.

Anyway, HRT highlighted how meaningless are these developments.


I noticed the same thing. Makes you wonder if new developments are actually slowing the car down... doesn't it?

All they have are numbers from design to quantify performance scientifically. The most telling experiments are the ones conducted on Friday where one driver uses a certain upgrade, while the other doesn't. But that in itself includes the human element, which is to complex to model scientifically. Even if the same driver uses a different part between FP1 and FP2, track conditions change, etc.

Perhaps the answer is in fact the human element: rookies turned the wheels of the HRT's, who themselves gained the time due to their experience vs speed "learning curve".


My thoughts exactly. Coulthard said that in his opinion F1 drivers contribute 20% of performance, and 80% is the car (as opposed to 40%/60% for Moto GP).

So given that 80% was stagnant, it is clear that it is the HRT drivers who have improved over the year to keep the gap to the front teams constant.

And that is not a surprised considering they didn't turn a wheel until 1st practice in Bahrain.


Interesting analysis. Look at it this way though. HRT arrived at Bahrain without completing a single test, and no idea how to set up their car. They were 5-7s down on the experienced teams. After an entire season, HRT will have gained a huge amount of experience with their car, and yet they're still 5-7s down.

The big teams will have hit the ground running with their setups at the start of the season, so their gains to stay that far ahead may have come in large part from fundamental improvements to their cars.


Try - 'Law of diminishing returns: The tendency for a continuing application of effort or skill toward a particular project or goal to decline in effectiveness after a certain level of result has been achieved.'

With a little more effort or money HRT can make big gains RELATIVE to the big boys while Ferrari & McLaren need to millions and sweat blood to find modest gains.


@Jo: maybe they never hit the ceiling, and were still rubbish at the end of the year 🙂


The problem is that HRT didn't bring updates. Your point would've been true if HRT put even few bucks into developing its car but it didn't. The car is the same car they started the year with.

There's obviously the learning curve which improves performance but that curves hits the ceiling at a given point from which the gap should increase to the leaders which didn't happen.

So how do you explain that ?


So you're saying that HRT "learned" as much improvement over the season as the big boys "earned" with all their millions spent in the wind tunnel??

Imagine what they might have done with a few bucks for car development!

Not too bad, I'd say.


I guess the basic point I'm making is that it's bound to be vastly more difficult and expensive to find another second a lap if you're starting from the level Red Bull were, compared to if you're starting from where HRT did.


but HRT doesn't need a whole year to understand how to use its car, they are extremely poor by F1 standards but they're not stupid. They need maybe 3, 4 or 6 grandprix at max (somewhere around Canada). But even till the end of the season the gap stayed the same and here we talk of a team which uses the same wings for Spa and Monza.

The only explanation is that the other teams developments aren't as effective as they say.


[mod] comments here show a fundamental lack of understanding of the gains to be made from pure set up.

Just look at Mercedes this year for proof. They stopped developing their car mid-season, at a point where they were struggling to get into Q3. Over the course of the second half of the season, their pace improved quite dramatically, to the point that they were potentially racing for podium finishes in the last three races. The reason Ross Brawn gave for the source of this quite substantial improvement in form was that it took them most of the season to learn how to 'unlock' good pace from the car through setting it up correctly.

It's a sign of a bad car when teams struggle to find the 'sweet spot' with set up (often teams refer to a poor car as being on a knife-edge - small changes either way reduce performance much more significantly than they probably ought to).

So, as others have pointed out here, because HRT started out with a fundamentally bad car, (and hence one that is almost certainly difficult to optimize in terms of set up) there were always going to be big gains to be had over the course of the season, as they learned how their car reacted to various set up changes (remember just how many things are variable on a modern Formula One car, and the possible combinations run into the millions). Factor that in with unreliability and personnel changes and that learning curve will only get steeper.

Because the teams at the front end of the grid, like Red Bull, start the season with a fundamentally good car; one that is relatively easy to set up and optimize, they get closer to their car's ultimate potential from a fairly early stage. It's that last 5% of performance that the top teams are chasing that is much harder to achieve, and it costs a lot of money, time and resources to find that extra little speed.

To say that roughly only three tenths of a second improvement is achievable through set up alone is misunderstanding the variables at play between the potential gains at either end of the grid.

A look at Jenson Button in Korea, where he was struggling to keep up with the midfield, just shows what can happen when you get the set up wrong, even with a potentially race-winning package.


Remember, there are several dimensions to this.

First, there is the team learning the car through data.

Second, there is the driver learning the car (both were rookies).

Third, there is the driver and the engineer learning how to interpret and trust each other; if the engineer doesn't trust the driver and merely says "I know how to set up the car, you just need to learn how to drive it", then there will be a long, steep learning curve.

Fourth, how much time away from the track is spent working on reliability and getting the car to actually finish a race, rather than strategy toward setting up the car?

I would say that the first two or three races were spent largely chasing problems and getting the cars ready to drive. Set up was likely the last thing on their minds (maybe a few tweaks here and there). The drivers probably had their brains full trying keep the brakes from glazing and getting the tires up to temperature given that the start of the third race was only the 15th time Senna had driven the car, and only the 11th time for Chandhok.

Then races 4-8 probably made modest ground as the drivers and engineers started to develop a relationship and understand each others requirements. The engineer needs to know what is going on, and needs input from the driver to properly interpret the data. Just look at how many teams swap engineers around to see if they'll work better with different drivers. NASCAR teams do it all the time with crew-chiefs.

From there, I bet steady gains were made from races 10-15 as the drivers were now more confident with the car, and more input was coming in from Klien and Yamamoto, both of whom had prior F1 experience.

Then in the last few races, they had a good handle on the car, and what they lost to the front teams was only a few tenths, which from circuit to circuit (and day to day) is hard to measure and compare accurately.

In conclusion, I think it did actually take the team (all four drivers included) most of the season to understand the car, as well as the team understanding each of those four drivers' inputs.


Jo, probably you're right and HRT doesn't need a whole year to completely understand their car, but in that case, as you say, the other teams' developments aren't as effective as they say. I do dislike this option, sounds like they all (the fron running teams) could be somehow deceiving us, saying they are introducing big updates that actually meant nothing in terms of performance... I would actually prefer to believe that HRT were the new kids in town and they improved a lot through the year just by a better understanding of their cars and all the other things.

So, if any one can give us a reasonable answer, we will be very pleased to know!!


Great point. I was looking for a reason for what Jo Torrent wrote, and it looks that you've found it.


The reason iceman gave is wrong in my view. It's impossible that it takes HRT a whole year to understand how its car works, maybe half a year in the worst scenario.

But even in the 2nd half of the year the gap didn't increase between HRT and the pole time. If I were a journalist I'll ask HRT people and Bruno Senna since when did they have a perfect understanding of the car. I actually wanted James to give me his view on my post by he didn't.

Another element I want to add is that Kolles I understand manages the technical side with some former Toyota people and these aren't new kids in the buisness so they know how to make a car work.

If someone has a convincing answer, I'm waiting but this matter is really bothering me


what does barrichello means with "driveability" ??


Driveability just means that a car is "easy to drive". That means that the car reacts well to steering, brake and throttle inputs.

I would bet that the gains made by HRT over the year are down to increasing driveability, as on-board videos of Senna in Australia are ridiculous (the car was snapping sideways around the entire lap).

If the theoretically "best" set-up is applied, but requires the driver to master a super-twitchy car, it may be slower than a set-up that is slower in simulations, but faster in practice because the driver can confidently take the car to the limit.


He is talking about how easy it is for the driver to use the car do do various things.

The driver need not be nervous about the car's response to input. He is also less fatigued in the latter laps if he is not fighting so much with the car.

Ducati went very well in the very early 70's in the endurance races with their big V-twin because it was easy to ride, steer, change direction and brake. Must admit the back suspension could have done with some softening on the springing.

Similarly any vehicle is better with driveabilty. Compare a highly strung sports car or two-stroke bike with a well sorted touring car or torquey long wheelbase bike over a long run in variable conditions and you'll start to get the picture...


Well I can answer that firstly by quoting a negative from now retired BTCC and ALMS driver James Weaver "It handles like a bucket of SH*t" It doesn't either go turn in or stop where you want it to.

Rubens wants a car that slows without locking up or loosing the back end, turns in to the millimetre where he wants it to, with little or no understeer, holds the bend without under or oversteer, Has good rear end grip to allow early application of power without wheelspin or oversteer. And assuming he gets all that the car then needs to be faster than all the others when driven perfectly on the limit

In practice the ultimate setup is not often achieved, since altering one setting affects others. Lots of things need to be set differently for each track, tyre type, kerb height, track bumpiness, track smoothness/roughness, track temperature, air temperature, altitude/atmospheric pressure humidity. One could go on all day! (is it that time already?)


Hi James,

One question, that I've been meaning to ask for months. Why "F"? What does the "F" in "F-duct" stand for? I know all about how they work and so-forth, but not how the name came about.

Many thanks, A.S.


Thanks for all the answers, everybody.

So it's either named after the fluidic-switch effect that's used within it, or the "f" in Vodafone. 🙂

I guess that's as close as I'm going to get!


It's a fluidic switch thst turns it on and off I think.


Yup as seen on "Tomorrows World" 20 or 30 years ago!

Still waiting for Starlite to be used. Only the really ancient may remember this stuff.


So the F is for Fluidic...?


I guess "F" stands for "Fly" because they often call the tracks with lots of straight lines like Monza, Brazil, or Abu Dhabi in Flying Laps name. And Fduct only work effectively on the straight lines. ^^


to go against the torrent of answers you received, I posit that it was nick named the "F***ing Duct" by one of the team principles, subsequently cleaned up by the media.

Of course the above is post hoc reasoning that exploits the wit of said team principle.


Internal to McLaren, wasn't it known as the J-duct? at least I seem to recall Martin Whitmarsh calling it that early on....


I think you are thinking of the J-Damper, which had arbitrary units called "Zogs".


What a pity the mass damper was banned to my mind it was one of the most significant and brilliant developments of many years, and it worked!


It's the f in Vodafone! That's where the intake duct is located on top of McLaren's nose cone. No-one knew what it was when it first appeared in testing so it got called the f-duct.

Interestingly, McLaren themselves originally called it something else - Button said so in an interview near the start of the season. But by the end of the season, Hamilton was asking on the radio "Is my F-duct working?"


I guess it is called the f-duct, because the air duct itself is located next to the "f" of VodaFone on the nose of the McLaren


Believe it was as simple as being that the entry duct on the body originally covered the F of the Vodafone sponsors logo and thereby became the "F Duct"


I think it came about because the original duct on the McLaren was on the 'f' in the Vodafone logo on the cockpit.


Seems to me that the 'F' came from the way Maclaren's duct stuck up into the airflow like a letter 'F' on the body of the car in front of the driver. Might be wrong but it seems logical.


I believe it was nicknamed the 'F Duct' because it was positioned over the F in the Vodafone logo on the rear wing.


No, Lewis wasn't able to pass Robert K., couldn't even do him out of the slipstream. Either he was running out of revs due to the gearing or McLaren had chosen to use the F-duct not to run faster on the straights, but to run much greater downforce in the other sectors and level off as much of the big wing on the straights as they could, leaving them with average straight-line speed but better cornering.


Not that it matters to the racing, but from a purely aesthetic perspective those F Ducts are UGLY. They look like they belong on a vacuum cleaner, not a car. Glad to see them go. I'd like to see all those sharkfins go with them too. The Mercedes was a much nicer looking car than most of the rest this year because of it.


it's not a beauty contest.


No? Ever heard of marketing? Like it or not, looks DO matter, even in F1.


Seems to me that unless they're specifically banned by the rules,'aerodynamic appendages' (jeez, the phrase is as ugly as the objects it describes) will continue to proliferate in F1 as the fluid dynamicists continue to extract every last gram of downforce out of the turbulent air that flows over an open-wheeled car.

There's two options: make a rule that says 'add-on' appendages are not allowed, or find some way of measuring aerodynamic downforce and then make a rule to limit it. Otherwise cars will just continue to get uglier.


Maybe it's time the fans wrote some rules haha!

Here are my contributions:

Rule #1: No shark fins, viking horns, barge boards, tea trays or other sharp or minuscule winglets, fins, ducts, quadruple diffusers or other extending aero devices that have nothing to do directly with aspiration, exhaust or cooling. Leave the aerodynamicists only the natural uninterrupted curves of a car to work with.

Rule #2:To improve closer racing and chances to pass, set a "dirty air" standard. Cars must leave a certain amount of air undisturbed in their wake (ski boat designers do this all the time so car designers can too). How this would be measured or enforced I have no idea...air pressure measured in a mobile wind tunnel?

Feel free to add your own. 😉


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)....


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.


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)


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 🙂


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.


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!

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...



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?


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.


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...



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?


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.


“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...


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


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?


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 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.



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.


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.


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



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.


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.


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


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


Kewl you should come up with that. Exclenlet!

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