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GP Week : Issue 146
The most discussed throughout the weekend, as it was something that the FIA had already deemed its legality, was, of course of the DRS activated F-duct system of the Mercedes W 03. At the moment two opposite parties are confronting each other; on one side the party of those teams that consider this system legal, virtually led by McLaren; and the opposite party, that consider it illegal, led by Lotus and Red Bull, who lodged a protest to the FIA. The latter teams in fact consider the system to be outside of the rules, claiming it is an aerodynamic part, activated by the driver (who triggers the system by activating the DRS). Charlie Whiting, on the other hand doesn’t agree, hence allowing the cars to race this system. But what is in the detail in this system and how does it work? It was a sort of Mission Impossible to find out significant details on it, but in F1 even the best hidden secret quickly becomes a known reality, in particular by those who have the highest interest to deeply know how a certain device works! Of course I am speaking about the rival teams. During the entire weekend I was able to speak to some engineers of rival outfits, and their explanations were pretty interesting and detailed. Taking a close look at the Mercedes cars, it is in fact is possible to spot many details that reveal the presence of such a system. In particular it is important to focus on the rear wing, to start with the description of the device. First of all the flap features at its tips two plates profiled as a very thick wing profile. These elements work as cover of two inlets, placed one per each endplate. When the DRS is not being used, the holes are covered by the plates, while when the DRS is activated and the flap lifts up, the plates uncover the holes (see yellow inset) that hence are deeded by the airflow. The endplates are particularly thick, hiding inside a flat section channel, throughout its length, till the level of the lower profile of the wing. On the outer face of the endplates are visible an inspection cover at the level of the top wing profile (slightly under it – see red inset), and another is present at the level of the two halves of the low profile of the wing (the ones connected to the crushable structure). These two covers are evidence of the presence of a channel inside the endplates, and through the lower wing profile. Those two ducts join into one within the crushable structure and proceed towards the front of the car in a single duct. The section of the ducts changes throughout its length to reach an adequate pressure, to make the system work at the front end. The duct at the level of the front end divides into two symmetrical sections, that pass through the front wing pillars and hence continues in each side of the main front wing profile, that is provided with small holes underneath. The air, so channelled on the bottom of the main profile, makes the front wing ‘stall’. In this way we can say that the system provides these advantages: an increase in top speed by reducing the drag of the front wing, as was the case in 2010 by means of the adjustable flaps. At the same time an important gain is in terms of aero balance of the car, keeping the centre of pressure as steady as possible, by balancing the downforce and drag reduction of the rear wing with similar reduction at the front. It is clearly a very clever solution. Even if can’t be considered as capable of massively increase the performance of the car, at least not on every track, for sure it represents an interesting exploration, of the boundaries of current F1 aerodynamics within the current rules. 36 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> FEATURE