The opening race of the season is always special, certainly it’s the first opportunity to really see the pecking order of the new cars, first chance to see the cars going absolutely flat out during Qualifying, no sandbagging, no high or low fuel just pure lap time. Additionally for those who are intrigued by the technical side of F1 as well it’s an excellent opportunity observe the latest developments.
I've only started to enjoy the more intricate and technical side of F1 in the last few years, wanting to understand the Brawn "double diffuser" is what got me started, so I'm a bit of a newbie in that sense but this was a great chance to try and snap a few photos of the bits that aren't easy to see and pass them onto people who know what they’re talking about! Craig Scarborough (ScarbsF1) for example.
The one particular development that has intrigued the media and fans is the supposed Mercedes "F duct". Now as you may know the F duct was the name given to the development McLaren established at the start of 2010. They fed air from an intake on the front, through the car and onto the rear wing when the driver had their knee blocking a duct within the cockpit, in doing so they could “stall” the wing and thus reduce the downforce generated on the straights. This gave them great straight-line speed without compromising the overall downforce needed for the corners. It was named due to the intakes location on the “F” of Vodafone on the McLaren nose.
The theory behind the Mercedes “F duct” is that when the DRS is opened a small duct is revealed allowing air to pass through, the air is directed to the front wing and vented to create the stalling effect, but at the front of the car. This would reduce drag but additionally stabilise the car. With just the DRS open you lose lots of rear downforce but nothing at the front, risking the back end being extremely unpredictable. This is explained in much more detail over at CraigScarborough’s blog.
I went to the track on the Friday with the intention of getting some photos of the DRS flap opened on the front running cars to try to find a team copying Mercedes or confirm Mercedes are the only team doing this. This isn’t as easy as it sounds due to only having General Admission tickets and attempting to get a sharp and clear photo of a car through a fence as it accelerates with the DRS flap open meant some serious panning with my camera.
I managed to get decent shots of a few teams from the exit of turn 2 as the cars head down the straight from T2 to T3. Unfortunately the wet sessions meant DRS wasn't used as much and on top of that I only really got my eye in during the latter stages of FP2 so was unable to capture as many shots as I really wanted too.
As can be seen in the images, certainly McLaren and Red Bull had nothing resembling a duct behind their DRS flaps. The McLaren rear wing has no space for something like this and they would need an entirely different rear wing end plate to incorporate this idea. Ferrari has a dark space and a small patch that could be hiding something but it seems unlikely, unfortunately the Ferrari photos aren’t very sharp, there hasn't been anything more to suggest that Ferrari have this idea in place since I took the shots.
Looking through my photos from Saturday I realised I had managed to get a fairly decent image of the Mercedes "F Duct" rear wing in action. Below is an image comparing the closed DRS flap and open revealing the duct.
The duct is visible in the area of the image I've blown up (top left). It's the slightly triangular shape revealed when the DRS is opened.
This image was taken between turns 14 and 15 during Qualifying. It is Nico Rosburgs car.