Mercedes: F-Duct Front Wing operated by the Rear Wing DRS

Update on how it links to the Front wing


Something often said of banned developments in F1, is that once understood no solution can be unlearnt. So while the FIA fights to ban technologies that they feel aren’t suited to F1, the teams will always try to apply that solution in a different way.
McLaren understood how to stall a wing by blowing a slot perpendicular the wings surface. This knowledge lead to the F-duct in 2010, as you will recall the FIA moved to ban slots in the rear wing and direct driver interaction with the cars aero. But the knowledge of blown slots to stall wings has remained and it’s been Mercedes who have been busy trying to apply it in other ways. This culminated with the tests of an F-Duct front wing late last year. Rumours continue to fly about the teams use of the F-Duct front wing (FDFW) in 2012. I understand the 2012 Mercedes AMG W03 does have an F-Duct front wing and this is operated by the rear wings DRS. Based on information I have from the sources around the team, and from looking at the cars performance and construction mean I can speculate how and why Mercedes might be using the FDFW.

As detailed in two articles last year, Mercedes are believed to have run blown slots under the front wing to stall the wing at higher speeds. Three reasons came up as to why this would be used; reducing drag, managing wing ride height and managing the cars aero balance. With nothing official being said by Mercedes, we were left unsure as to exactly why a passive FDFW would benefit the car.

Some observations from the Mercedes team last year might aid us in putting a picture together of how the 2012 solution might benefit. Mercedes were the first team to really exploit more of the open DRS effect and use a short chord flap. The open DRS boosted Mercedes top speed and could be used through the lap in qualifying. Despite this benefit the teams did struggle in qualifying, their race performances latterly became better than qualifying suggested. It was clear for Michael Schumacher at Least, that the cars handling wasn’t ideal and the team sought to resolve the cars nervousness.
Bearing these points in mind, the potential benefits of a FDFW become more apparent. Mercedes need more qualifying pace; they can exploit their DRS more frequently during qualifying, but in higher speed turns the cars lacks the balance for the drivers to fully commit through the turn.
If they can cure these issues, then they will further up in qualifying and able to take the fight to the leading teams. I now believe the FDFW works to manage the cars balance in high speed turns when the DRS is activated. As DRS reduces both rear drag and downforce, the car becomes unbalanced in downforce front-to-rear. In other words pointy or oversteering. Which in high speed turns in qualifying is hard to handle. At higher speeds even with DRS reducing rear wing downforce, the car has enough downforce to make it around corner, the problem is how to make the car more balanced front-to-rear when DRS is activated.
The FDFW we saw last year appeared to be passive, this uses nothing other than airspeed to trigger the slot to blow enough to stall the front wing. If matched to the speed DRS would be used at (in qualifying), the passive FDFW would help balance the car, by reducing front downforce to match that of the rear. However the front wing would always stall at these speeds, whether DRS was in use or not, so outside of qualifying the wing would stall and the car would understeer. With Parc Fermé rules in force, the team cannot change the FDFW between qualifying and the race.
Another issue with the passive FDFW, is that under braking as air speed reduced, the wing would need time to start working again. But this early phase of braking is just when the driver needs the most downforce. What the FDFW ideally needs is a method to link its activation to that of DRS, in other words an active F-duct.
As we’ve already mentioned, driver activation is not allowed, as are any other moving parts to directly alter the airflow. This brings up the Designers favourite interpretation in the rule book, primary and secondary purpose. Any part on the car can be for a primary purpose; sometimes any secondary purpose is banned or restricted. However in most cases the rules are vague and Designers are free to find secondary uses for a solution on the car. Examples of this are the cooling fans on the Brabham Fan car, the engine blowing off throttle for blown diffusers or brake torque altering ride height on the Lotus Reactive Ride Height system. In each case the first element was legal as its primary purpose was as stated, but a secondary purpose was able to be exploited.

The DRS rules are quite clear that the flap must not be shaped to allow other aerodynamic benefits. In fact this wording affects only a portion of the flap and additionally the endplate is excluded from this wording. If the team could find a way to blow into the front wing a duct when DRS is activated, then the FDFW could work synchronously with the DRS.

The hingeplate the flap mounts to, closes a hole when DRS is closed. When DRS is open the duct is revealed and the F-duct stalls the front wing

I believe Mercedes have found a way, by creating a duct through the endplate. When DRS is closed, the flap and the plate it attaches to is in a nearly vertical position. When DRS opens, the area the flap initially covered is exposed. If this area featured an opening that lead into a duct inside the endplate, when DRS opened the high pressure above the wing would force flow through the duct. With this duct then routed through the car to the front wing, when DRS is open the FDFW would be blown and stall in unison with the rear wing. Clearly when DRS closes the duct would be closed off and the duct would stop blowing the FDFW, restoring front and rear downforce.

When DRS is open, the duct passes into the beam wing and through the car. Eventually reaching the front wing slot to stall the wing.

Some evidence around the rear wing of the W03 shows this could be possible. We have to be careful to pinpoint every feature on the rear wing as being FDFW related as the DRS mechanism is hidden inside the endplate as well. Some access panels on the wing could be for DRS, FDFW or other purposes, some might be for both. In my research I’ve yet to see a clear high resolution shot of the Mercedes with DRS open, this is unusual as most other teams have been seen with the DRS in effect. Equally clear pictures of the inside of the endplate, where the flap meets the endplate, are in short supply. With this lack of material I can propose a solution, although the actual parts may diffuser is location and appearance. Its expected at this weekend Australian GP the rear wing duct will be exposed as the car uses DRS on the straights. We will need photographers with a big lens and steady hand to catch sharp pictures of the inside face of the endplate, when DRS is activated.

Evidence of the duct can be seen on the car, when the car is not moving. Clearly the W03 rear wing endplate is quite thick, an access panel that houses the DRS actuator is outboard of the flap\endplate intersection, plus there is another panel in line with the beams wings intersection with the endplate. I’d suggest the duct is opened by the flap and hinge plate, the duct then routes through the double skinned endplate down into the beam wing. This then exits through the duct that mounts the beam wing to the gearbox. There’s a tortuous route for the duct through the car to reach the front wing, but this isn’t that dissimilar to the 2010 F-Duct routing. As with McLaren in 2010, the trick is to design the duct into the car at an early stage to minimise losses through the ductwork. This usefully makes it harder, but not impossible to copy. To copy this set up the monocoque needs to be altered and the nose cone needs the apertures into the front wing mounting pylons to feed the airflow into the front wing itself. This requires time to redesign and potentially re-crash test any changes.
But, can this set up be legal? The act of stalling a front wing through a blown slot is legal, although F-ducts are banned, it’s only via the slot in the rear wing that this was achieved. Direct driver intervention is banned, but the driver is allowed to operate the DRS, so any secondary aerodynamic effect of that is not prohibited in the rules.
Although the rules allow this, it’s possible the FIA could issue a Technical Directive on the matter, that any overt secondary effect of using DRS is not allowed and the whole solution could be banned in a stroke.

With a tight and competitive season in prospect qualifying performance will be critical. Notwithstanding the potential structural work to allow the duct to pass through the car, the DRS activated F-duct Front wing is an attractive option for the other leading teams.

107 thoughts on “Mercedes: F-Duct Front Wing operated by the Rear Wing DRS

  1. Mmmmmm….ducts me me horny…..

    No rly… it would be shame a huge shame if FIA bans this during the season….when they didnt do the same to DD,EBD or even a F-Duct..

  2. Craig,
    If the blown front wing is found to be infringing and the system is banned, would this apply to the whole system or just that which affects the front wing? Could the duct be re-routed to the side of the chassis to blow the diffuser, or to aid in directing exhaust gases? Would this be against the rules?

    • That’s a very good question actually. But I imagine that since a blown diffuser is banned, using the air to feed the diffuser will be nog be allowed?

      • I’d imagine that they could do what Renault did last year, but instead of exhausts, they could have a duct feeding air that’s been sped up through a venturi to force air out from underneath the car. Not quite as efficient as exhaust blowing, but every little helps right?

      • Admittedly, I haven’t read the rules recently, but doesn’t the blown diffuser rule only apply to exhaust gases directly influencing the diffuser? Some of the 2012 cars have exhaust outlets positioned in such a way that their flow is interrupted by the airflow over the sidepods and subsequently engage with the diffuser. So this duct could work like vmmfanuk suggests and exit at the front of the sidepods. I doubt there would be enough air pressure for it to be worth a competitor copying it, but if the front wing ensemble is banned then the ducts are already there for Mercedes to use.

  3. Don’t the regs for DRS activation state that it must ‘solely’ be for DRS? And any system that alters downforce activated by the driver is bannable, surely?

    • I think that’s covered in the article… pressing the DRS doesn’t activate the F-Duct, the result of the rear wing moving potentially does and the rules according to the article are:

      (Quote from above)

      “The DRS rules are quite clear that the flap must not be shaped to allow other aerodynamic benefits. In fact this wording affects only a portion of the flap and additionally the endplate is excluded from this wording.”

      • That’s the part of the regs relating to the wing, yes, but (and damned if I can find it now) the actuator should ‘solely’ allow the changes specified for DRS, ie the FIA have specifically aimed to disallow any secondary function of the DRS activation.

        Even without this, if the system exists as per the article then the driver is altering the aerodynamic attributes of the car through his actions, whether a primary or secondary or tertiary function this is banned. If braking counts as driver input and this means RRH is verboten then DRS activation, and this system, certainly does.

      • That’s a sophism. Pressing the button activates *both* the DRS and the F-duct (if it’s there).
        That would be evidently against the rules.

    • Who’s bitter? Curious, sure.

      Anyway, looks like Mr Whiting disagrees with me..

      Well done Brackley. I’m off to put a tenner on some AMG related happenings.

  4. Great analysis. I’m spanish and my englih is not very good. But I think if a had understood your analysis, you says that frontal F duct only activates if DRS is running or using. ¿Is this correct?
    This means than in race, Mercedes can’t beneficiate about the iusses of frontar F duct, right?

    Thanks for answear my questions. What do you think about this car? is really competitivy?

    • “This means than in race, Mercedes can’t beneficiate about the iusses of frontar F duct, right?”

      It’s more about reducing the change in handling balance that running DRS causes.

      Standard car – when DRS is deployed the rear end of the car loses grip. the car is less stable, and therefore harder to drive with the DRS active. it has more chance of spinning.

      With this system, when DRS is deployed, both ends of the car lose grip, making the car more stable. You could, in theory, run the with DRS open in places (during qualifing) that other teams couldn’t because of this stability issue.

      You are right though that it’s not going to affect race pace because of the restrictions on DRS deployment.

      • Thankyou!!! I readed in this page that this front wing system can be ilegal causa drs can’t let activate other aerodinamic mechanisms, as a front wing.

        What do you thing? is this a competitive car?

      • How much of a difference does the DRS make to rear stability though? At the speed when DRS is enabled, the rear wheels are already planted well enough not to cause a huge shift in stability. With the way this system works, there is enough of a backlog of non-moving air in the ducting that there would be a noticeable lag between DRS activation and front-wing stalling, surely making the car more unstable, with the rears losing grip milliseconds before the front?

        Granted, there were a few moments last season (or the season before?), I think I remember a moment at Barcelona, when the DRS was applied too early after leaving a corner and the car immediately lost rear grip, so Mercedes are right in thinking about aiding the stability by balancing out the drag from both wings.

      • For Ben beeharry:

        then, what your comment, imply that the system has been designed front Fduct not so much a higher top speed, which also, in the lines when using the drs, but also in their participation in the stabilization of the car when drs activated, allowing the pilot to use his drs before, and out of the curve?

        That would be the initial function of a Fduct like 2010 Created by mclaren, but an instrument dual function: one, that is to stabilize the car when the drs is used, and two, allowing a higher top speed when activating the drs , making its effects more noticeable. They?

      • imolk, thats all I think it is for, stabilisation. On high traction tracks, they can get the DRS open a few fractions before anyone else, so it might be the key in qualifying.

  5. Although a clever solution, the question remains: How on earth will our family cars benefit from this? What’s the use?
    If this is allowed, all (major) teams will be forced to develop their own system, each spending millions on solutions that are useless in the real world.
    Aero is far to important in F1. How much is the industry spending on this ‘male cow defecation’? €500.000? €1 Billion?
    What the world needs is investments in drive train technology and the possibility to test them…

    • At 50kph aero drag is two times smaller than roll drag, but at 100kph situation is reversed (approximately). So, if you want to travel efficiently on the motorway, the aerodynamics is the answer.

    • I recommend that you start watching Touring Cars or GTs, if you fancy something a little higher spec… Le Mans. F1 is not and should never be about road relevant technology! F1 is about finding pure unadulterated performance, not developing flawed from the get-go hybrid systems et al.
      F1 would do well to adopt hydrogen ICEs with a goal to invest in its procurement and advancement of fuel cells but that’s a long way off unfortunately – mainly due to people thinking that straight up electric is the way forward (but now I’m lecturing).

    • As already stated: Aerodynamic effects are said to gain significance around 70-100 kph. That means, designing fuel efficient (or even better: “energy efficient”) cars does not only require a high-tech drivetrain but also thoughtfully designed aerodynamics.

      To be honest, it might not be your typical “family car”, but just take a look at the BMW i8 Concept Car (also known as “Vision Efficient Dynamics”). Its bodywork consists of many minute aero ducts and vents. And it’s not all about the looks! Especially around the front and rear wheels the air is routed in detail in order to optimize drag and therefore efficiency at cruising speed.

      As you can see, knowledge in aerodynamics does not only lead to faster F1 cars but real world benefits.

      • Of course, knowledge of aerodynamics is important when it comes to drag reduction. But come on, what’s the use of a exhaust blown double diffusor?

        Aerodynamics are responsible for 90% of the cars performance nowadays. Isn’t that percentage a bit to high?

        Luckily we will see new engine (and KERS) regs starting 2014 and as I have understood we will not see an engine freeze of the kind we’ve seen for the last couple of years. A freeze that has paralysed development on a very important area of automotive technology.

        Engine development was stopped because spending hundreds of millions on engine development wasn’t economicly, environmentally or politicly correct. Spending the same amount of money on aerodynamics is?

  6. Do they have to use such a duct from back to front? In that case, is the hole in the nose just a distraction?
    Or is it possible according to the letter of the rules to activate the FW F-Duct via the same hydraulic system that activates DRS?

  7. This sounds a little far fetched to me – not that i think it’s impossible. I wouldn’t think this concept would be worth the (assumable) induced drag that would come from forcing this air through all the crazy plumbing it would require. I don’t remember the car being twitchy enough last year during qualy to warrant such an extreme design concept. I’m also wondering why if the car was so unbalanced, why didn’t they add a little more DF where needed since they were always the fastest on the straights.

    • Why not use both solutions, only the front duct being more limited in air pressure needed and only feeding a smaller slot – creating a solution that still reduces drag in the race but changes the balance on the car less than the 2011 system. The rear duct would then feed more slots to stall the entire front wing.

    • Also I can’t remember too many occasions last season where drivers could run with DRS open through a corner (which is where this system would be at its most useful, if I read the article right). Perhaps the RB7 on certain occasions was able to do that (remember with huge help of a fully blown diffuser, which is now gone)

      I don’t know, it does seem like ALOT of work for such a seldom situation. However this also might let the drivers use DRS earlier/in more corners during qualifying which would help them significantly.

      It’s interesting, but I don’t know about DRS being used in corners…maybe bends and kinks…and most teams that ran with DRS open in bends/kinks had no problem with balance anyway..

    • It’s probably more about reducing drag than it is aero balance. In qaully it will help them stay on DRS longer in some of the corners, but the big benefit will be in the race it will increase the top speed delta with the DRS activated.

    • I don’t think it is so much about the drag reduction, as achieving better front-rear aero balance when the DRS is engaged.

      At the moment, an engaged DRS will mean dramatically reduced rear downforce levels relative to the front, meaning the rear end would be more inclined to “let go” – the car becomes more prone to oversteer.

      Reducing downforce at the front of the car by stalling the front wing whenever the DRS is engaged for the rear means aero balance is better, with less of a disparity between front and rear downforce (and therefore grip) levels.

      Now, I don’t think that this issue (aero balance imbalance) was as prominent during race conditions, because DRS activation zones were usually on the straights. However, during qualifying, when the drivers are allowed to use DRS whenever they want, the Rosberg and Schumacher could not use their DRS as much (say when compared to Red Bull, with their fantastic EBD) in the high speed corners due to the aero (and therefore grip) imbalance caused by activating the DRS.

      This is Mercedes’ solution to that issue. The Mercedes drivers will be able to use DRS in high speed corners during qualifying, and thus qualify higher up the grid. The drag reduction on the straights during the race will be the icing on the cake.

  8. This sounds exactly like a movable aerodynamic device. The problem is that the drs should not be used to open or close any holes or ducts in the rear wing.

    However as the drs works with pressure instead of using the airflow couldn’t mercedes just move the duct on the rear wing under the movable drs wing? When the drs is opened the air pressures change in different parts of the rear wing. Just put the duct or opening in such position on the rear wing that it has high pressure when drs is not used and low pressure when drs is used. Or vice versa. That way there is no aerodynamic moving devices and only way to ban it is to make all ducting inside the rear wing illegal.

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  10. The way I read it is that the driver is not activating the front F-Duct simply he is activating the DRS which moves the flap, and it just so happens that when the flap moves it exposes the entry point in the rear wing endplate for the air to enter into it, so i would say that is NOT a driver operated aero device, simply a by-product of opening the flap which IS allowed. Very very clever indeed Mercedes!!

    • As I said above, this is a sophism. Why?
      It’s the same as saying that the driver presses a button which activates a cable which moves the wing (or whatever) and then saying it isn’t the button press that moves the wing but the cable!

      • But its a secondary effect, which is the key. The primary purpose of the button is to activate the cable to move the wing. It just so happens that by the wing moving the secondary purpose is activated.

        You could argue that the accelerator’s main purpose is to increase engine speed, but a secondary purpose is downforce, brought about by the increase in vehicle speed.

  11. Couple things… first, I think you’re right. And I think the original analysis of the “w-duct”, with air coming in through the hole in the nose to feed the front wing slots is wrong. I think that nose hole continues to be just a driver cooling vent and the air feeding the duct system in the front wing will come from the rear wing when DRS is activated. I just did a quick bit of image searching and if you compare the main pylons which support the front wing… Mercedes are the only team whose pylons have such a swept back shape leading up into the nose, which I would think would allow for better airlow/ducting from the rear.

    Second thing… you mention quite a bit that this is mainly for improving the balance during DRS use, but wouldn’t stalling the front wing also not significantly reduce it’s drag? Thus allowing the team to not only reduce the drag on the rear wing to increase speed on the straights but also the front wing to help increase top speed even more? This would have an even greater benefit during qualy where they can use this anytime they don’t need downforce.

    Or we could be wrong and the front wing could be set up only to take air from the nose hold and channel it to different parts of the wing depending on what the car is doing –

    • Is absolutley logical!!!

      I think your opinion and that of scrabs are not contradictory. could be some truth in both! why not both mechanisms? That would be very impressive!

  12. This FDFW looks like the most illegal thing i have ever seen on an F1. It is like you use the same button for two things. It can be very funny when one team says: “hey, i have an idea. If you press the DRS button, at the same time you have traction control”.
    I hope this thing is declared illegal, but everybody knows Brawn and how he always get along with his inventions (Michelin tires, Double Diffusers,…)

    • To be fair to Ross Brawn, it has been documented that he brought up the Double Diffuser “loop hole” to the TWG before the 2009 season.

      Don’t have a link, but I distinctly remember reading about it after the BGP-01 started kicking butt in the first races of the 2009 season.

      • Yes Brawn tried to change the wording of the new rules to ban the Double Diffuser, and they didn’t do it!! that’s why he was so confident it was always legal.

    • Haha, thanks, you just made me smile! 🙂

      “Brawn […] always gets along with his inventions; **Michelin tires** […]”

      No, Brawn did neither invent Michelin tires, nor the wheel itself. 😉
      (Yeah, I know what you actually meant; the quarrel between Ferrari and Michelin concerning the tire tread — but it sounds too funny.)

      BTT, your suggestion, i.e. activating traction control by pressing the DRS button is missing the point because pressing the Mercedes DRS button would *not* activate the front f-duct. The f-duct would be activated “passively” by the resulting airflow. And a passive duct is not prohibited.
      Let’s look at the situation vice versa; if you came up with a passive traction control which was solely operated by resulting airflow it would be perfectly legal.
      (Of course this is in fact impossible as the naming implies “control” which is “active” by definition 😉

      • Wrong, Sien.
        You’re making a distinction between air or, for instance, a cable.
        They’re just different means but both are manipulated for a result.
        There’s nothing passive in that operation.

      • I see what you mean, fyujj, but I still think, that it is not activated by the driver ‘directly’. I’d say as DRS is legal, one could separate the state of the car into two different legal configurations: ‘DRS not activated’ and ‘DRS activated’. Within those two states the system is completely passive. (No surprise here 😉 )

        It only becomes an active action as soon as you start looking at the transition between those two states (- that’s obvious, too, but I think you are already getting my point). Now the question is wether a transition only using _allowed_ active systems (namely DRS) is considered an active aerodynamic change permitted by the rules or not. After all they are only using active elements which belong solely to the DRS. No additional actuators, operating elements or similar can be found.

        Yeah, quite philosophical, but IMHO basically that’s the crux of the matter.

      • The problem with the Michelin tyres was, actually, an invention of Brawn. He said they where illegal, and the FIA did the rest. Those great Ferrari days..

        If I remember correct, it is said on the technical regulations that the activation of the DRS can’t activate anything else. So, it is DRS or no DRS, but nothing else

        My point is that. DRS activation should activate only the DRS. Anything else should be forbidden because, obviously, they are not putting a TC with the DRS, but opens the door to new “passive things” to work alongside the DRS

        I am Spanish, I try to explain myself the best that I can, but sometimes this technical English is a bit complicated

  13. Nice work Scarbs. Genius work from Merc F1 if it functions! Its one of the best things about F1, sometimes restrictive rules bring about the weirdest innovations.

  14. I saw your discussion about this on TFL. Nice work 🙂

    What is the lag between the rear wing and the front wing stalling and re-engaging? I mean, there’s ~4.5m of tubing to travel for the air from the moment DRS is engaged and equally when disengaged another 4.5m tubing worth of air stil flowing over the front wing?

    The tubing could be kept pressurised I guess from the hole in the front of the nose to minimise lag on engagement, but that’s not possible on disengaging the DRS.

    Or would it be such a small time-frame as to be irrelevant?

    • I’m a little unsure about the degree of flow of air you could expect from the rear to the front – is it enough to be beneficial?. Could the activated air flow from the rear wing endplates just be used to actuate a ‘gate’ to admit air from the nose air hole, from where I would guess you could get a greater and more useful amount of air down to the front wing to stall it. This would enable the ‘blowing’ of the front wing to only coincide with DRS activation and so maintain stability, whilst still being essentially ‘passive’ in operation.

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  16. You know what would be really interesting?

    The Mercedes W03 manages to be a race winner without any of these trick devices. Perhaps the wily old Mr Brawn is leading everyone on a wild goose chase to distract them.

    I have doubts over these trick front and rear wing F-ducts as there have been no reports during the pre-season tests that the W03 could go into and out of corners with their DRS enabled (except for one short and grainy video on youtube) or any irregular use of the system. There just hasn’t been anything extraordinary about the W03 that has been seen so far that makes me believe these trick devices were used.

    Rival teams have not made a sound of it, let alone protests to the FIA.

    Also, wouldn’t the car be less driveable with such devices given the inconsistent levels of downforce when the system is enabled or disabled? Remember how long it took the Mercedes aero guys to get on top of the air-flow separation/re-attachement problem with their DRS in the earlier part of the 2011 season?

  17. I’m surprised by the several obviously and totally incorrectly chosen words in the article. If your native language is English, then I wonder… maybe you wrote this article in a hurry. As you say that “In my efforts to move into a full time role in F1 media, I am seeking additional publishers for my work.” you should really focus on writing correct English and to actually say what you want to say.

    But the topic is indeed very interesting and I thank you for a good technical article.

    • Scarbs isn’t the only journalist who has a bit of a job with the English language – if he wants to work at Autosport he should fit right in. I’m often amazed they can spell their own names half the time 😉 There are full time BBC News journalists who can barely string a coherent sentence together and they don’t have anything like the specific engineering insight that Craig possesses.

      As someone who offers up these articles for free and probably writes them in a hurry in between trying to maintain an existence in hard economic times, I think you’d be slightly more gracious to the host.

    • Are you for real? This guy provides some of the best technical articles available, for free, in his spare time, because of his passion and enthusiasm for the sport. Who cares about a few typos! His posts are better than any other site I know. I’d go for substance over form any day.

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  19. Great discussion. I believe I saw a mention a few days ago that McLaren (and possibly Red Bull) are working on similar systems. One piece even indicated that both Merc and McLaren were running these systems at the end of Barcelona.

    Can anyone (Craig) confirm this?

  20. have to say, looking at some pics of the rear wing on the launch Merc, this might not be far off at all.

    The rear chord flap a has big mounting plate against the endplate, which compared to a RB, Macca, or Ferrari isn’t there (although they use the slotted endplate in that region).
    Also, there is an inspection panel on the outside of the endplate which covers the chord area of the flap… which if DRS activation is in the main plane, makes no sense (and there is another access panel relating to the main plane, which we could assume is DRS stuff)…

    My big question though, is speed of activation… it was already noted in the article that the delay between front and rear on the passive system, wouldn’t a long duct running the length of the car have the same issue? I mean, any activation wouldn’t be instantaneous… a short delay would exist, then you have to re-attach the flow, with a further delay… Craig, thoughts?

  21. I can see how one could read the fine details of the rule book and claim that this device is not prohibited, and therefore it’s OK. Many posters have made that same argument.

    However, consider the mass damper of a few years back. It was not an aerodynamic device at all since it was completely out of the airstream, it was non adjustable, it was not under driver control, and it’s purpose was not to change the aerodynamics, but was simply designed to stabilize the car and (very indirectly) influence the aero performance by preventing undesirable pitching. In effect, it’s not much different than building “anti dive” into the suspension geometry, something considered natural in race car engineering. The Lotus reactive front suspension scheme was an attempt to achieve similar results. I happen to believe both of these systems should be allowed; however, both of them have been deemed to be in violation of the prohibition of adjustable aerodynamic devices. I strongly disagree, but I don’t make the rules.

    With that history, how in the world could this Mercedes device be permitted? It’s a LOT closer to a driver controlled aero device than either the mass damper or the reactive front suspension.

    Time will tell, but I predict this very clever device won’t last long.

    • The difference is that the mass damper was not on a Ferrari.

      F1 is a separate world of regulations, technicalities, and politics, making it difficult to compare to anything else. Even just comparing year to year to itself is not always the best way to start. At that time (of the Renault mass damper) Ferrari had a very different position at the table. I agree that the mass damper illegality was nonsense, but you cant compare it with the various forms of F-ducting in order to ascertain whether it should be acceptable or not. It’s apple and oranges.

      I think that in looking at this calling it a F-duct is poor labeling because it makes us think about moveable flaps (I read it as Flap-duct). Its not a device, it’s aerodynamics. We dont label the wings as devices, bodywork as devices or intakes as devices. Nothing moves to make them “work”. The ductwork does not move in relation to the base of the car, so it is not a moveable device.

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  23. What a clever idea! Presumably, if Mercedes are running something alongs these lines, they would have run it past Charlie Whiting first to get his blessing? Otherwise, incorporating something so complex in the car, that could be ruled illegal before the first race, would be decidedly risky.

    Is it possible that Sauber are running something similar? In Craig’s analysis of their car he highlighted the duct like structure above the gearbox that supports the beam wing. Maybe it’s more than just duct like?


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  26. I’m struggling to understand how transporting the flow to the front wing will stall it. Surely restricting the flow of air at the leading edge of the wing is whats needed to stall it?

    Unless the flow is being ejected from the leading edge of the front wing, disturbing the air that is about to connect with it?

    I’m confused 😦

  27. This isn’t all that clever. All the teams were going to do it, but there was a unanimous agreement between them at the F1 Technical Working Group them that ALL F-Duct technology was to be dropped. This would remove all arguement. It was thus banned. However, Charlie forgot this, and when Merc asked them if they could do it – he said yes. Cue uproar from other teams. Rather than drop his pride and go back to Merc saying he was wrong to agree to something that he shouldn’t have, you now have a situation where Merc have an illegal advantage. All teams will now thow big money and effort at playing the game they had all agreed not to.

  28. Apparently the issue has been brought up to the FIA and it has been deemed legal by Charlie Whiting.

    For me this all but confirms the existence of the FDFW. It will be interesting to see how this system helps Mercedes in the first couple of rounds of qualifying for the initial races as the other top teams scramble to catch up.

  29. It’s official! Charlie Whiting seems to be happy with it:


    All eyes will be on the Mercedes who have a clever device on the rear wing which acts like an F Duct, but is not driver operated. Whiting alluded to it today, “What it appears some teams are doing is that when the DRS is operated, it will allow air to pass into a duct and do other things,” he explained.

    “That is all I can say – you will probably have a pretty good idea of what it might be doing, and other teams will as well. But it is completely passive. There are no moving parts in it; it doesn’t interact with any suspension. No steering, nothing. Therefore I cannot see a rule that prohibits it.”

    • Hey Ben, seems you were faster with your message than me. 🙂

      Interesting though; my German source ( didn’t mention that Whiting actually stated that there was a duct near the DRS system.

      That adds a new dimension to the possibility of Mercedes in fact using a ‘rear wing DRS operated front wing f-duct’ (RWDRSOFWFD). 😀

  30. Now it’s official: The W03 went through scruitineering in Melbourne and Charlie Whiting declared Mercedes’ F-Duct als legal because it’s operated completely passive (i.e. no moving parts, not interfering with the suspension or steering system). Of course he didn’t say how it actually works, but having said that, he acknowledged at last that Mercedes does have some sort of F-Duct.

    It’s going to be an interesting season… 🙂

    • That’s bad wording from them, then.
      No moving parts is completely different to not operated by the driver (passive).
      It just happens that the air doesn’t need to be carried around as one has only to grab it.
      Well, in the end all comes down to politics.

      • Well as far as we can see, there are no moving parts, and it is passive. The driver doesn’t engage the front wing f-duct, he engages DRS. A byproduct of that movement is that some air is forced down the endplates, just as a byproduct of engaging DRS is reduced rear drag.

    • I think, like KERS being dropped for a year, there was never any mention that F-Ducts were banned as a concept, simply that the teams agreed amongst themselves that it was generally distracting for the drivers and it should be dropped. The legality of the F-Duct was okay as a concept from day one, I can’t find a regulation that stops the teams using cooling ducts snaked through their cars as much as they like, having a duct that is buried within the DRS mechanism but does not interact with it, is hardly a moving mechanical device or driver operated device. All regulations are semantics to an extent. Otherwise there would be no lawyers in world for interpretation pleadings and judges to make the calls.

      If someone is smart enough to stick within a regulation and devises a better idea that does not impact safety, all power to them. The only reason I could see for the original McLaren F-Duct to go was watching drivers take their hands off the wheel in crucial moments which was rather horrifying.

      • “taking their hands off the wheel” … it was actually their knee i believe. Same safety issue though

  31. Wow, just wow. You really have to think outside the box for this one, sending the airflow fro,m essentially at the very back of the car back to the front. Would the airflow running through the ducts still have energy to make a significant effect on the wing?

  32. Pingback: Νόμιμο το νέο F-Duct της Mercedes, ενώ μαθαίνουμε πώς λειτουργεί -

  33. Hello Craig
    can you please repeat what is the name of the site in wich you colaborate with Dmitri Papadopoulos?
    Very nice information as ever Craig,about F1 as always!

  34. Hi, is it possible that the flow is going back towards the rear wing (top diagram) and is “open” when DRS is OFF, therefore giving them an advantage when they can’t use DRS?

    So in other words, rear wing with no drs or fduct gives maximum down force and drag at speeds…next level: rear wing with fduct (minimize drag at high speeds)…and best case scenario…rear wing with DRS activated.

  35. So am I to understand that when the flap goes up the high pressure air is actually “sucking” the air from the front thus stalling the front as well? Almost like completing an electrical circuit. If I have that correct then it’s more a vacuum duct than a blown one. Right?

    • No, Shipmonster, the high pressure area above the first (non-moving) rear wing element would rather press the air into the openings in the side plates. It is then routed to the front, where it exits at the underside of the front wing. So it is a blown duct.
      The effect is the one you mentioned; the front wing will be (partially?) stalled.

  36. The way I understand it from reading other articles, this duct acts like a double whammy on the rear wing, and not connected to the front…. so when the DRS is engaged, there is a further drag reduction as they route air through the duct to stall the main plane as well.

    Maybe Craig can confirm this? seems a less torturous route for the air to go!

    • This sounds way more plausible than a FWFD. And despite what many on here seem to think, it makes no sense as a solution for balancing front and rear as neither f ducts or DRS are really about downforce. It’s all about drag.

      • I can’t say how I know, but I know it is linked to the front wing (hence the duct on the beam wing). There’s a problem with the theories on the DRS duct stalling the rear wing, the rules. To stall the rear wing, either the top rear wing or lower rear wing, you need to blow a slot. Post 2010 rules ban slots in the rear wing (via a R100 minimum radius rule), this ban applies to all three wing elements aside from the middle 15cm. So to use the DRS duct to blow a rear wing slot, all you’ll stall is the very centre section of wing. This area creates very little induced drag (most of that’s created at the wing tips), so stalling it provides very little benefit. Its possible the DRS Duct could stall the flow around the sidepod, exhaust or diffuser. I’ve got no information on this, nor a valid reason how this would benefit the aero.

  37. Pingback: Mercedes "F-duct" 2012-style | Sports Books Info

  38. Just a thought on how the system works scarbs. When the hole is revealed in the wing end plate by DRS surely the venturi effect would suck air out of this hole and therefor create low pressure in the system and allow air movement to blow the rear wing.
    Ie. the hole in the wing being uncovered works in the opposite way to the hole being covered in the cockpit by the driver in 2010.
    I dont really understand how air is going to enter the hole in the wing at such high speeds especially as the high pressure area normally built up by the wing has been removed by opening the DRS.
    Also could they also be stalling the beam wing?

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  43. Pingback: Mercedes: Are they blowing the Front or Rear wing? | Scarbsf1's Blog

  44. I can’t help but think of an analogy with firing a gun. The shooter presses the trigger, which releases the hammer, which in turn hits the primer, which triggers the propellant, which “explodes”, “pushing” the bullet down the barrel.

    Now would anyone here say that a shooter killing someone by firing a gun is a secondary effect?

    Disclaimer: I don’t know much about guns and likely said that all wrong, but you get the gist.

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  46. Thanks Craig for such a brilliant article. It is clear that a lot of work has gone into this article and it is great that you post them for the public to see. Thank you very much.

  47. I have a problem understanding why reducing front downforce would make a car go quicker around a corner. Saying that “it improves aero balance and thus it must be quicker”, is popular science and is totally not supported by the basic mechanics any engineer would have been taught during his first year of education – unless I’m missing something very obvious here.

    I mean, reducing front downforce just gives you less grip on the front wheels, it does not increase rear grip (or actually it does a little bit due to the front wing being located in front of the front wheels, but I think it’s safe to say that this effect is negligible). So it does NOT increase the maximum lateral acceleration of the car and hence it does NOT increase maximum cornering speed.

    Or is it a driver-related thing? That an understeering car is a bit easier to handle and correct, so you would want the car to tend a bit more towards understeer in a high speed corner, just to make the driver cope better with it?

  48. After seeing the Sutton photos of Schumi’s beached car in FP3, I had an epiphany as to what Merc may be doing. You can clearly see the twin tubes feeding from under the rear bodywork vent to the duct shaped tube that connects to the beam wing above the crash structure. Combining this with Brawn’s statement: “We have an interesting system on the car and it’s not complicated at all…” leads me to believe we may have this a little backwards and consequently adding unnecessary complication.

    As far as the rear wing is concerned, wouldn’t it be simpler to duct high pressure air from one of the openings in the bodywork above the driver’s head to the rear wing end plates. When DRS raises the flap, this high pressure air is released to probably energize boundary layer flow along the endplates, thus further reducing drag. Scarbs said it himself, drag from the rear wing is higher at the corners, which is exactly where the hole in the wing endplate is located.

    Keeping with this theme of simplicity, the front wing slots (if they exist, not clearly visible to me in the Sutton photo) are simply fed from the nose hole and tuned to have a significant effect at speeds that can only be reached when the DRS is active.

  49. Thanks for the article, i love the technical side of f1, A thought on the f duct front wing and in tandem the reactive suspension of the Lotus/Renault, would the rule allow for an f duct on the front wing that opened as the result of a certain air speed and closed from a mechanical reaction from the torque suspension under braking? This would mean (in theory) the ride hight would remain stable under braking and the load on the front wing would be reduced at high speed. As a result of both of these inputs the front could be run lower taking advantage of a greater angle of rake for the chassis. Just a thought…..

  50. Pingback: Video: Michael Schumacher hides his Mercedes' front wing - F1 Fanatic

  51. Pingback: Como o misterioso F-duct da Mercedes equilibra o carro nas curvas com DRS » Podcast F1 Brasil

  52. Pingback: Mercedes DRS Duct: How it links to the front wing | Scarbsf1's Blog

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