Mat Coch writes:
An innovative reinterpretation of 2010's F-Duct system could see Mercedes enjoy a Brawn-like advantage in the first part of the 2012 season. It's understood the Anglo-German squad has developed a system to stall the rear wing via the DRS, causing a stir within the paddock.
At the end of 2010 regulations were changed to prohibit driver movement influencing the aerodynamic performance of the cars. This was in response to the 'first generation' of F-Ducts which relied on drivers using either their hand or knee to close a vent. Airflow was then directed towards the rear wing in an effort to cause it to stall, the net effect of which was a reduction in drag and an increase in top speed.
"At the beginning of last year, obviously engineers being unable to unlearn things they wanted to try and get the same effect via a different means," explained FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting. "They talked about allowing opening and closing a duct by having interaction with the suspension and we said no you can't do that because it goes against the primary purpose of the suspension
"There was a lengthy discussion in the TWG at the beginning of last year to make sure everyone was clear about it," Whiting continued. "It seems that a couple of teams went away from that meeting with the impression that F-Ducts were therefore banned in general."
Mercedes however is believed to have developed an opening in the rear wing endplate which, with the DRS open, directs air in such a way as to stall the rear wing. It's believed the team has a similar system working on the front wing, which combined have seen the team as one of the fastest through the speed traps.
The key difference for 2012 to the previous incarnations of wing-stalling devices ("I'm still not sure why they ever got called F-Ducts but there are a variety of opinions on that," said Whiting) is that the Mercedes concept is passive. "There are no moving parts in it, it doesn't interact with any suspension, no steering, nothing," he clarified. "Therefore I can't see a rule that prohibits it."
It was claimed in some corners of the media that a number of teams had asked the FIA for clarification over the system, a point denied by the governing body when asked by Pitpass. Furthermore a Red Bull spokesperson was unaware of any concerns, as was Force India when asked after the final practice session.
In 2009 Brawn's eponymous team developed the double-diffuser, racing ahead while other teams played catch up. The development was such that it ultimately allowed the team to win both drivers' and constructors' titles with Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello.
This year the re-branded team again looks to have got a jump on its rivals, though Brawn was keen to downplay the benefits of the system. "We have an interesting system on the car and it's not complicated at all, so I'm sure the other teams are looking at it and they need to decide if it's worthwhile or not," he said. "It's not in the same magnitude as the diffuser concept that we had or even the exhaust concepts the cars ran the last few years. It's obviously helpful, that's why we're doing it but it's not a massive performance gain."
Both Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg have been positive about the new car, with the duo close to top of the timesheets on Friday, with Schumacher fastest in the second session. With two DRS zones in Australia during the race and unrestricted use during qualifying, the Mercedes system may prove to be the team's trump card.