Ferrari’s F-duct design and more pictures from Chinese GP Friday practice

Ferrari's answer to McLaren's F-duct with the inlet (left) taped over
Ferrari's answer to McLaren's F-duct with the inlet (left) taped over

Ferrari ran their version of McLaren ‘F-duct’ device in practice for the Chinese Grand Prix today. But the first pictures of the system suggest it works differently to McLaren’s set-up and is not operated by the driver.

See pictures of it and more from today’s practice sessions below.

As the first picture below shows, Ferrari use their shark fin to direct air onto the rear wing as per McLaren’s system.

But the air intake is situated further towards the front of the shark fin, with no signs of driver operation, as per McLaren’s F-duct. In the picture below it seems to have been taped over, suggesting they didn’t try running the system during practice. Alonso suffered an engine failure in the first practice session.

Ferrari have not copied McLaren’s device exactly. This could be for two reasons – perhaps they prefer this solution or, more likely, perhaps they have not been able to make changes to their chassis to incorporate a McLaren-style system under the rules preventing changes to the chassis construction during the season.

It may be that Ferrari’s device only operates when air flows into the opening at the front of the shark fin fast enough to stall the rear wing when it is passed out at the end of the fin. It is likely that this would only happen above a certain speed, whereas McLaren’s driver-operated system can be used at will, potentially much earlier on a straight, for greater benefit.

Craig Scarborough has drawn similar conclusions on his blog.

See below for more pictures from Friday practice, including Sauber’s similar solution to Ferrari’s which was introduced earlier in the season. Mercedes also tried a new rear wing on Michael Schumacher’s car.

2010 Chinese Grand Prix

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Images (C) Ferrari spa, Bridgestone/Ercole Colombo,, Getty Images/Red Bull, Force India F1 Team, Lotus F1, BMW Sauber F1 Team, Motioncompany, Williams/LAT, Virgin Racing

52 comments on “Ferrari’s F-duct design and more pictures from Chinese GP Friday practice”

    1. I wish they would ban the shark fins full stop (along with the f-ducts which will soon be pointless as everyone will have one) as they look so ugly.

  1. Alonso talks about their F-Duct in an interview with Autosport:

    “The F-system was not active,” he said. “We tested some parts of the engine cover and the rear wing to validate them and to check they worked fine, but the aerodynamicists will now gather data. But the system was not complete.

    “I had nothing inside the cockpit because the system is not complete. We tested the engine cover to compare it with the standard one. I didn’t notice anything. I guess there will some new numbers from an aero point of view.”

    So it doesn’t look different because they are using a diferent approach, but simply because they were testing only a part of it.

  2. The McLaren f-duct is technically legal but seemingly only because it’s driver operated. Does this mean the Ferrari one (assuming that it is activated by speed rather than driver) is a moveable aerodynamic device and thus bannable?

    1. I don’t think the Ferrari one will have moving parts either, it will have been engineered so that the air has to be moving at a certain velocity before it will stall the wing and grant the benefits.

      Think of a ramjet, immensely powerful engine, but doesn’t have any moving parts, and is basically just a hollow tube, although a rather fancy one at that.

    2. the McLaren one isn’t legal because its operated by the driver. Its legal because there are no moving parts. The Ferrari one similarly has no moving parts (as far as we can tell).

      The question over the McLaren one was whether the driver constituted a “moveable part” – which, sensibly, they ruled he isn’t.

  3. Can anyone explain this F-Duct stuff at length please?? as in lamest terms and assume we all have the IQ of a rasin. Keith or anyone? Cuz the thing is normally I like to think I have a strong grasp on this aerodynamics stuff but I just don’t see this thing in my head.

    1. By blowing air downwards over the wing (rather than front to back as per normal) the F-Duct effectively makes the rear wing aerodynamically neutral, reducing drag. This increases your speed in a straight line. When the driver moves their leg in the cockpit and stops the air flowing through the F-Duct, the wing returns to normal ang gives better grip through the corners.

      1. Wait how does it work in terms of pressure above and below the aerofoil? As in how does the air move? around the the rear wing at this point? and people keep saying stalling the wing… but stalling is when you exceed the optimum angle of attack no?

        1. exceeding the angle of attack causes a stall condition. A stall condition isn’t exceeding the angle of attack.

          By changing the airflow around the wing they make it stop producing downforce. This is the same effect as exceeding the angle of attack, it stalls the wing in that in both situations the wing stops producing lift (downforce being lift in the opposite direction).

          Stall is when the wing stops working, it can happen in a number of different ways.

          1. Ive never been happy with the term`stalling the wing`, In a low speed stall the lift cannot counteract the weight, in a angle of attack stall vortices destroy the pressure difference. Neither of these apply to the F duct, the F duct relies on equalizing the pressure difference between the wing surfaces.Place the two books about 4 inches apart on a table. Lay a sheet of paper over the books. Blow hard through a straw in the gap between the books. Now do the same with a straw in your mouth blowing over the top off the paper as well.

    2. In the most layman terms:

      The wings on an F1 car allow them to take corners at fast speeds by creating ‘downforce’ as it moved through the air. The faster the speed the more downforce is created.

      However, this same downforce which is essential for fast cornering actually slows the car down on the straights. This is called drag.

      The f-duct reduces this drag by allowing air to pass under the wing which has the effect of lessening the downforce.

      Less downforce = less drag = more speed.

      1. This insight also helped me: It’s not just the neutralization of drag that helps. Undertand that a car’s “downforce” is actualy down-and-back-force. Because the wings on the car, unlike, say an aeroplane in cruise, are necessarily tipped forward, the aerodynamic force is aimed partially backward. Neutralizing the wing kills off some of this backward downforce as well.

    3. The classic explanation of the working of a airplane wing is: The air on the top (+)
      of the wing, due its curvature, flows faster than the air on the bottom (*). This speed difference leads to different pressure which results in a up force (lift).

      Air flow + +
      -> + +
      + +


      If you look the airplane wings during a landing or takeoff you could admire the working of the flaps (-). The function of the flaps is to increase the wing curvature and, consequently, to induce more lift. (in modern airplanes the flaps are practically hidden inside the wing during the fly)

      Air flow + +
      -> + +
      + +

      flap-> –

      Take a time and look the figure below.

      the f1 rear wing is almost exactly a airplane wing (with flaps) inverted. The lift, them, becomes downforce.

      The F-duct (finally) works simply taking air from other place (front of the car) and placing it on the top of the rear wing. This speeds up the air flow decreasing the pressure/dowforce and also the drag.

      Air flow –
      -> ————> –
      / *******************
      / + +
      / + +
      / + +

  4. Surely the problem with the Ferrari design is that it will work when it is going above a preprescribed speed. Fine when things are going normally, but when the car starts to go out of shape, the McLaren drivers will take their knee off the hole, re-engaging the rear wing. The Ferrari drivers will be unable to do this, meaning that for example in fast corners they will be relying on less downforce.

    Or am I missing something?

    1. that does seem like it would be a problem. however, from what alonso says, this isn’t the finished design. the modifications pictured are probably just to indicate to the engineers what the new engine cover would look like/affect aerodynamic properties of the car.

  5. It seems that Ferrari are just checking to see whether an F-Duct-permitting engine cover will jack up their general aero concept and lead to unintended side-effects. I expect that if it works out, they will route the air through the cockpit like McLaren. If they have to redo the monocoque to punch the three holes necessary, we know Fiat sells enough Tipos to fund that as quick they like. Otherwise, some kind of system that opens and closes based on backpressure waves or harmonics in the inlet is just not going to be predictable and effective in all temperatures, in turbulence, etc.

    1. For sure it won’t be a system opening/closing depending on conditions (pressure, velocity, temperature or whatever) because it would make it a “moving part” which is forbidden ;)

      F-duct depending only on velocity sounds quite good to me, even if it looks too simple though.

    2. “If they have to redo the monocoque to punch the three holes necessary, we know ”

      Monocoques must be homologated.
      That is, they may not be changed

      So, if the Ferrari does not already
      have holes in it ….

      1. I can’t cite the rule but I think this means that the monocoque must be crash tested and otherwise certified. Which is obviously takes time and lots of money, but Ferrari has both.

        1. The rule is 28.7 in the sporting regulations which states:

          “Once homologated, changes to the these parts will only be permitted for clear safety or reliability reasons following written approval from the FIA.”

          So, no changes are allowed on homologated parts such as the survival cell.

  6. I noticed something some time ago, but I mention it now since you can look at it clearly from the pictures. The Lotus´left mirror has some sort of button on it. Anybody knows what that´s for?

      1. no, I don´t think that´s a camera. If you look at the Ferrari pictures, you can see that they also have something different in one of the mirrors, but that´s definitly not a camera…

  7. Couldn’t agree more with Antiriad, the cars are ugly enough since last year’s aerodynamic changes without the grotesque shark fins and pointless F ducts.

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