McLaren’s innovative rear wing has been declared legal by FIA Formula One Race Director Charlie Whiting. The inspection of the wing, which had been postponed, was completed at this weekend’s race venue in Bahrain. Two rival teams, Red Bull and Ferrari, had requested a rules clarification regarding the wing, following paddock controversy surrounding the wing’s design.
The design of the wing fuses the airbox intake, rear dorsal fin and the upper rear wing element into a single aerodynamic device. Air is channeled through secondary airbox intakes, just above the driver’s helmet; then through a duct inside the dorsal fin; then through another duct inside the rear wing element; and finally through a horizontal slot on the rear of the wing, where it merges with the car’s slipstream. The net effect is to reduce drag and increase straight-line speed by approximately 6 mph.
You might wonder if the car’s downforce efficiency would be compromised by channeling air in this manner, but according to a report on ESPNF1, the McLaren drivers will be able to adjust the device (i.e. open or close the air-intake) from the cockpit using a knee-switch. Presumably, they would leave the intake open on long straights where reducing drag is most critical.
As for the legality of the device, while technical regulations prohibit the drivers from making rear wing adjustments from the cockpit, apparently there are no such restrictions regarding driver-control of the airbox intake, even if the airbox is integrated with the rear wing. And McLaren had reason to be confident that they’d made no infraction of the rules, as they’d submitted queries to the FIA at various stages during the design process, and the FIA had provided them with consistently favorable responses.
It seems that Red Bull and Ferrari (especially the latter) weren’t so intent on having the device declared illegal as they were in confirming its legality before embarking on similar upgrades for their own cars. Surely, the memory of last year’s diffuser calamity is fresh in their minds. In 2009, when Brawn dominated the opening rounds of the season, in part, because of their innovative diffuser design, rival teams were left playing catch-up after the FIA ruled that the double-decker diffuser conformed to regulations.
According to paddock gossip, Ferrari already have their own version of the hollow dorsal fin in the making, which, now that the FIA have given their official blessing to the concept, will soon make on appearance on the F60.