BMW Sauber has followed the path of McLaren in developing an F-duct venting system to reduce straight line drag. While McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh predicted that the most of the key players on the F1 grid would follow suit after McLaren had introduced the innovation, thus far Sauber has been the only team to do so.
The so-called F-duct system collects air through a snorkel duct in the front of the monocoque, routes it through the cockpit and expels it through the rear wing. The Sauber system apparently differs from McLaren’s, in that that air is finally expelled onto the main profile of the rear wing, rather than the upper element as is the case with the McLaren design.
Also, McLaren’s cars currently have a single snorkel vent on the upper nose of the chassis, in front of the cockpit, while the Sauber arrangement will see two F-ducts on either side of the upper nose.
McLaren were savvy enough to include their design in the homologation of their 2010 chassis, which puts copy-cat teams at something of a disadvantage. If rival teams can’t incorporate the venting within the parameters of their current homologation, they’ll have to go through a time-consuming and costly reapproval process with the FIA. Sauber have cleverly circumvented this issue by utilizing ducting previously used for cockpit ventilation.
Both of Sauber’s C29’s have been outfitted with the new systems in advance of this weekend’s grand prix in Melbourne, however the team is still undecided as to whether the systems will be deployed during the race. Due to current restrictions on wind tunnel testing imposed by the FIA, the team has been unable to test the effectiveness of the system in a simulation of race conditions. Presumably, they’ll test the system during Friday practice, and then make an evaluation.