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F1 Advent Calendar 2010 (Day 1) - Speculate to innovate - New technology kicks off the start of another tricky season

Published by Christine

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Hello and welcome to the F1 Advent Calendar 2010. In this extended mini series, I'll pick out the highlights and low points of the 2010 season, the things that shaped the year that was. Each show will be roughly three minutes long, and by the time we reach the end, we'll have covered everything. Let us begin, then with pre-season goings on - Speculate to innovate.

In the winter tests, before the season began, we were initially distracted by the mixed fortunes of the three new teams. HRT had not managed to complete their preparations to make the test days, but Virgin Racing and Lotus Racing were present, if not doing particularly well. However, as soon as the existing teams began running, we knew there were other things to be looking out for.

McLaren introduced the concept of the F-Duct, something that immediately caused controversy and concern. The premise was to provide drivers with a means of directing airflow to the rear wing from their cockpit. In the McLaren, a duct stuck up on the nose of the car, allowing air flow through to the cockpit. When the car was on a straight, the drivers could stick their left knee over the duct to direct the airflow towards the rear wing. Stalling the wing made the cars a couple of tenths quicker. Approaching a corner, the drivers would release the duct, partly to bring the wing back into play, and of course partly because they needed their leg to begin braking. The safety concerns came from the questions - does a driver really need yet another thing to think about, and should they really be having to position their bodies in certain ways?

It was clear that the device was particularly innovative, and other teams sat up and took notice. It was a race to try and bring a version of the F-Duct to all the cars on the grid, as the lap time savings were notable and useful at many tracks. Sauber brought it to the track first, although for practice only and not in the race. Renault were the first team to get it right first time, no tweaks required, but not until mid-way through the year in Spa.

On the other end of the scale, Toro Rosso were still testing the device when we got to Abu Dhabi, and their F-Duct never made it onto the car in race conditions. They may have missed out this year, but for 2011 the device is banned, so they will no longer be on the back foot. In terms of F-ducts anyway.

Red Bull were busy with their own new ideas. Newey debuted the idea of an exhaust driven diffuser. Essentially the exhausts were mounted lower down so that the gases were pushed into the diffuser, creating downforce - handy in the corners. Red Bull's creation was such that the engine could run full steam throughout all of qualifying. Even when a driver lifted off to make the corners, the engine would keep going as though the pedal was to the floor - whilst still allowing the speed to drop to make the corner. The exhaust gases would still be full steam, and the downforce would be continuous throughout the lap. The team could only run this in qualifying as it is incredibly inefficient on fuel. A couple of laps maximum, before heading back in to top up.

The exhaust driven diffuser worked really well, and it wasn't until Canada, the eighth round of the season, that anyone other than Red Bull was on pole position.

That is all for this first episode of the F1 Advent Calendar 2010. Thank you for joining me. We have twenty-four more episodes coming up, and the next will be around about this time. I hope you'll be back to see what event will be behind the window of Day 2.

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