With the FIA now having declared the aerodynamics of the McLaren legal, team principal Martin Whitmarsh has dropped a bombshell by subtly hinting that the car features a radical venting system that could see it steal a march on its rivals in the 2010 championship season.
The monocoque air vent was spotted by Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, and has had many of the teams buzzing as to the purpose it serves.
Whitmarsh has all but admitted that this device was part of an incredibly clever air duct system being used through the cockpit.
How the system exactly works is not completely known, and McLaren certainly isn’t going to reveal that to anyone. While Whitmarsh (perhaps) cheekily suggested that the system existed to cool the drivers, a clearer picture has emerged as to how it works.
It is believed that air is sucked into the air duct and channelled into the cockpit, where it is then channelled through the car and out its rear end.
The tunnel is believed, however, to have a hole that the driver can block with his left knee. The cooling air therefore bypasses the cockpit, changing the air pressure in the system and causing the rear wing to ‘stall’. This then reduces rear wing drag and is believed it can produce up to 10km/h in additional straight-line speed.
Despite the fact that – should the speculation regarding this design concept ring true – it is believed that the driver should not be able to manipulate the aerodynamics of the car, the FIA has approved the design of the MP4-25.
With the concept now seemingly given the green light, how long before the other teams move to copy the concept?
But here’s the rub … The 2010 chassis designs are homologated and the team cannot change the structure of the tub other than for safety or reliability reasons. Should teams wish to utilise the design concept themselves, the air vent can only exist in the nose of the car; no doubt at a significant aero penalty.
When speaking with AUTOSPORT, Whitmarsh gloated: "I think there was a ‘what is it?’ question initially, then there was ‘it can’t be legal’. Now people are starting to understand it, there is ‘how quickly can we implement it?’ Most people are saying that it is something quite ingenious. This was a very creative and ingenious individual in our company who came up with the idea and we’ve developed it."
Whether or not its in the spirit of the regulations is entirely another matter…