BMW Sauber has become the first team to copy the radical F-duct system pioneered by McLaren, as the Swiss outfit fitted its own version of the device to its cars in Melbourne on Thursday.
Just two weeks after the duct idea, which helps stall the rear wing at high speed when a driver closes off a vent in the cockpit, was given the all-clear by the FIA, BMW Sauber has already pushed ahead with its own version of the device. The team's C29s were being fitted with the ducts – which are fitted on either side of the nose in front of the cockpit – at the Albert Park circuit ahead of first practice.
With teams unable to make major changes to their chassis because of homologation regulations, it appears that Sauber has utilized ducts that had previously been used exclusively for cooling last season. It is believed that once the air is channeled through the cockpit, it then travels through the car before being blown out onto the main profile of the rear wing, rather than the upper element as happens with McLaren.
Sauber has not yet decided whether the system will be raced in the Australian Grand Prix, but it wants to give the ducts a proper test in practice to see how effective they are.
The team has been unable to test the effectiveness of the ducts in the wind tunnel because teams are limited to a maximum speed – which is slower than when the ducts become useful on track. Sauber driver Pedro de la Rosa reckoned his team had done the right thing in pushing hard to introduce the technology.
"It is a prototype, and the team has been working the last week flat-out. We just have to be open minded," he said when asked by AUTOSPORT what the team had told him about the ducts. "We have no testing, and this is the first opportunity we have to try it. We have to test it, make sure it works and then decide if it is raceable or not. We just have to have the patience to test it properly."
De la Rosa, who was a McLaren test driver until he took the Sauber drive earlier this year, admitted that he had had some knowledge of what his former outfit was up to – but insisted the Sauber concept was very different.
"Yeah, I knew a little bit about what McLaren was trying," he explained. "But this is a Sauber system. It is a different system."
De la Rosa said that the Sauber design was so new that he had not even worked out how he would activate closing the duct off when driving.
"Honestly, it is so new the system that I have to get in the car and check – where it is, how we do it! So we are in that phase now. I will know more later on today.
"It is a prototype. We are not sure if we will race it or not. We have to develop it, that is the main thing. The earlier you start, the earlier you will have it. And, definitely, it is a system that if you make it work, it makes the car quicker."
He added: "I have been impressed to see how quick the team realized this system was possible. They have come up here with a system that is pretty impressive, from what I have seen. I think that it is a very agile team – it is a very quick-reacting team, and this is something I have realized since day one.
"Sometimes, being smaller than a big team means that sometimes you are prepared to take more risks, and react quicker. That can be a strength. You have to be quicker to react than the big teams."