Sauber copies McLaren duct innovation

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BMW Sauber has unveiled its own version of the still-fairly controversial duct system McLaren pioneered this year.

Multiple sources are providing updates; by my account, Autosport’s is the most thorough.

With teams unable to make major changes to their chassis because of homologation regulations, it appears that Sauber has opted to make modifications to its sidepods instead.

It is believed that once the air is channelled through the car it is then blown out onto the main profile of the rear wing, rather than the upper element as happens with McLaren. It is not clear where the driver is able to influence the airflow.

As well as the duct, Sauber has introduced a slot gap in the middle of the upper element – in similar style to the McLaren design that was approved by the FIA.

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.

Interesting that, once again, the testing limitations are coming into play here.

That Sauber is the first team to follow McLaren (rumors are that Force India might be next) raises two issues in my mind:

1. Sauber must have been running really light during the pre-season testing. [Trying to attract sponsors?] We all expected the team to come out of the gates much quicker than it has. The fact it has made this change suggests to me that Sauber isn’t as fast as it looked.

2. Did anyone think the McLaren duct gave it much of an advantage at Bahrain? If Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button had been well out front, I can see why teams would be copying this design. But… well, I didn’t see the big advantage. But I’m not on the pit wall, either.

It’s something to watch for during practice and then qualifying.


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