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McLaren’s clever diffuser trick surprisingly not adopted by rivals

Credits: Getty Images

McLaren’s technical director James Key is surprised that other teams didn’t adopt McLaren’s clever diffuser trick, as he thinks the regulations were clear and it was a pretty ‘obvious’ design.

During the three days of testings in Bahrain, a few technical improvements or tricks stood out like Mercedes’s very complex floor or McLaren’s diffuser trick. Indeed, you might have noticed a surprising piece in the middle of McLaren’s diffuser that is longer than the other diffuser’s parts on the sides. This is a design that no other team has adopted yet.

However, the design seems legal. Indeed, let’s take a quick look at the Formula One regulations in which we can read: 

“All sprung parts of the car situated behind a line of 175mm in front of the rear wheel centerline, which are visible from underneath and are more than 250mm from the car center plane, must be at least 50mm above the reference plane.”

This very long rule is actually very simple to understand: You are not allowed to include pieces to your diffuser that are longer than 50mm if they’re placed more than 250mm away from the vertical centerline of the car. This also means that as long as you are within 250mm from your car’s vertical centerline, your diffuser’s parts are not limited to a size of 50mm.

Another rule states that any parts inside this 250mm area should produce “a single and continuous curve when intersected with any horizontal plane.”

MCL35M’s Diffuser Credits: Motorsport Images

This is the reason why McLaren should be allowed to use their very clever diffuser trick. James Key was therefore very surprised that no other team utilized this part of the regulations:

“It is a normal design idea, and actually I think we are a bit surprised that maybe we’re the only team with that.”

The technical director is also confident about the legality of this part regarding the second rule concerning the shape of the part.

“You need the CAD screen to see it because you’re taking cross-sections of a 3D surface, so it’s fair to question I suppose when it’s difficult to tell without that CAD data to prove it’s within the boxes it should be in and to prove it’s a continuous surface. But that’s really all it is.”

The 49 years old Briton also explained that if the other teams are willing to implement a similar part on their cars, they would require three to five weeks in order to design, test, and produce the part.

“I think the first port of call with any idea you see out there is CFD, so I think you can jump on an idea that you spot on another team within a week easily nowadays.

“Then it’s really understanding how it works with your car. That’s the key to this. You can then end up with a unique geometry of your own because you might understand the principle, but then you have to adapt it accordingly that it works with your car,” he added, underlining how important it is to implement new aero parts in a good environment in order to get the biggest performance boost possible.

All in all, even if other teams don’t think it is worth it to add the same part to their cars, it is always very pleasant to see how engineers are constantly pushing their limits to get the tiniest improvements possible on their cars. This is part of F1’s magic and we can be happy that such talented engineers are dedicating their lives to the sport.

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