When Adrian Newey said a mysterious ‘letterbox slot’-shaped air inlet in the stepped nose of his new RB8 car is for driver cooling, a wave of speculation eased. But not everyone inside the F1 paddock was entirely happy with that answer.
When the 2012 Red Bull was launched recently, it was apparent the ‘step’ nose design differed from its rivals in the form of a sizeable inlet where the monocoque meets the new mandatory lower nose height. Some surmised it must be for KERS cooling, or perhaps even an F-duct style channel through to the diffuser. Amid suggestions Mercedes has come up with an F-duct style channel in its 2012 front wing, Red Bull designer Newey explained that the nose slot is in fact simply to cool the drivers.
“Traditionally the driver cooling slot is at the front of the nose,” explained Newey, “but really for styling as much as anything we moved it to where you now see it to break up the aesthetics of the ramp.”
There are, however, doubts about that explanation, particularly with close-up images showing that the main inlet is actually divided into two channels at the middle.
Indeed, the Telegraph last week quoted Newey as having said the slot is “primarily” for cooling, which suggests that it might have another use.
According to Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, “the competition is suspicious”, having already been outsmarted by Newey in past years in the area of flexing wings and blown diffusers. When asked about Newey’s driver-cooling explanation for the big letterbox slot-style inlet, an unnamed rival engineer smiled: “Then the drivers are going to get their feet wet when it rains.”
Asked last week about the ‘cooling inlet’ amid Jerez’s cold temperatures, Mark Webber reportedly grinned to Autosprint: “The toes are a bit too cold now actually.”