During Friday free practise, less than 30 minutes into the 2010 season and the first controversy / legal battle of the year seems to firmly in place and it’s all about McLaren’s fancy rear wing system with drivers being able to control air-flow over it and make the car quicker in a straight line – all very clever indeed, but “not in the spirit of the rules” according to the Renault boss Bob Bell who was wearing his heart firmly on his sleeve and claimed “it’s a joke” – he really wasn’t happy.

Unhappy: Renault's MD, Mr Bob Bell - image credit: Renault F1

So what’s he getting his knickers in a twist about?  If you look at the McLaren car that’s being driven by Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, you’ll notice one big difference – the odd looking engine cover which pretty much connects to the rear wing.  But the big problem is not with that, but with a ‘venting system’ in the cockpit.  Both McLarens have a little air intake on the nose where air can rush in at high speed and then using their knee, the drivers can open and close a hole which open and closes airflow around the cockpit and throught he fin-like engine cover and onto the rear wing.

All sounds a bit technical, but in short, this creates and advantage to the McLaren cars because the the drivers can effectively control the rear wing’s stability.  By creating a change in air pressure flowing over the rear wing they can make it stiff and hence create less drag in a straight-line and give the cars a straight-line speed advantage over everyone else.  The very fact that this is driver controlled and has been approved by the FIA is what’s making Bob Bell very unhappy.

We doubt it’s just Bob Bell, he’s just the first to openly make his complaints to the media.  A protest to be lodged after Bahrain?  For sure, maybe.

As for a name for this potential saga – “knee-gate” seems to be gather pace as a name, but what about “wing gate” or “vent-gate” or “oh-no-not-another-legal-battle-gate” – ideas anyone?

images: autosport, LAT and Sutton