everything you need to know about the flexi-wing controversy
Written by Bruna Brito, Edited by Hazel Alagappan
The Federation Internationale Automobile (FIA) is bringing new tests to the French Grand Prix to verify the use of mobile and more flexible rear wings (Flexi-Wings, as they have been nicknamed).
The newest conversation in the paddock is now about a potential protest in either of the next two races, with McLaren in particular saying it is “unacceptable” that some teams continue to get gains from flexible wings.
For Monaco, this should not be a very contentious issue, since the hopes of making a time profit with flexible wings are minimal due to the short straights. But Baku’s layout is absolutely perfect for a flexible wing. And that advantage, which McLaren is particularly unhappy with, has opened the door to a potential protest, although all cars at the moment pass current tests, giving more two races to test this technology.
However the final decision of the interpretation on the regulament isn’t made by FIA, but by FIA employees at the circuit. So even though all flexible wings are currently undergoing tests to the satisfaction of the FIA, this does not automatically mean that the commissioners would agree with the legality of the projects if they were pressured by a decision through a protest. Which creates a lack of misunderstanding between decisions.
The technical guidelines of the FIA, in which teams are informed about new tests and interpretations of rules, always bring a reminder at the end of each page.
“Any opinions from the FIA sources above are of an advisory nature and have not been notified of Technical Regulations,” says.
“It is up to the Commissioners and, ultimately, the International Court of Appeal of the FIA, to offer binding interpretations of the Technical Regulations.”
Therefore, the only way to regulate the legality of cars with flexible wings is, in fact, through the FIA track employees.
However, the FIA’s technical director, Nikolas Tombazis, made clear his views on the governing body’s position on believing that the teams may be violating the rules. He wrote that the FIA was aware of wings that have passed current motion tests, but “still exhibit excessive deflections while cars are in motion”.
“We believe that such deformations can have a decreasing influence on the aerodynamic performance of the car and, therefore, can be considered a violation of the provisions of Article 3.8 (Aerodynamic Influence), which requires that all components that influence the locked aerodynamic performance of the cars remain rigidly to the fully suspended part of the car ‘and’ will remain immobile in relation to the suspended part of the car, ”he added.
If a protest team provided video evidence of wing flexion, coupled with TD, then it would have a strong case to propose to flight attendants that the rules prohibiting flexible chassis were being violated.
“In principle, I’m not a big fan of protesting against other teams and cars,” said McLaren boss Andreas Seidl.
“So, as I said, we are in dialogue with the FIA, to understand what they are going to put into practice, in order to ensure that the teams that designed devices or parts that allow things you saw in Barcelona, simply do not set them aside from now on. And then we started from there. “
Asked about the likelihood of a protocol in the next race, speaking to Sky Sports F1, Toto Wolff, Mercedes Team Principal said: “Yes. I think if it’s flexible wings in Baku, with the advantage that we see, that will go to the flight attendants. “
In contrast, Horner suggested that a Mercedes front wing on the W12 is just as illegal as a rear wing on his own car.
Wolff, however, countered: “We have analyzed the front wings and they are folding in exactly the same way as Red Bull, so we can protest against each other on a front wing as well.”
“But it is clear that the rear wing curves more than it should, according to the rules. It was assessed as non-compliant, but we are left in a vacuum, where new tests will be introduced after Baku. “
“So it is what it is, but we are quite robust in our legal position and that is an advantage for them.”
“They won fairly in Monaco,” said Wolff. “The wing had nothing to do with Red Bull’s performance. They were simply better. This is what you need to congratulate them ”, finished.
For those who may be lost amid so much speculation and accusations, let’s remember where these rumors of the wings came from:Mercedes, the german team, was the target of a protest by Red Bull over its dual-axle steering system at the Austrian Grand Prix last year.
The decision was to change the mechanisms according to the regulations, regarding the holes in the rear wheel rims of Mercedes cars, designed to help blow air and control the temperature of the tires.
At the time, Ferrari commented on the design, disapproving it, because according to the Italian team, the concept of ‘cube’ was similar to that of Red Bull, which had been banned from using in 2012.
While the FIA said it was satisfied with the Mercedes design, Scuderia remained uneasy.
Toto Wolff’s team, having been alerted to a potential protest, decided to voluntarily modify the designs of the wheel rims to avoid the threat.
In conclusion, it is an unclear situation, since the decisions are based on incidents supported by the live work of the employees along the circuits, however in the midst of a fierce battle for the championships, the teams seem to have made more accusations verbally than formalize a complaint.