Ross Brawn, Formula One’s managing director of motorsport, believes that the FIA has consistently enforced rule regarding flexible bodywork, and he would be ‘amazed’ if a protest against Red Bull’s rear wing at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix is successful.
Video evidence showed Red Bull’s rear wing flexing down on the straights, creating an aerodynamic advantage, leading Mercedes to question whether Red Bull’s rear wing was legal.
A Formula One technical regulation (Article 3.8) states that all aerodynamic components must be “rigidly secured to the entirely sprung part of the car” and “remain immobile in relation to the sprung part of the car”.
A static load test was conducted on Red Bull’s rear wing during scrutineering under Articles 3.9.3 and 3.9.4, but rivals claim the video footage is evidence that the wing violates Article 3.8.
After the Spanish Grand Prix, the FIA responded with a technical directive that stated that “such deformations … could be deemed to contravene the provisions of Article 3.8”, advising teams that they would be introducing new load-deflection tests beginning June 15.
The timing of the new tests, which were delayed to give smaller teams time to adjust their designs, means the design used by Red Bull passed scrutineering in Monaco and will do so again at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix next weekend.
In the lead-up to the Monaco Grand Prix, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff criticized the technical directive as “half-baked”, saying that delays in introducing the new tests left “a legal vacuum and leaves the door open for protests”.
As a result of the rejected protest, he went on to caution that the matter could end up in the International Court of Appeal, creating a “messy situation” that might cause the race result to be in the air for several weeks.
It is likely that Azerbaijan will face protests, as a flexing rear wing structure provides the capacity to gain a significant advantage on the long straights.
However, Ross Brawn doesn’t believe there will be any issues next weekend.
“I think the FIA have been pretty consistent with their approach. I’d be amazed if the stewards go against the opinion of the FIA.”
“I think this is probably flexi rear wing version 27 [in Formula One’s history].”
“In 40 years of motor racing, I’ve been through this many times.
“I can remember [Williams technical director] Patrick Head jumping on our front wing in parc ferme because he considered that it wasn’t stiff enough.
“He wanted to demonstrate to Charlie [Whiting, FIA race director] that it wasn’t stiff enough, so he actually stood on it and bounced up and down to demonstrate how flexible it was.
“There are a set of FIA tests and that’s the only way we have been able to determine the limits of what you can do.
“If you pass the tests and some [rival] teams don’t like it, the FIA can look at it, say ‘fair point’ and stiffen the tests and do different tests, so it’s perpetual.
“I honestly don’t believe there is any case for going in a different route to solve the problem, because I don’t know how you quantify it.
“One person’s view of it being too flexible is another person’s view of it being OK, and that’s why we have the tests.
“If you put a mechanism in there or a hinge in there, I agree that’s not correct.
“But within the normal compliance of the structure, I don’t see a problem,” said Brawn.