Flexing wings and more reliability woes (Red Bull race review) (Video)

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As at Silverstone, Red Bull’s front wings were the centre of attention before the race at Hockenheim – but for a very different reason.

The new front wings were observed to be flexing at high speeds, allowing parts of the wing to move closer to the ground and operate more efficiently.

Sebastian Vettel Mark Webber
Qualifying position 1 4
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’13.791 (-0.556) 1’14.347
Race position 3 6
Average race lap 1’18.567 (-0.574) 1’19.141
Laps 67/67 67/67
Pit stops 1 1

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Sebastian Vettel

Started from his sixth pole position of the season and third in a row. But, just like at Silverstone, he didn’t so much as lead a lap of the race.

Vettel got away slowly and darted right in a fruitless attempt to keep Fernando Alonso behind, which ended up letting Felipe Massa through as well.

With the front runners setting a fast pace his team were able to bring him in early in an attempt to get past Alonso. But it didn’t work, and Vettel was seldom close to the Ferraris from that moment on.

Compare Sebastian Vettel’s form against his team mate in 2010

Mark Webber

The movement of Red Bull’s much-discussed ‘flexi-wing’ was clear to see on their cars during the race – and Vettel’s at Silverstone. The same movement was not apparent at Valencia.

Watch how the top of the endplates on Webber’s front wing slowly dip as he builds up speed on the straight, then quickly rise as he begins to decelerate:

The FIA tests wings to ensure they do not deflect excessively and had Red Bull’s wings not complied with those tests then they wouldn’t have been allowed to race them. The same goes for Ferrari who had a similar wing, though the degree of deflection was harder to spot on video.

In other words, the wings are legal to the letter of the law and if the FIA wishes to ban them it’ll have to change its rules to do so. In the meantime expect other teams to show up with their versions of the wing very soon.

If the flexi-wing shows one of Red Bull’s characteristics this year – aggressive development in the pursuit of better performance – Weber’s race was spoiled by their other defining trait: unreliability.

Webber was told by the team to leave a four-second gap to Jenson Button, who he was chasing, in order to keep his oil temperatures down.

He had led Button before the pit stops but lost time behind Nico Rosberg, allowing Button to get ahead of him.

Webber ended the race in sixth and the two Red Bull drivers are now level on championship points.

Compare Mark Webber’s form against his team mate in 2010

2010 German Grand Prix

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    Image (C) Red Bull/Getty images

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    66 comments on “Flexing wings and more reliability woes (Red Bull race review) (Video)”

    1. Not as bad as Button’s with that superduper wing camera he had on this weekend ;)

      1. at least at the european gp ferrari wings dont flex as much as red bull or mclaren maybe because it isnt that developed smaller bridge than mclarenswww.youtube.com/watch?v=iPIFZ2oxPRs

    2. Wow that is very very clear. You see it flex really hard.
      Never tought it could be this hard.

      1. It’s not as obvious as it seems. The suspension wishbones also have some travel in a braking zone which at first glance looks like the wing flexes a lot more than it does.

        Check the wishbones against the mirrors, and also put your mouse cursor over the endplate, and you’ll notice it doesn’t move that much.

      2. im quite surprised that no one noticed that red bull wings flex since the 1st gp of last year the first spec front wing of the rb5 which was copied by some teams like mclaren and hrt flexing is very common i reckon that every team has designed their wings to flex as much as permited by the fia we simply dont pay much attention former f1 drivers say that sometimes that flex effect on the wings looks worse because the car is getting lower with speed

        RedBull gives you wings
        silverstone 2009 after the hangar straight is very visible
        on the braking points 09 turkey

        Mclaren tv pod isnt very clear but with some attention you can see

        Ferrari the wing doesnt flex but the nose drops with speed as expected

        Force india very slight movement

        1. Well they were doing something in December testing at the end of 09…


          Unless teams always use these or the wires are for something different?

          1. nice pics i think it is a clear proof that redbull was concerned about the wings movement

    3. Maybe redbull has a flexifloor too. This would be good for te rear of the car when accompanied with EBD and DDD. Flexifloor was used by Ferrari in 2007 so has been seen in f1 before but I’m not 100% if it’s even legal nowadays…

      1. Johnny Legg
        27th July 2010, 1:04

        i’m wondering if its not the wing thats flexing. maybe the section of nose cone is the part that dose the flexing, like the flexi floor?

        or maybe some sort of clever fixing on the nose that allowed a bit of flex: remember Vettel’s fancy new wing falling of in practice at silverstone? looked a bit odd

        1. Maybe it’s not the wing or nose cone that flexes, maybe it’s the joiner between the nose and chassis, but I’m not sure that would work.

      2. Wasn’t it used at Melbourne for Kimi’s win and then banned from then on? So I’m guessing a flexi-floor is not legal.

        1. Craig Sipple
          27th July 2010, 7:08

          The flexi wing is illeagle but Red Bull are running it. Why not the floor.

      3. @Calum,

        Ferris flexifloor was not legal in 2007. It was the whole reason that Stepney decided to leak the info to Maclaren. I am pretty sure Ferrari got away scott free with it though apart from being ordered to take it off for subsequent races. Apparently there were aspects of the design that were specifically designed to hide the function from the FIA. This however was back when Ferrari and the FIA were lovers, I am not sure they would get away so lightly this season.

        I am baffled by the wing decision though unless there is allowance for a certain amount of natural flex from high loading.

    4. The pressure on that front wing, with that flexing, could have had something to do with the mounting failure at Silverstone.

      1. I doubt it, since it was the mounting hardware that connects the nose to the chassis that failed. Once they swapped out the hardware there were no more problems.

        1. As US_Peter says, the Silverstone failure was because the new nose hadn’t been fitted to the car properly.

          1. Maybe Red Bull tried out a new fitting, that allows the nose to dip down under load? ;-)

    5. That’s some impressive engineering if they can make it flex enough for a performance gain, but not enough that it would be illegal.

    6. not enough to be illegal… well they know how it’s tested and work around that.

      Now we know why Newey wanted it to be raced so hard.

    7. Josh1999.94
      27th July 2010, 1:04

      I’m not convinced by this video alone. I’m always watching onboard footage of cars and you can see the wings going down as the cars accelerate, and then go up again as they brake. That’s just downforce. I’m not denying that their wings do flex, I’m just saying I don’t think this video is the best evidence.

      1. Josh1999.94
        27th July 2010, 1:07

        Hmm, actually, watching it again, it is as though it is slanting to one side, and it is wobbling around more than it does with just downforce. I’m more convinced now…

      2. As I said in the article, compare it to an onboard video from Valencia and the difference is clear to see.

    8. I have been banging on about the RB6 wing flex since as far back as the Chinese grand prix. I even made an animated gif to highlight the extent of it at the time, for thoes interested here it is:

      RB6 china

      The same amount of flex has also been observed at several GP’s since.

      The fundimentals of this design was being clearly tested during the winter as shown here with the load sensors:

      here and here.


      1. Nice work Bernard, you can clearly see from the red reference lines just how much that wing is flexing.

        It would be lovely to be able to measure it.

      2. nicey done. it appears the range of movement has increased since china.

      3. Great sluthing! I wonder if that was what they were testing. The second picture kind of gives me the impression that they may have been testing the torsional flex of the front wing.

      4. Here is the German grand prix version:

        RB6 Germany

        I chose the lap with the telemetry in order to dispel the theory that the car is under braking or similar irrelevancies. :)

        Also, as noted by Alex the red lines (and arrows in this image) are to prove that the wing is moving relative to the monocoque.

        1. Welshslider
          28th July 2010, 15:10


          It would be really interesting to see if you do another of those GIFs from another team to see if they have the same flexibilty. All wings have some flex but is it as much as the Red Bulls?

          1. Here are a couple showing McLaren and Ferrari:

            MP4-25 Great Britain

            F10 Europe (Valencia)

      5. I’ve now also added Valencia to the mix:

        RB6 Europe (Valencia)

        1. Nice comparisons Bernard.

          It seems the tips of the wing really duck down under load, although part of the difference in height compared with the tyres is due to load on the suspension (look at the position of the wishbones, straight/down) it is very large.

          1. Comparing to the tyres is not a good idea hence why the images compare the flex to the monocoque as shown by the red lines.

            The tyres seem to gain diameter at speed probably due to the centrifugal forces exerted on them.

    9. There was a video of this at the beginning of the season that was pointed out at a forum I visit often. I think the footage was taken during Malaysia or China but it certainly showed this same effect.

    10. If they are now equal on points, who will get priority with any upgrades if they screw it up like in gbr?

      1. Technically Webber still leads as he has 3 wins to Vettel’s 2, so if they find themselves with only 1 upgrade again it should go to Webber.

        1. spanky the wonder monkey
          27th July 2010, 10:20

          but seb is the golden child…..

    11. I think Kudos must however go to Adrian Newey.

      1. yeah right on..

        no other team is coming up with these developments themselves, but he is able to not only have the idea, but make it work well before any other team gets near. McLaren’s F-Duct being the only exception really. Everyone else is just copying him over the course of the season.

    12. Guio Oblepias
      27th July 2010, 9:08

      you said that the wings weren’t doing flexing in Valencia, but that was where I first observed this. I was watching the onboard footage of one of the Red Bulls and I noticed that the wing was dipping on the straights. I thought it was really cool but assumed that it was normal for the wings to do that at high speeds. their wings at Germany do dip a little lower though, and look quite wobbly.

      1. The Red Bull front wing flex was observed early on in the season.

        I saw it myself too when looking at comparisons to check the ride height. It was pretty obvious that at speed the winglets on the Red Bull front wings disappeared from the on-board camera view.

    13. While newer is an excellant designer, he is just the head of a whole team of designers. I think it’s unfair that he is always the one given credit for the success of the RB6 when there are at least another 30 people on the job!

    14. I have heard that the front wing is flexing only in an area where, at the moment, there are no deflection tests carried out.

      Very clever, but I expect the FIA will quickly shift the goalposts (as they did with Ferrari’s floor) to stop this loophole being exploited.

    15. I don’t understand properly the benefit of this wing. I assumed it gave extra downforce, as if it flexes in a way which makes it more efficient as speed builds I thought that would give downforce and drag at the wrong time when you want straight line speed. And if the wing coming closer to the ground and becoming more efficient actually reduces downforce and drag, then it has not been of much benefit as McLaren still have a massive straight-line speed advantage. Unless having it flex in the straights means they can increase the wing for cornering without harming their straight-line performance. Can somebody please explain how/why the flexi wing works? (I also assumed that the wing woud have to angle slightly as it flexed in a way which would increase wing angle and drag rather than reduce it)

      1. I believe you are right – the flexible front wing is detrimental to straight line speed but highly advantageous for high-speed cornering. But you need to look at the combination of tools available to the drivers – f-duct, exhaust blown diffuser, engine mapping, adjustable flap, flexible front wings, and probably a myriad of other things still unknown to us – when used in different combinations produce different results.

    16. Re Webber: “He had led Button before the pit stops but lost time behind Nico Rosberg, allowing Button to get ahead of him.”

      I cannot believe these teams spend millions on developing and racing cars but don’t seem able to perform simple tactical calculations: If you are 18 seconds in front of another car and it takes 20 seconds to pit and change tyres then you are always going to be behind when you exit.

      I suspect Marko made the call ;)

      1. Mark Avelli
        27th July 2010, 12:51

        Is “oil temperature” the new “conserve fuel” instruction I wonder?

      2. BreezyRacer
        27th July 2010, 12:52

        To a point I agree, but also consider that you only SUSPECT everyone else’s plans, you don’t know them. If someone comes in on the same lap, or a mid packer plans their stop 10 laps later and you get stuck behind him, your plans are foiled.

        The real problem in F1 these days is the lack of ability to pass at venues like Germany this last weekend. That drags out the team orders and makes track position too important.

      3. Webber was losing a lot of time behind Hamilton whose lap times had increased after lap eight. In retrospect, it would have made more sense for them to keep him out, assuming his tyre were up to it. But it’s very easy to say that with hindsight – they had no way of knowing when Hamilton was going to pit.

        1. Webber may have been losing time to the leaders but he was never going to pit that lap and get out in front of Kubica or Rosberg and he only just made it out in front of Kobayashi, even after the 3rd best pit stop of the race.

          Vettel only just made it out in front of them on the previous lap and he was miles ahead. Webber was gaining about half a second a lap on Kubica and Rosberg so maybe in 3 to 5 laps time it would have become a realistic option.

          Probably the only way he could have jumped Hamilton by pitting when he did was *if* Hamilton came in on the same lap and *if* Hamilton’s pit stop went wrong, but he was always going to lose time to everyone else, including the leaders *and* Button.

          Hindsight wasn’t necessary, it was obvious at the time.

          Perhaps the only positive that came out of it was Webber was forced to overtake Rosberg in a vain effort to protect his position from Button. Or at least that’s what the live timing showed – you would never have known it from the coverage. Perhaps this was the only “real” overtake in the top 10 after the first lap?

    17. The suspension moves 20mm from no load to full downforce load, because you are measuring relative to the tyres that move, the flex is actually very minimal. For a precise measurement you would have to measure against the nose cone.

    18. Dave Gardiner
      27th July 2010, 12:41

      It seems pretty widely accepted that the Red Bulls produce the most downforce of any of the current F1 cars, so surely by definition, that means that their wings will deflect more than anyone elses?

      1. Their downforce advantage comes from their highly developed blown diffuser. I have heard that Maclarens front wing is one of the best out there but theirs does not deflect. It seems to me that the deflection helps minimise the drag at high speed. If the comments about the flex not being at the part measured by the FIA then those that make these rules are dumber than I thought (How hard is it to say that no part of the wing is allowed below a certain height and only a certain amount of tip flex is allowed?) But hey if it is legal it is legal and the others must now follow.

        1. Dave Gardiner
          27th July 2010, 13:03

          I would have thought that with the huge amount of downforce available to Red Bull at the rear, just to get some aerodynamic balance, their front wing would have to also be producing huge amounts of downforce though?

          1. I think because the diffuser generates the downforce a little further forward than the rear wing they naturally produce a quite balanced downforce. Obviously they still need a good front wing but I am not sure it needs to produce more than anyone else. As I said, I have heard that Maclarens front end is superb but they are loosing out as the blown diffuser on the red bulls (and now ferraris) produces lots of low drag downforce where as the wings increase drag substantially to produce the same force.

    19. I hope to find an audience here atleast.

      I hope this comment isn’t drowned in a gush of “Ferrari team order comments”.

      But does anyone find it peculiar that Vettel right after his pit-stop came out in clean air, whereas Webber came out in a huge amount of traffic which ultimately cost him position to Button.

      Team-tactics? That loss of position allowed Vettel and Webber to be on exact equal points!!

      1. There’s a quote somewhere about not attributing to malice what can be easily be explained by incompetence. All year the Red Bull tactics have been hopeless and have cost Webber a lot of points but also Vettel at times.

    20. The whole Ferrari furore has left Sebastian from really facing what was another embarrasing start. It’s strange, he usually doesn’t struggle off the line, but that’s two races now, and this time he looked even worse by his ridiculous squeezing of Alonso at turn one, seemingly forgetting that he left most of the track on his left wide open.

      1. I think he is feeling the pressure – in Silverstone he failed to start well, giving the lead to his teammate. It seems that his home GP and Silverstone combined to heave more pressure on his shoulders, making him now focus on not letting the guy next to him through. If he has pole in Hungary, will we see him stay in the middle and swerve?

        I am not convinced by him anymore, for me he is fast, but not such an all-around good driver (yet). He needs to calm down, look around him, and work on his weaknesses.

        1. Vettel has not had poor starts off the line at all. If you watch his movement at silverstone and germany you will see that he matches the cars next to him. His car seems to have a big pull to the right though (they really should straighten the wheels out). He therefore travels further to the first corner and ultimately looses out. Not at all clever and potentially dangerous if he ever succeeds in causing the other driver to hit the wall.

          1. BreezyRacer
            27th July 2010, 16:23

            A “pull to the right”???? LOL !

    21. The wing-dip works by creating ground-effect—it adds a diffuser-like effect to the wing—and possible also by changing the angle of attack on the winglets.

      Bernards’ photos tell it all. You can see that there are two cables, with one going to the little endplate-mounted winglet we see flexing in the video and the other to the endplate. This tells me that they are getting an angle of attack benefit from that winglet because there is no ground effect working there, and probably reaping some ground-effect as well.

      It’s weird that McLaren didn’t note this until last weekend. I also note that McLaren, post spy-gate, is not playing hardball on these things. For example they were all over Ferrari about the flexi floor and their little front wing separation device Ferrari also had banned. Now they are all, “hey Stefano we read in a French paper about your illegal wings, you sly dog!”

      I’m not so keen to dismiss the Silverstone theory. I imagine that iwth the Abbey bump, the massive increase in downforce generated by that corner with the wing deflection, took the nose-mounts out of their spec. Newey does not make cars more robust than necessary.

      1. You might be right on the ground effect making it possible. Or maybe what Paul A writes down is how they do it.

        And as for McLaren, it seems they were never planning to protest, just do as they did with their planned ride height system, i.e. clear what the FIA will allow for and go on to make it work on their car (http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/85576)

    22. Just getting back to the title of this article (Flexing wings), the rule book has a number of entries that help define the design characteristics of the front wing; they are all applicable when the car is sitting still, and only one is truly applicable to flexing. It says:
      “3.17.1 Bodywork may deflect no more than 10mm vertically when a 500N load is applied vertically to it 800mm forward of the front wheel centre line and 795mm from the car centre line. The load will be applied in a downward direction … ”
      It is fairly obvious that the stewards have found that the wings comply (reported widely in the press) so the two questions that remain are (a) is photo or video evidence reliable compared to the official test? and (b) what are the loads involved?
      I would point out that 3.17.1 is a static test but the wings are working in a dynamic environment where there will be an increasingly positive downforce effect when using the 10mm to best advantage. The visual effect is going to be complicated by the fact that under 4 or 5g braking the front of the car will dip, maybe up to the limit of suspension travel plus a decrease in tyre radius. But far more important is whether or not at speeds approaching 300kph the downforce could exceed 500 newtons (approx kilos.) From a fluid dynamics point of view this is quite possible, if not probable – and if this is the case, then the flexing could legally exceed 10mm.
      This is just another case of writing too many rules in a too detailed manner – all the teams look for loopholes – and until the FIA radically simplify the rulebook it does not stand any chance of trying to introduce a sportsmanlike “spirit of the rules” approach compared to “the letter of the law.”

    23. We also don’t know how the weight is applied. The rules state a 50mm ram is applied downward, with some kind of 300mmx150mm adapter if necessary. Where is the ram hitting the wing? Anyway, it seems possible that you could have the top of the winglet resist the ram completely but have the bottom area of the endplate flex as much as you please.

      Alternatively, I think you are right in suggesting that if you actually use up all of the 10mm allowance, you may be able to then tip the wing into a ground-effect situation where it gets pulled down ever harder the lower it goes. Those end plates are now really mini-diffusers anyway with their cups and strakes.

      In any event, I’d like to hear a good explanation of why RBR was testing the deflection of wings with those wires when the test for legality is the one the FIA spells out.

    24. Just an observation here ,: the wing is supposed to deflect upwards while the car accelerates , but the RBR car actually decreases under braking . this theory is applicable even in road cars where when you stamp on the throttle the car front of the car seems to rise and jerks you backwards and if you stamp on the brakes the front decreases forcing you forwards . The redbull front end does not follow this simple principle and that makes it weird

    25. Skilled engineers can design the wing to deflect by < 10mm (for example 10.48mm if you round) to comply with regulations. The trick is allowing the wing to deflect more (i.e. irregularly) past the threshold point which implies they have internal composites stressing to exactly the right levels to stoop and pick up ground effects.

      Imagine a piece of paper skimming across a smooth desk – that is a perfect example of ground effect. It both causes the car to 'float' and 'glues' it at the same height all at once. The board under the car is meant to prevent this, but looks like they've figured a way around that one with other aero updates.

      Well done RBR, can't wait till McLaren do similar and run away with both championships.

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