McLaren “don’t understand” Red Bull’s wing

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McLaren engineering director Paddy Lowe admitted the team are struggling to understand how Red Bull and Ferrari’s flexing front wings work.

Speaking in the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in he said:

We believe, and we’re not alone, that two cars – Ferrari and Red Bull – that have wings existing at a much lower position than we’re able to deliver.

There’s a difference of a reasonably large degree that we’ve got to explain by relatively subtle effects such as fuel weight, tyre pressure, difference in the straight or low-speed set-up. These things affect to a car to a relatively small degree, much smaller than the difference we’ve seen in the pictures.

So there is a phenomenon that we’re seeing, we just don’t understand it. So what we’re doing at the moment is working really hard to try and understand it and see if it’s got performance and whether we can deliver that.
Paddy Lowe

However he believes there is more to come from the team’s exhaust-blown diffuser which will help them reduce the performance gap to their championship rivals in the meantime:

We’re a couple of races behind Ferrari in introduction and, obviously, a whole season behind Red Bull. But we did reach the point in Hockenheim of being able to race a working system which was both giving us performance and was reliable.

We are able to deliver something extra with that floor. But, being behind the curve, there’s more to come relative to those principal competitors.

We’ll find more time and performance so we’re going to keep pushing on. It’s a new platform from which to find performance.
Paddy Lowe

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

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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39 comments on “McLaren “don’t understand” Red Bull’s wing”

  1. Keith, the second quoted section does not read correctly. “We’re a couple of race behind…” perhaps should be “races”. And ” But we did reach point in Hockenheim of being to race…” is missing the word “able” perhaps?

    1. still wrong mate.
      ‘But we did reach point in Hockenheim’… missing ‘a’ after ‘did’

      1. No. The ‘a’ after reach

        1. Just shows a proof reader is needed!

    2. Think I must have made some of the changes before I saw your comment Chris! Thanks anyway.

  2. Here’s a thought, which is probably a case of 2+2 = 5! Red Bull introduced their flexy wing, I believe, at Silverstone and ‘possibly’ also suffered teething problems with it on Vettel’s car??
    I’m thinking the movement comes from the top mountings, which are presumably sprung, rather than flexing of the wing components themselves.
    It just seemed odd to me that we’re used to nose cones staying attached under all sorts of trauma, but Vettels came off at speed in a straight line!
    Perhaps this thought is one to pass on to Paddy ;-)

    1. No don’t think this is the case, plus that would be deemed a “moveable aerodynamic component”.

      I think its more has to do with it being able to pass the flexi tests that the wings are subject to, but they are able to flex when subject to forces greater than those in the test, which would be experienced at high speed.

      Check this link out, good rundown:

      1. Surprisingly informing article by JA:
        I suppose the other teams could argue that the wing should only work within the limits set by the rules, which in a way it does, although it also goes beyond them too….
        Is this another case where the rules have to catch up with what is actually happening on the track?
        And I’m not saying it should be banned, since I think its great latteral thinking and solution to a problem!

      2. thanks for the link, from the pictures it seems pretty obvious, the Red Bull team is doing something there and Ferrari is going thee as well.

    2. Why is Paddy Lowe blaming red bull and ferrari for their flexi wings if they are under the rules theres no point to talk about it on that down note they have a great f-duct dont know why they are talking that way.I posted some youtube vids that demonstrated red bulls flexi wing on 2009 on the flexi wings post and i noticed that red bull 09 design was one of the part carbon printed on some cars example rb5 nose is on the ferraris f10 and rb5 flexi wing is on mclaren and hrt but why isnt it flexing? or is it flexing i believe it is flexing i saw some vids that show that but no where near to the rb5 flex or the rb6 anyway mclaren although carbon printing the rb5 wing cant make it work?dont no i think they just mad about the lack of performance mclaen reached their high point on canada but now they are a little back but i believe that after some fine tuning the blown diffuse will put the mclarens for the 1st time as fast as redbull and ferrari and on race pace maybe faster

      1. He doesn’t appear to be blaming them for anything. What part of the quote gave you that impression?

        1. by this part that i read on autosport

          “It is a phenomenon we’re seeing. It may be entirely legitimate, it may not be. We don’t understand it.”

    3. Hello lads!
      I’ve passed a technical proposal to Mr. Lowe in May explaining some important components of RB6 aerodynamic package.
      I did it ’cause it was rooted in my technical proposal sent to Mr. Newey in the season of 2000. Simple and neat solution to manage the airflow around the skid block…
      Ferrari is using it now, I think Renault as well… Obviously, it’s a good one. But, they still don’t use it. I can’t figure it out why…
      It looks like simple things are most difficult to understand, like RB6’s front wing.
      How it works? Simple indeed!
      Mr. Newey is using even Technical regulations to play it in his favour. If you check the Tech. reg. it’s easy to notice that main airfoil surfaces of the front wing are situated relatively far back from the leading edge. The front section of the wing is used to hold the whole wingsystem by pylons attached to the nosecone. Now, every airfoil shape has a point where the lift force is concentrated. ( In F1 car we talk about the downforce, of course. ) Now, the distance between the points where the downfoarce is created and the part of the wing which holds everything together is so huge that substantial torque is created. This torque causes torsional strain in the wing element attached to the nosecone pylons resulting in reduced attacking angle of the wing and consequently reduced drag at very high speed. That’s the very part of the wing that snaped on Sebastian’s car at Silverstone.
      I’m not sure if such excessive movement of the front wing is according to FIA Technical Regulations because all parts must be rigidly secured. Freedom of motion is very limited.
      Hopefuly, this explaination is broadening our understanding of RB6 frontwing operation which is most likely illegal…

      1. rb5 front wing flex a lot harder maybe not as benneficial as rb6 and i remenber that in 08 red bull was forced to add an support to their bridge on the front wing because of the flexiness and afterward mclaren was forced aswell because both had very big unsupported bridges

    4. They had a flexing wing (at the very least) in China already.

  3. Flexi(ish)-wings, Exhaust blown diffusers and the special qualifying engine map. Are these all things we’re expected to see next season then.

    I just keep having a feeling that every time a development shows up in F1 they are then banned by the FIA or FOTA for next season.

    Certainly though, all of Red Bull’s tricks are being uncovered. Although they were mostly in plain view since day one. People were talking about their EBD/Flex-Wings very early on in the season.

  4. At the end of it, and flexible wings banned?
    And even if they are doing it in a all new way, the wings a visibly flexing, ergo, shouldn’t that be stopped?

    1. No flexible wings, the wing flexes, so no, you can’t have it. Much too simple a logic for Formula 1!

      As JA’s article suggests, the problem seems to be the tests don’t match the levels of downforce of race conditions, which seems fairly bizarre, but would explain how the wings were declared legal by the FIA muffins, sorry boffins, when they’re visibly not.

  5. I guess that McLaren’s inability to replicate the wing shows just how far innovation goes. I likes, even if it is Ferrari carrying the damn thing.

  6. Time to break out the flow-vis paint again then, Paddy!

    And perhaps surreptitiously sneak it onto Red Bull or Ferrari’s front wing during practice….

  7. Just ignore it and get back on your own development path again before you end up too far behind andblow the titles again!

  8. I do wonder if McLaren keep getting too caught up in what the other teams are doing. Like when they were wasting their time with ride-height systems earlier this season.

    Looking at the problems they are having with the blown floor, they might be more time to be found by concentrating on optimising their own car.

  9. Can we have a small bardge board under the front wing?

  10. Seen has McLaren have a perfectly functioning car without the EBD, if a wet weekend is expected at Hungary would it not be an idea to switch back to it?

    We have seen hoe twitchy the Red Bull is compared to last season in the wet.

  11. James Allen’s pictures leave no doubt to me. Seeing the obvious ground-effect from that RBR wing I’m shocked their advatange is only a few tenths.

    I’ll suggest a couple things to Paddy if he is looking for some advice from an engineering school drop-out:

    Paddy, The flexing test is performed applying a weight at the wing extremity straight down. The aerodynamic force on a wing is not totally straight down. Investigate whether the wing itself or at its monocoque mouting is fitted to allow a “cam” effect to push it down as it is pushed backwards by airflow. Ask yourself when is the last time an entire nosecone broke on a car appropos of nothing and then review your pictures of the RBR wing mount after Vettel’s broke off in Silverstone.

    I’ll take my payment in form of one Lewis Hamilton limited edition Silverstone Grenadine/UK flags liveried helmet. Autographed. Cheers.

  12. I got moderated off the BBC forum for suggeating that Martin Whitmarsh saying something like ” I’m not suggesting there is anything illegal, maybe it’s just that we are not clever enough to find a way to do it” was an oblique way of saying that he wasn’t really sure it could be achieved legally i.e. he was a bit dubious about the findings of the scrutineers. Some of Paddy’s staement seems to me to reflect this too.
    (Hope Keith is not as sensitive as the BBC moderator who invited me to read the regs on defamation of character!)

    1. I wouldn’t worry about it, I must be up to my fifth or sixth user account on the BBC after being banned so many times.
      They’re far too sensitive about what they’ll let you post and as the moderators don’t know anything about F1 they knock back anything that could be seen as contentious; which covers pretty much everything regarding F1.

      If you don’t know that certain people have a reputation for cheating, dirty dealings or fabricating the evidence then you may consider comments regarding such issues as defamatory and the BBC moderators know as much about F1 as I know about women :-)

      Just stick to F1Fanatic mate, Keith knows what he’s talking about and doesn’t moderate the site like some silly old women.

      (Apologies to all silly old women)

  13. babelfish to the rescue…sort of

    “One does not know if that what feels now is just like felt two years ago. That one 20 of 2008 July, the English was also in the wall of you shoot with an arrow of silver, although behind boss Rum Dennis.”

    1. wow, completely misfired on that post. how did i get here? o.O

  14. The FIA test is putting vertical force to measure deflection. The air hitting the front wing is actually a horizontal force so maybe in this direction the wing flexes but does not when the vertical test force is applied.

    This could be done by orienting the weave of the carbon fibre in the wing such that the wing can flex in a horizontal direction but is stiff in the vertical.

    Or how is the wing tested – is it tested on the car or independently? It’s probably off the car as veritcal forces would generate movement through the suspension and tyres. If it’s off the car, perhaps the nose itself flexes and not the wing?

  15. GroundEffect
    29th July 2010, 0:27

    So if they are getting ground effect from the front wing, does that have anything to do with Webber’s car taking off so dramatically when the wing got away from the ground and lost that extra downforce?

    1. I think wheel vs wheel interaction was way more a factor here.

  16. Mclaren are fast becoming a third rate team. How come Ferrari caught up to this RedBull’s technology so fast and Mclaren are still scratching their heads?

    1. I wouldn’t be so alarmed. Mc Laren have done good and have yet some performance to extract from the MP4-25. Of course, getting Newey or his heir back would be great, but as a McLaren fan (I liked the Orange and white livery best to my father’s Williams obcession annoyance) I am quite happy with his management till now.

    2. Remember that it was the other teams fumbling around trying to do an F-Duct for most of the year. This is how it goes in F1—sometimes you are the squirrel, sometimes the nut.

      In principle, a bendy wing is not rocket science. However, balancing and setting up the car with a dynamic element to performance like this could be tricky. It seems like you will have a car that pushes in slow corners or that is remarkably twitchy in quick ones.

  17. Martin Whiemarsh, I am afraid you are not succeeding/superseding, your predecessor, only replacing him.

  18. I posted these earlier, but here are animations of the flexing wing in China and Spain (taken from Vettel’s pole lap and Webber’s pole lap)

      1. Thanks to pointing us towards that. Craig Scarborough at his best explaining things highly complicated with clear drawings for the detail.


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