Mercedes W09 wheel, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2018

Mercedes’s controversial wheels could still face protest – Whiting

2018 F1 season

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Mercedes’ controversial rear wheel hubs could be subject to a protest in future races as they were only declared legal for the Mexican Grand Prix, FIA race director Charlie Whiting has confirmed.

The team introduced the new wheel hub design earlier in the season but chose not to run the wheels at the United States Grand Prix, fearing a potential protest from rivals Ferrari. The dispute over the legality of the design concerns the holes in the wheel, referred to as ‘spacers’, which aid heat extraction but could be considered to make the wheel an illegal moveable aerodynamic device.

In Mexico the team asked the stewards to confirm their design is legal. It was approved, but the stewards noted that “our jurisdiction extends solely to this event”.

Whiting confirmed this leaves Mercedes open to the threat of future protests if they do race the wheel again. However he also indicated that Ferrari’s belief the design is illegal indicates they don’t fully understand how it works.

“They don’t know exactly what Mercedes have done. So that’s one problem for them. They think in principle it’s wrong although they probably don’t know the exact way in which it works but they have always got the option of a protest.”

Jenson Button, Brawn GP, Silverstone, 2009
Brawn’s diffuser attracted protests in 2009
He drew a comparison to the 2009 season when Brawn, Toyota and Williams’ rivals protested their ‘double diffuser’ design.

“That’s the whole essence of this thing is if I go back to the double diffusers for example three teams did that at the beginning of 2009 and a number of teams protested them, they lost, they went to appeal and lost. That’s the normal process. So then after that they had to start doing them themselves. And that’s what could have happened here.

“I don’t really know why Ferrari didn’t contemplate protesting but the option is still open to them because the stewards decision relates to this event. So it could raise its ugly head again if these things were being used in Brazil, for example.”

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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...
Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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  • 28 comments on “Mercedes’s controversial wheels could still face protest – Whiting”

    1. So why don’t MB request the Brazilian stewards to approve the spacer design? The Mexican decision can assist the stewards as a sort of precedent.

    2. But as i understand they did not used the wheels in Mexico.

      1. Yeah, they were concerned about the possibility of Ferrari launching a protest post-race and IF the stewerds went the other way, having the Mercs disqualified.

        Is this Ferrari’s tactic for trying to secure constructors? Keep the shadow of a protest over Mercedes force them to sacrifice something that helps cool the tyres and stop the high deg and thuis leave the Mercs struggling?

        If it is, then Ferrari should remember they were the ones that have thrown away points this year. Also, pretty funny considering their mirror mountings and those little aerodynamically shaped winglets that were connected to the mirror by the thinist of rods that they were adamant were ‘for supporting the mirror and not a winglet at all, no-sir, not at all’

        1. I’m not sure why you are having a pop at Ferrari about this. They haven’t threatened to protest the FIA clarification which was requested in the usual manner. Just because Mercedes still aren’t sure enough of its legality despite the FIA clarification and the race stewards deeming it ok to run it.

          It is just the media who are running around saying the Ferrari (and any other team for that matter) could protest the design in theory and asking Charlie Whiting for confirmation of this possibility.

          Anyway, I’m pretty sure that the wheels weren’t run in Mexico because it wouldn’t have helped with the tyre graining Mercedes (and others) were experiencing.

        2. Grow up.
          And check your facts.

    3. Seems to me it would be quite silly to protest this on ‘movable aero device’ grounds when all cars have DRS wings. It’s not like Ecclestone’s ‘Fan-Car Brabham’ or anything…

      1. Drs is explicitly regulated, and is a part of the formula. Drs is legal, that doesn’t mean you can just add extra drs flaps outside those rules.

        You are deliberately being dense, if you cannot see the difference.

        1. Thank you for your observation. I am just saying that these days every bit of creative thinking is immediately being protested and banned, whatever. To call holes in wheel rims ‘movable aero device’ is just silly in my opinion, and if it means being dense, then I can’t help it.

          1. @gpfacts: Agree. Waiting for the day a team protests and the entire grid is disqualified because the front wheels are deemed a ‘movable aero device’.

            In fact, if you watch F1 slo mo replays carefully, only one conclusion can be reached: The entire F1 car is a ‘movable aero device’. It’s time the FIA steps in and bans F1. That’s the only way to be sure. ;-)

          2. Doesn’t bear calling the Renault 2007 mass damper an aero mobile device (it was internal, not at all exposed to the air flow) but it was banned nonetheless

    4. Peter Scandlyn
      1st November 2018, 21:26

      All of which goes to show it is useless giving stewards tasks beyond their scope – the stewarding of the race….

    5. There are a lot of holes, could someone please explain which ones we’re talking about ?
      A Thickie.

      1. @budchekov

        My understanding is the little holes between the studs. They look to be a few mm across.

        The official story is they help cool the rear wheels. Basically removing some of the brake heat before it can heat the tires.

        I’m surprised this is contentious. It isn’t like using the wheel to dissipate brake heat is new or innovative.

        I would understand if the design circumvented restrictions on brake cooling or something. But that isn’t what is being alleged.

        Doesn’t an aero device have to serve an aerodynamic purpose, like transporting air through the wheel to influence vortices or something? Those tiny holes? Really?

        If anyone can explain how these tiny holes improve aero please post.

        1. @slotopen remember when wheels had carbon fibre covers that helped the airflow around them?
          A blown axle does pretty much the same but with a different concept, essentially blowing air in the axle direction that redirects the flow around the wheel, much like the mentioned covers but without a physical object doing the work

        2. @slotopen

          Doesn’t an aero device have to serve an aerodynamic purpose, like transporting air through the wheel to influence vortices or something?

          That is exactly what they are doing here, the air is vented out of more holes in the wheel rim which alters the vortices around the wheel helping with the turbulence that the wheel itself causes.

          This was the point that Ferrari was seeking clarification on, not the cooling element. But as the PRIMARY PURPOSE was cooling and any aero effect “incidental” it has been deemed legal by the FIA and race stewards.

        3. There are detailed explanations on a bunch of different sites.

      1. thanks @budchekov

        I was actually under the impression the problem was with the outer ring of the rim, the carrot grater thing

        1. That’s what I surmised too..

    6. If something is deemed legal, sure you can protest all you want but it won’t change a thing. It’s called free speech.

    7. Help me understand this please. If the race stewards approved this design for Mexico, terming it within REGULATIONS, why does it have it have to be illegal again in Brazil were there to be a protest and the decision overturned that they were illegal? Arent rules constant from a GP to GP? Or is stewarding different from a GP to GP? I am quite confused here!

    8. The Mexico stewards either didn’t want to, or weren’t strong enough to, dictate what is deemed legal across the rest of the season, hence the “our jurisdiction extends solely to this event” comment – and the FIA aren’t at all strong enough to rule one way or another

      1. @G I don’t think the race stewards are able to declare things legal outside of their own event.

      2. F1 the only ‘sport’ where the rules change on a weekly basis.

    9. If Ferrari are behind this I am glad as Merc were having a go at everything Ferrari had earlier in the year. Ferrari have just realised the tactic. Hopefully Ferrari carry the tactic into next year to disrupt Merc all year just like they have done to Ferrari this year, even if Merc are behind.

    10. joe pineapples
      3rd November 2018, 10:13

      If the FIA deem something legal, then that should be that. As long as that accepted design doesn’t change for other races, why would/should it involve the stewards. Maybe I’m just seeing a simpler picture.

    11. All use the same wheels ?
      They use the same rubber.

    Comments are closed.