“Bendy” rear wings which caught Hamilton’s eye to face tougher FIA tests

2021 F1 season

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Formula 1 teams will face tougher tests later this season limiting how far their rear wings may flex.

The FIA is thought to be concerned some teams are using designs which pass the current static load tests yet deform at high speed on the track, in order to reduce the drag they generate and increase top speeds.

Lewis Hamilton drew attention to the “bendy” rear wing being used by rivals Red Bull following qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix last weekend. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said “the FIA are completely happy with the car” when asked about Hamilton’s comments.

However F1 teams have been notified this week of a new technical directive, TD 18/21, aimed at preventing rear wings from rotating backwards at speed. This will be done by subjecting the wings to tougher static load tests. The loads they are subjected to in the ‘pull-back’ and ‘push-down’ tests will be doubled.

Formula 1’s technical regulations permit the FIA to introduce the tougher tests mid-season. The directive will come into force next month, ahead of the French Grand Prix. The date has been chosen in order to give teams several weeks to revise their designs and produce new components if necessary.

Teams will therefore be permitted to continue using their current designs at the upcoming races in Monaco, Azerbaijan and Turkey.

Horner said he was “surprised” by Hamilton’s comments about his team’s wings and indicated he believed Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff was behind them.

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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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125 comments on ““Bendy” rear wings which caught Hamilton’s eye to face tougher FIA tests”

  1. ian dearing
    12th May 2021, 9:35

    Horner expressed surprise that commentators, press, fans, social media remarked on how the RB wing was bending on the straights , and couldn’t work out how they found out.

    1. LOL! Top comment!

    2. Its would seem the FIA were surprised by Horner’s cheaky rears, going against spirit of those tests.
      Which means this advantage will be restored to the Mercedes in the strights with their legal rear wings.

    3. Formula 1 fans not surprised by Horner surprise.

  2. Surprised they’ve made the change mid season but we’ll see if the Red Bull wings are quite so bendy once they’re introduced.

    1. Yeah I’d rather have seen this introduced for next season

    2. Like how someone pushed for ban on engine modes mid season. Isnt life fair.

    3. The regs must be enforced. Red Bull are (as they have done before) taking the Micky by designing the car to pass tests instead of meeting the regs. If the tests are not up to the job of enforcing compliance with the regs then they need to be changed. Note that the reg is what the car must be in compliance with and it is not changing.

      1. The Dolphins
        12th May 2021, 12:47

        You’re right, Paul, Red Bull are exceptional at designing the car to “pass the test” — it’s no wonder VAG are in talks with Red Bull for an engine partnership.

        1. As does any other team in formula 1…

      2. You are completely right. Except that when it was about the Ferrari engine fuel flow, the FIA has made it sound like “they cheated the spirit of the rule, but we can’t prove that they broke the letter of the rule, so it’s safer to strike a deal.”

        1. I am not suggesting Ferrari favoritism. Maybe some rules are better written that others.

          1. Definitely some rules are written better than others. Just ask Ross B.
            The current rules specify loads, where they are applied and the directions they are applied in. Then there are limitations on permitted deflections. Pretty straight forward, but then, any load on any surface or structure will result in some displacement. Miss Physics has been requiring this since the Great Beginning.
            For F1, the goal is getting the resultant deflection going in the direction you want, but rest assured, RedBull and every other team will have passed the Load Deflection tests many times (actually, EVERY Time) since the 2021 cars were homologated.
            Expectation is that these tests are carried out at each event.
            The “bending” of the rules will always be a consideration. Eg. Ferrari back a few years with a “special” strut for the leading edge of the floor. Brilliant stuff.

      3. taking the Micky by designing the car to pass tests instead of meeting the regs.

        You mean exactly like all the great innovators have tried to througout F1’s history? How dare they!

    4. This is a change that has been coming for some time, as the FIA notified the teams in the middle of last year they were preparing to change the load tests. This means that the teams have known this was being prepared for at least 12 months.

  3. Changing testing and rules during the season is never ideal and whilst this is unlikely to have any major impact, as a fan I dislike how one driver/team can influence the FIA like this.
    It might have been Ferrari in the past but now it’s clear who the FIA kowtows to.

    1. Like it is clear who pushed for floor cuts instead of Rear Wings to punish low-rake cars.
      All is almost fair. In case of floors no one was bending anything.

      1. Is there any proof pre-rules change that Mercedes and AM knew that the changes would hurt them more? No.
        The idea that the low rake teams knew it would hurt them more is something they made up after the fact.

        1. F1oSaurus (@)
          13th May 2021, 7:59

          What? Well that’s why Aston martin is asking for transparency on how the decision was made. They made it clear upfront that these changes would hurt low rake cars much more. They suggested other changes that would achieve the same and be more fair. Yet the FIA they pushed through that changes that would hurt Mercedes more than the rest.

          Makes sense they would want to know the rationale behind how that decision was made.

          1. It’s funny how AM are now claiming they knew it would hurt them so much given they never mentioned it at the time. Heck even James Alisson of Mercedes said they didn’t actually know what the impact would be

          2. F1oSaurus (@)
            13th May 2021, 10:31

            They DID know at the time and they DID warn the FIA upfront. That’s the whole reason why they are so upset.

            They knew because they had both a high rake and low rake design available.

            Maybe Mercedes wasn’t sure, but Racing Point sure was.

          3. RandomMallard (@)
            13th May 2021, 15:36

            @f1osaurus AM didn’t have a high rake car available: the W11 only came as a high rake car.

            On a more serious note, I don’t believe that they knew it would hurt low rake cars more. I don’t think it is a coincidence, as Anon mentions, that they are only complaining about it now.

          4. F1oSaurus (@)
            13th May 2021, 16:07

            @randommallard Huh? I don’t get the “yoke”. The W11 is low rake, but their previous RP was high rake

            They are complaining that they told the FIA before, suggested other options and that their options were ignored and they want transparency from the FIA in the decision making. They want to see notes what was discussed and why their suggestions were dropped and the the floor changes were kept.

            Why on earth would they request that from the FIA f they didn’t discuss this with the FIA before?

            Besides, last season they were constantly complaining about the reg changes, because they felt it was not needed for the safety reasons the FIA noted and would cost them a fortune to implement at a time when they actually needed to safe money.

            It wasn’t just the two low rake teams Mercedes and Racing Point who voted against the floor change. There was a third team that voted against the change. But then it was a safety change so voting was useless anyway.

            One of their complaints is also that the FIA should be doing safety changes on their own and apparently some other team presented the floor changes. Although I don’t think Szafnauer ever mentioned who did come up with that change, I doubt it was anyone else but Newey’s crew.

          5. RandomMallard (@)
            13th May 2021, 16:29

            @f1osaurus Firstly the joke was that RP/AM don’t design their own cars, and AM’s ‘design’ route forced them down the low rake concept.

            In terms of why their suggestions were ignored? TBH I never heard anything of their suggestions, or their frustrations about them being ignored until this season. Otmar himself (as reported on this very website has now said he is satisfied with how the changes were implemented. I also think the floor changes were made for another reason: I expect it is much easier to simplify the floors than force an entire rear-wing and support structure redesign, especially considering these cars weren’t even supposed to be racing this season. Otmar and Lawrence just need to admit that sometimes circumstance (i.e. covid, tyre failures etc.) can work against you sometimes.

          6. RandomMallard (@)
            13th May 2021, 16:38

            I’m not actually sure which of the regulation changes Otmar and AM are annoyed about tbh. Is it the first set (brought in before Silverstone) or the second set (brought in after Silverstone). If it was the first set, then it’s a bit more understandable, but I think with the second set common sense tells you to continue tweaking the stuff that is already changing, instead of focussing on an entirely new section of the car.

            Also it may be that his ideas (which I still see no proof were ever formally put forward) would have meant that too much of the car would have had to change, and forced too much redesigning of the cars in a season when they were supposed to pretty much stay the same.

            Finally, it may just be because the FIA used common sense to determine the best way forward: hamper the development time and budgets of 7 or 8 teams, or 2 or 3 teams. You are never going to get the perfect answer

          7. F1oSaurus (@)
            14th May 2021, 8:31

            @randommallard I’m surprised that Racing Point didn’t keep you up to date on all their communications with the FIA ……

            The budget remark is even more nonsensical. All teams needed to change their cars and it cost them all as much. The point RP was making was that it should cost 0 teams money since there was no safety issue after Pirelli changed the tyres.

          8. RandomMallard (@)
            14th May 2021, 11:05

            @f1osaurus Teams often try to make their visions of rule changes public. It was obvious who was pushing for the Quali mode ban, and who is now pushing for the wing flex tests to be strengthened, and who pushed for the 2017 rule changes (different teams in each scenario). Why didn’t AM publicly raise their objections to this season’s changes earlier, as opposed to when they are actually enforceable during the season.

            In terms of the tires, I still think changing the aero to go with the new tires was the best idea. Pirelli had no data to use for the 2021 tire construction and longevity, so we could have reached the end of last season when Pirelli went ‘hang on, this still won’t be enough’ and they have to change the floors with even less notice. Surely it’s better to be safe and make changes than risk it and have a repeat of Silverstone, or perhaps an even worse incident, in which case the FIA would probably be on the hook for negligence if the changes weren’t made.

    2. I mean, remember how the FIA were lobbied for a mid-season change to the engine regs to ban engine mode changes, forcing teams to run the same mode in qualifying and the race. Who kept asking for that, I wonder…

    3. This has been brewing for a while and is certainly not a consequence of a comment from Hamilton.

      The rules are not changing, just the tests to confirm adherence to the rules.

    4. You mean like trying to ban DAS or getting rid of engine modes mid season? Redbull scream bloody murder when someone else comes up with a controversial innovation but everyone else has shut up and put up with it when they are the ones doing. Why don’t we just bring back Ferrari’s dodgy engines too while we’re at it??

    5. @Neutralino they’re not changing the rules. They are…

      3.8 Aerodynamic influence
      With the exception of the parts described in Articles 11.4, 11.5 and 11.6, and the rear view mirrors described in Article 14.3, any specific part of the car influencing its aerodynamic performance:
      a. Must comply with the rules relating to bodywork.
      b. Must be rigidly secured to the entirely sprung part of the car (rigidly secured means not having any degree of freedom).

      They’re just introducing additional tests to make sure components comply with the rules

  4. “Your wish is my command”
    The RB loses rake as the aero load increases at high speeds, it is noticeable especially on flat out corners and slow-mo shots, definitely intentional and results on that torsional movement, the rear gets lower and the front looks to get higher.
    The Alpine is able to get their front wing glued to the ground, McLaren likewise and Mercedes manages to get the whole car flat to the ground when you observe the car in slow-mo.
    All cars run illegal.

    1. “All cars run illegal.”

      The Red Bull is fully legal concerning bending wings and the FIA has confirmed this.

      May I ask why you follow a sport, where you think everybody is a cheater? To me that doesn’t sound like fun.

      1. @uzsjgb May I ask why you follow a sport, where you think everybody is a cheater? To me that doesn’t sound like fun.

        Many people follow football and lets face it, with diving and play acting so prevalent, cheating in football isn’t only tolerated, it is positively encouraged

      2. @uzsjgb I’m sure the RB and the other cars pass all tests. To answer your question izsjgb, I don’t follow a sport where I think everyone is a cheater, everyone is a cheater and I follow f1 for the past 25 years knowingly.
        Cheating is a given in f1, at the end of every race every car picks up rubber, drivers are told to drink, both these things are on the surface for everyone to see, there is so much more going on beneath, endless list.

        1. RandomMallard (@)
          13th May 2021, 15:38

          I think drivers are told to drink mainly because they’ll dehydrate and pass out if they don’t. 5G for 50+ laps can be quite tiring

        2. The only drink they are allowed before being weighed is the one already in the car, so it is just transferring fluid from one vessel to another, you’ll notice they get weighed in parc ferme as they get out of the car. After that, as @randommallard says, it’s drink or suffer the consequences

    2. Jockey Ewing
      12th May 2021, 10:31

      All of them are close to producing their own lowrider :)

    3. @peartree None of that stuff is illegal unless it breaks a specific rule. If the way they determine whether a wing or other part bends or flexes too much is through a static load test, then as long as it passes this test it is legal, regardless of how it behaves on the track. The Redbull wing is clearly compliant with the existing load test, therefore it is legal. If it or other cars’ wings flexes too much after doubling the load test requirement, then they will have to increase the stiffness to ensure it complies with the new test and remains legal.

      1. I know that @keithedin . I doubt they’ll find anything but Ham gets everything he wants, peer pressure for the win.

        1. @peartree This has been bubbling under the surface for weeks, not just since last weekend.

      2. F1oSaurus (@)
        13th May 2021, 8:01

        @keithedin It does break a rule though. The same ones why the tuned mass damper and FRIC were banned during a season.

    4. Running cars flat doesn’t involve bending wings.
      Also, note that Mercedes is a low-rake car, they are by definition “flatter”.

  5. The regulations have been out of date for over 15 years on this issue. Static load tests are not sufficient, they need to conduct a one lap test or something on all cars and have a limit on the flexing- in reality all parts move to some degree.

    This shouldn’t happen this season though, the regs are already set in place, you can’t change them now. And someone should have a look at that Mercedes front wing if we’re going to start playing these games.

    Having said all that, I do enjoy this tit for tat stuff, Horner is such a slimy politician he would fit right into the conservative party. Entertaining, but I wouldn’t want him running a country.

    1. @john-h The regs are not being changed. The FIA is introducing new tests to ensure that parts meet the regs.

      1. Fair point @scbriml, I see what you mean. It’s such a grey area though, how much is too much flex? Shouldn’t that be in the regulations as well as the static load tests as an actual number?

        1. @john-h I’m pretty sure it is, but how do you determine the amount of flex accurately?: static load testing.

          1. Well that’s my point, static loading is not a sufficient test method @justrhysism
            Fluid-structure interaction is quite complex.

        2. @john-h Of course it’s defined in the regs – 3mm of vertical movement or one degree of horizontal movement. Looking at the rearward on-board video from Verstappen’s car, the rear wing appears to ‘dip’ by several centimetres as the car’s speed increases.

      2. It sounds like they are effectively changing if the only way to know is the test and the test is being literally doubled in severity. Something that passes the test and thus is legal now might fail the new test. It feels like splitting g hairs to say the regs aren’t changing.

        1. F1oSaurus (@)
          12th May 2021, 12:06

          @davidhunter13 These rules explicitly have a clause which states that if the tests fail to restrict bodywork flexing, the test can be amended.

    2. And what is with Mercedes and their front wing?

      Apart from your comment there was no other suggestion from anyone in the World it bends in some strange way.

      1. It was raised during free practice on the Sky stream I was watching. You can also see it here in the bottom left hand corner from pre-season testing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXngeVa8hOE

        1. Watched the video. Didn’t see anything worth the attention.
          Tiny bending is natural, every wing bends.

          In original message you sounded like Mercedes produced a wing similar to what Red Bull did some years ago.

          1. Please define “Tiny bending”…

          2. Not going.
            But I suggest you look at the flexible front wing on Red Bull from several years ago, divide by at least 5, and it will be pretty much normal bending of any wing.

          3. Didn’t see anything worth the attention

            Watch the gillette razor blade parts rise up around the slow speed and then drop on the straights. How can you not see this??
            Just to clarify, I support Mercedes and Hamilton (since 2007) so I have no vested interest in this matter, trying to be objective.

          4. RandomMallard (@)
            12th May 2021, 15:55


            Please define “Tiny bending”…

            I would expect anything that falls within the FIA defined limits for front wing flexing, that they allow within the regulations. If there was no flex allowed at all, the car elements would all need to be made out of titanium or stone to make sure they passed all the tests. There needs to be some element of leniency involved

          5. @john-h you are confusing wing with wing elements, in your case, flaps. I dont know if they do load the flaps or they re subject to same regulations, since they are much thinner and flimsier parts. RedBull case was their main front wing assembly was flexing at the leading edge and effecting the vortexes generated. Now their current wing almost acts like free drs at any straight! Have you see the rear wing flex? noone find straight line speed without compromising downforce. Thats why teams use different rear wings for different tracks for balance of top/straightline speed or high downforce cornering speeds!

            RedBull seemed to have found sudden straight line speed, and many doubts now that it is down to engine alone… If you watch the video i posted in another post (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMS9_qoM_xk), red bull wing flex and act almost like a DRS!

          6. Nice video @mysticus. Of course I know they are the wing elements, but they are still aero devices that as per the regulations should not be movable aerodynamic devices. So what is the limit to the wing elements flexing then?

            My point is that the FIA are going to open a Pandora’s box here. It’s completely correct to clamp down on it, but mid-season for a practice that has been going on for 15 years is not cool imho. Only now they talk about measuring flex in terms of fluid-structure interaction in a quantitative way.

          7. @john-h there are different regulations for different parts, as i said i dont know the specifics of flaps regulations (i tried to find one but couldnt find ones related to flaps themselves, but a lot are open for main wing plates themselves). We know that wings themselves are up for more regulations than their sub-parts. RedBull cases are that usually they are purposely made to flex to give aero advantage and similar to Ferrari case, specifically designed to pass tests but against regulations (they test ok, but circumvent the regulation while in motion, when it is harder to test usually, but visually some of them can be caught, like redbul flex wings, if against regulations, mercedes flaps, das etc,) …

  6. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    12th May 2021, 10:30

    Toto Wolff: ‘Ah yez, we want zu be challenged by ze Red Bulls and it is great for ze sport zat zey are doing gut jah’
    Also Wolff: ‘No wait they’re too close do something mid-season’.

    Way to ruin an otherwise exciting season FIA. The removing of DAS was allowed to be held back until the start of a new season but now we actually have a fight at the front between cars that are within the rules, you edit the rules mid-season to set 1 team back. Pure genius!

    F1 is becoming a rule-joke at this point. First with the randomness of maintaining track limits and punishments, now with punishing thinking outside of the box but within limits.

    1. The governing body of this sport and its commercial brother are both holding the sport back for years now. There is too much money and ego involved to ever make this a sport like we see from other disciplines. It comes from rich kids wanting to play and until today still has this as core DNA. I find it intriguing to watch, but it is by no means a sport. Wouldnt take it too seriously all in all

    2. @barryfromdownunder Did you lobby the FIA when they introduced the qualifying engine-mode ban mid-season last year at the behest of rivals to peg back Mercedes?

      1. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
        12th May 2021, 13:44

        I did, as Mercedes still won with 2 fingers in their nose.

    3. DAS broke no rules. Bendy wings do.

      1. RandomMallard (@)
        12th May 2021, 15:46

        @sham exactly. The ban on DAS being withheld until 2021 was because it broke no explicit rules. @barryfromdownunder this is not exactly a regulations change, but a change in the scrutineering procedure for how the regs are applied. And in the technical regs (or some other document somewhere) it has a provision that grants the FIA the right to change the tests on flexible wings at any point if they have reason to believe that the current tests are not enough

    4. @barryfromdownunder whilst you might want to characterise this as a knee jerk reaction, the FIA has been openly talking about this change for months, if not years.

      For a start, the FIA has explicitly stated that they “reserve the right to introduce load/deflection tests on any part of the bodywork which appears to be (or is suspected of), moving whilst the car is in motion” for decades – that clause has existed in the FIA’s Technical Regulations for at least 22 years, with that particular phrase having been introduced in the 1999 Technical Regulations.

      Secondly, the FIA has actually been publicly talking about a need to modify the rear wing deflection tests over the past 12 months and had made it clear that they were going to introduce new testing requirements – for example, back in July 2020, Nikolas Tombazis explicitly stated that the FIA were of the opinion that the rear wing deflection test was outdated and that the FIA intended to “make some enhancements to the regulations and to the deflection test sometime in the not so distant future”.

      It’s not even the first time that Red Bull have faced complaints about how far their rear wing deflects – this is probably at least the fourth time that we publicly know of Red Bull facing questions over the deflection of their rear wing.

      It could also be noted that, whilst you say that we “have a fight at the front between cars that are within the rules”, that is potentially debatable. The regulations do also contain clauses that ban the use of, amongst other items, materials which are intentionally designed with non-linear deflection characteristics to get around the load-deflection tests – if it were the case that Red Bull were making use of such materials, then there would be a case that the car was not legal.

    5. David Pearce
      12th May 2021, 22:37

      DAS ….. Mercedes approached the FIA about the introduction of the system to make sure they (FIA) said it was legal. The original system was operated Electronically/Hydraulically via a button on the steering wheel. The FIA said the principle was Legal ……. but the way it was operated was not ……. as the operation had to be fully manual. So Mercedes when sent away knowing that DAS was legal so long as it could be operated manually. So Mercedes went back to the Drawing Board …. as it could not be raced the original year it was meant for i.e. 2019 ……… so was redesigned to be compliant with the FIA stipulation. Mercedes introduced the DAS system in 2020 Fully Compliant and Legal. The FIA could NOT Ban it because they had been consulted a year and a half earlier and given the system the green light to the manually operated version.
      The DAS system was not banned in 2021 be cause it was illegal …… but because the FIA said the other teams would need to develop their own DAS system which would be very expensive ……. so in a year of cost cutting (2021) The FIA banned the system on Cost reasons (to help ALL the other teams on the Grid – Obviously Apart from Mercedes – who already designed and developed their system already). Track Limits and overtaking while off Track (Two different rules) are Black & White ……. also while some corner are, and are not monitored …….. The race Stewards will priorities corners to be monitored where leaving the track WILL give a driver faster lap times. The other corners will loose a driver Lap time …… so why monitor a corner where leaving the track is a (time) penalty in itself. If the Stewarts have to monitor ALL the corners this will increase the workload on the stewards for NO good reason.

  7. Red Bull just can’t have enough of bendy wings.
    Glad FIA decided to look into that.

    1. More power to them I say. These innovations are one of the reasons I follow F1.

      1. Innovations…in the late 90s

  8. I’m not really sure what the problem is here, it’s not like the FIA are changing the rules. They’re updating their tests to make sure teams are following the rules, if the teams fail that new test that is the team’s fault for creating an illegal car and thinking they can get away with it.

    1. No they are doubling the stiffness requirement mid season. That’s a rule change

      1. It’s not, because the rule, as it’s written, effectively states ‘your wings must not flex beyond X when subject to a standard load test’.

        There’s no written rule explaining or mandating what tension and stresses the test involves, allowing them to evolve the test in response to material changes, because they were caught out by the investment by certain teams into aero-elastic carbon fibre so many years ago.

        1. The various elements of Article 3.9 of the Technical Regulations specifies such things as “Bodywork may deflect no more than 15mm vertically when a 1000N load is applied vertically to it…”. The standard test load is specified for these tests.

          However, there is a central axis text in 3.9.5 that starts, “Bodywork may deflect no more than 5mm vertically when a 4000N load is applied vertically to it at three different points which lie on the car centre plane and 100mm either side of it…”. While the test suite specified has a set of specified locations and loads along that axis, the rule has an additional wrinkle:

          …the bodywork being tested in this area may not include any component which is capable of allowing more than the permitted amount of deflection under the test load (including any linear deflection above the test load)…

          Those last 7 words are the basis that allows the FIA to change the test. Provided it remains linear above the test load (i.e. the amount of flex allowance increases in a linear proportion to the allowance of the stated tests), then a team who obeyed the letters of the rule should be as compliant with the new rules as the old. The notice and 20% leniency for the first month of application are both courtesy measures.

      2. No, they’re not changing the rules. The rules remain exactly the same. All they’re doing is changing the tests they use to measure conformity. Those darn clever engineers have designed a wing that passes the test, but looks to be clearly exceeding the permitted deflection in racing.

      3. David Pearce
        12th May 2021, 23:10

        No the FIA are not changing the rules about not allowing flexible aerodynamic devices. It is the way they measure/check the STATIC loading is being updated. This static load test was designed fifteen years ago. In the fifteen years that have past technology has moved on by leaps and bounds. Now Designers has figured out how to bypass the Static load test and seem legal, but on track to flex and move …… not by millimetres but by centimetres. Designers can now manufacture parts and assemblies to be super strong and stiff in one direction while being super strong but flexible in another direction (Multi layered Carbon Fibre Composite Construction advancement in last Fifteen Years). If this outdated load test is now being bypassed (One directional Loading) by team designers …… they are NOT designing to the RULES ….. but are designing to circumnavigate the test ……. i.e. CHEAT!!!

  9. F1oSaurus (@)
    12th May 2021, 12:19

    Mystic one posted a link from last season and even then the flex already looked quite extreme:

    It’s probably not just the wing flexing, but also the rake disappearing on the straight which would make the rear suspension suspect in being an “aerodynamic device”.

    So one of the rules for cases like this is that the tests can be updated:

    3.9.9 In order to ensure that the requirements of Article 3.8 are respected, the FIA reserves the right to introduce further load/deflection tests on any part of the bodywork which appears to be (or is suspected of), moving whilst the car is in motion.

    It’s not just Red Bull though. Ferrari posted some video’s of their new ’21 car taken with a rear facing camera at the start of the season and I also noticed the wing flexing and whole rear of the car going down.

    1. The whole car going down is most likely suspension compressing under load, which is arguably natural @f1osaurus, hence proving it is mostly to be an aero effect is really hard to impossible. That’s why these tests focus on aero parts that are supposed to be ‘static’ (as far as physically possible) bending under strong load. But indeed, it’s probably not just Red Bull, and certainly not new, so I guess we’ll see who has new exciting updates to their rear wing in the coming races ;)

      1. F1oSaurus (@)
        12th May 2021, 13:26

        @bosyber Yeah indeed. Also we saw last time when Red Bull was sporting flexible wings that they are specifically constructed in a way to defeat the tests and it is not easy to change the test to catch those out. Especially without invalidating all the wings of every other team who are not doing anything to have the wings flex on purpose.

        On the other hand, see some older clips of rear facing camera’s. They don’t show the car going down this much though. It really looks like an engineered thing.

        And sure the tests are static, but Renault had their mass tuned damper banned as an illegal aerodynamic device as part of what is now section 3.8, so it makes sense that the whole rear end of the car going this much would be something that could be looked at.

    2. I am no engineering expert, but I know what I would do if I wanted my car’s rake to vanish at high speeds in perfect legality : setting up a stiff suspension at the front and a loose suspension at the rear.

      1. F1oSaurus (@)
        12th May 2021, 15:15

        @palindnilap Indeed, but seeing how far the FIA went to ban the Renault mass tuned damper for having aerodynamic influence when that really barely changed the angle of the car. That was part of the FIArari times perhaps seeing how the FIA actually went against their own stewards, but more recently they they banned FRIC because it kept the car slightly more level.

        Changing the angle of the whole car gives a much bigger aero effect right? At what point is that effect considered purposefully added to gain aerodynamic influence?

        1. RandomMallard (@)
          12th May 2021, 15:50

          My understanding of the mass tuned damper is that it was banned because it was a moving part that influenced the aerodynamics, while the suspension is legal because it doesn’t move in the same way (the entire point of the mass damper was to move to change the aerodynamics, while the teams can realistically claim that the suspension’s main purpose is not to move, but to keep the wheels on, and the movement is simply the result of the speeds of the car)

          1. F1oSaurus (@)
            13th May 2021, 8:48

            @randommallard I’d say the same consideration would apply as when FRIC was deemed illegal. Not a moving device either, but it’s purpose was deemed to be primarily aerodynamic.

            Just check the video comparing Red Bull vs Mercedes in Spain 21 linked by mystic one below. Maybe if you analyze the pixels you can notice the Mercedes rear wing angle back and the car pitch down, but on the Red Bull side the massive changes are clearly visible. That’s not by an effect of natural functioning of the suspension

          2. RandomMallard (@)
            13th May 2021, 15:50

            @f1osaurus MY understanding of FRIC (similar to yours) was that it was deemed a moveable aerodynamic device because hydraulic fluid moved around the car as the loads on the suspension changed, therefore making the primary purpose of that fluid to affect the aerodynamics.

            I was on about the different suspension suggestions set out by @palindnilap in terms of changing the rake angle of the car, not (in this case) the RB’s bendy rear wing. I don’t think the suspension is necessarily what’s the problem here, I think Merc (or someone at the FIA) feels that the rear wing itself is flexing too much

        2. @f1osaurus see in the last race, wing flex is still there, and redbull rear wing looks almost designed for high speed. You can see in the video and stills that compared lead edge of the shark fin, rear wing flexes extremely significantly…

          this video is another proof from the spanish gp 21

          1. F1oSaurus (@)
            13th May 2021, 8:35

            @mysticus Wow that’s staggering. Especially in comparison with Mercedes really staying steady. That rubbishes the argument that the car pitching down is just a natural effect. You see the Mercedes not changing pitch at all.

            And that rear wing, wow. Indeed it’s getting close to flat.

            It’s a little hard to tell how much it goes down exactly with the whole car pitching down at the rear. So you cant really draw a line over both images. Still, indeed compared to the shark fin you can still tell.

            You can also clearly tell from how the lower element is almost invisible in the picture on the right.

            But really, the angle is just visibly a lot lower.

            I guess it’s clever engineering how they cheat the tests to enable them to race such a bendy wing, but how does the FIA not stamp this nonsense out from the start. It’s so incredibly evident from simply watching some footage from a rear facing camera. I guess the issue is finding tests that stop Red Bull while not invalidating wing designs from unsuspecting teams that are doing untoward.

            Maybe the best thing would be to put all cars in a wind tunnel and have the teams homologate a rear wing before use just as they do with the crash tests on the cockpit.

          2. @f1osaurus
            Even better obvious video showing how much bending occurs between the two cars :)
            This is only gonna get better and spicier.

          3. F1oSaurus (@)
            13th May 2021, 10:41

            @mysticus Ha. You actually see the Mercedes change pitch too though. But yeah the wing is quite bendy.

            If you take two screenshots and flip between them the difference is just silly. I wish someone added a view of the rear when the car is in the pitlane. Lowest speed I found was around 100km/h.

            You can see the side support is actually flexing to allow the upper part to fold back while the lower part folds inwards.

            I doubt anything is going to come of this though. Red Bull had no problem keeping their bendy front wing going when the FIA tried to clamp down on that. In the end didn’t the FIA just give up and then every team made their front wing bend like red Bull’s? They all were going round with these spider rigs on the front of the cars.

          4. F1oSaurus (@)
            13th May 2021, 11:26

            @mysticus Not sure if this works but I created an animated gif from a slow and high speed screenshot from that video https://www. youtube.com/watch?v=Mni8tXPPh24


            It’s funny to see the support structure for the Red Bull rear wing rear wing deform, but also how the air intake seems to inflate.

        3. @f1osaurus whilst you might say it was “part of the FIArari times”, it is worth noting that, at the time, Briatore was more critical of McLaren than he was of Ferrari – whilst accusing both Ferrari and McLaren of complaining to the FIA, it was Ron Dennis whom he accused of filing the formal protest with the FIA that lead to it being banned.
          It has to be said that Ron Dennis’s comments afterwards did seem to be rather carefully chosen in such a way that he didn’t outright deny Briatore’s comments either.

          The decision to appeal specifically on the grounds of clause 3.15, with the argument over the tuned mass damper being a “moveable aerodynamic device”, was on the grounds that the tuned mass damper was being used to maintain a more level aerodynamic platform; in essence, it was a case of the FIA wanting to head off an expensive arms race before things got too far out of hand.

          There had been quite a bit of debate for some time over the legality of tuned mass dampers though before that, and it is worth noting that, in the run up to the 2006 German GP, there was an expectation that the tuned mass dampers would be ruled illegal. However, it wasn’t the moveable aerodynamic device clause that was expected to be invoked, but rather the rules that required ballast to be fixed securely and rigidly to the car – a tuned mass damper might meet the former requirement, but not the latter one.

          1. F1oSaurus (@)
            13th May 2021, 8:13

            anon that’s highly unlikely since McLaren were running what they called the J-damper well before Renault had the mass tuned damper. In fact Renault stole the idea from McLaren when a Mechanic too a few floppy disks (!) with designs with him to Renault. But of course Renault never looked at these designs …

            It doesn’t need to be a moveable device. They are not allowed to adjust ride height and that’s effectively what this thing does. Granted it’s hard to argue that suspension should be able to move, but just look at video’s from F1 cars that don’t have this high rake end and you see they barely go down at the rear on the straight (if at all).

            They do this on purpose and that’s where the issue lies.

          2. @f1osaurus firstly, there was not that much of a difference between when McLaren first used their “J-damper” and Renault’s tuned mass damper – both teams introduced those components in 2005.

            Secondly, the allegation that “Renault stole the idea from McLaren when a Mechanic too a few floppy disks (!) with designs with him to Renault” has been utterly debunked.

            Philip Mackereth, whom you are referring to, didn’t join Renault until September 2006 – given that Renault had introduced their tuned mass damper in 2005, and with tuned mass dampers being banned in July 2006, it’s pretty obvious that Renault’s tuned mass damper had nothing to do with McLaren and Mackereth.

            That is also obvious when you look at the way in which McLaren’s “J-damper” was designed to operate – whilst it might have been intended to achieve a similar goal to a tuned mass damper, the mechanical principals in the way that it operates are fundamentally different.

            The “J-damper” was designed with a rotating flywheel and threaded system that was designed to transfer energy to the flywheel when subjected to slower rates of loading, making the system more compliant at slower loading speeds, but would allow part of the system to lock under rapid impulse loading (e.g. when hitting a kerb) to create a much stiffer and more rapid response in that loading condition. The tuned mass damper was designed to dissipate energy and to change the excitation period of the suspension system – they are fundamentally different devices.

    3. If the entire chassis is changing pitch, the camera would pitch right along with it.
      Everything mounted to the chassis would stay in the same relative vertical position to the camera.
      Only the horizon and the unsprung bits would change vertically, relative to the camera.

      1. F1oSaurus (@)
        13th May 2021, 8:22

        @clayt Well the camera probably does change pitch too. How could you tell when they are driving on an undulating track

        Check out the clip mystic one posted above though. It’s really clear how Red Bull both pitches the car down on the rear and also bends the rear wing back as well. You can actually see the angle of the rear wing change by a lot. The leading edge of the lower element comes a lot closer to the leading edge of the upper element.

  10. RBR have successfully passed tougher load tests and still have their front wings flexed. I can’t see why they won’t be doing it again. I suspect that when designing those wings they have the idea of being caught in mind and they have already a plan b at least for this season.

    The thing is the FIA’s job of ensuring that all the teams comply with the regulations is quite embarrassing to say the least. They have demonstrated that they can’t trigger an investigation into the legality of one car unless being forced to do so by a rival team. Ferrari PU, oil burn, brake bias, brake ducts, flexi wings… They are relying on teams monitoring each others to compensate for their incompetence.

    1. @tifoso1989 This is the point. If *they* initiate the investigations, they know they’ll spend ages being run around in circles by the teams or just end up being accused of selective bias.

      If they encourage all the teams to publicly approach them with recognised issues, often under the guise of speculation about design directions (i.e. Dear FIA, can we possibly implement development X, as seen on team Y’s car. We believe they are achieving this through means Z), then they know a lot of teams will back away from illegal activities for PR or sporting reasons.

      It’s not always the case, but this is how a lot of the flexible bodywork and engine issues have played out. Either the practice stops shortly after teams are notified someone is protesting them (which as we know places all race results under a provisional banner until the protest is ended or satisfied) or something is discovered and a penalty is issued & the practice is formally outlawed…

    2. @Tifoso1989 I disagree. I think the nature of F1 leads to it being somewhat self-policing, and it is actually a benefit that the teams will often point out areas where they think their competitors may be circumventing the rules. The FIA simply doesn’t have the level of manpower necessary compared to 10 full teams of engineers micro-analysing every minute detail of their competitors in order to either learn from them, or spot something potentially illegal. So I don’t have a problem with that part of it.

      1. @keithedin +1 Most sensible point on the thread. The teams are constantly analyzing competitors and are the first to spot strange performance boosts through data or visually. It’s then up to FIA to analyze and test where they think there may indeed be some issue.

        1. @david-br @keithdin But let’s not make it sound like they do no scrutiny at all. Surely RBR’s wings have been given at least some of the basic tests such as wing loads and have passed or we would have heard about this sooner. As the RBR car sits it is perfectly legal by FIA’s own admission of non-penalty. And I’m sure the scrutinizing is actually quite thorough and detailed while of course yes they can’t always catch everything I’m sure. The vast majority of the aspects of all the cars are fully legal because of the scrutiny that goes on.

          1. @robbie Clearly not. But I’m just repeating something Horner himself has demonstrated time and time again (and confirmed verbally): teams monitor rivals and report issues (or contest elements on other cars) precisely to get FIA to investigate and come to a ruling. If they permit the design, then other teams can then replicate it. It’s also a way, as we know, for teams to get otherwise unavailable info on other cars’ features.

          2. @david-br And it becomes more essential with the price cap. No one wants the spend a fortune on chasing someone’s innovation only for the FIA to rule it illegal at a later date. Isn’t that why DAS was queried? And I’m sure I read somewhere that Toto said he knew what Ferrari was up to, and told the FIA they would be doing the same if they didn’t rule on it.

          3. @iandearing Yes, I’m sure that’s a primary concern, reducing costs, along with any safety issues.

      2. @keithedin, @optimaximal
        I don’t have any problem with teams pointing out other teams circumventing the rules. I’m totally fine with that. The thing is the FIA are too fine with it to the point that they are satisfied with the usual scrutineering and will only react if a team request a clarification or protest. The FIA themselves implicitly admitted that they were not doing a great job with that regard and introduced tougher scrutineering process for this year’s championship.

        While I agree that figuring out for example what Ferrari were doing with their PU was a real Casse-tête even with guidance from rival teams to point the FIA in the right direction. However you can’t say the same thing with regard to RP copy of Mercedes car. You don’t have to wait Renault to find out that the brake ducts are illegal to take actions against RP which blatantly copied the Mercedes car and that was clear to the casual fans.

        Teams are feeling safe exploring grey areas of the rules because as seen before, at the maximum they will be requested to stop what they are doing. The FIA need to step up autonomously to catch teams going beyond the rules and issue proper punishments.

        1. @tifoso1989 But RP didn’t intentionally break any rules with their tracing paper car, because there was no rule that prevented them from doing so right up until there was…. They only fell foul of a technicality brought to light by an ex-employee who remembered some part of the design process where they decided to derive a part from another, which also wasn’t illegal the year before.

          That the FIA couldn’t punish the team any more than they did speaks volumes to a) the layers of grey areas that F1 car design operates in and b) the fact you cannot police retained knowledge. Even if RP spun up entire CAD designs for the break drums, the designs could still be largely their engineers own designs as they knew how good Mercedes’s designs would be.

          What next, do we ban Red Bull for poaching Mercedes mechanics if they develop a new engine development that’s based on whatever Mercedes have done? It’s literally a tightrope the FIA tread and if they police it wrong, they’ll collapse any and all innovation in the formula and we’ll get either a Spec Series or one team will romp it because nobody is allowed to interpret their design on pain of banishment from the sport!

          1. @optimaximal
            According to RP narrative, they have reverse engineered the Mercedes car from photos alone using some innovative techniques. That was a first response to the questions raised by the journalists and even the casual fans that have no business whatsoever in designing a F1 car.

            The striking resemblance with the Mercedes car and the fact that they got it right straightaway since the first day of testing taking into account the process complexity of building an F1 car (simulations, wind tunnel….) made RP suspicious to say the least.

            According to all the experts in the paddock, it’s almost impossible to reverse engineer a F1 from photos alone the way RP did it. With regard to the retained knowledge, that was also RP narrative as it was found that Mercedes delivered to RP their brake ducts after the date they were considered listed parts.

            The fact that Aston Martin today couldn’t react to the rear floor changes and were the team that suffered the most from the change speaks volume about their ability to reverse engineer an F1 car.

          2. F1oSaurus (@)
            13th May 2021, 12:23


            According to RP narrative, they have reverse engineered the Mercedes car from photos alone using some innovative techniques.

            That was never refuted by the FIA.

            The Racing Point looked like a clone of the Mercedes with almost identical bodywork. However, teams are not allowed to use each others bodywork. The FIA was satisfied that indeed Racing Point created this bodywork by reverse engineering. If the FIA had not acknowledged the use of reverse engineering Racing Point would have had a much bigger problem.

            So the reverse engineering from photo’s (or whatever scanning they used) was acknowledged and deemed perfectly fine according to the FIA.

            Even though people did not like it. So the FIA did change the rules to no longer allow this type of reverse engineering for the future.

            The parts where the issue did arise was with the parts that they actually were allowed to use straight up copies from in 2019. Racing Point bought the license and actual manufactured surplus spare parts like brake ducts from Mercedes when this was still allowed in 2019. Yet for 2020 these had become listed parts. Renault argued that Racing point should have designed new from scratch the parts that had become listed parts.

            In the end the FIA decided that the listed parts bought in 2019 were fine to be used for 2020, but not if they were not used on the car in 2019.

            So it really was just that technicality for only those specific parts that was the problem. There was no issue at all from the FIA that they reverse engineered the whole bodywork using photo’s.

          3. @f1osaurus
            I never said that reverse engineering an F1 car is illegal. My point was that story is too good to be true as actually confirmed by the majority of F1 experts. FYI, McLaren who have probably more resources than RP at the time, were rumoured to have failed the crash test twice when they tried to copy Mercedes nose. The Mercedes car concept is way too complex to be copied from photos alone.

            The point is that the FIA should have opened a serious investigation once seeing the RP car running on track.
            Like I said the fact that Aston Martin couldn’t react to the floor rule changes the way Mercedes did speaks volume about their understanding of their own car.

          4. F1oSaurus (@)
            14th May 2021, 8:27

            @tifoso1989 I never said that you said that reverse engineering an F1 car is illegal.

            The Mercedes car concept is way too complex to be copied from photos alone.

            Yeah you keep on spreading this lie that they did not use reverse engineering and I explained how the FIA actually agreed with their use of photo’s for the parts that they needed reverse engineering for.

            The FIA did plenty of serious investigation and was fine in how that was done.

            The only issue was a technicality over using non-listed parts parts from 2019 (which needed no reverse engineering!) in 2020 after they became listed.

          5. @f1osaurus
            You seem to miss the point deliberately. As explained by most of the experts in the paddock, unless they are all lying, that is too good to true. You didn’t answer on McLaren failing the crash test when copying Mercedes style nose and Aston Martin ability to react to a simple floor rule change that reduced them to a backmarker team when they were easily a race winning team last year and arguably the best of the rest behind Mercedes and RBR.

          6. F1oSaurus (@)
            14th May 2021, 14:28

            @tifoso1989 Yeah right, it’s me missing the point. Geez man.

            They used “photos” for reverse engineering some parts AND they received designs and actual manufactured parts for which they needed no photo’s The latter is where they fell foul of a technicality.

            Yet you keep pretending that they never could have reverse engineered these parts.

            The FIA was satisfied they used “photo” reverse engineering for all other listed parts and the FIA actually changed the rules to disallow this type of reverse engineering, but of course you know better and it’s impossible to do so anyway.

  11. Hamilton probably got a prime time view of the flexing wing sitting behind Verstappen most of the last race. He did say in an interview he learned a few things about the red bulls performance after the race.

    1. @emu55 More precisely, the car’s performance and how Verstappen handled the car.

      1. Spain 21
        Aus 20
        clear as day the rear wing flexes to a degree that almost acts as a free drs (without deploying actual drs) given that they used a high speed version of the wing, i suspect it amplified the effect, also i think it is one of the reasons why Ver is able to out drag Mercedes in a straight, specifically at race starts with long straights before first corner…

  12. Hamilton has said he believes RB gained at least 0.3 sec on the straight with that bendy wing so with new FIA ruling coming after Turkey that advantage will surely disappear and RB will suddenly find themselves be slower by that same margin oh oh

  13. Horner said he was “surprised” by Hamilton’s comments about his team’s wings and indicated he believed Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff was behind them.

    Sure, Toto was behind the wings, bending them.

  14. Thank you, the article writer and all commenters on this interesting article.

    I understand that drivers like Hamilton and Verstappen must have exceptional eyesight, however, I am having trouble understanding how Hamilton can, while being buffeted at high speed, see the amount of flex at the Red Bull’s rear wing and determine that the car in front is gaining 0.3 of a second on a straight portion of the track. I am also wondering what is happening at the Mercedes’ rear wing at the same time and in the same conditions?

    Do track surface undulations have any influence on rear wing behaviour?

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      13th May 2021, 12:54

      Just see the video’s of how much it bends. Plenty links in the comments.

      I would say it looks like the top and back of the rear wing comes down by about 3 centimeters at high speed. It comes back up quite fast when they slow down. So that’s easily visible from a car close behind.

      Hamilton probably guesstimated the 3 tenths. Just like Marko claimed that Mercedes engine “party mode” accounted for 6 tenths of the total supposed 1 second gap to Red Bull.

  15. Red Bull really does flap you wings then!

    1. Hahahahaha!

  16. This season is the f1st time he actually got to see rear wings from cars other than back markers. Not surprised he experiences and notices all kinds of new stuff

  17. Well, thats a good idea. Shady management of DAS last year and Ferrari the year before, but do lets get after RB. After all they are the only team that could possibly turn this in a somewhat decent season by stealing a few wins from Mercedes. Lets make that zero.

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      13th May 2021, 16:17

      Ah there is the pretend Hamilton fan again, now claiming that DAS was somehow handled shady and now poor Red Bull should not be held accountable for the clearly visible cheating.

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