Christian Horner, Red Bull, Monaco, 2021

Horner insists Red Bull rear wing is legal as Wolff hints at protest

2021 Monaco Grand Prix

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Red Bull CEO Christian Horner says his team have no concerns about any protests over the legality of their rear wing design.

The FIA will introduce new tests on rear wing stiffness following the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in response to the flexing seen on some cars, including the Red Bull, at the previous race.

Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff is unhappy with the timing of the change, and indicated they may consider a protest against the designs.

“Delaying the introduction, for whatever reason, leaves us in a legal vacuum and leaves the door open for protests,” he said. “It’s not only us, but it’s probably two other teams that are most affected, maybe more.”

Wolff warned any protest could lead to an International Court of Appeal hearing, which would leave the result in doubt for several weeks. He claimed there was enough time to introduce the new tests before the Azerbaijan race, where the flexing rear wings could offer a significant performance advantage.

“Obviously a protest could end up in the ICA and that is a messy situation. It could take weeks before we have a result. We should have not ended in this situation if we’re having four weeks until the race that is most relevant in the calendar.”

But Horner asserted his team’s rear wings are legal when asked if he was concerned about the possibility of a protest. “The car complies with the tests, it complies with the rules,” he said. “So that’s just a statement of fact.”

“The car is designed to comply with the regulations and, of course, there are tests that the FIA have to measure that,” he explained. “Our car complies with all of those tests.

“Now, occasionally the FIA will change those tests, which they have the right to do. They’ve done that and that, of course, then means that, effectively it’s a change in regulation in many respects.”

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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...
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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63 comments on “Horner insists Red Bull rear wing is legal as Wolff hints at protest”

  1. It’s either legal or it isn’t. The FIA have deemed it legal and the tolerances are in black and white. If Wolff wants to protest then knock yerself out lad. Maybe read the rulebook more slowly next year.

    1. It is illegal. Clear as day

      1. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
        20th May 2021, 15:09

        Just because you type that under every article doesn’t make it so

        1. Just because you deny it each time also doesn’t make it legal

          1. Bear in mind that Barry Bens has stated in the past that he has a habit of blocking out views that do not conform to his own opinions, and that he has also indicated he is a quite strong Dutch nationalist.

            I would therefore say that it does not matter what you say – he has already decided that he will not listen and that, because he wants – perhaps even needs – to believe that it is legal, he is not prepared to shift from that position and will continue repeating the mantra that “it must be legal”.

            Indeed, I am willing to bet that, if any punishment were imposed on Red Bull, he’d find it easier to come up with a conspiracy theory to explain why Red Bull is being punished, rather than being prepared to accept that the wing could be illegal and that his beliefs to date were wrong.

            You also have to ask whether he would be prepared to defend others by claiming that they were being “innovative” with the same enthusiasm with which he defends Red Bull. Would he be prepared to say the same thing if it were a team that he was opposed to – particularly if it was Mercedes – instead?

        2. Besides, they are already outlawed, even with delay.

          So, you can think of them as “legal” as much as you like (don’t blow up).

        3. Besides,
          they have already been outlawed. So in a sense, they are already deemed illegal.

      2. It is illegal. Clear as day

        Prove it.
        Article 3.8 of the sporting regulations states that:

        [with some exceptions]..any specific part of the car influencing its aerodynamic performance must remain immobile in relation to the sprung part of the car.

        This is actually impossible to achieve as all body parts will flex to some degree under aerodynamic loads. Hence, the FIA helpfully provides a set of deflection tests in Article 3.9 which certain aerodynamic components are subjected to. So far as we know, RBR and Alpine have always passed these tests.
        If the table-basher-in-chief (and others) don’t like that, they are free to design their cars in the same way as RBR or Alpine…

        1. Fully agree.
          No engineer (by the way, I am) could ever write “must remain immobile in relation to the sprung part of the car” alluding to the bending / vibration of the wing with the car in motion: simply impossible to make and measure.
          It should be added that paragraph 3.8 is absolutely not intended to regulate the bending of the wings!! It explicitly aims to avoid aerodynamic devices which are mobile thanks to additional degrees of freedom, such as movable (e.g. rotating) wings, by prescribing “rigidly secured means not having any degree of freedom”.
          I don’t think Wolff could ever lodge a complaint on this basis and I find it very disappointing that F1 has to undergo an authentic regulation change during the championship. This is a betrayal of the spirit of competition.

      3. More or less illegal than Mercedes’ front wing?

        1. Do not confuse bending of tiny wing flaps with bending of the whole wing.

          1. @facepalmer – where is this distinction made in the regs? can’t seem to find it…

          2. No aero part may bending. So this front wing is just as illegal.

    2. RandomMallard (@)
      20th May 2021, 15:14

      I’m not sure whether it’s a case of it being legal, or the FIA just can’t prove that they’re illegal. If the FIA are working on a presumption of innocent until proven guilty (which they should do), then they are clearly introducing these new wing load tests, as they are allowed to do, to try and build up any evidence that *any* team, not just RB cause there are others doing it, are breaking the rules. What this won’t be able to do though is prove RB had flexi-wings in Spain or Portugal, so I don’t think any protest from Toto would help that.

      1. You’ve said all that needs to be said.

      2. @randommallard Presumably Mercedes think Red Bull could get a season-long advantage if not contested now, and they’d prefer the new tests to come before Baku where the big straights will offer huge benefits to a lower drag ‘solution’. I don’t think the intention is retrospective (they’re ahead just now going into Monaco anyhow).

    3. The FIA have actully not deemed it legal at all @bealzbob (They would only decide on this matter if a car gets caught in the new, random testing, or in case anyone files a protest and that aspect of the car looked at).

      They FIA have noted that some cars seem to be having parts that infringe on the rules (from video footage) and given them time to sort that out until they bring in stricter tests to prove it and throw any such parts out in a few races (since it takes some time both the change the test rig, and for teams to build and bring new parts to the track).

      Other teams (Ferrari, Alpine, I think Sauber/AR too) have already confirmed their parts have to be changed, but will be running them until the new parts are brought in to be able to withstand the stricter scrutineering. Nothing really to be ashamed about really. Shows you are getting the maximum out of what is possible, for as long as you can get away with it.

    4. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      20th May 2021, 19:12

      @bealzbob Redbull informed Mercedes that if they ran DAS at the first race in 2020, they would protest. They did and the FIA confirmed it was a legal system as Mercedes had consulted the FIA before the start of the season and received confirmation from the FIA that DAS fell within the rules. DAS was allowed during the 2020 season but banned for 2021 due to cost concerns, NOT illegality.

      Redbull pulled this card on Mercedes in 2020 and lost.

      The regulations SPECIFICALLY prohibit certain elements of the car from movement or flexing REGARDLESS of tests to ascertain whether parts can flex.

      One of those elements is the rear wing. It CANNOT move in relation to the car beyond a certain tolerance.

      If Redbull have found a way to create a rear wing that conforms to the tests but in actual fact breaches the above rules, it is illegal. Period. They have form with the 2014 front wing with incorporated springs that passed the tests but was illegal. They were found to be in breach of the regulations and the design was banned immediately.

      Expect Toto to protest this design at the Baku GP. He will be perfectly within his rights as Christian was in 2020. The difference is the Mercedes protest will be based on the written rules for known advantages, which Redbull currently breaches with its wing design. It’s a slam dunk.

      Passing tests is not a guarantee of conforming to rules. Redbull are not conforming to the regulations. It’s a repeat of 2014. Mercedes innovate. Redbull seem to play fast and loose with the rules.

  2. It is illegal. Clear as day

    1. Contrary to popular belief, flexi-wings are not illegal. It is physically impossible to have a device that is not flexible and doesn’t shatter/snap when under pressure. Instead, to stop certain aero devices from shattering but to also ensure they are not flexible, it is illegal to have a wing that does not pass the flexibility tests.

      For the rear wing, these tests require that the wing does not flex more than 1 degree after a particular point is subjected to 1000N of force. Red Bull’s rear wing passes this test and is therefore legal. What the FIA is doing to close this loophole, is to change the tests, which effectively results in a change of the rules. This flexi-wing is no more illegal than DAS was, yet Mercedes was able to keep it for a full year before they changed the rules. The new tests, to ensure equity, should be put in place for next year, not now.

      Sure, it goes against the spirit of the rules which is clear as day as you pointed out. But don’t say it’s illegal when it clearly isn’t (otherwise it would’ve been protested immediately, and RB would have received a DSQ), you’ve just shown you don’t know the rules. Also, Mercedes has the exact same thing (their wing also flexes), they just haven’t done it as well, and for the front wings Mercedes and Red Bull both have a similar amount of flex.

    2. RandomMallard (@)
      20th May 2021, 15:20

      There is a difference between it being legal and the FIA being able to prove it is illegal. That is what they need to do, and what they are trying to do with the new load tests.

      1. Like Ferrari’s engine from some years ago?

        It was still illegal, just nobody dared to say it openly.

        1. And here we go.

        2. RandomMallard (@)
          20th May 2021, 16:51

          Yes, quite similar actually. Again, the FIA suspected it was illegal, but couldn’t prove it as the entire point of the ‘cheat’ was designed around bypassing the fuel flow sensor. And as soon as the FIA began introducing new sensors, the advantage mysteriously disappeared. That may happen again this time, it may not.

  3. Hope Mercedes protests and wins!

    This joke with RBR’s bendy wings must end!
    Also as was reveled FIA has been approached about this last year, but they didn’t even reply!

    1. RandomMallard (@)
      20th May 2021, 15:19

      Yeah they were probably approached about it when it was rumoured the W11 had similarly flexible rear wings. All this shows is the incompetence of the testing from the FIA more than anything else.

    2. Mercedes fan detected, protest everything that gives some competition, ferrari engine etc.

      1. Thats a brilliant comment, you must be a very smart person!

      2. RandomMallard (@)
        20th May 2021, 17:43

        I’m no Mercedes fan, but it was Red Bull who pestered the FIA for ‘technical clarifications’ over Ferrari’s engine @esploratore

      3. @esploratore as others have pointed out, Red Bull were the ones who were submitting those requests for “technical clarifications” that resulted in those regulation changes, as well as making quite a lot of public complaints about Ferrari’s fuel at the time as well.

        1. And right they where.
          But something is only illegal when fia says so after testing.
          For now it’s just as illegal as I e. Das was.

          1. erikje, you mean the DAS device that Mercedes had spent time discussing with the FIA to confirm the legality of the device, and which it appears you are only trying to paint as “illegal” because it was Mercedes and not Red Bull that invented the device?

            I get the impression that your position is motivated by the previously expressed bias you have stated you have – if it is Red Bull, you will say it must be legal because you support them, and if it is Mercedes, you will say that it must be illegal because you are opposed to them – rather than any rational evaluation of the situation.

          2. @anon,
            It becoming your “style” here to attack people who do not talk your talk…

            Please stop that and keep it clean.

            Das was not to the spirit of the rules but a clever loophole. Good for them.
            But Fia allowed it for a complete season before they closed the loophole,
            Do not put words in the mouth.. its polarizing things..
            You are free to have another opinion, so am i.

  4. But flexi wings are not adding to lap times. Mercs are still faster.

    1. even if it were Haas racing flexi wings it would be wrong mate. It’s illegal, period.

  5. It’s not only us, but it’s probably two other teams that are most affected, maybe more

    We already know the other teams unhappy about the bendy wings belongs to the Mercedes cartel. He would be better off protesting RBR who in the past have protested Mercedes over DAS instead of keep whining publicly about the legality of their car.

    1. RandomMallard (@)
      20th May 2021, 15:46

      I think McLaren are more unhappy about Alpine’s than they are about RB’s tbh. I don’t think Toto has very much influence over that McLaren team, they seem to be quite happy with just the engine supplier deal (they don’t even have Merc logos on the side of the car)

  6. Lol, nice bit of bluff poker from both sides.

    Horner knows very well the rear wing bending is illegal, they have simply gotten away with it for a while. Too long really seeing how the same bending was already visible in Austria last year. Of course he keeps pretending nothing is wrong and hopes to get away with it with the new tests still. Or they will quietly replace the design with something slightly stiffer which would pass the new tests.

    While Wolff is upping the ante by claiming he might protest the Baku results if RBR runs their flexible wing there. Which puts some extra threat on RBR to decide if they actually want to run that wing still in Baku. Which pulls the decision a bit further forward than the FIA would have forced RBR to do.

    I hope they make something of the camera based testing. It would make a lot more sense for the stewards to simply check the footage of the wings while the car is running. At least then you know the correct loads are applied. Rather than trying to come up with a static load test that could sort of mimic the actual loads. While testing at only a fraction of the actual loads.

    1. Yes. I saw a few vids online; including Scarbs I think, and they all said camera based testing is not only easier, but more accurate.

    2. Yeah, look at what cameras can capture:

    3. @f1osaurus You’re right obviously. Contrary to the Racefans article yesterday, I don’t really this as ‘innovative’. All the teams know that bendy aero is a winner. Red Bull are just trying to get away with it, Ferrari style, by bypassing the tests. Kind of rubbish, to be honest. I mean, I’m disappointed this is how they want to go about fighting for a championship.

      1. @david-br How would they be bypassing an FIA test? You think they have a choice and can just say to FIA ah, we’ll pass on that one thanks?

        1. @robbie I think you know what I meant.

      2. @david-br
        Ferrari were quite clever with their engine trickery to the point that the FIA – even though having seized hardware and were guided by rival teams in their investigation for the entire winter – have no clue whatsoever how Ferrari were achieving such figures in qualy modes.

      3. @david-br Exactly, it’s such an obvious cheating way of gaining an advantage.

        They know they can get away with it though. There really is no penalty for this whatsoever. Only thing that can happen is that at some point perhaps they will not be allowed to use it anymore.

  7. Now, occasionally the FIA will change those tests, which they have the right to do. They’ve done that and that, of course, then means that, effectively it’s a change in regulation in many respects

    That’s a spectacular give away by Horner. Note his logic: if it passes the tests, it complies with the rules. So if it doesn’t past new tests, it would effectively be a change in the rules. First, that’s plainly wrong – tests and rules are different entities. Second, that’s a clear sign that, if Red Bull don’t pass the new test, he will claim the rules have changed, not admit that Red Bull already weren’t complying with existing rules (despite passing the tests). And he at least half-expects that they won’t pass…

    1. tests and rules are different entities.

      Nope, the tests are clearly codified in the rules in section 3.9 of the technical regulations. Section 3.9.9 provides for additional tests to be introduced if the FIA deems it necessary.

    2. @david-br Hmmm…not really. I agree with CH here. Currently the wing passes the current FIA test, which allows for X amount of flex. If they change the test to make it more stringent then they are now saying the wing has to withstand more weight hanging off it ie. be stronger or less flexy. (There has to be some flex or the wings would shatter). I don’t think you can conveniently separate the test and the rule here. If it has passed the current tests, and FIA have ample opportunity to do that at any time, then it is legal by the current test. Change the test and the teams have to change the wings to comply which is why he says it is ‘effectively’ a regulation change. Horner at no point will have to admit their current wings were illegal because they are not. Change the test, and they then have to change the wing to comply and make it legal for the new test. I’m sure that is all that will happen. New test and RBR will comply to that one too, once they know the new parameters.

    3. @david-br – “tests and rules are different entities” – umm, you might want to read the regs… they are a literal description of the tests! so yes, a new test is a new rule.

      1. @asherway @robbie Tests measure compliance with the regulations, they are not the ‘regulations,’ though the rules may specify how tests are to be made and what parameters need to be passed. FIA can change those parameters without changing the regulation/rule itself. It’s sophistry on Horner’s part.

        1. @david-br Sure but presumably the RBR wings have been tested and meet compliance with the regulations, unless F1 is just a free-for-all lol;) So I don’t think it is sophistry at all on Horner’s part. They meet compliance with the current tests, and if the tests change so too will the regulation in the sense that they may have to change the wing to then have it comply to the new tests. That’s why he is saying ‘effectively.’ He’s not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. He’s not admitting illegality. He’s legal now based on the FIA’s own tests, and if they go ahead and change the tests, so be it, he may have to change the wings for the current ones might become illegal only upon them changing the test. I’m sure he plans on remaining legal once the new tests are presented and they can prepare to comply with the new parameters of the new tests with a different wing, if needed. You (FIA) can’t change the test mid-season and then suddenly expect a team’s current legal wing to comply when the teams couldn’t possibly have known if/when a test parameter change might happen and by how much. They don’t make things like wings extra beefy just in case test parameters suddenly change to some unknown way and degree. Once the teams are advised of the new parameters they will then know how to comply to the new tests.

          1. @robbie

            if the tests change so too will the regulation in the sense that they may have to change the wing to then have it comply to the new tests

            No! It means they may have to change the wing to comply with the existing regulation, found to have been breached by new tests! :O)

          2. @david-br Ok fair enough but as I say if they were cleared via FIA’s existing testing how could they know their amount of flex was illegal? The cars are scrutinized all the time and it was passing FIA’s own testing. They and any other team shouldn’t be guilty of anything other than finding a loophole. If FIA now find it pertinent to introduce further tests that’s on them, not on RBR who to the best of their knowledge via FIA’s own ok’ ing of the car, were complying.

      2. Dave (@davewillisporter)
        20th May 2021, 19:21

        @asherway No, tests are not rules. They are the best solution regulators can come up with to enforce conformity to the rules. If the tests are deficient, the rules can be broken without detection. The rule doesn’t change in this case, the test is improved to better detect non-conformity. That is how the world works. Just look at the world of taxation to understand.

        1. @davewillisporter But is it non-conformity when a team meets the FIA’s own standards via their own tests? If FIA says you pass, your wing meets our test parameters, how does that team then think they aren’t conforming? So they change the test, fine, and then the team simply goes ahead and ensures they then meet the new parameters. What is the rule RBR (et al) was to meet, when the FIA’s own tests showed it to be legal?

        2. @davewillisporter – You are wrong. Read 3.9 of the REGULATIONS. The tests, as spelled out in clear language in the REGULATIONS, are what determines whether something is compliant or not. They provide the rules around Bodywork flexibility in finite terms, given the ‘spirit of the rule’ is unattainable (complete rigidity).

          If the tests aren’t the rules, why are they spelled out in the regs? I thought the regs were the rules…

          1. 3.9.8:

            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.

            So part 3.9, on bodywork flexibility, exists to ensure the requirement for immobility, specified in Article 3.8, is respected. No new rules have been created, only new tests, the possibility of which is set out in the rules/regulations. The rule is unambiguous and says nothing about the ‘spirit of the rule’ being unattainable:

            any specific part of the car influencing its aerodynamic performance […] must be rigidly secured to the entirely sprung part of the car (rigidly secured means not having any degree of freedom).

            Obviously it is unattainable in any absolute sense! But it’s still it’s not the rule that has changed…

  8. Exact same argument Mercedes used for DAS. If the FIA says something is legal then it is until the rules change.

    Merc want things to go their way, but won’t accept when another team does the exact same thing. Hypocrisy at it’s finest and just Wolff showing his true colours as a competitor.

    1. @skipgamer DAS survived actual protest. Clearly it was legal.

      Whether RBs flexi-rear will do the same (or be challenged at all by a protest) remains to be seen.

      1. Das was not legal to the intentions of the existing rule but used a loophole.
        Just like rbr does, presumably. Nothing proven yet!.

    2. @skipgamer DAS was legal until the FIA changed the rules. Purposefully flexing bodywork is illegal. It might take new tests to detect it, but it’s illegal by principal.

      The problem is that they keep getting away with it. The tests need to be better to stop this cheating from the get go and not wait for a year to finally do something about it.

  9. To those claiming hypocrisy on Mercedes’ part, you realise the term hypocrisy relates to the contradiction of moral standards? This isn’t about morality, it’s competition… it’s the search for clarification where the line between bending and breaking rules is blurred. In this sport designers and engineers will always look to push the regulations to their legal limits or even risk exceeding them where multiple interpretations exist. Likewise the media-facing representatives of those same teams will attempt to knock down their competitor’s attempts to do the same. Mercedes are one of dozens of teams that have done so over the decades. I for one find these kinds of off-track battles fascinating as it just highlights how the difference between winning and losing championships is more than just what is done on raceday.

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