McLaren urging FIA to take tougher stance on “bendy” wings

2021 Monaco Grand Prix

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McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl says the FIA is moving too slowly to prevent teams using flexible rear wings, and putting teams who comply with the rules at a disadvantage.

Lewis Hamilton drew attention to the “bendy” wings on the Red Bull during the Spanish Grand Prix weekend. The FIA reacted by introducing a tougher rear wing stiffness test. However it will not come into force until June 15th, and teams will be allowed a 20% tolerance for the first month of its introduction thereafter.

Seidl says McLaren support the new directive, but are frustrated the timing of its introduction will allow rival teams to continue using their current rear wing designs for several races.

“When you see all the videos and pictures from Barcelona it’s pretty clear what was happening there,” said Seidl. “Therefore we welcome the reaction from the FIA with a technical directive which we are also happy with, the basic content.”

Teams will be able to continue using their current rear wings at this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix and the following round in Azerbaijan. Seidl said McLaren “Strongly disagree with the timing of the implementation.”

“From our point of view there is no reason after not just one team – we talk about more teams here – had already the advantage of doing things which in our point of view are clearly against the regulations,” he explained.

“They had the advantage already for several races, which is something we’re obviously not happy with. But now allowing them to have further advantage for some more races is clearly something we strongly disagree and we’re already in conversation with FIA.”

Some teams appear to have designed their rear wings to flex at speed in order to reduce the drag they generate on straights. Those teams will enjoy a particular advantage at the next round of the championship in Azerbaijan, Seidl believes, as the Baku circuit usually sees the highest top speeds of the year.

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“It is clear with having flexible wings in place obviously you have a big advantage especially on tracks like Baku,” he said. “You simply can run a lot more downforce instead of the top speed.

“Which is why this topic keeps coming back every now and then. But again, there’s regulations in place and every car has to comply with the regulations, simple as that.”

Seidl insisted that merely because the wings pass the current flexibility tests does not mean they are legal.

“The tests that are mentioned in the regulations at the moment are in place to additionally support the FIA in order to check in a straightforward way if the cars are complying with the regulation. But it doesn’t mean that only this test is the criteria if the car is legal or not.

“With the footage that is available from Barcelona I think it’s pretty clear what’s going on there and we simply hope that FIA shows a very strong hand now on this because in our point of view it’s simply not acceptable because it puts teams that comply with the regulations at a big disadvantage.”

However he indicated McLaren does not intend to protests any of the teams using the flexing wings this weekend.

“In principle I’m not a big fan of protesting other teams and cars and so on. So all I can say at the moment we are in dialogue with the FIA to understand what they will put in place in order to make sure that teams that are having designed devices or parts that allow things that we have seen in Barcelona simply can’t use these devices or parts any more from now onwards. And then we’ll take it from there.”

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2021 Monaco Grand Prix

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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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34 comments on “McLaren urging FIA to take tougher stance on “bendy” wings”

  1. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    20th May 2021, 10:42

    Seidl is just mad that he didn’t think of this himself. It’s hilariously pathetic that teambosses always claim that something is illegal when it’s in a grey area but when they are the ones using it for their own benefit, it’s all a-okay for them

    1. Yeah, like Horner complained about Mercedes steering last year

      1. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
        20th May 2021, 11:00

        Exactly. Teambosses should just applaud innovation like that and not cry because they didn’t think of it.

        1. It sets a precedent, whereby a team can (clearly) break the rules, and then continue to do so legally until a specified date. This means that the approach towards people who use illegal parts is to forgive them and provide them with leniency. This will result in a “do wrong first, ask for forgiveness second”.

          Cant say I agree with the approach, because it encourages future rule breaking.

    2. @barryfromdownunder When it’s this obvious it’s hard to pretend it’s “grey area” though

      1. DAS was very obvious and very against every possible meaning of the Rules but allowed for a complete year.

    3. This isn’t some new innovation, they’re literally just using the same illegal wing designs that have been banned previously by just designing them to pass the current tests. This is not a grey area, the technical regulations state quite clearly the wings should not behave in this manner.

  2. Seidl couldn’t wait to speak on behalf of Mercedes. Even if Red Bull will be hurt by the directive, I don’t see McLaren fighting Mercedes for the championship or even for a couple of wins. He should be worried with Ferrari who are gradually outpacing McLaren in their fight for the 3rd place.

    1. RandomMallard (@)
      20th May 2021, 11:43

      Or, just maybe, he’s speaking on behalf of a team who are fighting Alpine, who also have these flexible wings. What does everyone have to link this back to 1 team principal, when there is more than 1 team doing it, and more than 1 team affected by these potentially illegal wings.

    2. With him stressing it was about more than one team though @tifoso1989, and with Barcelona being so good for Ferrari, one has to wonder: are they perhaps bending stuff a lot too? Or perhaps AT and/or Alpine, all competitors for the Q3 positions this year?

      1. RandomMallard (@)
        20th May 2021, 12:06

        @bosyber Alpine definitely have flexible wings. I think that’s who McLaren are worried about.

        1. Ah right, yes that does seem likely @randommallard, from what I saw Alpine may be doing something different than Red Bull, but yeah, also seem to have the wing come down quite a bit in Barcelona.

    3. At this circuit everyone is running the high downforce wings i don’t think any ‘flexing’ is going on. It’s the low and low-medium speed circuits where flexing could help.

      1. Such as Baku which is next. The McLarens will be swamped along that straight.

        1. Like the fastest cars on the speed all Mercedes engines in Spain.

    4. @tifoso1989 why can’t Seidl be representing the interests of his own team? Why is it preferable for you to believe in an overly elaborate conspiracy theory instead?

      As others have noted, for a start, whilst the focus has been on Red Bull, there are other midfield teams that are in a direct fight with McLaren that are also suspected of doing something similar – Alpine, Alpha Tauri and, to some extent, Ferrari are also facing questions too. Why shouldn’t he complain?

    5. Yea bud ferrari are doing the same as the bulls, so maybe he’s just thinking of his own team fight

    6. I totally agree with your wise comment. Well said and very appropriate. McLaren… Sour grapes.

  3. You simply can run a lot more downforce instead of the top speed.

    I would have thought the aim was to design a wing that twisted or warped so you got both more downforce and more speed.

    1. RandomMallard (@)
      20th May 2021, 11:41

      Yeah I think that’s what he means. I think he’s saying you can put more downforce into the setup, knowing that the wing will provide more top speed when it comes to the straights.

  4. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    20th May 2021, 11:08

    Seidl insisted that merely because the wings pass the current flexibility tests does not mean they are legal

    I expected more of a respectable man like Seidl. Every smart, new development in autosport finds its source in reading between the lines. Just as Dieter wrote in his piece about the crackdown on these developments. Saying something defines as illegal simply because ‘obviously you’re not meant to do it this way’ is a poor argument.

    1. RandomMallard (@)
      20th May 2021, 11:40

      I think he’s right. What teams are doing (and I say this as an RB fan) is not necessarily legal. However, the FIA aren’t currently able to prove that what they are doing is illegal, so are introducing stricter tests for legality. The FIA are going about this the right way, with innocent until proven guilty being the way forwards at the minute.

    2. @barryfromdownunder The body work is not supposed to flex beyond what can be expected since nothing is 100% rigid. Then purposefully designing the parts so they flex just beyond what is being tested. That is cheating plain and simple.

      1. Then purposefully designing the parts so they flex just beyond what is being tested.

        This is silly, you don’t want them to flex just beyond the limits, just within the limits is more like it

        That is cheating plain and simple.

        Of course not. The alleged “spirit” of the rule cannot be enforced. You just have to pass the test. If you do, that’s legal. If the FIA thinks the tests are too lenient, they can devise and enforce stricter ones. But while you do not fail the current test you are ok. And of course all teams have all the time tried to reach the very limit of what they can get away with. You may call that cheating if it pleases you, but that’s F1 for you.

    3. Exactly, F1 has always been about meeting the letter of the rule, but not always the philosophy of the rule.
      Red Bull is the only team who bothered to invest in aeroelasticity and it’s paying off now, tough luck on the others.
      If the car passes the tests, it is legal.

      1. I think his point though is the teams have until after Baku to change their design as new stricter tests will be implemented. As the current wings on some teams might fail these tests, why wait until after Baku to do it, as they will still get a benefit from them.

      2. Errr..there is actual video footage of it flexing more than it ‘should do’ mid race when compared to other cars. How much evidence do you think they need?

        1. Maybe the wing failing a test? That would be solid evidence

      3. @paeschli in this case not so. The rules specifically outlaw the aeroelasticity that the wing has shown. The same could be said for the speculation around Ferrari’s engines in 2019 about legality and passing tests.

        1. That’s very different.. they fooled the tests.

      4. @paeschli not necessarily – we have the precedent of the 2014 Abu Dhabi GP, where Red Bull were excluded altogether from qualifying for using a front wing that was designed to evade the front wing endplate deflection tests.

        In that instance, the FIA made it clear that, whilst the wing might have technically passed the tests, the way that the wing was designed to pass the test, but flex more than that on track – through incorporating leaf springs hidden inside the front wing adjustment mechanism – was illegal and a straight breach of the regulations. In that case, they weren’t even sticking to “the letter of the rule, but not the philosophy” – it was just about straight up rule breaking in that case.

        I’ve repeatedly made the point that just passing the test itself does not automatically make the wing legal, as the example of the 2014 Abu Dhabi GP front wing shows. The wing might have passed the load deflection test, but it only did so by using a mechanism fitted to the wing that was illegal, thus rendering the wing as a whole as illegal.

  5. Totally agree with him!

    FIA should have banned them in 1-2 races, not a month with a grace period

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