“Bendy” wing rule tweak will cost us a fortune, Vasseur warns

2021 Monaco Grand Prix

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New tests to prevent teams using “bendy” rear wings will significantly increase costs, Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur has warned.

Rear wing stiffness tests will become stricter after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in response to footage which showed some teams’ rear wings deforming at high speed. Vasseur said he is “upset” with the ruling as it will force his team to develop new rear wings.

“The introduction of a new test is a different thing but to change the value of the test, it’s not fair at all,” he said. “The business of the engineers in F1 and the designers is to design parts at the limit of the regulation. If you change a regulation in the course of the season, you would have to design new parts and the teams who are saying that they won’t be affected, it’s a joke.”

“We are all fighting to try to save money,” he added. “[We] speak to reduce one person on track and then we have these kind of things. It is just a joke.”

Some rival teams have claimed the delayed introduction of the test will disadvantage those whose wings already comply with the rules. But Vasseur is convinced all teams will have to change their designs.

“It will affect everybody because at the end of the day we had the regulation and even if some teams won’t agree because they don’t want to disclose their own game, at the end of the day, we had a regulation with the maximum deformation and the load and I think we are not more clever than the others.

“Everybody was sticking to the limit and the FIA decided to change the limits. It’s a bit surprising, they changed the load and deformation in the course of the season.

“It’s not the introduction of a new test or a new way to do the test, it’s that they changed the value and this for me is the first time that I remember that we see something like this. If you are the limit, if you did a good job, you have to produce new wings.”

“We will have time to do it, but it will cost us a fortune,” he added.

Vasseur doubts the change will make a significant difference to the performance of the cars. “It will be marginal because we did a back-to-back [test] a couple of times and the difference was not huge.”

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65 comments on ““Bendy” wing rule tweak will cost us a fortune, Vasseur warns”

  1. When the right teams exploit the rules, the poorer teams have to do so too to try to keep up. Spec chassis please, let’s see the best race team win, not the the best resourced. Spec chassis will spoke for development on certain aero

    1. *with scope

    2. F1 is about teams designing & developing their own chassis, It has never been & should never be a spec series & if you don’t like that aspect of F1 then maybe F1 simply isn’t for you.

      There are plenty of other (significantly less interesting) spec formulas out there for you to watch.

      1. Agreed +1

      2. petebaldwin (@)
        21st May 2021, 13:26

        @roger-ayles – Unless of course, you just buy some photocopies and run someone else’s chassis.

      3. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
        21st May 2021, 13:48

        There are plenty of other (significantly less interesting) spec formulas out there for you to watch.

        Well that’s one rather ignorant comment right here.
        F2 and F3 races usually see quite a bit more overtaking than F1, and Indycar, at the very least, does manage to have at least more than 2-3 winners a season. I don’t think F1 should go spec, but the current competative balance is often rather stale, with the odds quite heavily stacked against the smaller/poorer teams. Of course, neither Indycar nor the lower categories are perfect, but you’re wrong to dismiss them because they’re (semi-) spec series.

        And meanwhile we’ve got tracing point casually copying a Mercedes, Haas running old Ferraris, and Alpha Tauri having free access to the RB spares bin.

      4. “quite a bit more overtaking than F1”

        So what @justarandomdutchguy?

        F1 has always been the same, slow burning long-term planning with periods of dominance, and it’s still pretty popular. F1 is different to Indycar, I don’t want it to be like Indycar and many people probably think the same. There’s always been a hierarchy in F1, sure it can get stale from time to time but then you have a regulation change and a team can really develop giving the right ambition and backing (Red Bull is the classic case of this), but it takes decades rather than 1 or 2 years – that’s the point.

        1. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
          21st May 2021, 17:03

          You’re missing my point @john-h. I’m not saying F1 should be indycar or F2/F3. I’m saying Roger is being ignorant if he says spec series are always less intresting because the chassis aren’t develloped by the teams.

          1. @justarandomdutchguy is it ignorance, or is it more of a case of having differing interests?

            In your case, it seems that your emphasis is more driver focussed, whereas Roger’s interests are more skewed towards the technical development side. If you are more interested in the technical development side, then a spec series is going to be rather less interesting because there is no technical development.

    3. *facepalm*
      Want spec cars, you can go and watch Indycar or some other F3-class racing series.

      Please keep this spec nonsense out of F1

      1. Tell that to Liberty and the FIA.
        The regs are currently so tight as to almost equate to a spec series now.

        And as far as engines are concerned at least, that’s the way the participants want it to be.

        1. Super agreed. Either make certain parts spec, or dramatically loosen the regs and enforce the cost cap. Right now F1 is among the least interesting it’s been because there’s so little room for a small team to find some crazy loophole, and even when teams do interesting things like fducts and DAS, they get immediately banned for cost concerns. It’s ridiculous. I’m holding onto some hope that the 2022 regs will produce something interesting, but F1’s approach to constantly tightening the rules to eliminate creative solutions is the wrong approach, IMO.

    4. I’ve thought about that too.
      Suppose the teams were issued a new spec tub/chassis every 3 years, but were then free to develop it until the next one is issued. Then the development process starts again on the new chassis.
      Competition and development aspects can both be satisfied – especially so if multiple engine and fuel types were allowed.

    5. There are plenty of spec series you can watch for that. F1 has never been a spec series and I would not want it to become one…

      1. And even more so I would like more design freedom, now we have a cost cap there are no reasons to restrict design other than appropriate limits.

    6. barking at the wrong tree. merc is at fault their influence is massive, f1 never had this much pressure from a single team.

  2. Has there ever been a season where the FIA didn’t meddle with the rules midseason?

    The rules seem to be to complicated and convoluted for the FIA to uphold.

  3. I agree with Vasseur. It’s madness to alter the requirements mid-season. Teams have been engineering bending wings for years. Not just one team but the majority if not all of them. The FIA has had many opportunities to introduce stricter rules and/or tests. They should’ve done it ahead of a new season. And in this case, while it’s the last season with this type of car anyway, why not just go ahead and say from 2022 onwards there will be tougher load tests.

    It’s political games. That’s what it is.

    1. I both agree and disagree… On one hand they know the spirit of the rules and have tried to get around that by designing a wing to pass a test while then bending in the race. The engineers and the teams knew what they were doing was likely to be picked up by other teams and potentially banned. On the other hand I am not a big fan of rule changes during a season.

      However I do not see this as a rule change, I see this as the tests changing to cope with new information. They do not have to design a wing to a new specification (Width, Angle of attack etc) They have to conform to the tests they already had to with some additional tests to prevent circumvention of the current ones and to make sure the wings do indeed conform to the rules.

      It is also not unprecedented as there have been a number of times that tests have changed during a season.

      1. The “spirit” of the rules is indeed just “grey area” between the written words and physical testing. F1 has always been about exploiting the grea area.

        Regarding the Alfa, you don’t know what other parts of the car they, or even the wing, was designed to work with the reduced attack as it flexed. The specification was likely taking it into account—indeed the specification *is* for it to flex under load; and any changes to specification need to go through the rigorous design and durability testing. It is an expensive process.

        1. Grey areas are always going to be contentious and there is always going to be a significant possibility that a teams forays into grey areas will be noticed and then subsequently banned through either rule changes or testing changes. The teams know this and fully understand the risk.

    2. I agree fully.
      Plus it doesn’t threaten Merc’s dominance in the slightest, so why the paranoia.

  4. Every team who needs to go back to the drawing board (and to the limits of their budget) can thank Mercedes for making such a fuss about it.
    If Williams or Haas had made the same complaint, would the testing process have been changed mid-season?

    1. You can tell how much political influence Mercedes has in the paddock from the way Toto was talking to Michael Masi in the radio like he was one of his employees. The man was running for the top job in the sport for a complete hijacking of F1 before he was vetoed by Ferrari.

      1. I am not sure I noticed Ferrari complaining a few years ago when 100% of the FIA board were made up of ex Ferrari staff, the head of F1 had a long history of friendships with Enzo Ferrari and the chief Steward had been in charge of Ferrari PR…

        Mercedes have influence because they are successful and inject a lot of money into F1. They do not have inside influence over the FIA. Toto was simply being clever by making the issue public over the radio. I would probably do a similar thing if I was him. Other teams are free to use the radio in the same way…

        1. Even more so now they’ve decided to broadcast team bosses talking to the race director on the radio. Last time Wolff was broadcast complaining (justifiably) about Mazepin ignoring blue flags. This time he uses it to his advantage. That’s just smart.

      2. @tifoso1989 except that we know that Binotto has also confirmed that he has directly spoken to the race director over the radio in other races too. Similarly, Horner has confirmed that there have been races where he has also spoken to the race director, and has been doing so for years – you can find articles from at least 2014 where he mentions, as an aside, discussing items with the race director.

        Indeed, the radio systems have been set up in F1 for decades with the deliberate intention of allowing the head of each team to directly speak to the race director. The only difference here is that the team bosses have now agreed that those messages to the race director can be broadcast in public.

        No offence, but you really do seem to sometimes come across as slightly too paranoid about “Mercedes influence” – it feels as if somebody couldn’t even scratch their nose in the paddock without you coming up with an elaborate conspiracy theory about them being coerced by Wolff into that action.

    2. No, Vasseur should just send the bill to Red Bull. There was an informally accepted margin of tolerance, they decided to go for a bigger advantage, Mercedes – if people actually bothered reading what Wolff says – actually developed a similarly flexible wing laty year and, according to TW’s hints, will use it in Baku if the new tests come after. So what does that tell you? As always, another team, here Mercedes, in the past, many times, Red Bull, want clarification so they know whether they should do the same or not. Of courses its more money and many teams are less able to compete with a rear wing war developing ‘just the right amount of softness’.

      1. “Informally accepted margin of tolerance?”
        Gee, I wonder why this has blown up….

        Rather than sending the bill to Red Bull they should be sending it to Mercedes, as without them this wouldn’t have even been an issue. Red Bull weren’t making an issue of it, having stricter testing imposed.

        1. Red Bull weren’t making an issue of it, having stricter testing imposed.

          Not sure if that’s true, but the issue for Mercedes (and other teams) is Baku and the potential advantage there. Wolff implies they can mitigate what they perceive (accurately or not) as a 0.6 s advantage by introducing a similar ‘soft’ wing. But that could expose them (and other teams) to subsequent protests. It’s really not that difficult to understand Mercedes’ position if you try. Irrespective of Red Bull, they have a team decision to take on which wing to run (presuming they’re not bluffing).

          1. @david-br First of all I highly doubt it is a .6 sec advantage but of course it works better politically for TW to claim that. I would think that if Mercedes wants to spend the money to make a current wing that is ‘softer’ (doubt they can just slap on something they made last year presumably pre-floor change but obviously have the knowledge at hand) it will still have to comply to current tests and they will not be exposed to protest, just as there will be no protesting of RBR of past races, for they have complied to FIA’s own testing so far. Then Mercedes would potentially have to spend again on another new wing for it is to me not a given that their current wing will comply to the new test parameters once those are revealed in a handful of weeks. For now they don’t know the new test parameters, and as Vasseur has implied this will cost all teams who have all built their wings to the margins of tolerance, as that is what they do in F1.

            It will also be interesting to see if anything comes of the flexy fronts wings as shown in the video that has been referenced around here of VB’s at Imola. Perhaps FIA might as well introduce a new test for those too while they’re at it.

          2. 6 tenths is fantasy for starters. If there were a 0.6s advantage available to Mercedes with a part they’ve already designed that passes the FIA’s tests, they would have it on the car already.

            And secondly, I fully understand Merc’s position. They aim to win, and they don’t really care if they ruin the competition to do it.
            As do the other major F1 teams these days, which is a big part of why F1 is in such a mess.
            They are all in it for themselves for short term gain, and not at all in it for the greater good or long term prosperity of the whole sport/business.

          3. @david-br oh god forbid a different team be allowed an advantage!

            Rules and tests are the same for everyone. RBR, AR and whoever else has flexing wings just did a better job within those constraints.

  5. NoFanOfJoeBloggs
    21st May 2021, 13:10

    Three points here:

    1. No. The day teams no longer build their own chassis, F1 will be dead. It became this way in the early 80s to stop privateer teams from killing ingenuity by needing no understanding of how to design and build a competitive car, turning up and beating historic teams that are pushing to try new things.

    2. You say that it would show the best race team. I don’t think we really want to see who can run a car best over the weekend. I don’t really care if Mercedes or Joe Bloggs with X many millions of dollars can run a spec car better. We should want to see what ingenuity historic teams like Ferrari, McLaren and Williams can bring every year, and whether new marques like Red Bull can give them a challenge in their own right, as their own constructor.

    3. This article isn’t about chassis, it’s about rear wing deformation rules being changed mid-season (reading between the lines because Mercedes don’t like that other teams can do it better.)

  6. Everyone’s at it to varying degrees, I suspect. The only question is which of the front-runners stands to lose most. On a related note, whenever this sort of technical challenge is posed to the FIA, I can’t help feeling they are understaffed to meet it.

  7. “we did a back-to-back [test] a couple of times and the difference was not huge.”

    So they know, and have normal wings. So a simple way to save cost. Current wing can be used till it wears out (flex or accident), but not updated! Any revision needs to comply.

    Mercedes whined less when the engine mode restrictions were introduced half way through last season. And that wasn’t even close to any breach of regulations.

    1. And with that remark they agreed Red Bull obviously did a better job at it. At least 0,6sec adavantage when build by Red Bull.
      Something is wrong at mercedes.

      1. Glad we all agree that Red Bull designed the superior car this year.

        1. The chassis without a doubt, but still the mercedes engine is the fastest on track.
          Look at the topspeeds /speedtraps with max downforce and you will see at least 8/10KM/U faster mercs.
          So the so called bending wing does not compensate for that..

    2. I doubt they have a ‘standard wing’ replacement ready to go. The back to back test he referred to might have been at an earlier stage of development, and having identified the marginal benefits of the more flexible version they then focused development on that concept since then. So going back to the standard wing might require a lot of work in optimising it to work with their current car, which will also have evolved from that initial starting point.

      1. @keithedin hence: expensive.

  8. Hard to disagree with Vasseur…

    1. Apart from the fact that he has broken the rules and is now complaining about it.

      1. Broken the rules? So they’ve already been fined then? Told to change their wing?

        Rather, they have complied to FIA’s own tests, and their current wing is fine by FIA’s own current standards. How else does their car get onto the track after FIA scrutineering?

        1. F1oSaurus (@)
          21st May 2021, 15:36

          @robbie Lol, of course you don’t understand.

          1. it seems you are the confused one here ;)

          2. Just the old Brackley brigade, nothing to be surprised about.

        2. Were Ferrari fined for breaking the rules on fuel flow? They clearly broke the rules, they were punished (although under a protected agreement so no one was told what the punishment was) but they were not fined as far as I am aware.

          Also not all rules are equal, some are clearly punishable through fines etc. Others are testable and so the tests can be changed to make sure the rule is being applied. This is the latter and hence breaking the rule does not result in a fine as the test did not pick it up but the test is being refined and so it will pick it up in future and so they will have to change their wing in order to be allowed to race…

          This is not new and is a part and parcel of F1.

      2. If they’ve broken rules, so has every team on the grid including Mercedes- they all have flexing surfaces.

  9. F1oSaurus (@)
    21st May 2021, 15:40

    Crocodile tears. They added flex on purpose doing so while evading the tests in place to ban out flexing. This is a pre meditated attempt at cheating.

    It only costs money for the teams that cheated. Which is fair.

    It’s bad enough that there is no regular penalty on this type of cheating.

    1. Complying with the tests without using tools to obstruct the tests ( like ferrari did) results in a legal car.
      If the Fia adjust the test its normal they give the teams a period to comply or at least test the current parts with the new tests and see what is necessary.
      I know you already found the narrative for a loosing Mercedes this year and every option will do i guess.

    2. I assume you’re also hoping Mercedes will receive a penalty for their flexible front wing too?

  10. Oh, dear!
    Someone, fast, send Mr.Vasseur F1 rulebook!

  11. Garett Hostin
    21st May 2021, 18:25

    This is why I have never been a fan of letting fans decides or vote on certain rules for F1 because most of the time, it is only good as long as it benefits their own team by gaining or slowing down other teams.

    For me this whole thing is like a 100 m runner. Everyone can see that for his body size, height and weight it is not normal to run that fast but all the tests done on the person return negative results, so he/she is not cheating according to the law since he/she is abiding to the spirit of the rules by passing all tests.

    Same apply to those bending wings:

    1. Are they legals? Yes, since they are passing the tests
    2. Are they cheating? Yes too, since they have found a way to circumvent the tests(just like a doper)

    So, I don’t really understand why we have to have many pages about this looking for excuses because like it or not, this is similar to a doper who found a clever way to pass all his/her tests.

    1. It is not the same as a doper finding ways around the tests. For a start if a doper is deemed to have bypassed tests then they can and will be stripped of previous wins and awards. Secondly a 100m sprinters body shape is not the same as a doper! Their body shape comes from intense training and genetics. They are natural human beings and have both a natural ability to run fast and a huge amount of training. What has that got to do with a trick wing designed to pass tests that are there to stop the effects it produces? 100m sprinters do not pass body shape tests they simply have to take doping tests. No one argues that an athlete should have specifically sized legs and stride lengths and only certain amounts of type 1, type 2a or type 2b muscle fibres… No one designed the humans that do 100m sprints…

  12. This is silly. The wings will always bend, it only matters how much. We had one test, everybody passed, but now Mercedes is complaining that someone else passed it better than them (allows for more flex). Shame on you, Mercedes! It’s the same test for everyone.

    I don’t get why FIA is now somehow in power to change the test on a whim, because some other regulations call for unrealistic, “non-flexing” aero…

    1. Because the regulations explicitly say that aerodynamic bodywork should not be designed to flex and that the FIA is freely allowed to implement any tests it cares to think up to enforce this. Passing the test does not, in this case, mean the car is legal, merely that it hasn’t been shown to be illegal yet.

      1. the regulations explicitly say that aerodynamic bodywork should not be designed to flex

        No they don’t. They say there shouldn’t be moveable aerodynamic parts, as in not fixed. It doesn’t say anything about flex. The limits of flex are defined and the teams are meeting those limits. Now they want to change those limits.

    2. Think of this like diesel gate. The regulations stated that a car could not produce more than a certain amount of emissions. VW and others designed their cars to pass the tests even though in the real world they failed miserably. They clearly did this on purpose and they were clearly in the wrong as they knew what the test was designed to prevent and knew what the rules were. Simply passing the test did not mean the cars were actually abiding by the rules. In F1 the cars are deemed legal if they pass the tests. However that does not mean the tests can’t change in order to better enforce the rules they are there to protect.

    3. Tha same rules are for the front wing which Mercedes flex with more then the other teams. I don’t think RB is worried if they designed to wing to bend at the top speeds (at which the new test never is going to make)

      1. The last time Red bull had this issue (Their front wing a few years ago) the new tests absolutely were able to reproduce the speed effect and Red Bull had to redesign their wing…

        As for the front wing on the Merc, it does not bend anymore than the other teams including RB…

  13. It’s a question of who should pay.
    Those teams that have bendy wings, so that they comply at all times with the rules. (the Guilty)
    Those that comply with the rules as written and now will have to design new wings if they wish to take advantage of the newly allowed bendiness. (the Innocent)

    1. It’s all the teams who have bending wings some have it at the front (Mercedes) and some at the rear (Red Bull) i see no problems at all except Alfa maybe if they didn’t a good design job…

      1. Red bulls front wing bends exactly the same as the Merc… Neither bend much at all and I don’t think anyone thinks that it is an issue. Now the rear wings are very different. Only a handful of teams have this and they bend a lot!

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