McLaren expect FIA to use new ‘dots’ to take action against flexi-wings in Baku

2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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The FIA has introduced a new system for monitoring rear wing deflection this weekend using dot-shaped stickers positioned on the cars’ bodywork.

The rear wings of several teams have come under scrutiny after they were seen flexing significantly during the Spanish Grand Prix weekend.

The FIA is using onboard video footage to observe any movement of the stickers to judge how far rear wings deflect at speed around the Baku City Circuit this weekend. The dot-shaped stickers measure 10mm across and there are six of each on the main plane and flap of the rear wings.

Teams were advised of the change in a revised technical directive issued last week. McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl welcomed the move and called on the FIA to use any evidence of wing flexing to punish teams who are breaking the rules.

“Our position hasn’t changed compared to what I communicated during the Monaco race weekend,” Seidl told media including RaceFans in Baku today. “We simply need to see now in the course of the weekend what will happen.

“It was good to see that there was an update on the directive to the teams last week, that these stickers have been introduced already for this weekend, which gives the FIA a better opportunity or possibility to measure what’s actually going on.”

The FIA previously announced new static tests on rear wings will be introduced following this weekend’s race. However McLaren and other teams have complained this will allow any rivals whose rear wings flex to continue using designs which do not conform to the regulations in Azerbaijan this weekend.

The FIA’s head of single seaters, Nikolas Tombazis, has since indicated teams could be found in breach of the rules on the basis of evidence gathered from the new stickers. Article 3.8 of the technical regulations states that, with certain exceptions, “any specific part of the car influencing its aerodynamic performance must remain immobile in relation to the sprung part of the car.”

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“To my understanding these dots simply help to measure accurately what’s happening, because when we look at the videos from Barcelona, also for the FIA, it’s obviously difficult to get in detail the numbers in terms of what is flexing and how exactly. So in the end, it’s just giving the FIA the chance to measure in detail what’s ongoing and which parts.

“I think Nikolas made it clear also in his TD that if he sees extreme cases like on my point of view we have seen in Barcelona, he will take action.”

“From our point of view, if we see deflections again, like we’ve seen in Barcelona, there needs to be action here this weekend,” Seidl added. “How this action will look like in the paddock I don’t know yet.”

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, Baku City Circuit, 2021
Pictures: Azerbaijan Grand Prix practice day one
Seidl denied a ‘grey area’ exists in the rules between article 3.8, which forbids flexible wings, and 3.9, which defines the load test. “I don’t think it’s grey, from our point of view,” he said. “You simply need to go into the detail of the design of these parts.

“If you detect – again that’s not our job, it’s FIA’s job to do – if you then detect that there is certain designs around which are made on purpose to flex in a certain way, I think it’s pretty clear what’s happening.”

“[Article] 3.8 pretty much defines clearly what is allowed and what is not allowed,” he added. “And then if someone designs a rear wing or endplate with the clear intention to flex in a certain way, even in a way that doesn’t get detected by the test in 3.9, I think it’s pretty clear what that means.

“That’s our point of view. And again, we’re happy with all the actions FIA has put in place with the technical directive as well, even with the update of the technical directive.”

However he said it was too early in the weekend to consider a protest, as teams may not run their race-specification rear wings until tomorrow. “In general it doesn’t make sense to do anything before the event because you can change rear wing on Saturday morning. There’s no point to do anything on a Friday night.”

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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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24 comments on “McLaren expect FIA to use new ‘dots’ to take action against flexi-wings in Baku”

  1. Looks like RB were running a pretty static rear wing in FP1. Although Perez spent half the practice doing aero work.

  2. “And then if someone designs a rear wing or endplate with the clear intention to flex in a certain way, even in a way that doesn’t get detected by the test in 3.9, I think it’s pretty clear what that means.

    Clear intent is just too hard to prove. Even if a wing flexes several inches, it doesn’t prove that it’s designed for it to flex. Red Bull can claim it was designed to be as stiff as possible (and within the limits stated in the rulebook), but with as minimum of carbon fibre to make it as light as possible for an even better centre of gravity. DAS wasn’t designed for the purpose of altering the ride-height (all be it with mm’s) but it did. The purpose was something else and ride height was a by-product.

    1. @mcbosch completely agree

    2. It’s easy to prove. It’s not an exercise in abstract philosophy it’s engineering and Tombazis is an engineer, and FIA can just look at a design and decide. Any engineering design has its purpose clearly visible. It’s not even as if all the wings rotate – some do, some don’t, and the ones that do rotate do so under a 40-degree net load and not at 0 or 90 degrees, which will be 100% obviously deliberate.

    3. Indeed. Any wing flexes. That’s physics. Nothing is infinitely stiff (despite what my spam mails tell me). At a certain point, making it stiffer requires adding material and thus weight, but the teams cannot be obligated to make maximally stiff cars, because there is no limit to the ability to make it stiffer by adding material. At a certain point the cars just stop being cars, because they can’t drive anymore with all that weight. And long before then, the cars are no longer racing cars, but trucks.

      That’s why the rules specify minimum stiffness, according to certain measurements. The teams can just argue that they are using the minimum amount of material to achieve the desired level of downforce, strength, aerodynamics, etc and that the resulting stiffness is what it is. They may even be able to argue that the stiffness of a wing that met their own needs was insufficient for the stiffness tests and they beefed the wings up to meet those rules. In both cases, they never designed the wing to flex. They just accepted the level of flex that was the result of meeting their own needs and the rules.

      1. It may well be possible to tell if it was designed that way. For instance if the direction of the carbon fibre weave is different than you would expect then it suggests a design decision.

        1. You can’t see that from the outside. Carbon is multi-layer, so you can at most see the outside layers and then only if there is a clear coat on top.

  3. At least that puts to bed the FIAs intentions, that evidence of breaking the existing regulation can lead to punishment this weekend.

    Non linearity of deflection/rotation is an intentional thing to have, you don’t really get that by accident. It’d be clear from how they engineer the mounts that they are doing it on purpose and the FIA can request and investigate that.

    I normally enjoy Baku lets hope it’s a good race without any unnecessary whining from anyone.

  4. I’m no F1 engineer, but I think what Andrea’s saying is not correct, as we’ve discussed before. If article 3.8 says bodywork must be rigid, that’s inherently wrong because nothing is 100% rigid. So a tweak in the rules, to better clarify what IS rigid for all intents or purposes, is urgently needed. If real-world cannot be replicated in a rig during technical inspections, then measuring the wings during operation is the correct way. You can only police something that you can actually measure it. If you cannot do it, the rule cannot be enforced.

    It’s like Ferrari’s engine cheat from a couple of years ago. FIA didn’t know how to reliably police what the teams were doing, so they changed the system to avoid any “confusion on purpose”

  5. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    4th June 2021, 12:15

    Why only dots on the rear wings – they should also put them on the front wings or did Toto not agree to that :-)

    1. Why not cover the entire car in polka dots?

    2. Apart from needing to install a lot of forward facing cameras? Maybe they want to check the rear flexi wings that a number of teams; inc Mercedes, have bought along this race, as this is not only about measuring the flex, but testing the accuracy of the new lattice and dot system.

  6. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    4th June 2021, 12:18

    Cry hard enough and you get what you want. Alright FIA, how about you put those dots on the front wing as well, or do thigns only get enforced during a season when it’s Mercedes doing the complaining?

    1. I don’t think its how hard you cry, but who you cry to. Maybe Horner should cry to the FIA rather than SkyF1, the Daily Mail, and his tame journalists in the paddock?

    2. Are you now just trying to stir up as much trouble in order to try and stop others from saying anything about Red Bull by trying to get threads locked and discussions derailed?

      Would you be anywhere as upset if it wasn’t a Dutch national who was being caught up in this?

      1. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
        4th June 2021, 12:59

        >projecting this hard

        If you would actually read what I wrote, I was merely stating that the FIA shouldn’t stop at just the rear wing when it comes to enforcing rules that teams have found loopholes in. If the rear wing flexes ‘too much’ but passes the test, then the front wings of certain cars definately fall in that same category.

        The fact that you apparently think it’s because of the nationality of a driver says more about you than anybody else. I’m still routing for good ‘ol Seb, which last time I checked, wasn’t racing for Red Bull and is very much German.

        1. William Jones
          4th June 2021, 16:22

          When you say “certain” cars, I think what you actually mean is “all” cars, which is why we all know Horner will continue to say what he’s saying to the press, but not in front of the Fia

        2. You have been continually posting rants and conspiracy theories about Mercedes – considering you have put it on public record that you normally block out facts that you do not want to hear, some might question who is the one having the projection issues and why you are continuing with that sort of behaviour.

          Wouldn’t be surprised if the next post by you is yet another rant about either the evils of the FIA daring to investigate Red Bull, or yet another moan about how it is apparently evil for Mercedes to have a flexing front wing, yet then trying to claim that Red Bull’s rear wing is completely fine – because it’s apparently “innovation” when Red Bull does it, but it’s “cheating” by Mercedes.

  7. Worked! FP1, RBR’s rear wing was absolutely stiff as a board!
    Reasonably proves that the flexi wing was at best “dodgy”!

    1. @wildbiker If that is proof of anything, then I suppose we have proof that the flexy wing was of inconsequential advantage given their pace today?

      Haven’t seen the onboards yet myself but I think all this proves is that with the reality of a new test for the rear wing, RBR will continue to comply to the new test just as they did to the old one.

  8. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    4th June 2021, 13:20

    “I think Nikolas made it clear also in his TD that if he sees extreme cases like on my point of view we have seen in Barcelona, he will take action.”

    But again, what defines as ‘extreme’? Every single wing flexes a bit, which you can clearly see on the on-boards facing backwards. So going by the absolute rule of ‘they are not allowed to flex’, every team should have to change them. Yes, some teams have a wing that clearly flexes more, but you can’t punish a team for creating something that works and passes tests the FIA puts in place.

    If a team builds a part which works (for instacne the rear wing), they natrually check whether it passes the tests that the FIA uses. And that’s it. You could claim ‘but they clearly build it with the intention for it to flex’, but you (and nobody) can prove that. Meaning you’re forcing some teams to spend tons of money mid-season to create a new part to replace something because someone else doesn’t like it.

    To top it all of, it’s clearly from onboards that the front-wing of the Mercedes flexes more than that of the Ferrari. Again, the Ferrari one also flexes, just much less. Again the rules state that ‘no flexing is allowed’. Meaning it’s yet another half-measure from the FIA that only gets enforced because Mercedes and McLaren do a big boohoo because they don’t have the same toys.

    It’s pretty obvious the big Mercedes really doesn’t want to posibility to exist that a maker of energy drinks beats a maker of cars.MEanwhile they keep claiming they ‘really enjoy the fight’.

    1. Was Mercedes mentioned in this article at all or they reside rent-free in your head?

      1. Right Emma because we don’t already know that Mercedes is gunning for RBR and Mac is gunning for Ferrari. Will be interesting to see if Merc and Mac will pass the new wing tests without modifying theirs too.

        1. There won’t be any protest @Robbie. All this is smoke and mirrors and will be quickly forgotten by the time the circus moves on to the next round.

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