FIA directive will stop rivals using ‘miraculous disappearing skid blocks’ – Wolff

2022 Austrian Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says some of their rivals have been using unconventional floor parts in order to comply with Formula 1’s technical regulations.

He says a technical directive which will come into force at the Belgian Grand Prix will prevent teams using special skid blocks on the underside of their cars.

The skid blocks ordinarily serve the purpose of preventing the car from running too low and causing excessive wear to the legality plank on its underside. If the plank becomes too worn, the car risks being disqualified.

However Wolff claimed “some teams have skids that actually ‘disappear’ when the car hits [with] the bottom” on the track.

“The reason for skids is that they are the limitation of how much plank wear you can have. And if a skid can disappear miraculously into the floor, that is clearly against the regulations.”

Earlier this week the FIA said a technical directive aimed at tightening up the regulations in this area will come into force at the Belgian Grand Prix, one month later than originally planned.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Red Bull Ring, 2022
Report: “No concerns” over flexibility of Red Bull’s floor – Horner
Teams using the special skid blocks have been given more time to change their design “because apparently skid material is not available,” said Wolff.

The teams are also discussing a rules change aimed at preventing the use of flexible planks, Wolff added.

“The second thing is a plank that can deflect or basically moves away more than the tolerance should be,” he said. “The tolerance is one millimetre and even if a plank moves away many more millimetres up into the car, obviously you gain some performance there too.”

The flexible planks are “going to be clarified in next year’s regulations,” said Wolff. “So that is still in discussion to put it all out in the open.”

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2022 Austrian Grand Prix

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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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46 comments on “FIA directive will stop rivals using ‘miraculous disappearing skid blocks’ – Wolff”

  1. Something is clearly being miscommunicated here.

    “Disappearing” skid blocks cannot help reduce plank wear.

    And as far as legality is concerned, skid blocks are not even mandatory.

    1. Wasn’t there a rule change a couple of years ago mandated all cars created sparks? Are they not the skid blocks we’re talking about?

      When it comes to floors I’m a bit lost as to what is what. I’m also still bored of Toto and Christian doing this. Even with the budget cap – I’d rather they’d engineer themselves out of a hole rather than politic out of it.

      If it’s ‘safety grounds’, it’s clear the Ferrari and Red Bull are safer cars to drive.

      1. I’m not sure how the spark generators are/were mandated, I just looked at the current gen’s technical regulations and found the following re: skid blocks:

        The lower surface of the plank may be fitted with flush mounted metal skids

        “May” being the operative word.

        1. Sorry, this is the link to the most recent 2022 Technical Regulations document:

      2. @bernasaurus It wasn’t that they mandated cars create sparks. They just changed the skid block material from tungsten back to Titanium which had the knock-on effect of creating more sparks.

        Some did believe it was a change purely for the show to create sparks like was seen so much in the 80s/90s (When they previously ran titanium skids) but Charlie Whiting was always adamant that it was a change made for safety as tungsten was heavier, fragmented as it wore down & was prone to becoming detached as a result with Pirelli believing some punctures seen in 2013/14 had been caused by fragments of tungsten skids.

        1. Thanks @stefmeister I couldn’t quite remember how it came about, other than some were saying just for the visual effect.

      3. A person somewhere
        10th July 2022, 13:00

        Wasn’t there a rule change a couple of years ago mandated all cars created sparks? Are they not the skid blocks we’re talking about?

        From memory I think that was talked about at the time as being a change in the material that the skid blocks were allowed to be made from – as in they already had them but they had to change to using, IIRC, titanium, a metal well known for bright sparks when abraided.

    2. It’s not being claimed that disappearing skid blocks help reduce plank wear, that is the task of normal skid blocks. What’s being claimed is that disappearing skid blocks and indeed flexible planks are not in keeping with the regulations and allow the cars to run lower and more stable than they otherwise would. However, if any team not using such tricks were that sure of themselves they would no doubt protest their rivals.

  2. Why at the Belgian GP? It is either legal or illegal. If it is the former, they should be allowed to keep it. If it is the latter, it should be taken off immediately.

    1. Because the teams run F1 now.
      It’s such a commercial issue that they can’t possibly bear the thought of DSQ’ing anyone.

      Well – not the big teams, anyway.

      1. This is true most of the time, and has been a huge issue in F1 for a long time now. However, there are also cases where the teams are simply smarter than the FIA and a change in the regulations is necessary. How quickly that gets implemented and enforced is usually discussed between the teams, FOM, and FIA – with the obvious problem here being that the manufacturers control the votes of their engine clients.

    2. @spafrancorchamps It’s being done from Belgium because, as it currently stands; the cars pass the required test at the locations regarding the maximum flex. As they do pass the current test then the cars being used are perfectly legal.

    3. @spafrancorchamps Well yes, exactly. If it’s a design deliberately intended to circumvent regulations, then tough luck if removing them immediately is a problem…

    4. @spafrancorchamps It goes like this: they find a gray area in the rules and exploit it to get more performance.

      If that team is Mercedes they let them run it for a year, then they ban it.

      If not, they give the teams a few races and then ban it with a technical directive.

      1. Correction, be open about developments the governing body will let you run it. Try something sneaky, behind the back, it will be banned or settled behind closed doors. The FiA does not favour Mercedes, Mercedes knows the decision-making process of the FiA works and manages it better than Ferrari or Red Bull

  3. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    10th July 2022, 12:14

    Okay enough now. Toto’s been pretty loud about talking about how ‘other cars’ are abusing or breaking the rules with their floors and this is the third or fourth thing I’ve read him talk about. If they are, and he’s that certain of it – then prove it. If they are then they deserve to be punished but this pointing of fingers with no evidence is getting silly.

    1. jane stillman
      10th July 2022, 13:07

      Horner has been just as bad – they are both as bad as each other

    2. Odd that the FIA thinks Vettel walking out of a meeting warrants a penalty, but team principals accusing the FIA of covering up for teams cheating by knowingly not penalizing them is just laughed off. Or, worse, leads to said team principal being given crucial information about his competitors’ cars by the FIA.

      1. Getting pretty tired of this as well..

    3. @rocketpanda Toto/Mercedes do seem to be proving it – hence FIA have imposed a new technical directive…

    4. This started with the FIA’s investigation into porpoising. They found the issue that some teams were bending the rules re the floor – as per wings last year – met the test/didn’t meet the rules. Mercedes hadn’t thought of this loophole so whilst this is FIA driven, they were more than happy to jump on the bandwagon. However it should be clear they are not the instigators of this issue nor driving this rule update.

  4. I suggested the existence of such devices right from testing. To me they were the most logical solution to optimise floor performance.
    I can only assume that merc’s design does not allow them to employ these tactics. As usual merc has the power to change what they want to change.

    1. Ferrari and Red Bull are cheating if the floor is flexing 6mm as reported. Imagine the problem for the FIA if they stripped them of their points now. Banning the flexibility properly is the correct course of action, not expecting all other teams to cheat. You can bet Ferrai and Red Bull would be screaming a lot more than Mercedes are were the positions reversed.

  5. Toto being ever the politician and half making it sound like the only reason why they are behind is because the others are cheating. I bet that this will make absolutely no difference in the pecking order. I also bet Mercedes have found some other loop hole that he’s cleverly diverting attention away from in this way.

    The main thing to be aware of here is that we should never trust the words of any team boss.

  6. Why no one is bothering protesting both Ferrari and RBR ? Mercedes could have gained some wins and a lot of points if both Ferrari and RBR were disqualified. As always, Toto has no clue what Ferrari and RBR are doing and is relying on the understanding and cooperation of the FIA to give him that information.

    In 2018, he did the exact same thing when he created a lot of fuss about the Ferrari PU and was pushing for clarification after clarification about the Ferrari ERS deployment till he got the information from the FIA that Ferrari were using a double battery pack to resolve the issue of simultaneous energy harvesting and deploying it. It was later revealed that Ferrari had that system in place since the start of the hybrid era and managed to keep it secret till the FIA revealed it which made Marchionne furious at the time.

    1. @tifoso1989 At their stage no rules have been broken as the cars pass the required test, as such there is nothing they can protest about.

    2. Not a great example given they were cheating so the claims weren’t unfounded.

    3. Yes but it was RBR that seeked clarification on the recording of the pulses between fuel readings and after that Ferrari lost power. RBR even showed FIA how it is done and seeked clarification on it.
      Back handed way of accusing someone of cheating with out actually saying your cheating.

  7. Formula 1 was a far better place before this whiner bought his way into it …

  8. Maybe I’m just being dumb here, but if the ‘skid blocks ordinarily serve the purpose of preventing the car from running too low and causing excessive wear to the legality plank on its underside’, and Wolff claims that some teams make these skid blocks ‘actually “disappear” when the car hits the bottom’, won’t that wear out the plank… and, given that this supposedly happens tons of times during a race, lead to a disqualification?

    1. If they were rigid they will wear out but if the deflect, they don’t wear out. The secondary effect is that assuming that is the actual point of contact on the road, you have added another set of springs effectively as there will be much less shock if it hits the road and hence less porpoising.

    2. Yes, this claim doesn’t seem logical to me too. I understood that if the underneath of the car came into contact with the ground then that would disrupt the airflow underneath the car, meaning you lose downforce. This was part of the reason for porpoising. So I suspect one of the benefits of skid blocks is to maintain an air gap underneath the car when it bottoms out, i.e. you don’t actually lose downforce. Why then would you have skid blocks, e.g. on springs, that don’t do their job when the car bottoms out? It might be some of the teams have incorporated some sort of shock absorption into the skid blocks to reduce the shock to the driver when the car does bottom out, so this would benefit the health and well being of the driver. If that is the reason for this alleged behaviour of the skid blocks then maybe Toto should withdraw his complaint and do the same on his cars.

      1. Really? The blocks dissappearing, and the floor then flexing together obviously allow more clearance to avoid such wear, that is why the FIA will introduce new tests to catch that after their porpoising research found ‘some’ teams having both of those things. Not Wolff.

        1. Sorry Accidental report.

          Back to the point.
          The disappearing floor also acts as a damper of sorts when it hits the ground as such the car doesn’t suddenly bounce back up and the effect it has is reducing porpoising.

  9. Just standard F1 technical jockeying. Mercedes had DAS a few years ago which wasn’t against the rules but the other teams didn’t like the fact that Mercedes had it. Was eventually disallowed.

    1. Yeah at the end of the season not half way through.

    2. No it’s not. Floors flexing greater than 2mm is not allowed under the current rules but the current tests were clearly not enough to police it. DAS was completely within the rules.

    3. If anything, DAS proves the opposite @jimfromus, as @slowmo wrote, it was completely legal according to the rules, but still banned at the earliest time the FIA could change those rules.

      Banning flexy stuff has been going on for years. Just because in the last decade it usually has been Red Bull taking clever flex the furthest, doesn’t mean it is targeted against them specifically. Just recall Horner calling for Merc rear wing being illegal from Brazil onwards. Just that there the FIA apparently did not find systematic flex.

  10. How many times did the FIA make some rules on the fly based on Mercedes’s propositions now? Ferrari being illegal when they were quicker than Mercedes, the flexi wings of Red Bull when they were quicker than Mercedes, slowing down the pit stops when RB were doing it quicker than Mercedes. While the FIA only banned the DAS on the Mercedes, and they were given a whole year to use it still. Pretty ridiculous…

  11. Whenever Mercedes fail to tailor the car to suit the rules, they tailor the rules to suit their car.

    1. Welcome to F1, you must be new here. This is how the game works, always has.

      1. Show me when the FIA bent over backwards to favour Mercedes between 1956 and 2009.

  12. I would also like to add that redbull / horner had lots of things Mercedes had stopped or removed. Becos redbull could not match or better merc. Eg: quali engine maps and race maps. Theres plenty others. So its tit for tat.

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