McLaren will seek an explanation from the FIA why it did not take action over the “extreme” movement of Alpine’s rear wing during the Canadian Grand Prix.Lando Norris raised concerns over the degree of movement in Esteban Ocon’s rear wing as he chased the Alpine driver during the final laps of the race.
“The rear wing is loose on the Alpine,” warned Norris on his radio. “It’s going to fall off at some point, that thing’s pretty dangerous. It’s very loose.”
“If this falls off it could hit someone,” he added. “It’s going to be extremely bad.”
The FIA race director has the power to summon cars into the pits for inspection, using the black-and-orange flag, if they appear to be in an unsafe condition. However the use of the flag became a point of controversy last year.
Haas were shown the black-and-orange flag on three separate occasions after sustaining damage to their front wing endplate, which they argued was too minor to require attention. However at the United States Grand Prix when Fernando Alonso spent several laps with a loose rear wing mirror on his Alpine, which did not attract the race director’s attention, prompting Haas to protest their rival.
Following the incidents teams are now required to demonstrate to race control that their car is in a safe condition if it appears to be damaged. However as McLaren team principal Andrea Stella pointed out, teams will always want to keep their car on-track, especially in the closing laps when they are in sight of the points, as was the case for Ocon.
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“The race direction now leaves the duty of care to the teams,” said Stella, “it’s the team’s call to say ‘we should retire the car’ or ‘we should leave the car out’. It’s a tricky one because teams, when they are in a competition, you have a conflict of interest in terms of safety of everyone involved and maximising your result.
“I think this is a debate that will deserve more time and I’m sure that the next Sporting Advisory Committee it will be raised again. Because Lando said a couple of times that it is not nice when you follow a car with a wobbling rear wing and this may hit you, and kind of nothing happens.”
Alpine introduced a new rear wing design at the Canadian Grand Prix with smaller endplates and a larger central supporting pylon than the previous version. However Stella was sure the wing’s “extreme” movement at the end of the race will not have been by design.
He suspects the wobbling was impairing the car’s performance. “Certainly I’m surprised that the Alpine wasn’t in condition to pass Albon because their tyres were much newer,” he said. “So they must have lost some performance because of the tyre difference.
“I think if Lando was behind, we should have been able to pass Albon. So maybe that was a contribution to create this little train.”
Stella said McLaren were particularly worried as Ocon’s wing appeared to be wobbling more violently as the race went on. “When Lando was following Ocon he said that it got worse and worse,” said Stella. “This was the kind of concerning element.”
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He is convinced the wing was not behaving as normal, even for Alpine’s car. “Of course sometimes we saw already before that the Alpine real wing wobbles,” he said. “You might have noticed as well.
“But then when Lando reported it and it started to look like there’s something broken, it can’t wobble like that just out of its normal behaviour. It wouldn’t be accepted by the FIA, it wouldn’t be accepted by the team themselves. I’m sure the thing is not operating within design.”
Ocon’s car passed scrutineering after the race, which he finished in eighth place. Norris took ninth but was demoted to 13th by a post-race penalty. “We will certainly make a question as to what was their thinking in terms of how safe the situation was today,” said Stella.
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