Formula One’s managing director of motorsport, Ross Brawn, says he would be “amazed” if a protest against Red Bull’s rear wing at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix is successful, arguing the FIA has been consistent in its application of rules regarding flexible body work.
The legality of Red Bull’s rear wing was questioned by title rivals Mercedes during the Spanish Grand Prix weekend, with video evidence showing the entire structure of the wing flexing downwards on the straights, providing an aerodynamic advantage.
Article 3.8 of Formula One’s technical regulations says all components influencing a car’s aerodynamic performance must be “rigidly secured to the entirely sprung part of the car” and “remain immobile in relation to the sprung part of the car”.
Red Bull’s rear wing has passed the necessary static load tests carried out during scutineering under Articles 3.9.3 and 3.9.4, but rivals argued that the video footage from Spain is proof that the wing is in contravention of Article 3.8.
The FIA responded by issuing a technical directive after the Spanish Grand Prix agreeing that “such deformations … could be deemed to contravene the provisions of Article 3.8”, while notifying teams that new load deflection tests would be introduced on June 15.
However, the timing of the introduction of the new tests, which was delayed to give smaller teams time to adapt their designs, means Red Bull’s original design passed scrutineering in Monaco and will do so again at next weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff called the technical directive “half-baked”, saying the delay in the introduction of the new tests created “a legal vacuum and leaves the door open for protests”.
He went on to warn that a rejected protest could end up in the International Court of Appeal, creating a “messy situation” that may leave the result of the race in doubt for several weeks.
ESPN understands Mercedes, McLaren and Aston Martin all believe their wings are already in compliance with the new tests, while at least six teams, possibly seven, will need to make modifications.
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix is a likely target for a protest as a flexing rear wing structure has the potential to offer big gains on the circuit’s long straights.
Asked if he was concerned about the prospect of protests leaving the result of the Baku race in limbo, Brawn said: “No, I don’t think so.
“I think the FIA have been pretty consistent with their approach,” he added. “I’d be amazed if the stewards go against the opinion of the FIA.”
Brawn, who worked for Benetton, Ferrari, Honda and Mercedes before joining F1, said the FIA had faced similar challenges in the past.
“I think this is probably flexi rear wing version 27 [in Formula One’s history],” he added.
“In 40 years of motor racing, I’ve been through this many times.
“I can remember [Williams technical director] Patrick Head jumping on our front wing in parc ferme because he considered that it wasn’t stiff enough.
“He wanted to demonstrate to Charlie [Whiting, FIA race director] that it wasn’t stiff enough, so he actually stood on it and bounced up and down to demonstrate how flexible it was.
“There are a set of FIA tests and that’s the only way we have been able to determine the limits of what you can do.
“If you pass the tests and some [rival] teams don’t like it, the FIA can look at it, say ‘fair point’ and stiffen the tests and do different tests, so it’s perpetual.
“I honestly don’t believe there is any case for going in a different route to solve the problem, because I don’t know how you quantify it.
“One person’s view of it being too flexible is another person’s view of it being OK, and that’s why we have the tests.
“If you put a mechanism in there or a hinge in there, I agree that’s not correct.
“But within the normal compliance of the structure, I don’t see a problem.”