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Photo exclusive: Red Bull “flexi” front wing, judge for yourself
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Photo exclusive: Red Bull “flexi” front wing, judge for yourself
Posted By: James Allen  |  28 Jul 2010   |  10:08 am GMT  |  327 comments

This is a JA on F1 exclusive in collaboration with F1 photographer Darren Heath – it is the photograph of the controversial Red Bull front wing, which was seen by a couple of teams over the weekend. Rival engineers believe that the wing is flexing more than the rules allow and giving Red Bull a downforce advantage.

Photo: Darren Heath


There was a lot of discussion about this wing in Germany. Darren got a hunch at Silverstone, but couldn’t get the right angle on the cars. He researched it and then in Hockenheim he was able to get lower and set up a shot with other cars for comparison. You can see the Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren wings below.

Engineers estimate from this photo that the deflection on the Red Bull wing is 24mm, which is pretty impressive. The tests the FIA carry out in scrutineering allow a maximum of 10mm deflection at the endplates when a force of 500 Newtons is applied, which is around 50kg of downforce.

McLaren for comparison (Darren Heath)


However in high speed corners, like Copse or Abbey at Silverstone, the wing will be generating more like 200 kg of downforce. So perhaps the test isn’t stringent enough.

So what is the advantage of having this flexing characteristic? Well running the end plates closer to the ground gives extra downforce and this is particularly useful in high speed corners to balance out the extra downforce you get from the blown diffuser when the throttle is on and exhaust gases are passing through the diffuser. With this device the Red Bull car has well balanced downforce front to rear and so is a stable car through high speed corners.

Ferrari for comparison (Darren Heath)


Also teams have found that this year’s narrower front tyres are rather weak in high speed corners, leading many cars to understeer. This ruse of Red Bull’s also helps offset that.

It seems to help more when the car is on the edge in qualifying than when it is loaded up with 160kg of fuel for the race and this is one of the reasons why Red Bull has enjoyed the speed advantage on Saturdays. However Ferrari has a similar thing going on with its front wing and this along with the optimisation of the blown diffuser they first introduced three races ago, is the reason why Ferrari are right on Red Bull’s pace. The cars are now performing in quite a similar way.

The wing has passed all the deflection tests and has been declared legal by the FIA scrutineers, but there were grumblings from other teams and even suggestions that the car might be protested after the race, but this did not happen.

McLaren wing for comparison (Darren Heath)


McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh said, “We would like to understand it, because if you can do what they are doing legally then we would like to do it. If you can get your endplates down by the ground they can get more efficiency. And if they are doing that in a clever and legitimate way then we need to do it in that clever and legitimate way.”

So it looks like the legal “flexi wing” is the latest innovation from this highly creative team, which others will set out to copy.

For more on Darren Heath’s work go to Darren\'s Website

Another angle (Darren Heath)


Mercedes wing for comparison (Darren Heath)

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1

It’s not just a flexi front wing, It’s all bodywork design can make lower position in the front, such as two step suspention or whole nose design, because redbull front wing steady straight but totaly car lower in front.

2

This flexi front-wing has nothing to do with balancing downforce from the blown-diffuser because diffuser does not directly generate downforce. What diffuser does is to smooth the underflow which, in turn, increase downforce underneath the car (not downforce at the rear-end only).

The most advantage of flexing front wing is that the end-plate is getting lower to the ground, thus providing better “sealing” between low pressure area underneath the wing with that higher pressure above the wing. This better sealing result in better pressure different between upper surface and lower surface of the wing thus result a better aerodinamic efficiency greater downforce.

3

There are many ways that a static load test could be fully valid, but the loads applied from aero (or suspension) could make the deflection different. Especially if the loads are higher. Take a look at nickel titanium, (shape memory alloy)transitioning between martensitic and austenitic phases, it could be fully stiff under load, then “snap” to a drooping wing, then “snap” back to a stiff wing when the loading is decreased. This material could be layered with the Carbon Fiber. I suspected this was used in the past for rear wings that could “relieve” their downforce at high speeds.

With rules as particular as F1, finding loopholes is part of the game. You just have to be willing to throw away $10M of development if the F1 rules disallow what you have done! Remember the “Fan car” from years ago on Lotus, won its first outing and was outlawed by the F1!

4

Regarding testing the wing, is it possible that the location of where the load test is applied has a bearing? i.e.the material used on the wing, outboard of the load test area may be of different construction (weaker), therfore allowing (more) flex in that area. This way even higher load tests may not show illegal deflection as the test area is already stronger (resisting more deflection)??? thoughts people?

5

This is smart, I think the rules state that you cant have an adjustable front wing? Its not adjustable, they have probably just changed the material density / composition so that under certain conditions the g’s make the wing flex. With the wing thicker in some places than others,with a wind tunnel, you could trial and error your way to a wing that flexes in the right direction coming towards turns etc.

If I were an F1 designer I would be doing the same, like the diffusers, get the written rule article to hand and find the grey area !

6

OK, so it seems clear that flexi-bodywork of any type is illegal, and that a few teams have found a way of achieving flex and still passing the current tests. It’s either that or believe Horners explanation that the phenominon we see is due to a combination of camera angle, tyre pressure, fuel load and special paint! Yeah right.

When (or if) flexi-wings are deemed in violation and banned, could Red Bull and Ferrari be stripped of points or disqualified? Would another team with no skeletons in the closet, but a firm backbone nonetheless, have to protest for anything like this to happen?

I’m a bit intrigued by Hartley’s sudden demise from the Red Bull squad and by Ferrari’s equally sudden performance gain. Does he speak Italian?

I’ve got a funny feeling that Red Bull will front up at Spa with legal wings, pass the test and blame the loss on a horsepower disadvantage

7

this is wrong

take the redbull picture

load it it to a paint program

past the McLaren wing for comparison the one under the redbull over the top make it transparent so you can see the red bull underneath now rotate the McLaren and resize to size of redbull car image to match red bull and have a look

8

Please show us how that looks

9

The engineers at Ferrari and Reb Bull have been very clever. F1 is supposed to be the epitome of technological innovation in motorsports; FIA please don’t supress or hamper new ideas/developments! If these flexi-wings passed the test, move on, you can introduce new stricter tests for next season.

Reintroduce in-season testing too!!

10

Mr. Allen,

A few other sources are claiming that FIA will impose alternate testing of wings prior to SPA. How do you think FIA plan to test the equipment ? Will the tests and testing limits be announced. Also, If they don’t announce do you think that Ferrari and Red Bull will show up with a different front wing?

To be absolutely fair I don’t think they should announce the new tests or the limits of such tests. This will for sure determine what each team thinks is legal.

11

I’ll post on this soon

12

http://www.f1technical.net/news/15266

It appears the limits are known.

13

Clearly from watching you can see that RBR and Ferrari front wing are much lower to the ground then the rest, particularly on RBR cars which appear to be touching the ground. From what I read and don’t understand is why that the FIA is conducting a stationary test by placing weights on the cars, which are the wrong conditions. The wing obviously flexes under high speed which we have all seen and as people have mentioned previously the rule states there is a minimum clearance from the ground at all times. From what I seen and understanding of the ruling, these wings are clearly illegal. With all the race footage the FIA has enough evidence to determine that these wings are illegal, they almost touch the ground and some instances actual do. They now have to enforce their own rules!

14

Watching race now with eyes glued to RB front wing, certainly adds interest….
On Vettels drive through front wing was so much higher.

As someones said easy to add a descrete mechanism to alter stiffness of wing when stationary or moving. Maybe an aerodynamic stiffness element which itself is speed controlled,

Sorry the RB is so fast with one of the least powerful engines so they must be doing something illegal,

No other explanation, don’t buy clever engineering unless that means how to cheat without being found out…

15

fascinating discussion! i like to think about the design process for something on this.. design front wing, test seems beatable, now all i need is a mechanism to stick like a vertical carbon web on the back of the wing for stiffness, and lay down for flex.. HELLO technical reg for adjustable flap{Dan alluded to this earlier ;)}! and maybe after that it all just snowballs, give me an inch i’ll take the 90mm thankyou, and now its getting a bit silly! Webber tears up over non flex wing at THE track for it and brings it moreso into the spotlight. Horner talks about horsepower in his sleep for the first half of the year, and no-one from RB dismiss RHeight control! We know about Carbon flexure joints, we can build carbon leaf springs, springs can be tuned in series etc. Anothe good point made earlier was frequency and vibration, this can tell us a fair bit about structures and internal stresses. unfortunately the ground clearance doesnt give us any facts in the sense of the legislated datums. We are also incredibly uninformed of the kinematics of a RBF1 car is the sense of squat/drive/heave.

So my only question is; Is the front wing a device or construction that is designed to bridge the gap between the sprung part of the car and the ground?

There is no non-subjective answer. because they have skid end-plates? NO we do that for off track excusions, curbing etc.. at no time is the front wing lower to the legislated datum.

RB is completely legal, even though they are blatantly cheating lol

16

as i said before, f1 is not a sport, it is a car show room parade of fancy fast cars, with drivers lucky enough to get the best cars, getting false glory, example , how would vettel, (supposedly the next schumacher) in your dreams mate, how would he fare in a renault or merc, he wouldnt be doing all these super fast lap times, and would probably be struggling, its all about the cars now, and not the drivers.

look at webber when he was at jaguar,and williams ,he wasnt what he is now, nowhere near, its all about the car and nothing else, and if it keeps going this way, they will soon be controlling the cars from a remote control from the pits, because the tech is taking over the driver.

so lets do the sensible thing and turn it back into a sport, lets get everyone in cars identical in specs exactly, and get rid of all this high tech in the cockpit , and on the cars, and then we will see who is the real best driver, at motor racing.

but it wont happen because this f1 is all about technology, and they would never give up their toys, or advantages, so f1 is a car showroom, with pretty toys, for the teams to toast while sipping their champagne, because they think theyre a sport , but sadly theyre not, its just business.

17

first going off topic, how many people here are british and supporting ferrari or red bull or and other none british team??? (Just because they are built here doesnt mean they are british) you should be all be hind our teams. Mclaren and Williams teams that are britished owned and with Mclaren a british team.

Now ferrari and Mclaren are pretty much like Manchester United and Liverpool rivals, so a ferrari fan will always side with someone else cause its the italian way but in the past have been know to swap sides lmao.

This flexi wing is very clear, Red bull wings moves alot and awful under extreme speeds and low speeds, Ferrari are in between at the moment with their design, Mclaren wing moves but u cant see with the naked eye at racing speed.

Now maybe Red Bull design the wing around heat from friction of the air?? possible but very doubtfull.

Or is their a loop-hole in FIA scrutineering

which has been proven already with FIA rules, and with the so called F-duct the only main advatange is straight line speed, but there are only 5 or 6 tracks it would really work on, but the flexi wing is proving to useful on all tracks. a car that can turn tighter is a car that can accelerate alot earlier then anyone else.

18

going off f1, its not about the drivers , its about how clever the mechanics and teams, can get away with flouncing the rules, the red bull car has a massive advantage, the other teams may as well have street cars, because theyre nowhere near, and as for vettel and webber being called great drivers, and getting undue praise for getting fast laps, i say , big deal, any decent racer could win in that car, its not the drivers, its simply the car and nothing else.

and it doesnt take rocket science to see that their front wing is scraping the ground, and then rising on corners, so as not to scrape the kerbs, you can actually see it in race footage, up and down, its clearly cheating, and the fia are not doing their job , if they think this is legal and fair.

f1 is not a sport, its a business, and nothing else, and people will get bored like me of cars on parade laps, no racing, the photographers should be taking photos of the cars, and not the drivers, giving the cars the limelight.

19
richard hughes

I have been following this story with great interest. Hats off to red bull for coming up with it

There has been a lot of speculation regarding HOW it works with people mentioning the carbon fiber strands etc.

If you look at the last picture above in the post of the red bull, you can clearly see the wing is BOWING. The center of the wing under the nose is at a normal height but the ends are bowing from the center.

have a look at this image from this weekends practice.

http://www.f1talks.pl/wp-content/uploads/138239900-3bbf609d3ee23a251f7dc7dbfe19b541.4c53fb28-scaled.jpg

The area of the wing under the nose is thick. As you move towards the ends there seems to be a crease, almost like a fold. Its this ‘fold/crease’ which is flexing. If there was some flexible material there, that runs end to end this would explain it. Something as simple as plastic. It would be interesting to see UNDER the wing.

It would simply have to flex at a rate of (or less) 10mm per 50kgs of pressure to pass the tests

20

Someone may have already made the point I am going to make regarding safety. I think that if the Red Bull ‘moving wing’ is allowed, there is a substantial risk that it will lead to a really serious accident when one of the other teams get their design and calculations slightly wrong. The result will be a front wing ‘grounding’, causing a serious accident. The fact that in season testing has been banned only adds to this risk.

We really don’t need another 1994 Imola situation within F1.

21

Is it possible they have designed the wing to move on an angular plane, using G in the corners to lower the wing ,yet it would pass a vertical load test…

22

Whitmarsh seems to be bringing up another rule about the wing needing to be 85mm above the plank, and given how close the Red Bull wing is to the tarmac they’re surely contravening that rule.

23

James,

I read on the BBC website earlier that there’s a rule stating that “the front wing has to stay 85mm above the lowest part of the body of the car, the underbody ‘plank’ at all times.”

The front wing is barely 50mm (max!) off of the road so how can the front wing be 85mm above the plank? Say the plank is 15mm above the road at all times, then the front wing will have to remain 100mm above the road.

If this rule does exist, surely the Red Bull is clearly breaking it? RBR may have found a way of beating the ‘flex test’ when the car is stationary – but surely this is an infringement?

Would appreciate your thoughts.

24

Ah yes, but measuring it when the car is moving at 200km/h is tricky

25

It may be difficult to get a tape measure out while hanging off the front wing, but enough reference points could be taken to prove it either is or isn’t at least 85mm off the ground surely. With the amount of high definition photos taken today and the technology available a pretty accurate scale could be mapped onto existing footage (still or moving) and within a reasonable degree of accuracy prove how high the endplates actually are? Also, a simple check to see if there’s any scrape marks on the endplates after the race could possibly be used?

26

McLaren seeking clarification noting yet another rule which is that the wing has to be 85mm above the plank – and noting that Red Bull have put skids on the wings so there is clear intent for them to hit the ground.

Me thinks the FIA will be forced to rule the Red Bull illegal. If they don’t, then the whole dimension rule book is out the window as people build all sorts of parts that meet scrutiny but flex into other positions.

27

Here’s a thought – everyone is talking about the wing flexing. But when you look at the photos, the centre point of the wing, where the mount comes down from the nose, is also lower to the ground.

I don’t think the wing is flexing more than 10mm; it looks to me like perhaps the nose of the car or the vertical vanes that connect the wing to the nose are where the flexing is. The suspension dropping might have the same effect, but that would lower the bottom of the car too much so the car would ground out.

Flexing the nose or nose/wing connectors would be more efficient than flexing the wing as it is not just the ends that get lower, it is the whole wing. It might also mean that testing does not reveal it as easily, because the wing itself is rigid enough.

28

Surely if 10mm of movement is permitted at 500N then by definition 40mm is permitted at 2000N? (assuming a purely linear relationship)

29

It seems that this is the principle that Red Bull are relying on to claim that they are legal, in spite of a clear statement in the rules that this is inappropriate.

In principle no movement is permitted. However, for practical purposes some tolerance is allowed, and there is a test that suggests a practical level of tolerance but if it seems that cars are flexing in a way that makes it not a rigid car, then it can be deemed to be illegal. This is not new. McLaren and Ferrari in past seasons have been ordered to modify their front wings as they were found to be flexing under load – remember the McLaren bridge front wing from around 2007 that acquired a strut in the middle?

Formula 1 rules explicitly state that aerodynamics must be fixed. If people design cars that allow the aerodynamics to change (apart from explicitly mentioned exceptions) then it may be a faster car, but it is not a Formula 1 car.

30

Spenny, I think you’ve got a pretty solid handle on this. I’m sure in this loooooooong thread someone already stated this, but the issue I see (and what RBR and Ferrari will claim) is that the rule of rigidity is contradicted by the test that allows flexibility.

If there is a test simulating low downforce that will allow 10mm of deflection that allows the wing to conform to rigidity, it’s certainly a logical leap to assume that the deflection at race pace would be greater. How much greater?

Clearly RBR and now Ferrari have chosen to engineer a wing that will pass the test and be as lightweight as possible. Without that extra carbon fiber, it appears that there’s an unintended side effect that the wing deflection increases more than other teams’ wings. …at least, that’ll be the PR line.

My opinion is that they’re outside of the spirit of regulations, but, right or wrong, innovation in the sport frequently comes by pushing those interpretations.

31

Just to clarify that last point:

3.15 says in part:

“No part having an aerodynamic influence and no part of the bodywork, with the exception of the skid block in 3.13 above, may under any circumstances be located below the reference plane.”

It is the ” in any circumstances” – that would seem to suggest that even under load, the wing should not be allowed to go beneath the reference plane and any flexing allowed should be accommodated by moving the wing so it cannot flex beneath the reference plan. It does not say, “in any circumstances except under tolerances permitted under load tests” and it clearly is possible to build a wing that flexes and still meets that requirement – either by very stiff or by flexible – but raised.

32

There appears to be some clarification now that the test is going to be fixed to be increased, and the allowance is going to be doubled along with a doubling of the movement allowed. There is also going to be a change to the way novel fixings on the floor are going to be scrutinised.

The test already does surely allow for greater movement at higher forces, and it is in this spirit that the test has been changed (it is quite likely that other teams would be caught out by the change that simply increased the weight even when they had attempted to stay in the rules). It seems that Red Bull were abusing the test that was explicitly qualified to only be for engineering tolerances by using non-linear responses, in spite of the rules explicitly saying that the tests were not to be used as a means of subverting the rigid structures rule.

The RB potentially infringed a couple of other rules – regularly touching the ground with bodywork and the relationship of the wing to the body.

I think with the clarification, we will see all the other teams make adjustments to their front wing height as it seems the FIA have implicitly changed the interpretation of the rules to allow greater leeway on how tolerances can be assessed across the design.

I think previously the teams did two things: made sure the wing did not flex, and secondly, ensured that when the wing was flexed it did not break another rule on the height of the wing in relation to the floor. Now they are being told that the measurements need only be considered unloaded, and the FIA will not check the relationship of the wing when under static load. I suspect this makes a fundamental departure from the principle of design they have been told to use before, and we may see some scrutineering confusion in the future because of it.

33

Ist shot looks like photo shop.

Front right wheel in the air…..?

Frnt left look odd too.

34

This article is exactly the reason why I read this blog – spot on! Well done to Darren for his stirling efforts as ever.

35

Thanks for that

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