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Photo exclusive: Red Bull “flexi” front wing, judge for yourself
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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is there a picture of the ferrari wing for comparison?


You just have to look at the on-board footage of the RedBull to see it's front wing deflect downwards 5 -10cms as it picked up speed every time.


ha ha ha.....McLaren whinging because they got jumped!!?? Like they were not handed a big fat advantage this year with the F-Duct nonsense ALLOWED by the FIA!!!! WHAT A JOKE!!.....#:)


what! the f-duct is totally legal, and after spa so will the flexible wings so come on mclaren make your own ones now please and show the grid who are the men from the boys


They aren't whinging AFAICT. In fact, though I'm not a big McLaren fan, I gotta say that IMHO Whitmarsh is conducting himself admirably in all the controversies so far.


I agree. Was never a McLaren fan either but Martin W is super cool. AND his drivers are allowed to race.


I think you'll find that they are whinging because they didn't find a way to do it legally like Ferrari & RBR did.

In the same way teams were whinging because they didn't come up with the legal way to do a double diffuser first.


McLaren are not whinging, i think you have miss understood what has happened. It was other teams who were complaining. McLaren, were just looking into it, if it becomes legal. It sounds like you are just anti-Mclaren. I hope they sus it and beat the cheats and Red Bull.



get your self some video software and watch in frame by frame you will find this is all wrong

the Ferrari front wing move a lot lot lot more then the redbull front wing


Keep the way, the biggest cheat in F1 has been done by McLaren in 2007, when copying the desing of the Ferrari car. And regarding team orders, they did exactly the same with Hamilton and Kovalainen in Germany 2008. That made Hamilton a dirty winner and dirty champion in 2008 (he won the title by just 1 point), as some english journalist said of Alonso last weekend?

Common guys, let's be serious...


Thanks for your response, I was going to to it as well,...


More power to Red Bull for pushing the limits of what's legal. F-Duct is the same thing right, were there the same complaints? (I can't remember)

If you take innovation out of the sport it would be rather boring.


No, the F-duct was exploiting a genuine loophole in the regulations. The static load tests on the wings are not written into the technical regulations as the ultimate arbiter of legality, merely as one means of checking compliance with the last but one paragraph of 3.15, which reads:

"Any device or construction that is designed to bridge the gap between the sprung part of the car and the ground is prohibited under all circumstances"

I consider it clear that the Red Bull front wing has a construction engineered specifically to bridge that gap, which would make it in deliberate, and absolute contravention of the rules; something very different to a clever loophole.

3.17.8 provides provision for any test to be used to verify that 3.15 is not breached. I see no reason why this could not include ad hoc video and photo evidence.

James, any chance of directly asking Mclaren and Red Bull about that last but one paragraph of 3.15?


I think a clarification is coming


If you study the pictures closely it look as though the centre of the front wing is also much closer to the ground (rather than being wing deflection) it looks more likely that the front suspension is much softer or behaves differently under down force.

Just A Bloke (Martin)

My thoughts are that Red Bull has worked out a way of transferring load so that the smaller point loads of the FiA test do not cuase the deflection but the downforce induced load has a different "path" allowing the deflection, could this even be in the nosebox or wingmounts and not the wing itself?


We have no idea what fuel loads these cars were on. This was during practice so mclaren could have been on low fuel and redbull high. It is the curve of the wing that is important


exactly what I was about to post.


Well said mate. Completely agree.

Crazy rule chages nearly killed the excitement of this season anyway. Thank goodness for unpredictable weather, no 1/2 driver in the same team & historic Ferrari team order. otherwise, the new rules would've made the entire season the most boring in the history. I'd love to know how much financial growth F1 has generated this season compare to the last three seasons. FIA probably owes most of the profit to Schumacher because of the pre season publicity he created.

Too many rule changes in very short time not always good for the sport.


@Tim: There were indeed complaints about the F-Duct. In fact I am pretty sure Horner questioned the legality of it early in the season. Also weren't Red Bull one of the teams to protest against the double diffuser in 2009? They seem quite happy to push the limits themselves, but seem to resent other teams trying it!


Yes, the F-duct did get the same complaints, more actually.

Innovation is indeed one of the great things about this sport but things like the f-duct and this front wing are not pushing the envellope of whats technically possible. Engineers are no longer trying to overcome the laws of physics but are pushing the boundries of the regulations.

"Flexi-wings" are nothing new, LEGAL flexiwings are. The f-duct is not a great technical innovation, it just does something an electronically controlled flap could do if it weren't against the rules.

Don't get me wrong, it's all very clever. I just think it's misdirected cleverness. It is inevitable engineers are going to focus on loopholes and creative interpretations to get an edge because within the strict confines of the current regulations almost everything is optimised. Engine parity doesn't help in that regard.

If the FIA want the technological aspect of formula 1 to become more relevant the engineers need more freedom.

Engineers (and team Lawyers) are always going to explore every option that gives them an advantage. But if the rules are so specific, loopholes like the double diffuser and the f-duct become more attractive, because everything else is the same.

What room is there for devellopment nowadays, exept for aero? Some of the greatest engineering minds are working in F1 and billions are being invested into technological devellopment, but the rules are too constricting, too specific to really let these guys reach their potential.


I completely agree. The piston engine development no longer has a future in F1 as well as the real world especially with the current global climate conditions. The regulations should say the teams can bring anything else but a conventional petrol (oil derived fuels) engine to the grid and ONLY then will these powerful minds (engineers) will be put to some use and innovate.

The F1 championship will become what it was 50years ago, a championship which drives technology forward and an environment which encourages new technologies to be created, developed and honed. The Petrol engine is no longer able to be further developed as we have found its limits, so F1 needs to move in a different direction where teams are rewarded for innovation with a win. Who cares if Ferrari run hydrogen powered electric verses McLaren’s battery powered electric or new Team X with new technology Y and beats them all That would be exciting F1. Leading edge technology! Drag racing should also move in this direction as well!


I agree as long as its 'legal' (passes the scrutineers mandated tests) then its acceptable. The question I have is what are the regs, do the regs say that the front wing must remain stable or that it must pass the test.

This sounds like its similar to the issue we had a couple of seasons ago where there were problems with flexing rear wings and I seem to remember that the wings were banned because they broke the rules even though they had passed the test.


No. What is legal and what the test is are two completely different things.

The rule (3.15) states that the wings (well, any part of the car that affects aero performance) must be rigidly attached to the unsprung part of the car (so no sticking wings directly to the wheels!); and must remain immobile in relation to the unsprung part (i.e. it mustn't flex or deform at rest or at speed).

There is a further rule (3.17.8) that states that '...the FIA reserves the right to

introduce further load/deflection tests on any part of the bodywork which appears to be (or is suspected of), moving whilst the car is in motion.'

So, much like the Michelin tyres that passed the static test, but grew wider at speed; the FIA are well within their rights to change the test that indicates whether the wings are legal.

If the rule stated that aerodynamic bodywork must not deflect more than 10mm when 500N is applied, then you might be right.

The rule and the test for the rule are two entirely separate things.


It seems to me you're arguing against the laws of physics here.

Wings are long, thin pieces of carbon fiber, and like any long and thin object they flex under enough stress. Had this not been a recognized truth, there would be no point to the 10mm flex rule, and any flex would have been illegal. Now, if 50 Kgs bends the wing 10 mm, isn't it common sense that it would bend more under the full load of 200 Kgs?

If more rigid wings are desired, all the FIA can do is lower the 10 mm threshold for the test or increase the load for the same allowable flex of 10 mm, but the teams would probably have to make the wing out of unobtainium


Here is one for all you "closet aerodynamicists" LOL 🙂

What if in fact it's the end plate flexing and not the wing ?

Still legal?

My view, - every team had been stretching the rules since the beginning of F1, in the 90's benetton using a form of TC when it was disallowed , ferrari with their "5ms gear changes" , last year the double diffuser , this year the F duct and now the flex wing.


Yes there were, if you're trying to suggest any anti-RBR sentiments. Mclaren invited the FiA the scrutineer the car before the season but CW couldn't make it so MClaren had to wait till the first race for clarification. Horner said it should be illegal. All the teams act the same to new tech, Irtysh didn't think of it first they would rather ban t than spend resources developing it.


That's an 'if they.' stupid iPhone correction....


Completely agree.

I'd also like to say that if the wing doesn't flex more than 10mm under 500 Newtons of pressure then "Rival engineers" need to understand the rule says 500 Newtons not 2000 Newtons, ergo it's not breaking any rule.

The F-Duct was deemed legal, and so should this be, both examples of clever engineering.


The f-duct was hated as a concept up and down the paddock because of the sneaky way it was introduced!!! Right before the 1st race of the season before anybody knew about it!!!! It was deemed more "against the spirit of the rules" and i remember being rather annoyed!!! #:)


Hated by whom exactly? It's an example of a team designer spotting a loophole in the rules and exploiting it. Should McLaren have announced to the world in advance of the first race what they were doing so everyone else could do the same? Should Ferrari have announced their flexible floor? Should Red Bull have announced their diffuser design?


So teams should give away their clever engineering with advance warning? I think not.

Zobra Wambleska

You wouldn't have been annoyed if you were a McLaren Fan.


Wrong, the rule on 500 newtons is the test that the scrutineers can change if they suspect that the wing is deforming under more pressure. The rule is no movement, the test is 500 newtons, at the moment. Go check the technical regs, specifically 3.15, 3.17.1 and 3.17.18 and then consider your answer 🙂

The general principle is that the body must be absolutely rigid (3.15), but they are allowed a bit of flexibility (3.17.1)as it is impossible to engineer to zero tolerance. If real conditions mean that the flexibility has been exceeded, then the test is supposed to change (3.17.18).


Like you mention, because absolute rigidity is impossible, the rules must specify what is meant by rigid bodywork. There is a rule defining that, it is 3.17.1, which gives the condition. It is not an example of a test that FIA uses to control rigidity, it is the definition of rigidity in F1. If the wing passes that definition, it is legal. FIA can change the way it tests whether cars are legal, but it can not arbitrarily change the definition of the rules.

As far as I see, based on the rule 3.17.1, the RBR wing is legal, given the direct tests it has gone through.


If the wing is closer to the ground under load by more than 10mm, then it is not pushing the limits, it is illegal.

When Red Bull claim it is legal, they need to be challenged with two questions:

1) Does it meet the deflection rules under the current FIA regulations?

2) Does it meet the deflection rules under the actual load that it is under when running?

If the second answer is no, then the car is illegal. The rules are quite clear to the extent that the scrutineers can change the test if they even suspect that the movement when running is excessive.

If the whole car is squatting down, then they mush be doing something clever with the wooden board underneath, but to me it does seem to be the front wing is drooping. The rules on moveable bodywork are so strict, that I can't imagine any legal way of achieving this (which is effectively Whitmarsh's view) except perhaps that the whole car is built a bit high with soft suspension, and so under running it all lowers down, and they have therefore been able to interpret the various dimensions in a different way - i.e. the wing is not flexing, but is always low when running.

The f-duct was a clever hole in the rules, as was the double diffuser. There is no interpretation of the rules that allows for the wing to deform excessively.


Following on from your thoughts Spenny, I think that the soft suspension lowering the car under load isnt the case either. From my understanding, the car stays equally low throughout the race, so, even when the car is less loaded with fuel it is equally low.

I think the rules forbid suspension height changes throughout the race, so this seems unlikely.... It wouldnt surprise me if they've not done something innovative such as rather than a having the wing too flexible, they've instead made another part "softer" which enables the additional flex.

Its unlikely, but what if the nose of the car were to rise slightly, pulling the wing up at the center. This in turn lowers the end plates. (if we assume that there is some anchoring somewhere)...


Just to clarify what I was wondering - have they used some clever interpretation of the reference plane to allow the car to be a different shape? All dimensions relate to the reference plane not to the ground, so it might be that they have pushed some parts of the car up in such a way that it is a legal shape but runs with certain parts closer to the ground. So I agree with you and my bit of speculation only explains the RB sitting closer to the ground, not the flexing.

Ferrari's flexible floor was rejected exactly because they had mechanisms to allow the floor to move yet pass scrutiny. If Red Bull have devices to change the shape of the car, then it must be illegal. You can get away with "accidental" flexibility, but you certainly cannot design a car that has mechanisms to change its shape because that would be a flagrant breach of 3.15. I therefore doubt that there would be any obvious mechanism. Also, Renault had their mass damper banned as a moveable aero device, which appears to be what is being speculated on here. A moveable aero device is illegal, not clever design. If there is flexibility it is only in the materials, and then it is relying on an interpretation of the rules that allows tolerance on flexibility, where the rules do appear to be explicit that an F1 car should be rigid as a design principle.

Just to go a little further on mechanisms, if someone designed a wing with stops to stop it flexing further than allowed, I am sure it would be banned as it would be clear that it was deliberately being allowed to flex, rather than being a side effect of the difficulties of designing a rigid structure.

I think we might see a bit more FIA scrutiny this weekend.


If it passes the tests it is not illegal per se. The FIA could move to change the tests, like it did for example with Ferrari's flexible floor, but this would not be retroactive, and so the wings are legal according to current rules.


Actually, that is debatable and the FIA could declare that the wing had been illegal all along. People really need to understand why it was that 3.17.8 was brought in. It was to explicitly point out that you were not allowed to design to test tolerance, that you had to design to 3.15 and if you didn't design to 3.15, your car was illegal. 3.17.1 is a convention, but if it was clear that Red Bull had deliberately designed a car that passed scrutineering and did not then meet 3.15 knowingly, they could be excluded for cheating.

It does trouble me that people have such difficulty with this. The fundamental principle of F1 is that the cars are of a fixed shape. If a team does something to change the shape of the car deliberately and knowingly, then they are cheating.

They are free to design to the scope of the freedoms of tolerance granted, at their own risk, but it needs to be understood that if someone is able to prove, say from video evidence, that the Red Bull wing moves more than 10mm in a race, then it is illegal, even if it passes a scrutineering test.

Historically, teams that produce cars that pass scrutineering but are then found to be unlawful tend to just be told to withdraw the design feature, but the FIA could decide that there had been a deliberate intent to subvert the rules and apply further sanctions.


I believe you to be incorrect.

RE: Question 2, that's not in the rules, thus it is of no relavence.

The rule says:

3.17.1 Bodywork may deflect no more than 10mm vertically when a 500N load is applied vertically to it 800mm forward of the front wheel centre line and 795mm from the car centre line. The load will be applied in a downward direction using a 50mm diameter ram and an adapter 300mm long and 150mm wide. Teams must supply the latter when such a test is deemed necessary.

Thus if it doesn't deform by more than 10mm under a 500N load it is completely legal. It 'may' be against the spirit of the rules, but both double diffusers and F-Ducts are also against the spirit of the rules.



You do realise that if a wing flexes with 500N of force applied, it's going to flex more with more force applied? As in, I'm not sure what you're getting at.

Spirit and letter of the rules be damned, I don't think there's a single team in the paddock who designed their wing to flex no more than 10mm period. They know the rules, they test their own cars and they test them to comply with the limit of what's allowed. The limit is 10mm with 500N applied, what happens beyond that is not specified. And if that is where Red Bull and Ferrari are different from the other teams, I would have to say the other teams suffer a bit of not-seeing-the-forrest-for-the-trees.


Rules, the whole rules and nothing but the rules.

3.15 Aerodynamic influence :

With the exception of the cover described in Article 6.5.2 (when used in the pit lane), the driver adjustable bodywork described in Article 3.18 and the ducts described in Article 11.4, any specific part of the car influencing its aerodynamic performance :

- must comply with the rules relating to bodywork ;

- must be rigidly secured to the entirely sprung part of the car (rigidly secured means not having any degree of freedom) ;

- must remain immobile in relation to the sprung part of the car.

Any device or construction that is designed to bridge the gap between the sprung part of the car and the

ground is prohibited under all circumstances.

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.


3.17.1 Bodywork may deflect no more than 10mm vertically when a 500N load is applied vertically to it 800mm forward of the front wheel centre line and 795mm from the car centre line. The load will be applied in a downward direction using a 50mm diameter ram and an adapter 300mm long and 150mm wide. Teams must supply the latter when such a test is deemed necessary.


3.17.8 In order to ensure that the requirements of Article 3.15 are respected, the FIA reserves the right to introduce further load/deflection tests on any part of the bodywork which appears to be (or is suspected of), moving whilst the car is in motion.


Then what's your explanation for FIA ruling the Ferrari & Red Bull wing legal?


There are two possibilities:

1) The scrutineers have only tested the wing according to the first point, and have not properly considered whether the wing deflects further under other load.

2) Red Bull and Ferrari have spotted a way of getting the car to sit lower to the ground, not by flexing, but by a clever rearrangement of the car with regards to the reference plane.

I would entirely rule out adjusting mechanisms a la the Ferrari flexible floor. The recent example of a wing being tested according to the rules and yet being ruled unlawful was the Toyota rear wing where the scrutineers were able to point to the scratch marks even though it complied with the pressure tests, but according to the rules, they do not need scratch marks, a suspicion is enough.


Spenny do you work in F1 by any chance?


No, just a computer geek, but I can read the rule book rather than assuming what the rules say. It doesn't mean I can do the sums or understand how Red Bull are working the trick. They are either ignoring 3.17.8 or they are very, very clever, and I am not sure which (but I suspect the former even though they are the latter!).


I would actually suggest that it's not just the front wing of the RB that looks lower, but the whole car - I spotted a few times in qually that the Red Bull car is lower to the ground than most of the other front runners. The McLaren ride height is rather high at times.

It's video evidence that is really needed. Photographs can be so deceiving.

Also on Atlas Forum, there is a thread which shows RB using some device to test their front wing from testing in December of last year. Make of that what you will.


There is plenty of video evidence of the Red Bull front wing flexing dramatically at speed (being deflected downwards)- I noticed during the last grandprix, you can clearly see the front wing on Vettel's car moving downwards as he goes faster, and then moving back up for the low speed stuff (its hard to judge by how much, but possibly a couple of inches as he gets faster)

You can see for yourself if you look up onboard footage of Vettel's pole lap on the BBC site or Youtube.


searched YouTube and received this search response " this video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Formula One Management " 🙂 U r onto to somethng here mate. The video evidence must be making the F1 folks nervous 🙂


I agree. Looking at the top picture you can clearly see that the centre plane of the wing is much lower to the ground than that of the McLaren.


These pictures are from practice The Mclaren could be on low fuel while the Redbull could be on High. It is the curvature that is important. The end plates are bending downwards on the redbull


Isn't that (lower Red Bull ride-height) because of the blown diffuser and the over-run trick? I would have thought so.


That's a lot of travel for just the extra downforce from overrun to produce considering how stiff these cars are.
And I know for a fact that not only RBR run this map in quali.


That would only lower the ride at the rear, which looks to be about the same.


Yeah, but how it happens that when they put 160 kilos of benzine, it doesn't bottom heavily?


IMO that is the point: the car is much faster (= lower bottom?) when running on Q3 conditions (very low fuel), and then it does not touch the ground when fully loaded with that 160 kilos... amazing.

I will keep my fingers crossed for RBR cars not to be found illegal. I would be fantastic listen to "Mr Sportsmanship" Horner explaining what the hell is happening.


This is blatant cheating.

Perhaps they are running a current through dissimilar metals to cause the deflection.

But it's cheating

The Kitchen Cynic

James, can you clarify the rules? You say the tests "allow a maximum of 10mm deflection at the endplates when a force of 500 Newtons ".

Do the *rules* also specify 10mm/500 Newtons (in which case the wing is obviously legal) or is that an arbitrary measure used to test against the "no movable aerodynamic devices" rule (in which case the wing might be illegal)?


Yeah, if the rule is 10mm for 500N, then it would seem there's absolutely nothing wrong with >10mm for >500N?

The Kitchen Cynic

Well by my reading 3.15 seems to contradict 3.17.1

Wasn't Max always telling us what a clever lawyer he was...?


Putting it slightly differently, 3.17.1 appears to contradict 3.15, so to deal with that ambiguity, they introduced 3.17.8. Read all three together, then you can understand what the intent is - 3.15 is the fundamental law of the sport, 3.17.1 defines a practical tolerance test that will be used as a rule of thumb unless (3.17.8) it becomes clear that 3.15 is being flouted.

Stephen Williams

The relevant parts of the F1 technical regulations are provided below.

The specific test that the wing has clearly passed during scrutineering is 3.17.1. Note however that the FIA have provided themselves with a 'catch all' regulation (3.17.8) that allows them to introduce any additional tests they deem necessary to enforce the rules relating to movable aerodynamic devices (3.15).

Personally I think it's clear that 3.15 has been breached, the wing clearly does not "remain immobile in relation to the sprung part of the car" and so should be deemed illegal before the next race.


3.15 Aerodynamic influence :

With the exception of the cover described in Article 6.5.2 (when used in the pit lane), the driver adjustable bodywork described in Article 3.18 and the ducts described in Article 11.4, any specific part of the car influencing its aerodynamic performance :

- must comply with the rules relating to bodywork.

- must be rigidly secured to the entirely sprung part of the car (rigidly secured means not having any degree of freedom).

- must remain immobile in relation to the sprung part of the car.

Any device or construction that is designed to bridge the gap between the sprung part of the car and the ground is prohibited under all circumstances.

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.

3.17 Bodywork flexibility :

3.17.1 Bodywork may deflect no more than 10mm vertically when a 500N load is applied vertically to it 800mm forward of the front wheel centre line and 795mm from the car centre line. The load will be applied in a downward direction using a 50mm diameter ram and an adapter 300mm long and 150mm wide. Teams must supply the latter when such a test is deemed necessary.

3.17.8 In order to ensure that the requirements of Article 3.15 are respected, the FIA reserves the right to introduce further load/deflection tests on any part of the bodywork which appears to be (or is suspected of), moving whilst the car is in motion.


That's the clincher for me, cut and pasted from the rules included in Stephen William's comment above: "Any device or construction that is designed to bridge the gap between the sprung part of the car and the ground is prohibited under all circumstances."

If RB's front wing is flexing downwards under race loadings, then it's illegal -- even if it meets the scrutineering load test. One clause is not a get-out for the other; they are either/or clauses.


3.15 Aerodynamic influence :

With the exception of the cover described in Article 6.5.2 (when used in the pit lane), the driver adjustable bodywork described in Article 3.18 and the ducts described in Article 11.4, any specific part of the car influencing its aerodynamic performance :

- must comply with the rules relating to bodywork ;

- must be rigidly secured to the entirely sprung part of the car (rigidly secured means not having any degree of freedom) ;

- must remain immobile in relation to the sprung part of the car.


In order to ensure that the requirements of Article 3.15 are respected, the FIA reserves the right to

introduce further load/deflection tests on any part of the bodywork which appears to be (or is suspected of), moving whilst the car is in motion.


Spenny in Blog 2. has given a seemingly definitive run-down of how the rules work, is he correct James?


+1 to have this clarified.


I tell a lie - that was quicker than I thought...

"3.17.1 Bodywork may deflect no more than 10mm vertically when a 500N load is applied vertically to it 800mm forward of the front wheel centre line and 795mm from the car centre line."

There is a bit more further to that for bodywork flexibility for other portions of the car (behind front wheel centre line etc.) but that's essentially the important bit for this discussion

So it's not just an arbitrary measure used to test against a “no movable aerodynamic devices” rule - it IS the “no movable aerodynamic devices” rule


Not quite. 3.15 is the "no movable aero devices" rule. 3.17 is the testing. 3.17.8 says the FIA may introduce further tests if they think 3.15 may be being broken in a way that passes the current tests.


I'm sure you can find it yourself if you want - all the regs are on the website:

I don't have the time to look through them all right now


Read the rules yourself. Article 3.17 specifies 10mm under a 500N load.


Watch the onboard shots Mark Webbers car coming up to turn 8 (i think) on the BBC IPlayer (from 1h 50m 48 secs). You can see the wing rise as he brakes to take the corner. Its pretty conclusive i tells ya!


Wow, it is really clear in that video, nice one!

However... I wonder how much of that is to be expected?


We watched for this throughout the race and ALL the cars fall and rise to some degree (as can be expected - no material is 100% rigid) however the Red Bull and Ferrari do it to a much greater degree. The effect is clearly noticeable under braking.


That looks pretty conclusive to me, have the FIA seen it?


I saw this also. The wing definitely moves


See what you mean. The wings moving up and down significantly.


I loaded the iPlayer with a bit of scepticism, but you're right! You can clearly see the ends of the wing rising and falling quite substantially with changes in speed from the onboard shots on Webber's car. Whether it's moving more than is permitted is another question.


Thanks for the tip, i will do.


Red Bull have obviously designed a wing that can pass the FIA tests while still pushing the boundaries of legality. That's pretty clever, but still, I don't like it at all.

Instead of all the teams having to copy it and have the whole field breaking the rules, the FIA needs to sort out its testing methodology with immediate effect.

If they don't close the loophole, they'll be inviting all the aerodynamicists in F1 to start cheating even more than they already do.

I'm not a massive Red Bull fan after all the poor decisions they've made this season, but their engineers are a clever bunch aren't they!


Innocent until proved guilty? They have been inspected and passed the test.


I think it's brilliant.

If teams didn't try to push the limit then they would be left behind. The double diffuser and f duct both go against the spirit of the rules.

This does as well.

You could argue that this is "more" illegal - but the simple fact is that it has been designed to flex <=10mm under 500N (the FIA test) but (possibly) flex more under more force.

That is impressive engineering, and it is what F1 is all about.

I don't mind teams going against the spirit of the rules because it shows impressive engineering and the great minds that work in formula one. The amazing thing is how the FIA is going to "fix" the rules and next year we're STILL going to have some great innovations that teams will protest, and then have to copy once they're again deemed legal.

This is good.


James, check out the photo's from testing earlier this year. Ought to have given the other teams a clue...


Really good spot. Now we know that everyone was barking up the wrong tree when they assumed ride hight adjustments.


How did we all miss this. Mclaren included


One word, ingenious!


i had gone along with what Christian Horner, that still shots could be misleading, but this looks fairly convincing. There's a straightforward arching effect on that wing in shot. It makes sense though that if you can make it flex with 100kg of force on it that it would show up as legal. I guess everyone will have it soon and then it will be made illegal for next season, like everything else...


i wonder how can FIA legitimate this?


I'll add to James's comment, 'wheather or not anybody likes it.'


Because it passes the test


Ah-hem. It has passed scrutineering, based upon the given tests. However, the regulations (a) clearly proscribe movable bodywork, and (b) specify that additional tests may be applied over and above the one quoted. In particular:

3.17.8 In order to ensure that the requirements of Article 3.15 are respected, the FIA reserves the right to introduce further load/deflection tests on any part of the bodywork which appears to be (or is suspected of), moving whilst the car is in motion.

On that basis, passing scrutineering (as we've seen many times in the past) does not necessarily ensure that the car is legal. It is up to the team to ensure the car is legal, not the scrutineers 🙂


Maybe the test itself should be revised?


They revised the test for the Ferrari floor in 07 and got it banned.


I'm thinking that would be unfair. Like changing the tire rules mid-season.

Red Bull looked at the rule and said 'hey, we can do this'. Ferrari looked at Red Bull and said 'hey, they are doing this'.



But is the test stringent enough?


I think the test is just fine...The Ferrari front wing will do just nicely!


Both teams were cleared. End of story.


Agreed. Whitmarsh put it well himself, he'd rather spend time making his car quick than standing around complaining about other peoples. Like the F-Duct and the Diffuser last year, it's clever engineering which should be rewarded not penalised.

Being a McLaren fan i'd not complain if it were illegal, but, i'll happily congratulate other teams when they deserve it - and the engineer behind this does deserve it. Very clever stuff.


Where's the reference photo of the Red Bull? The photos above would imply that the wing is always low to the ground. With no shot showing it ever rides at a higher point, what do we have to say this isn't just a manipulative use of the Red Bulls having a difference appearance to other cars?


If the wing is always that low to the ground it would be illegal. The regulations clearly state the minimum height for the wing and it is far below that.


Hey James do you have any higher resolution copies of these photos you could put up please? I want a better view of the clearance of the rest of the RB6.


There are bigger images on Darren's site. Link above in the main post.


Here you go Rob:

James, Darren Heath has the higher res pics on his site, so what's the problem? Also, calling your article an "exclusive" is a little disingenuous when the photos are publicly available on the internet on the photographer's own site!


Sorry, piracy concerns prevent that


Well done to Ferrari and Red Bull. This is a clever interpreation of the rules, and if it is working as suggested it is clearly keeping them ahead.

This is exactly what we want from F1. Engineers coming up with clever solutions to exploit the rules to the fullest. Like the F-duct or the blown diffuser, this is giving more speed without any greater fuel consumption being required.

I only hope that the FIA do not ban this as they have with the F-duct for next year. I can understand making double diffusers illegal as they apparently hurt overtaking, but these ideas seem excellent to me.

Anyone who hasn't checked out Darren's site ought to, the pictures are great!


Agreed; excellent photos from Darren Heath -- much higher resolution than those James is able to publish above.

Particularly check the shots of the fronts of the cars and compare 1) the tips of the wings against 2) the centre floor of the car in front of the nose of the plank. 2) is clearly at much the same height above the ground on all the cars while 1) is clearly almost touching the ground on the RB cars.

However there's another thing I think I've noticed. Does the centre of the front wing on the RB car look lower than that of the other cars? It couldn't be flexing further back up the nose could it -- to lower the whole of the front wing? It sounds improbable, but where these F1 designers are concerned, seems like anything they can get away with is fair game.


I take back my last para conjecture in my comment above. Although the wing does look lower in the middle, after looking at some in car footage I'm pretty certain the nose is not flexing.

What is very clear though is that as speed rises the amount of flex of the front wing ends increases. This means that the downforce is 'rising-rate' -- it increases dramatically due to ground effect as the wing ends approach the surface of the road (but it's less than 10mm with a 500N load). Very clever... and, after reading the rule about closing the gap between the bodywork and the road, very illegal.


This is not the best way to see the wing Flexing......

Just re-run the ' in car footage ' ( red Bulls ) from the German GP and watch the distance change between the front Wishbone and the wing. You will see the gap get smaller the faster the car goes .......


That's not a good measure, as the downforce will compress the suspension, so the wishbone will move up relative to the wing even if the wing isn't flexing.


But the camera would move also as it is a sprung element of the car


The camera will move with sprung elements of the car. The wishbone will move relative to the sprung elements of the car as it is a pivoting part of the suspension linkage. Hence the wishbone is a poor reference point for anything moving relative to the car's sprung elements, as it is not static relative to them.


You may be right, but the photo's from the link above (with the testing rig attached) shows the movement more conclusively.

It is important to note that the movement is acting differentially. i.e as the car takes a the right hand corner, the inner wing is high but outer is flexed down. Note the taut "strings" on the test rig.


Slightly off-topic, but related to all this tinkering with front wings...

F1 states it wants:

1) More overtaking

2) Lower carbon usage

3) More relevant technologies for use on road cars

4) All the above at a current (or lower) cost

Why don't they move to standard, fixed AERO parts but allow engine development again and in-season testing.

The standard parts would be the floor, diffuser, sidepods, front and rear wings (clearly the teams can set the angle etc, but not forever modify the end-plates etc.. I guess they would also need to be able to play with the packaging of the engine etc. as this will necessarily vary from one team to another due to different engines, suspension lay-outs etc.),

I think this would help you meet all of the above (with the possible exception of cost).


1) As the standard aero parts could be designed to allow cars to follow more closely and the teams would not be able to play with things to stop this.

2) The lack of aero modifications would mean that wind tunnels are used much less (if at all), significantly reducing carbon emissions

3) Development of more efficient engines, kers, heat-recovery systems, etc. could help significantly in road-cars having a massive impact globally, while aero modifications designed for the F1 car are less relevant to the real world.

4) Teams would find it much harder to copy each other (as the changes would be "under the bonnet"), so innovation would be rewarded more.

5) Cost may fall as wind tunnels are expensive to run and the aero departments are big with lots of people.


1) Teams would find it much harder to copy each other (as the changes would be "under the bonnet"), so racing may not be as close over a season as it would be harder to catch the team at the front, i.e. they would have to think for themselves rather than copy.

2) Overall costs may increase as engine development/ testing is expensive.


I agree with David (below) that standard aero is not the way to go, but I also agree with Alasdair that something needs to be done.

I was watching the tribute to Ayrton Senna on Top Gear last weekend and the shots of the F1 cars of the turbo era sliding around reminded me of the reasons I was so attracted to F1 in the first place. That sliding was a function of relatively low down force. That's what we've got to get back to.

My suggestion is that all cars should either be submitted to aerodynamic testing to limit the down force they produce, or all aero appendages -- essentially front and rear wings -- should be kept within a 'virtual box' of given dimensions. Suggestion 1 is much the cheapest for the teams, though 2 is the easiest to police.


because standard aero is not formula one.


Nor was standard engines until a few years back.


What is the advantage of undoing the engine freeze and instigating an effective aero freeze in terms of FIA aims?

It's sounding like A1GP to me?

I want less rules and more technical innovation. If a team can't keep up literally or financially they need to race karts, or any other class...


Very clever design from Red Bull, Ferrari seem to have come from nowhere in the development race. It wasn't long ago everyone was waxing lyrical about McLarens ability to out develop other teams. Now they look way off the pace


They have looked off the pace all season, but still lead the constructors and drivers championships.

Consistency is key! 🙂


Those photos really do surprise me with just how big the difference in Wing height is. I'm not surprised they were all kicking up a fuss. Once again it's Red Bull pushing the boundaries of the rules and reeping the rewards


If you look at the pics on Darren Heath's sites you can see the entire wing is below the McLaren's, not just the end plates - maybe the nose or struts also flexes.

Could this be related to Vettel's failure in practise at Silverstone?


Exactly what I was thinking! If the nosecone is tested for deflection in a frame of some sort rather than on the actual car then maybe this isolates it from the effect. It could be the mountings onto which the nose attaches on the monocoque that are flexing (if that is allowed - I don't know).

How about you mount the nose onto a rubber cushion with harder rubber at the back and softer rubber towards the front. Then as the load on the nose increases the softer rubber at the front will compress and tilt the nose down.

Surely it can't be that simple can it? And surely this wouldn't be legal would it?

James? Thoughts?


I wouldn't expect it to be something as obvious and crude as rubber studs (that's a Ferrari mentality), which would leave an obvious gap or overlap where the nose is attached. I would expect it to be more like the carbon fibre structure of the nosecone itself to bend. I believe carbon fibre is not absolutely rigid?


Oooh, good point; I hadn't though about Vettel's wing failure in relation to this new-ish development.


(Personally) that Red Bull wing definitely appears to be bending quite a bit...Certainly a lot more than the Mclaren's and Mercedes'.

The Ferrari's looks to be a bit bent as well, but nothing to the degree of the Red Bull's wing.

I think they do need to change how the tests on the wings work, BUT obviously it's quite impractical to load them up with 150 odd kg of mass.

So I think what they should do is some class calculation with Young's Modulus.

They can obviously get the lengths of the wing involved, they know the mass and they can measure how much it bends or deflects. Ergo they can calculate the modulus of elasticity of the wing and then through some maths and number crunching they can calculate how much the wing will bend or deflect at the higher load settings that the car goes through when run at high speed.

Then from there the FIA should also say how much the wing is allowed to bend at the higher speeds and from the calculations involved they can deem it legal or not.

Seems a bit crude admittedly, but I think a bit better than just dumping 150 odd kg onto the wing.


No it isn't impractical to "load them up with 150kg". The scrutineers use a ram / press to apply the load, and a simple load cell to tell them when they've applied "enough". It is trivial to make this load as great as you like - I used to test carbon structures with a simple portable press which would deliver more like 1500kg mass equivalent.


Fair enough, did not realise that. Thanks for the info.

I suppose then there isn't any real reason why they don't do that already.


When the tests were devised they probably didn't realise you could generate 200Kg from the rules defining the front wings. All the teams have found clever ways to generate more downforce based on the limits of the regulations.


The FIA rules specify that the teams must provide a shaped adaptor for the flexing test on wings (and for that matter, bodywork) so that the required weight is pointed at the correct area.

It does seem to me that "testing" a wing designed to generate up to 2000N of downforce using only 500N is a bit stupid though - it must be pretty easy to design a structure which firmly resists deflection up to say 550N, and then rapidly 'submits' up to a point (so it doesn't just break).


There are indeed some rumors they have some kind of flexing floor.

But the wing is obvious, on onboard vids you can really see it go down and up again under braking. They build it around the fia tests. If it only tests a 50kg load, it's easy to go around this.


If it was so easy then all the teams would have done it.

Well done Red Bull.


You should say, if it was legal then all the teams should have done it.

Ferrari attempted a moveable floor and it was banned. Ferrari have had flexible front wings that passed scrutineering banned before. Toyota have had flexible rear wing that passed scrutineering banned. Neither of those bans resulted in a change to the scrutineering test, by the way.

Having flexibility in the car is easy. Rigidity is hard!

Naughty Red Bull!


As you say in your post, James, to be legal the wing must not deflect more than 10mm with 500N applied. The Red Bull is within this and thus is legal. It's completely black-and-white. I would have thought that all teams would have been on this from day 1 - and I'm not talking about this year. I'm actually puzzled as to why the other teams don't do this already. Every other element on the cars runs to the edge of what's legal in the rules, as it should, so why not wing flex?


No. No it's not. The rule states one thing, and then there is a separate test for this rule.

The rule is clear: aero bodywork must be fixed rigidly and be immobile.

The test simply attempts to measure against this. Fortunately there is another rules that allows the FIA to change the test if the have reason to believe that cars are running illegal bodywork that circumvents the test.

My guess is that there's a big delivery of 100kg dumbbells shipping to Place de la Concorde right now!


"As you say in your post, James, to be legal the wing must not deflect more than 10mm with 500N applied. The Red Bull is within this and thus is legal. It’s completely black-and-white."

Check the rule book properly. If it is flexing under race conditions, then it should be illegal, regardless of the scrutineering test. See 3.15, 3.17.1, 3.17.8.

It is black and white, if it is flexing, it is illegal.


There was quite a lot of chat on some technical forums about this a while ago, sometime around shanghai or maybe even as early as melbourne. But the rumors disappeared. clearly in these new iterations of the Red Bull wing especially, Ferrari less so, there is flex. Which is clever. We'll see how soon McLaren and Renault take to incorporate these into their desgins.


Those Red Bull photos are clearly fake. Mark Webber shouldn't have a front wing on his car.





The Redbull and Ferrari wings look noticeably closer to the ground at Hockenheim but I understand that McLaren were going for a more high speed/less downforce set up. Not sure if this had any connection with a higher ride set up?


Would be good to see a photo of RB car stationary from a similar angle to the loaded photo to compare what is actually moving if Darren has one

The deflection on the tips of the wing does not seem that great (probably the angle of the shot) - more that the whole nose-cone is moving?


No, its pretty clear the tips are bending, a lot!


If you look at the onboard footage from the Red Bull cars in the german Grand Prix you can clearly see the winglets rise a little whenever they lose speed (e.g. braking for a corner).

I'm surprised no one brought that up yet.


Indeed, it was very noticable each time when the RBRs braked for the hairpin this weekend. You could also see it On the Ferrari's, but to a lesser extent.


The FIA might like to take a closer look at the bottom of the front nose cone.


I expected that there would be some rotation of the vertical fins with respect to the center of the car so I put some red lines on your photo to prove it was not a deflecting nose. From this angle it appears I was wrong.


A flexible wing would be illegal, and rule 3.17.1 appears to have been written to test the flexibility of the wing itself, since the load is applied off-center from the front-rear axis of the car.

If the nosecone itself is flexible in the vertical axis, but very stiff in the horizontal axis (I believe you can do this with carbon fibre), it may meet the test requirements of 3.17.1.

It would still be illegal under 3.15, and then rule 3.17.8 comes into play, and the FIA need to change the test to catch the rule breach. Probably applying the load equally on both sides of the car would catch them out.

James - am I understanding correctly how the test is administered, off-axis to one side of the car at a time only?


Hang on... If one of those pictures is of the car under brakes and one is under full aero load you would expect some movement.

This shows the end of the wings bending, but dies it show the nose flexing or just a bit of pitch under braking?

You can see that the suspension is under less load in one of the pics.


It's amazing how F1 is pushing the limits to the max. I don't know if this is regular or illegal amount of flexing but it does flex rather obviously (if image is legit).


To me that's very convincing -- and a lot more deflection than 10mm! Ignore apparent changes to the bodywork caused by reflections: the yellow line is fixed in relation to the advertising -- which I think we can assume is not flexibly attached to the bodywork!

Interestingly, I think it also shows the compression of the springs/tyres caused by aero-loading at high speed, which will also lower the front wing in relation to the road surface. Add the two together (though I'm not suggesting the second influence is illegal) and that front wing is running very close to the tarmac.


Crikey... I guess the fins can take whatever weight the FIA likes without flexing if the entire structure moves so much. The fins themselves probably NEED to be super-stiff to achieve the effect.

To borrow a line from Jurassic Park: "Clever girl"...


This is interesting, I think it shows the movement, although it may be exaggerated by the way the light reflects of the paintwork, but it is clear the end plate is moving down at speed.


Nice image!

Spotted that on the on-boards this weekend too ... but, well, if its legal.


Could this be the answer....??

The front wing can pass all the tests it needs to, because it is the flex that has been built into the nose cone that allows it to drop under load.


It's easy to see that the Red Bull wing is not parallel to the ground - the end plates are closer. The McLaren wing is parallel or very nearly so.

If the rules say 10mm flex for 50KG weight and Red Bull and Ferrari build their wings to flex 9.5 mm and keep on flexing as the load increases that's legal even if it isn't what the rule makers intended. If Mclaren's and Mercedes make their wings more rigid than the rules require that's their loss.

I went back to my photos from Silverstone, and have a shot of Webber going through Copse on Friday, the leading edge of the wing is clearly curved, the end plate on the outside of the corner is nearer the ground than the one on the inside - which I assume is more due to body roll than uneven bending. Was the Silverstone row about wings on Saturday down to the team only having two flexible ones ?


Err, no, it is NOT legal, it simply passes the test which is the current example of a test to pass. The rule states that it mustn't move.


Actually the phrasing of technical regulations on the FIA site defines how rigid it needs to be, not that it must be fully rigid and the test to confirm it.

3.17.1 Bodywork may deflect no more than 10mm vertically when a 500N load is applied vertically to it 800mm forward of the front wheel centre line and 795mm from the car centre line. The load will be applied in a

downward direction using a 50mm diameter ram and an adapter 300mm long and 150mm wide. Teams must supply the latter when such a test is deemed necessary.


You're right, that clause exists. BUT you are also wrong, because that is just the test. 3.17.8 states that:

3.17.8 In order to ensure that the requirements of Article 3.15 are respected, the FIA reserves the right to introduce further load/deflection tests on any part of the bodywork which appears to be (or is suspected of), moving whilst the car is in motion.

and of course 3.15 states that:

3.15 Aerodynamic influence :

With the exception of the cover described in Article 6.5.2 (when used in the pit lane), the driver adjustable bodywork described in Article 3.18 and the ducts described in Article 11.4, any specific part of the car influencing its aerodynamic performance :

- must comply with the rules relating to bodywork.

- must be rigidly secured to the entirely sprung part of the car (rigidly secured means not having any degree of freedom).

- must remain immobile in relation to the sprung part of the car.

Any device or construction that is designed to bridge the gap between the sprung part of the car and the ground is prohibited under all circumstances.

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.

So, just because the indicative test (3.17.1) is passed (which may be arbitrarily changed, as per 3.17.8), that does not mean that 3.15 is satisfied. 3.17.1 is just an easy field test to apply a standard measure, not a be-all and end-all. Just look up the FIA reaction to Ferrari's "flexi floor" a few seasons back to see how they can deal with this by simply changing the test mid-season.


Clearly a flexi wing.

None of the innovations this year are anything new, most of which i imagine Newey had a hand in developing first time round in the 80s and 90s.

Good to see though, technlology is a big part of the attraction of Formula 1, it's what sets it apart from other lesser series.


Well the wings will flex to a certain degree. And the FIA has clearly defined exactly to what degree.

For sure the regulations will be modified to prevent this in the future.


One last time. 🙂 If it is flexible, it is explicitly illegal. It is not innovation, it is against the rules.

The f-duct was a gap in the rules. The double diffuser was a gap in the rules. If the Red Bull changes shape beyond certain limits, regardless of scrutineers' tests, it is illegal. There is no mechanism that is allowed to change shape. The only way it can be legal is if the car remains the same shape.

That is not to say that there may not be a way of legally running the car lower to the ground than others have realised, but any design that deliberately changes the shape of the car in some way is explicitly outlawed.


It's simple to understand, if the wing flexes more than 10mm under 500newtons then it's illegal, if it doesn't then it's legal, even if it actually flexes upto 24mm under hight loads.

It's a loop hole because the FIA are not testing it correctly.

Zobra Wambleska

Spenny has given you the regs 3 times now. Try reading his posts and you'll see the flexing wings are illegal.


This is what it says in the article above:

"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"

This means that flexing is allowed. Understand? They can flex up to 10mm under a force of 500 Newtons. Get it? So if Red Bulls wings flex 10mm or less under a force of 500 newtons . . . . they are LEGAL. Can you confirm you understood?


Calm down 🙂

Rule 3.17.1 does not exist in a vacuum.

Rule 3.15: ..... Any device or construction that is designed to bridge the gap between the sprung part of the car and the ground is prohibited under all circumstances......

rule 3.17.8: In order to ensure that the requirements of Article 3.15 are respected, the FIA reserves the right to introduce further load/deflection tests on any part of the bodywork which appears to be (or is suspected of), moving whilst the car is in motion.

If the nose is the part which is actually flexing, and it has been designed not to flex when the off-axis load of the test condition is applied (i.e. it only flexes when the load is balanced left and right), then it still breaks 3.15, and it's time for the FIA to apply an additional test, as they have the right to do under 3.17.8

Not necessarily legal, just not yet conclusively found to be illegal. That doesn't change the fact that Newey's done it again - he's a smart feller.

Alan Goodfellow

Spenny has indeed posted the regulations again and again and they make perfect sense.

You may have read what it says in the article, which is perfectly correct as per regulation 3.17.1 in the FIA Technical Regulations.

However, regulation 3.15 of the Technical Regulations is, in effect, more important than regulation 3.17.1 and, therefore, if the FIA suspect that a car, although compliant with regulation 3.17.1, is in breach of regulation 3.15, they can invoke regulation 3.17.8 to carry out more stringent tests than sticking a 50kg weight on the front wing.

I would guess that, were the FIA to do so, Red Bull and Ferrari may find the wing deemed illegal.

Yes, it may be legal and comply with regulation 3.17.1 as you say, but I don't think it would comply with regulation 3.15 (because it quite clearly has a degree of freedom) were the FIA to test it on that basis.

Frankly though, none of us are correct at the moment. No-one will know for sure unless the FIA actually carry out such a test!

If they do, we will find out; and if they don't then the wing is legal as per regulation 3.17.1, which then begs the question: 'what are the other regs there for?'


This all reminds me of the "ground clearance" cars of 1981.

These cars were obviously running below the 6cm gap required by the rules, yet the only time the stewards could check was in the pits when of course they were back up to the 6cm measurement. It takes a fast footed scrutineer to check a car at 180mph.

It looks like Redbull have found a way to make a wing that meets the deflection rules when tested but acts in a different way on the track. How do you protest that ??

Seems like Adrian Newey has been very busy over the winter !

Zobra Wambleska

Yeah and the ground clearance cars were then banned.


Red Bull's wing is definitely very close to the ground. Doesn't seem to be legal but that hasn't stopped RBR this year.

I think the problem is within the FIA once again. Their regulations and tests are very bad. 500N is about a 1/4th of what the wing is experiencing at 300 kmh.

Michael Grievson

I thought there was a minimum hight for the front wing?


Very clever!

I wonder how long it will take Mclaren to develop their own version? Surely the August factory shutdown is going to really hurt them?


Here's a quote from an interview with Steve Nevey, (Technical Consultant at Red Bull) "We also increasingly use aerodynamic output directly from CFD analysis to generate more accurate loads for the structural simulations. There are rule restrictions to limit this, but multi-physics coupling of these effects allows us to legally enhance the performance of deformable components, for example to optimise down-force and drag characteristics for FLEXIBLE WING components."


If you watch the onboard footage during the race, you can see that the front wing of the Red Bull, and that of the Ferrari seem to be vibrating a lot when they're going down a straight. However, when you see other teams, such as McLaren, there is not the vibration happening.

The Red Bull obviously passes the deflection tests as they stand, however rule 3.17.8: In order to ensure that the requirements of Article 3.15 are respected, the FIA reserves the right to introduce further load/deflection tests on any part of the bodywork which appears to be (or is suspected of), moving whilst the car is in motion.

I think that if the FIA decided to impose further tests then the wing may be found to be illegal.


If it wasn't for the stupid restrictive FIA rules we'd all see way more innovations.

I say give the teams, all of them, the freedom to let their engineers shine, the brains within F1 will come up with real gems.


One could argue that the greatest innovation comes when faced with great adversity, in this case, strict rules.


I read your comment yesterday and 'took it away' to think about it.

You've convinced me, Malcolm. A very interesting point of view and one I feel stands up well to testing. If you replace adversity with limitations it could be written on the front page of the technical regs.


What interests me is that both Red Bull and Ferrari have come with this solution practically concurrently, seemingly before it became common knowledge. I'm not sure who had the wing first, but wouldn't it suggest there is a leak in order to have reacted so quickly? Also strange how Ferrari have managed to get their blown diffuser working so efficiently, so quickly where other teams have failed to do so . . .


Ferrari said that they have been working on their blown diffuser since winter testing. There was also this rumor circulating about them having a diffuser with a large hole in it, probably the holes that feeds the exhaust into the diffuser..


Well, McLaren did say the front end was very important in getting the blown diffuser to work, maybe the flexi-wing is the key to the blown diffuser...


Surely you're not suggesting that Ferrari would do anything underhand, are you? 😀



I saw that Paddy Lowe said in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in that they still don't understand how it's done.

Do you have any idea how it's done personally and how do you think Ferarri found out?

Also, do you know how much time it would be worth at tracks where it is most beneficial?

Finally, any idea on McLaren's updates for Hungary? Will they be bringing the constant exhaust ignition switch for Q3?


One thing is strange here - why it took other teams 11 races to discover the "front wing trick". The concept of blown diffuser was known after 5-6 races (and it is better hidden in the car). Why so late?

michael grievson

I wonder if it was something to do with red bull making a point of hilding the rear of the car on the grid? Deflecting attention from the front.

Stephen Illingworth

The blown diffuser isn't actually a new idea. What Red Bull has done is to resurrect the idea and prove that it is currently legal.


What is the freakin' problem? Innovation is resisted why? Oh, yeah, because we really want to run 1957 Ferrari technology.

Get over it. This is how innovation comes in racing. Teams think of new tricks, and next year's regs exclude the ones Charlie and Bernie choose to disallow. Think it's different in GrandAm? LeMans? NASCAR?

This is How It Works, folks. Nothing to see. The whingers will copy ASAP. E.G Blown wing, high nose, blown diffuser, six wheels.......


six wheels, ahh the pit stop mayhem returns


This is a classic example of designing to the test of the regulation, not the regulation itself.

More power to them I say.

Formula 1 should be about pushing the boundaries and innovation, I wish the regulations allowed more of it.


FIA regulations state

"3.15 Aerodynamic influence :

With the exception of the cover described in Article 6.5.2 (when used in the pit lane), the driver adjustable bodywork described in Article 3.18 and the ducts described in Article 11.4, any specific part of the car influencing its aerodynamic performance :

- must comply with the rules relating to bodywork ;

- must be rigidly secured to the entirely sprung part of the car (rigidly secured means not having any degree of freedom) ;

- must remain immobile in relation to the sprung part of the car."

Test or no test, a flexible wing is illegal at whatever force exerted during running.


every wings flex including the ones of mclaren and mercedes, so you need a test to decide which is legal which is not.

so until FIA change the test limit (500N) wings of redbull and ferrari are legal.


The rules HAVE to draw a line somewhere, because there’s no such thing as a perfectly rigid body. There will be some flexing.


Another proof if needed, that darren is always on the pulse when it comes to this type of thing.

The number of times he has rumbled things like this I have lost count of.

I wonder how many chief designers have him on speed dial!

Personally, even as a McLaren fan, I like it when the teams find ways to push the design envelope (but within the rules). Thats what innovation is all about isnt it.

It was quite interesting to see the difference on the Senna piece on top gear how much less downforce the 80s and 90s cars had.

When you see footage of Sennas Lotus dancing and continually drifting/twitching it brings back a premium on driver talent.


What I meant to say was, even though I support McLaren, I think it is great when Newey/Redbull and Ferrari manage to push the design envelopes to gain an advantage (through design rather than team orders 😉

Regardless of which template is.


Nice work James, I hope you keep us posted on this. I suspect as the teams work out each others secrets the competition is going to get a lot closer, let hope so!


There seems to be confusion in some of the comments between legality and passing the current scrutineering tests.

If the wing is actually bending by the amount suggested, it's illegal. If the FIA believe that to be the case, they can change the test to try and prove it.

The fact that they haven't done so suggests they believe something else is happening. On the face of it it's hard to see exactly what, but the scrutineers aren't idiots.

Maybe it's to do with what the wing is moving in relation to... It seems to be moving relative to the suspension, but perhaps not relative to the tub?


You write: "If the wing is actually bending by the amount suggested, it’s illegal."

Please let us all know under what rule number this would be illegal. Rule 3.17.1 states clearly: "Bodywork may deflect no more than 10mm vertically when a 500N load is applied vertically to it 800mm forward of the front wheel centre line and 795mm from the car centre line." I am unaware of any other applicable rule.



Rule 3.15 says (amongst other things):

"..any specific part of the car

influencing its aerodynamic performance.... must remain immobile in relation to the sprung part of the car."

Rule 3.17.8 (which comes immediately after the the list of tests currently applied) says:

"In order to ensure that the requirements of Article 3.15 are respected, the FIA reserves the right to

introduce further load/deflection tests on any part of the bodywork which appears to be (or is suspected of),

moving whilst the car is in motion."

Hence my speculation that the wing is not actually moving relative to the body (or not by as much as it appears), because otherwise on the face of it it must be illegal according to rule 3.15.


See rule 3.17.8 and 3.15. It's illegal.


How clever of Mr Horner to suggest Webber's weight be redistributed to the end plates of his front wing. This must be why he didn't like the lightweight one at first.


James i will add to Your post some video which clearly eliminating concerns about photos from different angles - See this at the end plates of Mark Webber front wing :


I made a simple GIF animation back in April to highlight the RB6 wing flex at the Chinese GP:

After this story finally became newsworthy (Thanks to Darren) a few days ago I created a couple more. The following are from Valencia and Germany respectively:


Is it my brain playing tricks on me or does the ride height of the car seem to change...notice the shape of the tyres...they seem to get thinner in the shots where the endplates are bending...weird...


Very conclusive.

If as JA says teams keep an eye on this blog, then we should see rash of flexing nose cones caused by deformable components.


James, it's more like 1,000kg of downforce on the front wing at high speed...


Aren't front wings still driver adjustable this year? I am wondering if the position of the adjustment has any effect on how flexible it is?


Only the flap is adjustable


Another ingenious and clever idea by the great Adrian Newey. The purpose of people like Newey is to find these loopholes in the regs and exploit them to the maximum.

I for one find this totally legal and think it a great idea. Let's not take away all creativity from this sport or soon we'll all be watching open wheel Nascar. All the cars will look the same! 🙁


If it only has to pass the test at 50kg, it would not be difficult to engineer a wing or mounting with a non-linear deflection characteristic -ie, once you apply say 55kg it "snaps" to a lower setting, like an over-centre spring, and snaps back once the load is reduced. That might account for the way the movement occurs in the videos?


This is almost certainly how they have done it. Designing this is probably trivial with modern CAD tools - it's whether you think to do it or not is the trick.


I'm not sure one needs to be as clever as that (which would, in fact, be jolly difficult to do with an all-CFRP wing).

It looks as though the nose cone is flexing, too. I'm sure that the team will say at scrutineering "let's prop up the front of the car to ensure that you don't get suspension movement in your results" and, by so doing, prop up the nose. Now the whole wing can drop and change angle...

Add to that the aforementioned flexibility, and one has a very powerful combination.

As I've said already, I suspect that this is not legal, but does pass the indicative test. A protest to the WMSC would seem appropriate here.


Red Bull should be investigated. They are flaunting the rules. Get on in Allen!


By increasing the load limit for allowable deformation this can remain an area of further development.

I am guessing that majority of the cars bodywork is fixed and it is only the front and rear wing that has the ability to flex.

I see nothing wrong if this technology could be applied to road cars to either increase or reduce drag as required.


So this is likely the reason the other teams thought RBR was running adjustable ride-height devices during the race then?


Certainly interesting that Red Bull have found an advantage other teams missed. Martin Whitmarsh chose his words well. I’m sure a number of engineers are kicking themselves that they didn’t think of this.

The 500N weight test is designed to limit the amount of deflection and applies to both front and rear wings.

Think the FIA could simply close this apparent loop hole quite easily by specifying maximum deflection based on higher load limit, as James suggests 200kg or more. Since the fixed height of front wing is defined in regulations it also makes sense to define more clearly the minimum height of the front wing during racing conditions.

Alternatively add wooden stops to the underside of the end plates .There is a wooden skid under the car to prevent teams running ultra low, same principle applies.

Endre Friedmann

I agree with other posters: Seems to me that the front part of the car is closer to the track and not an issue of flexing the wing.

Could it be that their suspension is designed in such a way that the front part of the car is lowered under high speed-high downforce conditions (and I do not mean an illegal system)


On a side-note: very, very impressive photography by Darren (as ever) to capture this article's first two photos in exactly the same position, and the Ferrari below just a car's length further on, at 190mph.


surely its all part of the 'F1 arms race' - that has always existed - and was costing hundreds of millions per year last year


I would like to know weather the rules state that the wing must not flex at all by more than 10mm at all, or just under the prescribed tests.

The fact that James questions that the tests may not be stringent enough and then goes on to describe "This ruse of Red Bull's..." would suggest the rules say the wing should not flex under any circumstances.

So even if the car passes scrutinering it is far from black and white that the car is actually legal. How very F1!

It seems very similar, as others have pointed out, to previous controversies like flexi rear wings, flexi floors and mass dampers. All of which were deemed to be illegal despitet the cars passing scrutinering.

Which does beg the question as to why is the scrutinering process so often found to be inadequate in conclusively proving a cars legality, or not?

Still I do like these battle of wits between the engineers and the FIA. Very very clever people. Hats off to the guys at Red Bull and Ferrari.

Judging by Darren's photos and by the link adam posted (28) I wouldn't be at all suprised if these wings were banned at some point. And much like the banning of Renault's mass damper that might really spice up the championship.


This has been discussed above - rule 3.15 of the technical regulations says that no aerodynamic component may move at all, relative to the sprung part of the car (i.e. the chassis/body). Rule 3.17 lists the tests that are currently applied to enforce this, and 3.17.8 states that the FIA reserve the right to introduce further tests at any time if they believe rule 3.15 is being broken.


Thanks for that, and to everyone else who posted the actual rules.

It appears then that the wing is illegal, surely its only a matter of time until its banned.


Actually I'm still not convinced that it is illegal, largely because the FIA haven't done anything yet. They've certainly been happy in the past (Ferrari moving floor, Toyota flexible rear wing, expanding Michelin tyres) to take action when something like this was clearly breaching the intent of the rules.

Unless they're waiting for a team to officially protest the Red Bull front wing, it seems to me most likely that they think it's legal - that in fact the wing itself is not moving/flexing relative to the body, and that RB are doing something else clever.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out - McLaren have been puzzling about it very publicly, presumably with the intent of nudging the FIA to take another look. Maybe someone will protest it at Hungary, and then we'll know for sure.


After hearing about the flexi wing during the weekend I decided to keep a close eye at the on-board footage of the Red Bulls. In the camera angle mounted on the engine cover if you pay attention to the left wheel and the position of the end plate you can see for yourself that under high speeds the endplate starts to move closer to the ground and then comes back up again once the driver slows down. I think it was clearer to see on the straight before turn 6 purely because the car was going in a straight line so the only possible explanation is that the wing is flexing. Other cars on-board footage didn't seem to show this (obviously couldn't tell with the McLaren's with their wobbly engine cover lol).

I am no expert so I could be wrong but would be interested if other people could take a look and verify it???


Here's a quick animated gif which helps you see the differences:


Without knowing speed and fuel load, that isnt all that helpful 🙂


a) Judge for yourself... from these postage stamps. Seriously, a 400 x 232 pixel image is little better than a thumbnail. We don't all read this site on 1990s cell phones, James.

b) This is a total non-story. The FIA's already clearly stated that the wing is legal. End of.


My take on this is that the whole nose flexes which would explain the flat out in fast corners that the RBR car can do.


If the test details are hard-wired into the regs and it passes the test, then it's legit.

The only 'problem' would be that "we didn't think of it too."

Hard to imagine building something so stiff it *never deflects.


ps: really cool investigative photo journalism, btw!


From thiese pitures, no car including Reb Bull and Ferrari has flexible wings in the front.

I think we need to analyse what we see in the Reb Bull and Ferrari compare to the rest.

In the RB and Ferrari photos, the whole front of the car is lower, look at the pillars in the middle compare to McLaren and Mercedes.

Why ?

Ferrari and Red Bull are able to generate more downforce therefore the car running is actually closer to the ground.

Generating more downforce, they can in a way, have less stiff suspension to allow the car to be lower and therefore once again generate even more downforce.

The downforce will create a vacuum under the car where the air will be travel very fast under the car and the bodywork on top of the car will allow the air to "push" the car down.

The combination of these 2 factors will allow to generate more downforce.

Everyone knew that Reb Bull was capable to generate more downforce than everybody else, in some part of Silverstone were capable to go full throttle and up to 15 km/h faster.

It is not the first time this season that Reb Bull was so much faster, just remember turn 8 at Istanbul Park.

The coneection between diffuser, end plate in the front wing and rear wing creates the downforce.

ferrari since the introduction of the F-duct has been struggling because the F-duck stalls the rear wing therefore limiting the downforce created.

In my view they is no flexible wing here, just a combination of very clever aero under and over the car that produce a lot more downforce that the others


You have to say that those who write the regulations are on a hiding to nothing. This is the real battle in F1: the engineers against the legislators. And the former are winning.

Makes a change from the battles between lawyers.

Excellent article. Thanks James.


James, have Red Bull been running this all year? If so why has it taken so long for the other teams to figure out what was going on?


They rely on people like Darren and James to work it out.


Honestly, when are they going to shorten and raise those front wings? Please do it..


Scoop! Nice work James and Darren!


What isn't apparent from the pictures is when they were taken. Were they during qualifying when everyone is at on a light fuel load? Were the Red Bull pictures taken near the start of the race and the McLaren one's late in the race when a lot of fuel has burned off?



excellent points..


Can there be any doubt that Adrian Newey is the greatest designer in F1 history ?

This is the kind of development I really like : going beyond what the rule makers thought was possible by outsmarting them and everyone else in the pitlane.

Adrian shows that even within the ludicrously tight rules of 21st century F1 an engineer can be truly inventive.

Mustn't forget McLaren's contribution this year of a working F duct.

Let's hope the flexiwing doesn't join the F duct in the scrap bin next year !


agreed.. adrian is the man..


YouTube Video: Flexing wings, Red Bull race review (German Gp) -


Wow. That's some flex allright


now that shows alot more than pictures..


This isnt new...

The Red Bull wing has been blatantly bending like that all season!

The FOM camera shows the wings ends lower as the car gathers speed and pop up again as the car brakes.

This is illegal

Just as teams with flexing rear wings were deemed illegal a few years ago. As with the FIAs response back, different tests are needed to end the flexing.


I'm not sure if this point has already been made, so apologies if it has.

What Red Bull appear to have done is take the simple risk that the second part of the scrutineering test, the part where the test can be changed if required, will not actually be invoked. Therefore they have built a flexible wing capable of passing the 500 Newton test, but which then deforms under the higher loads during use on track.

If the FIA decide to readjust the test, i'd imagine it would be illegal. But this is at their discretion and so far they have not.

A risk, but a calculated one. Good for RB and Ferrari...!


Thanks Mr. Allen and Mr Heath for the good work. This is the 1st analysis I have seen presented to the public.


What I don't understand about this test is surely they are testing it in the wrong way.

If (according to James' article) the front wing can deliver 200kg of downforce, then surely they should test for deflection with a weight that is greater than the wing could produce under racing conditions... i.e 225kg for example. Then there could be no doubts as to whether a team has developed a wing that flexes above a certain weighted test.

If a teams wing breaks with this regulation weight, then they should build it stronger... along the lines of the chassis crash test.


This would explain the ride height adjustment conspiracy at the beginning of the year!


Just a thought but maybe it's something in the mounts and not the wing that's allowing the wing to drop. I'm drawn to the memory of Vettel's broken wing in quali at Silverstone. Something that maybe can be locked down during scrutineering?


Has anyone else seen this?

If this isnt a flexi wing then I dont know what is.

Like they say 'red bull gives you wings'


Is it just me or are the tires getting narrower and taller at speed? This would counter the motion of the wing endplates (making the effective flex of them higher), and the overall pressing down of the car by downforce less. So THAT'S why the have an army of aerodynamicists working on this stuff...

And another thing: why would they want more downforce at high speed (when the wing flexes down)? Don't they want that in the corners only (when the wing is higher anyway)? Perhaps this only helps the car under braking for stability.


I think the extra downforce you get through the ground effect is "free" in terms of drag, and explains how they're so good in the high speed corners


I can't really tell if it's the wing flexing, or the front suspensions working full-time!!

The Kitchen Cynic

The position of the tyre in the image, relative to the wingmirror, appears to be constant. That suggests the chassis has not moved relative to the wheel, so it's not suspension movement.


suspension is in a different location too.. i guess you suggest flexi suspension.. that is obviously bumps in the track..


An extra 120kmh of downforce will do that 🙂


Great article & photos - the only thing lower than RBR's front wing at the Hockenheim was Massa's chin after the race


not to play devils advocate.. but what if the pic wasnt taken at the same exact spot.. not sayin it isnt.. but.. bumps on the track could cause deflection.. as well at downforce.. i will hold judgement until i see it on numerous tracks..


Has this been happening all season? Or was it implemented when Vettel got a new wing at Silverstone?


you can see in the 1st 3 pics.. they arent at the same spot.. both webber and alonso are lookin forward.. both their wings seem to have deflection to them.. more than the Mclaren of JB, but FA car has a banner behind it.. and not webbers.. also, you can see JB head is turned and leaned, also his tire are not straight.. and no banner.. so.. different spot on the track


There seems something very clever here, designed around the FIA flex tests. It seems obvious that the wings are just flexing from the centre, rather than the whole front wing being lowered. As the FIA tests don't hang weights from the end plates, you can see the possibility for improvement. Having the front wing pre-stressed such that it snaps into another position when triggered by an initiation force, coupled with the down force being generated. That trigger force could be something as simple as the effect of changing the front wing elevation or the effect of braking, allowing stress to distribute partially through the front section.


James & Darren, great read, great photo's... keep it up.

Obviously a few opinions here and on other forums, and i agree with those that suggest the wing is deflecting in race circumstances beyond the reference plane... and therefore illegal.

However, surely, given the strength of evidence provided on this page alone, surely the FIA should pay more attention and possibly draw a line under the situation (and allow the other teams to catch up on the development)

I think development is great, but the chasm in qualifying performance between RBR and the rest of the field for most of the season isn't entirely sporting if that chasm is caused (in part) by an infringement of the rules and in my opinion takes away the enjoyment for the fans.


I'm sorry, but I've seen RedBull's front wing flexing SO much throughout the season. Perhaps even in 09 too. I can't understand why nobody has picked it up until now.

I understand that wings flex somewhat - But the RB's is ridiculous. Especially so when it goes over apex's. It looks like jelly.

How can this possibly be legal?


This is not clear, could be anything


So what do we do,change the rules because Mclaren cannot work out how to compete?

if it passes so be it,or are we trying to find a loophole which doesn,t exist,all the tests have shown the wing meets the required criteria,Mclaren are on the back foot as shown by many of these posts,its up to them to find out how they claw back the performance deficit,Ferrari and Red Bull clever?

more than we give themn credit for,within the rules of course.


The photos look to me that the whole chasis has lowered at speed when there is extra downforce. Could it be the RB has progressive springs or torsion bars which allow the chasis to lower with enough downforce but resist further lowering at certain point to prevent ruining the barge board? From the photos, the RB front wing does not appear to bend in any way to be nearer to the ground.


All cars have chassis that lower at speed when the downforce increases. It's a fundamental effect of the downforce applied to the car, and since ride height control was banned, it's difficult to counter.

It's the relationship between the body of the car and the wing that should not change with downforce (at least, not to the extent seen in some of the photos linked in this discussion).

Whatever the final legality verdict, Adrian has been very clever (again).


Would this explain Red Bull's lack of top speed on the straights?


Btw, spking of RB - my brother found this cool promotional vid on RB's site about their simulator.

Alan Goodfellow

I'm going to pose a very random 'what if' question here 🙂

What if, with the wing so low at high speed, the RBR suffers a brake failure (which has happened before) and the car speeds off into a gravel trap?

Isn't there a danger of the low front wing digging into the gravel and pitching the car forwards into a somersault? Or would the nose just get wiped clean off if it does dig in?

I know, I know, very basic knowledge of physics plus very few gravel traps left anyway!

Just a thought... 🙂


A common pattern for engineering design is to produce a specification for a component, formulate a set of tests to ensure the component meets the specification, and then build the component to pass the tests. Outside of formal proofs of correctness, iterations of build, test, redesign where required by failed tests are the only way a component can be optimised.

No material is completely rigid and inflexible, and there is often a trade-off between hardness and toughness, although composite materials complicate matters as they are composed of two or more distinct materials with distinctly different properties. It is impossible to create a structure that does not flex at all.

If the component in question follows hooke's law then a 10mm deflection at 500N implies a 20mm deflection at 1000N, 40mm at 2000N and so on until the component undergoes plastic deformation (i.e. it doesn't return to it's original shape). This suggests that:

a) The component is within specification

b) The FIA allows for some inevitable flexing

c) the other teams run wings significantly more rigid than the regulations require

d) the component in question would likely pass any test of its stiffness based on the current rule

I suspect the 500N/50kg (yes g is not exactly 10 but it's close enough for these purposes) was chosen so as to ensure the wing deflection tests are non-destructive. A realistic loading to the front runners may be somewhere off in the land of dreams for the smaller teams.

I wonder what the safety implications of a wing that bends rather than breaks when a wheel goes over it are.

Perhaps the Sauber front wing failures earlier this season were an attempt at a flexible wing.


Year in year out for decades F1 engineers will try to create all sorts of designs that can pass the test. But I don't think FIA can detect any discrepancies until one team spots the other.

That's where we learn the unforgiving word "INNOVATION".

Just don't get caught.

The best part is FIA is trying to slow down the cars but designers and engineers are getting around it cleverly.

Isn't it wonderful for us fans. Suddenly the driver or team you support is no longer the best of the rest.

F1 must carry on this way!


Oh come now. This is as illegal as the F-duct, J-Damper, DD-Diffuser and all the other alphabet nonsense people claim to be the reason they are not winning.

That is, until the stewards are so... As Alonso pointed out, the stewards are always right. 🙂


hmm mclaren & co, should now be aiming at hitting RBR & Ferrari's wings then during the race.. Their wings could probably sustain a good banging while the flexi wouldn't.


Cripes, the F1 mayhem of 'I wish I had thought of that' continues, FIA specs the series, F1 teams designers circle around the rule book and look carefully at the rules and then design advantages around the 'letter of the law'. And then everyone else has what you have...cue more innovation. Is this what we like about the F1 circus or what we dislike about it: discuss...

If the car is two tenths or two thousandths quicker by itself by it's cleverly designed advantage, it still has to be taken advantage of by it's driver. So it still comes down to who is the best driver in the end. Except for last weekend.


What's funny is that the mechanics always stand around the back of the car before the race, as though all of the secrets are there. Clearly, they were hoping to draw everyone's attention away from the front of the car!


Even better when drivers stare at the cars in awe. Like Webber peeping into Mclaren's cockpit and Alonso standing back looking at the Red Bull.

Alex Nikiforov


Although i can't even imagine to compare my personal photos, to Darren Heath's work (who i admire and i think you and him both have some of the greatest jobs on this planet), i took the liberty to upload some of them from the weekend in Montreal.

I think the folks on this blog would enjoy them as well since i saw someone asking for higher resolution images...

Indeed you can tell that the RedBull looks a little lower specially on Friday and Sunday with more fuel on the car

The gallery is at



The wing does flex down. You should take non movable parts as reference. All of them (mirrors, nose, antennas, etc) is in place relative to the reference lines, except the suspension travel AND the wing.


I haven't read any posts yet, but I actually saw the wing via the onboard camera, moving down as the speed increase, the part of the wing I could see, (both left and right upper outter sections) was moving maybe 15 to 20 mill., But of course the forward/lower section, which I could not see, may well have been moving more than that. Of course it would only be reaching max deflection at max speed, so maybe helped corner entry into high speed corners and perhaps initial braking into these corners.

I'm gonna read the posts now.



I don't understand why McLaren or any other team do not protest this?

These wings are clearly flexing, which breaks the rules. The double diffuser, f-duct (RW80 is its proper name) and blown diffuser are clever innovations and are what F1 is all about. These wings are clearly designed to pass the test and then flex to gain an advantage, which in my opinion is wrong.

James, is there no way that the FIA can take action if the teams decide not to protest? I know the FIA scrutineers passed the cars, but can they not investigate further having seen these pictures?


Well you build a car to pass the tests, don't you? So Red Bull have been very clever here


Not quite right James - as well as passing the tests, the cars have to comply with the more general rule 3.15, which bans non-rigid bodywork.

It is true that the tests in rule 3.17 effectively define the enforcement of this rule, but if it can be shown that RBR's flexible wing is deliberate then they will be in breach of rule 3.15, and a new test will likely be introduced per rule 3.17.8.


Hi James. I have read most of the comments above and something that stands out for me is that no one has mentioned the fact that Vettel's wing broke - probably due to the flexing. Cheers John


How have you come to that conclusion?


AFTER REALY GOING THROUGH my previous recordings of all the recent past finaly made sense that all this time redbull were hiding their secret by positioning mechanics behind the rear of the car during pre race activity

THIS WAS TO DIVERT ATTENTION FROM THE FRONT flexi wing design and FRONT suspention design

NOW that we know..lets see how they behave

i recall i had mentioned elsewhere on this blogg very early that i suspect red bulls speed and downforce quality is something to do with the way they have configured the front wing and suspension systems..and since i could not explain this in plain engeneering terms i was unable to go further.

OTHERWISE how do you explain this that car is always low with or without heavy fuel loads?

car is always very steady at high speeds and corners?car is always steady when passing over bumpy sections?


very clever if thats the case with the mechanics standing where they did, the principle of magic: misdirection, crafty!


Rule 3.17.8 makes it clear that the scrutineers can act if they have a suspicion of something being wrong. They can apply any test they wish. Such a test could be the analysis of in car footage. It does not require a protest.


Watching the iplayer video is quite fascinating, I'm amazed to see so much movement. Will be very interesting to see how the FIA respond to this.


First it was height control then the blown diffuser now it´s the front flexible many secrets this Red Bull car is hiding!!

Great stuff from Adrian Newey!!

Legal or not is up to Fia do make the tests and decide.


Just suppose you could design a composite or compliant material that at zero speed retains its structure and rigidity. Above +50mph (nominal figure)and you subject said material surface area to an external force such as downforce or maybe heat via friction or an electric current via a switch, this in some could alters the molecular structure of a layer within a composite material to make it react in such a way that it deflects. What if.......


this is the first Ive heard of this, so judging purely on the pictures Darren has taken

I have one thing to say PERSPECTIVE. Anyone familiar with how this concept is will realise that in the photos although the cars are taken at roughly the same angle, they are actually quite different perspectives, what does this matter? well the angle the photo is taken at will exagerate the gap between the road and the bottom on the front wing and so make it appear smaller and larger as can be seen with the RB and Fer, consequently the perspective is 'quite' different on the picture of the McLaren. Its all about an optical illusion...sorry. Maybe the intention was to exagerate the differences so to make it much more obvious for the readers, but either way its cut, its a little misleading to those who understand these things 😀

its brilliant that the photos are taken with the stripes of the white barrier showing as this is another clue, see the way they are at different angles for each of the photos?


this is the first Ive heard of this, so judging purely on the pictures Darren has taken

I have one thing to say PERSPECTIVE. Anyone familiar with how this concept is will realise that in the photos although the cars are taken at roughly the same angle, they are actually quite different perspectives, what does this matter? well the angle the photo is taken at will exagerate the gap between the road and the bottom on the front wing and so make it appear smaller and larger as can be seen with the RB and Fer, consequently the perspective is 'quite' different on the picture of the McLaren. Its all about an optical illusion...sorry. Maybe the intention was to exagerate the differences so to make it much more obvious for the readers, but either way its cut, its a little misleading to those who understand these things 🙂

its brilliant that the photos are taken with the stripes of the white barrier showing as this is another clue, see the way they are at different angles for each of the photos?


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


Ist shot looks like photo shop.

Front right wheel in the air.....?

Frnt left look odd too.


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


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.


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. 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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


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?


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.


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...


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.

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.

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


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.


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.


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.


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


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...


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!


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.


I'll post on this soon


It appears the limits are known.


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!!


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


Please show us how that looks


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


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 !