F1 Winter Break
Belgian GP – technical intrigues on Ferrari, Renault and Red Bull
Belgian GP – technical intrigues on Ferrari, Renault and Red Bull
Posted By: James Allen  |  30 Aug 2010   |  8:02 am GMT  |  132 comments

Formula 1 started up again at Spa Francorchamps after the summer break, which incorporated a compulsory two week factory shutdown.

Despite the lack of development time during this period, there were nevertheless some fascinating technical stories, including two significant upgrades on front running cars, which had been scheduled for the Belgian Grand Prix weekend.

And there was also a more stringent test to ensure that front wings do not flex beyond what the amount allowed in the rules. Would this force Red Bull and Ferrari into changes and slow them down?

And we’ll also look at the difference between the wet set up and dry set up of the two Ferraris.

Flexi wing tests
After the heated debate in Germany and Hungary about the Red Bull front wing flexing to increase front downforce, a new more stringent test was introduced by the FIA. Red Bull passed the test.

The Red Bull wing at Spa featured fewer elements than the Hungary wing and observers say that it did not flex out on track as much as in Budapest. The team says that they have changed nothing in the wing apart from things they would normally do when moving from an ultra high downforce circuit like Hungary to a faster circuit like Spa. However senior composites technicians from the team’s Milton Keynes base, who do not normally attend Grands Prix, were noticed in the paddock, which means that something out of the ordinary was taking place. The theory is that the wing flexes outwards due to a sophisticated layering process of the carbon composite material.

The new test involved double the load being placed on the wing, so now it was now 100kg. As the severity of the new test is arbitrary, there has been a considerable amount of lobbying of the FIA technical people by Red Bull and Ferrari on the one hand and McLaren and Mercedes on the other.

The outcome from Spa was that McLaren and Mercedes were both privately unsatisfied that the test was stringent enough, while observing that the Red Bull wing flexed less than it had in Budapest, when out on track. The car was much closer to the performance of its rivals than it had been in Budapest, but there are several possible explanations for that, including the weather and the fact that the wing has significantly fewer flaps and thus is creating less downforce anyway.

Rivals suspect that the flexibility of the floor stay may be a larger contributing factor to Red Bull’s speed and have successfully lobbied the FIA to introduce a more stringent test for Monza.

As Monza is a low downforce, power circuit and Red Bull’s deficiency is in engine power, they are likely to be at a disadvantage there anyway and it will be tricky to draw many conclusions on what effect these new tests have had. We should see any differences more clearly in Singapore and particularly Suzuka.

New Ferrari diffuser
Ferrari had a significant upgrade to its diffuser in Spa. The team introduced an exhaust- blown diffuser for the first time in Valencia, copying the idea which Red Bull had revived this year. The concept uses the gas pressure of the exhaust passing through the diffuser to gain more downforce.

The blown diffuser is a complex piece to get right and Ferrari’s strategy was to introduce a basic model and get it working quickly, learn from it and then introduce a more sophisticated one at Spa. This strategy seems to have worked quite well, the team did not lose time in getting it working as McLaren did, for example.

The new diffuser is similar in concept to solutions on the Renault and McLaren. There is a very large hole, made legal by two longitudinal fences which run the length of it. The lower channel of the central section of the diffuser, has a slightly different top profile, whose outer edges now are rounded downwards.

There were also small changes to the bottom tips of the rear wing, which echo Red Bull.

Alonso's rear wing on the grid at Spa

For qualifying and the race, held in changeable weather conditions, Ferrari ran two different specifications of rear wing. Fernando Alonso ran a slightly higher downforce wing, which was therefore more of a wet set up, while Felipe Massa ran the lower downforce example. Massa’s was the newer design and it featured different end plates with curved gills similar to Red Bull, no slot between elements and a smaller main wing element.

Performance wise the differences were subtle but still noticeable. On the fastest laps in qualifying, Massa’s car was 2 km/h faster through the speed trap than Alonso’s and was a tenth of a second slower through the middle sector of the lap, which is a good indictor of downforce.

Massa's rear wing on the Spa grid

Both wings incorporate the drag reducing F Duct device, which showed its greatest advantage of the season so far around Spa. With the need for high downforce in the middle sector and good straight line speed on the two long straights in sectors one and two, cars equipped with F ducts could have it both ways and the device was worth half a second per lap here, a huge amount by F1 standards for a single component.

Next time out on the high speed Monza circuit it is likely that the teams will not use the F Duct. As the elements of the rear wing will be so small, it’s hard to incorporate the device and the performance gain is small in any case.

Renault F Duct
With so much to gain from running an F Duct at Spa, it was the perfect time for Renault to introduce their version. This being round 13 of 19 races, it comes quite late, by the standards of a top team. McLaren pioneered the idea at the start of the season, Sauber had one soon after and Ferrari and Force India soon followed. It’s another complex piece of engineering, involving fluidic switches, which channel and switch on air flows.

Renault has been rebuilding its aerodynamic capacity after the difficulties of 2009 and has focussed on perfecting other areas of the car, like front wings and blown diffusers before trying out its F Duct. The strategy has worked and the car has been steadily improving, as shown by Vitaly Petrov’s season best results in Budapest. So the half second gain from the F Duct at Spa put Robert Kubica right in the hunt at the front of the field. He both qualified and finished in third place.

In common with most systems where the F Duct concept is an add-on, rather than designed into the monocoque like McLaren, the drivers activate the system using their left hand.

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Again, a thoroughlygood report. It does amuse me the amount of bickering that goes on, just because one team has developed something that the others haven't.

James, any information on the mounting position of the lower onboard camera? I have noticed it being moved about from the tip of the nose to around the side on some cars. Obviously there is aero advantages to be had, but wouldn't it be common sense for the regulations to say it has to be there or there.


All i can say is that in Red Bull's corner is a very good car and in McLaren's is a very good pair of drivers. This is a straight man vs machine championship.


Great insight, thank you.


Great article, interesting as always!

Its going to be an exciting end of the season no doubt. I think right now its between Webber and Hamilton. Vettel taking bad decisions, and button DNF has taking him out of the fight. Alonso also had a poor weekend.

But from here, anything can happen. RBR seems to be closer for other teams. McLaren has taken a step in the right direction, but has to be confirmed at Singapore and suzuka as in monza they will be strong again with the mercedes engine. Ferrari is right now unpredictable, didnt show the form i was expecting at Spa, the question is if they can rebound from it or was just a question of this particular track. Renault is coming near the top teams and can play a big role in the championship drivers title. Force India top speed was amazing at Spa, i think they will be real fast at Monza

Bring more articles James, i really enjoy them!!!


This is definitely not yet a straight fight between Webber and Lewis. The way this season has been throwing DNFs at the top drivers, there is plenty of races for tears for the two leaders to bring Vettel and Button right back in the running.


Yes as i said in my post "from here anything can happen" and maybe after the next race the championship fight will be tighter again

Interesting championship


James, during the race yestetrday there was some footage of the on-board camera on a Ferrari. Not sure whos it was, but it was quite lengthy. The point is, as it accelerated the front of the bodywork, cockpit to nose , seemed to "flex". i.e. onscreen it appeard to shorten as if the nose physically dipped, and on slowing it suddenly flexed straight again. This was consistent throughout the camera shot, around the lap.

Maybe a clue as to what is happening at speed in the Ferrari.

Incidently, I hope vettel is severely reprimanded by his co-drivers for hie loutish style yesterday.


I enjoy Christian Horner’s press statements. You know exactly how much you can depend on them.

These new tests do seem to have generated revisions to the front wings and one wonders what will happen to flexi-floors. One good result is that the run in to the WDC and WCC will be exiting now that the cars are so much more equal. I was beginning to worry about RBR walking away with it.

I fail to understand the efficacy of Ferrari’s different rear wing set-up at Spa. From what you say it would suggest that a wet set-up for the race, at least for Alonso, was decided on the drive over. Were they convinced that the car would not be competitive on the same downforce levels at the other cars? Massa showed that it could have been. All very strange.

I would have gone for Alonso and Massa to swop set-ups. But then I suppose Ferrari might not have put in a good performance at Spa. Which they didn’t.

Did RBR choose the right gear ratios? Even if Webber had got away from the start, and if Vettel had been alongside him, would they have been able to maintain their lead? I know all set-ups are compromises but knowing that, despite having the fastest car for one lap, you won’t be able to overtake your competitors seems a bit of a wild stab at getting things right.

I’m not sure that I like the idea of drivers having to take one hand from the wheel at what are the fastest parts of the circuit. Call me old-fashioned, but I think having full control of your car at 180mph is a positive. At least we now know why it is called an F-duct.

A very interesting piece. Thanks, James.

The BBC presentation seems to improve race after race. Good performances all round, especially from the peripherals. Ted’s comments from the pitlane during the race, normally very good, were excellent. He seemed to be on the spot every time. Was this because of the cramped conditions?


James, in your opinion was the difference in flex due to the new tests of the characteristics of the circuit/wing required ?

Would be great to see a piece on the flexi-floors?

Always enjoy these pieces. You've been spoilt this year for technical innovations to write about.


Very interesting article, as usual. Great technical insights.

James, I am astonished with Renault's performance this year. I assume that Robert is a very good driver. So is Alonso, so in my opinion this is not the point. And I think that Briattore was not so bad as a team manager, so we have to look for another reason.

I would like to know what has changed this season, from the backmarker car they had on 2009 to this year's excellent results for Kubica - and not so bad for a rookie like Petrov.

Is it the budget they have this year, or any thing else?

Thanks in advance.


Maybe you are running away from the answer - it could be down to the fact that Alonso carried his issues to Ferrari and Briatore carried his dirt out of Renault. A team that resorts to the sort of tactics seen at Singapore 2008 cannot inherently have a culture of excellence. I believe Renault is now just better run than in the past.


Yep, probably you are right.

Or maybe not. 😉


🙂 And so that team also had a management overhaul if you recall!


By the way, I remember another team, that used to spy their rivals, and also lied to the stewards.

In your opinion, a team like that can "inherently have a culture of excellence"?


Great article as always, James.

After seeing Vettel's attempt at a GP2 style overtake, I have a question though. What happens to the pieces of bodywork after crashes? Are they all carefully picked up and sent back to the correct teams, or do bits make their way to marshalls or fans? What was stopping the rival teams from trying to rescue some of the fragments of the front wing so they can analyse it's structure?


Excellent article as usual James. Most interesting was the explanation of the flexi-technology, in terms of advanced composite-carbon layering techniques. It is also an interesting point to know how FIA compliance tests are negotiated between the teams and the FIA. In the end all bodywork will have some flex to it as no material is perfectly rigid, and there can be no precise rule, other than specific tests by FIA which will govern how much flexibility can be introduced ...


Why would FIA resist a more stringent test that would ensure compliance with a rule that it has put in place? Just the fact that teams need to negotiate with FIA to convince it to regulate according to its own rules is confusing - the convincing should be the other way round. Afterall the rule is not about the test but the actual flexing of the wing.


Well like said above an amount of flex is always there , no mater what material you use, even diamond. A more stringent test can be unreasonable to the extreme , for example say instead of using 100 kilos lets use 4000 that is certainly more stringent ....

In general the process of technical rules and regulation is an ongoing process involving both teams and the FIA which try to arrive at a compromise that would be reasonable and acceptable to all sides .


Thanks James, great article.


Take a look at this video James of the incident between Vettel and Button. At 0.50 we see an on board of Vettel's car and take a look at the front wing movement



Heck! a cannot believe how much the wing moves its like a see-saw!


You are correct. It is a see-saw principle, rather than a flex. It is the upright members that are swaying from side to side and not the wing itself that is mostly doing the downward flexing. The Darren Heath photo shows the same - the uprights that connect the wing to the nose cone are bowed in the direction of the downward ‘’flex’’.


Bowed in the opposite direction of the downward flex, I meant.


What are any of you comparing it too....you all say it moves...THEY ALL MOVE.

Without a comparison there is no way to say it moves....


Great spot. That pretty much ends the debate as to whether they flex or not.


looks to me like vettle was getting a good tow from button reducing the air flow over the flexi wing, but when he pulls out of the tow at 200mph causing the wing to twist as one side enters the air flow and the other side is still in buttons tow, flexi wings not so clever after all?


this is very interesting and as other people have already mentioned - maybe the flexing of one side of the wing contributed to the loss of control.

If you watch the clip again, the right side of the wing flexes down as SV moves HALF of his car out of the slipstream. This increases the down force on only half of the wing.


I think it's important to realize that the camera is a sprung member of the chassis while the nose is not. During turning, the car will have a certain amount of roll. This will cause a change in relative angle between the body (where the camera is mounted) and the front wing. That would be my explanation...

Zobra Wambleska

I think you'll find that, actually, the wing is part of the sprung weight of the car. It is, after all, attached to the chassis and not the wheels. That's not to say that the wing can't twist relative to the camera angle.


Oh yeah... Good point... [hangs head in shame]


Your explanation may well be correct for a small part of the movement (I wouldn't know) but I can't imagine it explains the full movement of that wing... I mean, that is extreme... Probably exaggerated by the fact that one half of the wing was behind Button and the other half in clean air but even so, crazy amount of flexing going on just before Seb lost control.


wow! was it flexing on steering input? or flexing because of the turbulent air?

that is not flexing anymore.. that is twisting


I saw this clip too, the wing seems to move more than a static fixed wing should, perhaps the FIA should mandate a wire support from the nose to each endplate like Benetton used in the 80s.


interesting that you say this... Red Bull has been pre-season testing its nose with exactly similar cables... have seen a picture somewhere of the nose flexing.. and one cable with lot of slack.. other tight.


Those weren't supports, they were testing the flex of the wing at speed by using the wires to pull on some sort of force or displacement sensor. It just so happened that in that corner, one wing tip was lower than the other, thus allowing one wire to be slack while the other is taut.


That movement in the front wing appears to be what unsettled Vettels car which is odd because it looked as if the wing loaded up just before impact but surely, in the wake of another car it should be unloaded shouldn't it?



I've just watched this again and can only come to the conclusion that red bull's wings still flex and this is what caused the collision.

The right hand side of Vettel's front wing loaded whilst it was sat to the right of Button but obviously the left of the wing was unloaded behind Button - This appeared to unsettle the car enough for Seb to lose control.

James, can you please look in to this and maybe question some engineers re this piece of footage?


It looks as if the steering column is somehow connected to the front wing. But I think it's just from the lateral car movement.

Anyhow, I think that the FIA tries to prohibit inventions and engineering genius and that we're on the way to a unified car. Which is bad, because the diffenrences of car performance make good racing.


bloomin hell good spot !! if there isn't something suspect about that wing i don't know what is .... email that to Whitmarsh 🙂


There is nothing reveling in that video at all, what do you see?


James are you suggesting there were no improvements on the McLaren? How is its blown diffuser working now?

Incidentally how will FIA ensure Red Bull does not "steal" a future race with the "illegal" front wing again - i say this because in one of your previous analyses, you point out that Adrian Newey's philosophy with technology is to let FIA catch him rather than following McLaren's approach of clearing such matters with FIA first before putting pieces onto the car.


James, I wonder if the blown diffuser has something to do with the funny way the Red Bull car crash... it could be when they lift the throtlle quick (in case of driving error) the car seems to loose controll fast(er) and therefore both driver have less margin for error. When Vettel crash into Button I immediatly had to think of Vettel/Webber clinch, and the Webber/Kovalainen acciddent.


Did anyone else notice Christian Horner's nose grow an inch or two as he responded with a "No" when asked if Red Bull had made changes to their front wings ? 🙂


They might of changed something else. Had a little chuckle wondering how fast Vettel would be after he they'd to cut his front-flap adjust wire control off when changing the nose.


Great stuff, which I can only find here. Glad to see that Renault have nailed their wind-tunnel problems of recent years.


Will the end of F-ducts in 2011 mean the end of shark fins?


Just a thought on Red Bull's front wing. They've crashed four times this year, Webber in Australia and Valencia, Vettel in Turkey and Belgium in freakishly similar circumstances. Red Bull slipstreaming a car down the straight, car in front brakes for tight corner, Red Bull isn't so stable and wallops the car in front.

My theory is car in front gives off dirty air so the super front wing is already giving less downforce, car in front brakes at an earlier place than the Red Bull normally does, Red Bull driver gets caught out, has less downforce to control car and hits what's in front.

I know there are subtle differences between all four incidents but wouldn't it be ironic if the part that gives them a massive performance advantage was also their undoing this season?


As always, many thanks on the excellent tech insight James.

Btw, following EM's observation, have a look at the video link posted on comment number 20 by Oliver N to observe flexing of Vettel's front wings just before his car went out of control and hit Button's. Do correct me if I'm wrong (for my knowledge of F1 tech is very basic) but it does seems like the change in the turbulent airflow upon Vettel's front wing caused the instability of the car and caught Vettel out. It doesn't look like he snapped the rear, does he?

Further more, Button did mention that the section of the track was bone dry and he finds the incident very strange indeed.


And put into the mix that Jenson would have been taking his knee off his F-duct hole as they were approaching that braking zone - de-stalling his rear wing & further messing up the turbulent air to Vettel's front wing. In fact.... am I right in thinking that on the run into that corner Jenson would have had his rear wing stalled by blocking his F-Duct hole with his knee meaning airflow to Vettel's front wing would be relatively high compared to when Jenson got close the the breaking zone when he would have moved his knee thus uncovering his F-Duct hole and in effect reducing the air the Vettel's front wing ?


Interesting observation


This observation could well be correct James, have you seen the footage that shows Vettel's front wing flexing quite severely just before he crashed into Button?

I think this should be brought up with someone high up.

Check the video at about 0:50



I think that's somewhat different to the flex shown in previous races (where both ends appear to flex down towards the ground).

In that clip, as the right end leaves the slipstream and flexes downwards, the left end actually lifts up (and visa versa), which suggests that it's the mount/nose flexing rather than the wing itself.


I agree this is very interesting


Indeed, especially in light of re-examining Vettels onboard footage from his crash with Button, and the behaviour of the front wing (as per the earlier threads)


Can I ask on gear settings? We saw alot
Of engines on the rev limit and hence rbr could not out drag anyone really. Would it make sense to increase top gear for more speed?


Yes, several ex drivers felt the same way


I suppose that if you expect to be in front, and especially if your top speed potential isn't as good as some of your competitors, you'd gear for the maximum you could reach without the tow. If things don't pan out like that, you've got a problem!



Did anything change with respect to the McLaren's blown diffuser setup at Spa? Martin Brundle observed during the race that the McLaren had a markedly different engine note during the corners and he thought that this was due to the Mercedes engine being on the overrun to aid stability of the blown diffuser.

Was this new for this race, or did they have it in Hungary as well?


I'm very interested in this too. Have they found a way of getting the gas into the defuser as the driver lifts off. The car definitely made a different sound this weekend. I understood this was being used by RB in Q3 but couldn't be extended more as it was detrimental to the engine.


I'll give you a very brief explanation, blown diffs work by using exhaust gases which provide downforce. As you accelerate you get lots of downforce but when you lift off for corners you get a very small amount. This creates a very unpredictable car which means the driver has to second guess giving you a poor handling car.

By putting overrun on the car the car generates lotsof exhaust gasses giving you a more evenly handling car with more consistent downforce.


The Speed TV guys in the US were also talking about that engine sound, and it was very obvious when the broadcast was using certain trackside mics. Definitely sounds like they have some sort of overrun system going to keep the exhaust pressure up and the diffuser effective in off-throttle situations, I'd love to have a more detailed explanation of what they're doing but it'll probably be all conjecture for a while until other teams start using it and the cat is out of the bag.


Red Bulls definitely had more rigid wings, or floors. I suspect that with the downforce at au rouge they did not want the floor to flex as much for driver safety reasons, which is why the wing stayed put down the straights and did not appear to be bending down.




Have a look at this video (posted from another forum) at the 23 second mark.


Just before golden boy t-bones Button the front wing on the RB seems to take an almighty, and presumably illegal flex. Perhaps it broke, perhaps it is supposed to do that, and it may or may not have been a factor in the accident.


Yeah, you can see that the side of the wing that's directly behind Button's car comes up (in other words, is no longer fully flexed). Definitely looks like a large amount of flex there.


The onboard shot as noted by Alan Dove above does show what appears to be significant front wing deflection

Coltswalk Native

The interesting here is that Horner came out and said there will be no other driver to push Webber for the title, however, that will greatly boost the chances of McLaren to secure a second title for Lewis. Mark will go to every race knowing that kiddy has a chance to beat him and even take away more points from him. However Ferrari need to maximize every opportunitty and possibly make sure that they secure 1-2 or podium finishes because the points gap is so wide that if Alonso can win more races and other keep on not scoring, it could change.

But I think McLaren and Lewis have a psychological advantage, the whole team will be behind Lewis, Lewis is driving brilliantly and i think from now on, McLaren will be more conservative and it will be a huge advantage if Kiddy and the Ferrari's get in the way of Webber.

But if Red Bull were fully committed to be behind Webber and wanted to win the championship they could have that confidence, I remember a team principal who once said that a driver that is motivated by the team is worth a few tenths per lap. This may also be their last chance to have a shot at the title, Newey may never be there for decades in that team and we have seen that in a year, you can be in front and the next be in the mid pack.


Great article. I am still surprised with the amount of flex that is allowed on something htat is meant to be rigid. Yes they doubled the weight for the test, but also doubled the movement. The actual load on the track is also probably at least double this new weight, so the movement could be 40mm or more. The test was changed to ensure the flex was linear, but if you think about it as the wing flexes, it creates more downforce (and pressure on the wing) therefore the change in the load is probably not linear.

Also the failure at Silverstone on Seb's car, was this something to do with the mountings allowing some movement as well (Concorde nose).


"...he wing flexes outwards due to a sophisticated layering process..." ???

So... the wings get effectively longer under aero load? I'm having trouble visualizing that.

"...lobbying of the FIA technical people..."

So this is basicly the have-nots trying to gain politically what they cannot technically?

Its an arbitrary test! How many whacks at the Pinata do they get before the FIA says 'enough' ?


I would hope as many as required, untill in the spirit of the rule the wing is rigid. compatable with its competitors.

Thats not to say it is pure genius by designe and will not be easy to expose as I suspect it does not flex down so easy intil it has flexed backwards.


awesome article James.

below is a video of the crash between Button and Vettel, at the end in slow motion from Vettel's car clearly showing his front wing jump up one side then the other as he came out of Buttons slip stream,

which would not have helped in the stability of the car and just may have helped cause the incident.

your thoughts on this James would be very welcome, i am not that techno. thanks in advance.



I wonder if the spill from Buttons blown rear diffuser caused the front left wing of Vettels car to act in an unexpected way? Webbers Red Bull has also got a similar device and Vettel had a very similar problem before the crash In Turkey.


Do you think Mclaren will still run the f-duct at Monza?


Hi James, I don't know the exact numbers, but I've read F1 cars produce about twice their weight in downforce (in fact, wikipedia says 3x), and as much as 40% of this can come from the front wing. With this in mind (620kg * 2 * 0.3 = 372kg) surely 100kg is a wholly inadequate amount of weight to be testing the front wing with.

Also do the FIA test lateral flex on the front wing, i.e. weight down one side and not the other? Also if you look at 1:31:45 on BBC iPlayer you will see there is a very, very large amount of lateral flex in the RB6 front wing.


I agree that a 100kg test isn't enough but I think most of the 620kg+ downforce comes from the diffuser and wing at the rear of the car.

Imo the red bull front wing doesn't respond to load in a linear fashion (if that makes any sense?) - I would bet a lot of money that even if it flexes 10mm under 50kg and 20mm under 100kg, at 200kg it woould be more than 40mm. This is only an uneducated observation though, I'm certainly no engineer.


James, I am curious to hear your insight on Renault's aerodynamics team. They seem to have be making good additions all year long to there car, with the front wing and now the f-duct. While other teams with possibly a bigger budget seem to be rushing ideas to the track only to remove or revise them for a later race. Is it there facilities or personal?


Both. The wind tunnel went a bit wrong but it's ok now and they lost some are people but are stronger now. Great leaders in James Allison and Bob Bell


Being more of a software/computer geek myself, I'd like to think Renault are also very strong at CFD, maybe they have the best CFD team on the grid currently. That enables them to do countless iterations and fine tunings of their front wings for example. If you search the web you can find that Renault has their own CFD supercomputer, but more importantly their own CFD code, developed together with Boeing. I think their modern CFD effort started in earnest at 2008, but starting to bear fruits this season, and it is very interesting what will happen next year ...


THat is very true, good point yes


I'd love to know what's going on with the engine/ignition overrun/retardation.. stuff..

During the race, there was a noticable difference in the sounds of the engines for both the Ferrari and McLaren cars when breaking and cornering. I know people have already cited this as being used to "activate" the EBD when off-throttle, but I thought that this wasn't advisable as it works the engine far too hard?

I know Red Bull are said to use it in the final stages of qualifying, but have McLaren and Ferrari - although I may have misheard - found a way to keep the engine running within acceptable parameters throughout the entire race while using this feature?

The Ferrari and Mercedes engine obviously develop more Horsepower than the Renault engine, and so must be more sturdy and durable, perhaps this is the telling difference?

Any insight you could shed on this would be fantastic, James (or anyone, for that matter).

Cheers, great piece.


As they all use the same ECU, surely their Acoustics experts can easily tell the teams what their rivals are doing ? It is strange that McLaren have got a setting that works in the race when Red Bull have one that is only able to be run in Q3 because it damages the engine. I wonder if this is still the case ?


James what do you make of that funny exhaust note coming from the McLaren?


Its the jointed floor that moves back allowing the air to lower the wing on the red bull simple and effective locked in place for scrutineering . remember colin chapman dual bodied cars 2010 equivalent


James, the SpeedTV announcers kept talking about the engine note of the Mclaren and you could tell the sound of the Mclaren was different than that of the RBR or Ferrari. It sounded to me, and they mentioned as well, that it was a broken exhaust but clearly it didn't hamper the performance. Did you notice this as well throughout the weekend and what do you think they may be doing?


I remembering reading somewhere this engine note was to do with the mercedes engine retardation or something. Basically to keep the blown diffuser going when the driver lifts off.


Yes. Very curious. Looking into it


Good write up James. I too noticed less deflection from both the Red Bull and Ferrari front wings. Combine that with their lack of pace compared to the two previous races(for Ferrari) and I suspect that the higher weight deflection testing has indeed influenced new wing construction.

On the Speed channel here in Canada, they showed super slow motion of the Red Bull tea tray flexing from a previous race. According to FIA regs, the tea tray is not to flex so adding that to the Monza tests I think we will see Red Bull struggle even more. This test may also affect Ferrari as I think they have discovered the Red Bull secret to increasing downforce. Some people say that after Monza Red Bull should dominate, but I'm thinking if they lose significant front end downforce from Monza on, they may indeed have a difficult time finding the balance that they have become accustomed to on the higher downforce tracks.


Hi James,

Have a look at this video around the 23 second mark...If this isn't clear proof of a flexing wing, I don't know what is.



Judging by how Vettel's wing acts at the 23 second mark of this video, I'd say it was still flexing quite a lot! http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xem3t3_f1-spa-2010-crash-button-vettel_sport

Jesper Mathias Nielsen

Atleast, it's very similar to Webber's incident in Valencia and the onboard video of an RB6 in the wake of a Ferrari; the wing starts to wobble heavily as soon as it enters the wake of the car in front. You'll notice it's not deflecting per see - it wobbles.


As usual Spa was fantastic!

I would like to say that next years ban of the f-duct does not stand very well with F1's so called green ideals. Shedding drag is clearly one excellent way to increase effeciency on straights and it shows that F1 really dont have much thought for green technology other than when it suits them.

Keep the f-duct, its technology like this that makes F1 great! It makes so much sense to be able to run a car with high downforce in the corners but shed that drag on the straight.

Perhaps drag shedding devices will not make to road car (but maybe it could i dont know) but knowledge of fluidic switches and such could surely have some commercial potential?


I think its actually FOTA not FIA that have decided not to use it. When several of them (the ones that feel entitled if u know who i mean) can't make something work as well as their competitors they start whining about it and try to ban it. A very anti-competitive approach it seems to me.

Jesper Mathias Nielsen

Any insights into McLaren's use of engine mapping and retarded ignition in the race? I was of the impression the RB6 only uses in FP3 and Qualifying, but it seems Mercedes Motors has made it efficient enough to be used troughout the race.

michael Gladwin

The Speed TV commentators in the US commented on the McLaren's strange exhaust note on overrun. The engine sounded rough.


Surely the wing movement noted in those videos could have been caused by uneven airflow in the wake of button's mclaren?


Hello James,

What's happening with Alonso? I haven't seen him make so many mistakes since 2003, than he has in his 1st year with Ferrari this year.

I just can't help think Ferrari being unhappy about their signing Alonso. They brought him in with an incredible reputation for consistency and another aspect of asking for the top dog status. They have given him everything, the car, the status and yet he hasn't delivered.

I am just wondering what if Massa starts to challenge Alonso next year.

The big bosses must already be training their eyes on Lewis Hamilton, who in my mind has been the driver of the year (And I am huge Alonso fan) and THE force to be reckoned with in the future. I don't see Ferrari extending Alonso's contract if he doesn't win a championship with them by 2012. And this could spell the end of Alonso in F1. With his reputation and at that age, no top team will touch him.

Are 2007 and the two years with Renault gnawing at him still?


People are jumping to conclusions too early. Everyone has his share of bad days, Alonso is having them now. Hamilton has looked better because he has been in a better car for more time than Alonso since he has arrived in F1. Ferrari aren't unhappy with FA by any stretch of imagination. He has brought them more what Kimi would've brought this year especially considering that Massa is being no good except for last 3 races. For where ever FA stands, Ferrari realizes that's it his mistakes + their screw ups too. Hard to blame him totally.

And TBH, Fernando has never had the best car for more than 5-6 races this season. With 3rd/4th best car what you expect him to do ? He's made mistakes but recovered well in some races. It's a matter of time he wins a race and people will be singing his praises again. I have huge faith in this driver. He never ceases to fight no matter if the failure is obvious.

An emotional reply I know. But I am getting fed up of Alonso haters and some Alonso fans themselves jumping to conclusions after one race


Rightly said..

Actually the F10 is designed with Felipe`s way of handling..next year they will be even stronger when Ferrari build they new car keeping Fernando aspect of driving.


Faisal, you are right. This is an emotional comment from you. And I think you also missed in my comment the fact that I am an Alonso supporter myself.

Having said that, I understand the reasons why I support him, and one of the them is the fact that he has always been able to maximise the opportunity at his disposal, always.

However, this season, he has made too many mistakes to be in the title fight. Kindly visit the F1 official website and compare the results of the 5 title contenders; you will know what I am talking about.

I have followed his seasons very closely since 2006 and I think this is his worst season after 2009.

If he is not fighting for the top positions, he should be bringing the car in points. 3 big errors according to me were China, Monaco and Britain. He in my opinion has lost at least 50 points this season due to driver error. If you do the math, you will find out he would be leading.


Great article, thks James. Pardon if this has been addressed before but is it conceivable the FIA at some point might introduce some dynamic test as well, specifying some min. wing height above the tarmac at speed? Not that that would necessarily suffice. I appreciate if anyone in the governing body were as sharp as the Newey's of the world they'd be with a team instead.


Just reviewed the BBC camera footage of the vettel incident, it looks very like the front wing starts to flutter when the left front element is in the area behind buttons diffuser, is it going into a flutter mode because of the turbulent air behind the McLaren?

The wing looks like it has a flexible pivot holding it on and ground effects keeping it level parallel to the road regardless of the roll state of the car. As the load test is static this wouldn't show up, especially if there was a damping element in the mount.

As soon as you get an asymmetric airflow at racing speed the downforce vairies and you get a wobbly wing.

In short it could be the mounting not the wing that's flexible.


There could be another explanation for that visible flexing on Vettel's front wing: WunderSeb's excuse was the car hit a bump in the road. Both cars were well off the racing line so Seb would have been unaware of any undulations in the track. Its effect on a chasing, swerving, *red-mist-piloted car would have been much more dramatic than on Jensen's lead car. The likelihood of an off-centre bump would also explain why the video shows the whole wing twisting as one unit with no obvious sign of each side flexing independently. It's very hard with stiff suspension and massive speed to see any bump in the video.

* Red Mist: A feeling of extreme competitiveness or anger that temporarily clouds one's judgment


Hi James,

This is my analysis of the situation as an engineer.

The old FIA load test applied the load along the leading edge of the wing at the outer extremity. This essentially assesses the resistance of the supporting structure to pure bending. When the car starts to move aero load is generated by the winglets, this load can be reduced for analysis purposes to a single force known as the centre of pressure, this will be located some distance back from the front edge of the winglet, which, remember is where the load test is applied. Hence there is not only a downward force on the wing, there is also a torque along the axis of the support beam. By laying the carbon fibres lengthwise across the support beam, ie across the car, it can be made to be stiff in beading [to pass the old test] but weak in torsion allowing the rear of the wing to flex disproportionately downward, see Hungary in-car shorts in link below:


This offers the widely discussed benefits in downforce, whilst also lowering the angle of attack of the wing at high speed, lowering drag. It's a similar situation to the flexy Ferrari wings of a couple of seasons back for which longitudinal load tests now ensure doesn't happen.

The new front wing test has moved the point of application rearwards to the centre of the endfence viewed from the side of the car, see:


This now gets close to replicating the position of the aero load, centre of pressure or whatever you wish to call it. The wing support beam has therefore got to be stiff in torsion also to resist this load and the rear of the wing will not be able to get as close to the track as before for a given aero config and therefore not as efficient either in downforce or drag terms.

I'd be amazed if RBR and Ferrari are not now running wings of different construction to cater for this, they could look exactly the same externally, it's all in the carbon weave of the supporting structure. Perhaps this why the composites experts were at Spa?

I expect the McLarens to be much closer to RBR and Ferrari on the slower tracks from now on...


great explanation. how hard is it to change the layering of carbon fibre though?


The strength of the fibre lies along its length, hence you align the fibre with the force you wish to resist and put a sufficient number in place such that they achieve the appropriate stiffness. Carbon fibre is available in a variety of weave patterns to suit different situations and also in straight fibre bundles [I should say here I'm not an expert, I've just used it here and there]. Aligning the fibres across the car will produce something akin to a plank of wood, it will be strong in bending but weak in torsion, adding fibres at an angle to the 'grain' will resist a twisting motion such as the front wing sees. Since the winglet force is mainly downwards, the fibres will likely be arranged in an 'anticlockwise' spiral around one side of the wing beam and 'clockwise' around the other, difficult to explain without a diagram. I presume that there are stress analysis CAD packages that will help calculate how much fibre and precisely in which direction to lay it, however the tricky bit is that designer doesn't know precisely how much force he needs to cater for, made worse because each track is different and each has a different downforce requirement, so adjusting such a flexible wing may cause it to rub on the ground, hit the kerbs etc perhaps even generate so much force that breaks the wing mountings... Add to this the non-linear effect, the closer the wing runs to the ground the more 'suck' it generates, bit like lowering a vaccuum cleaner to the carpet, all of a sudden the force goes up dramatically. Other posters have alluded to this in Webber / Vettel accidents recently, both RBR pilots said the driver in front braked early, but they were VERY close in both cases to the car in front and their front wing was seen to be fluttering like a leaf in the turbulent wake / bumps in the road, it will have lost much of that huge 'ground effect' and the RBR driver is then driving a whole different car, one with much less adhesion.

Actually making a new wing is probably quite quick, the patterns will exist and it is matter of laying up the fibres to the designers spec and firing up the autoclave, a few days tops I guess, but how many different varieties of layup do you need to cover all the downforce levels? Also has the new test moved the point of application of load rearwards from the front edge of the wing to assess the torsional flexibility, the F1 site was a little ambiguous in this respect?


wow, definately got more than I bargained for there! thanks! very interesting.


Yes thanks very much for your input, very interesting.


Hi James, having re-read the F1 website explanation of the new front wing test I realise that it simply states that the new 100kg load is applied in the middle of the wing side section. What do they mean by the 'middle', is it the centre of the winglet in plan view, or simply further in towards the centreline of the car, but still on the leading edge of the wing? Can you confirm either way? thanks Richard


This is a bit off-topic, but after watching such an incredible race, and reflecting on how good the action has been on track in F1 all year, I think it's a bad idea trying to introduce a gimmick like an adjustable rear-wing to increase overtaking next year. I haven't heard much discussion about it lately, but I assume that it's still in next year's regulations?

My opinion is that F1 is plenty exciting enough as it is, and you may just be tinkering with a sport that's working beautifully at the moment!


Everyone "thinks" rear wing, but the regs say "bodywork" unless they've revised them, so that could be a bit different.


James, did you see this video? Massa started the race out of position, he was half a car past his grid slot.



Certainly looks like he's not in the box. The cars have sensors underneath and there are sensors in the road. If the sensors are too far apart the signal doesn't carry and it alerts the race director. Surprising that didn't happen in this case


Some brazilian comentators are saying this creates a dangerous precedent... what if other drivers start doing this regularly?

Spa was not a big deal because the run to the first corner is so short, and Massa is now a bit out of the spotlight... I would like to see what would Charlie do if this happens in Monza with a driver fighting for the title, starting 2nd or 3rd...


Why doesn't the FIA stipulate an end plate with skids or castors that'll ensure that the front wing CAN'T get lower than the specified height, flex or no?


James, in light of the current resource restrictions, when racing incidents such as the one with Vettel and Button occur, does the not-at-fault party (in this case McLaren) fork out for their own repairs or would they send a bill to Red Bull Renault? Apologies if it's a silly question.


It's a good question and I have always presumed that the team pays for its own damage. After all the cars get stripped down after every race anyway.


Red Bull have definately made revisions to their car following the introduction of more stringent scrutiny, it's bloomin obvious!! They were much slower and the difference in behaviour of the front of the cars was plain to see, to deny this is just silly. Of course they were pushing the limits for as long as they could get away with it and now they've been told to behave themselves. To lose more than a second advantage during the summer shutdown is mysterious in the extreme and is an admission of guilt in a sense. Still, that's F1, bend the rules whilst you can!! Excellent!!


Spa does not need the use of high downforce and does not have many high speed corners where a flexible wing would benefit. In fact you want to reduce the downforce to enable higher speeds on all the long straights.

They were not expecting to have a clear advantage in Spa

Wait till Singapore then we'll see if they still have flexi wings/concorde nose, but hopefully McLaren have a simular setup too.


Well, sector 2 does actually require quite a lot of downforce which is why the top speeds around Spa are about 20mph down on those achieved at Monza. Pouhon is similar in requirements to turn 8 at Turkey. They turn in at over 150mph and then just keep their foot on the loud pedal all the way down to the chicane. This requires some serious downforce!! I doubt we'll see Red Bull front wings and bib splitters flexing anymore, they've had their fun and the FIA have had a quiet word but if it continues they will be reprimanded and with a WDC and WCC theirs to chuck away it's unlikely they'll risk any technical infringements in the run down to the wire.


James, a user on planet-f1 forum has spotted something quite interesting....

Just before Vettels crash with Button, Vettel's front wing flexes wildly as he moves around in Button's slipstream. The exact moment it flexes wildly, he loses control.

Is the Red Bull superflexing wing to blame for the crash??



re the flexing on Vettel's wing as he lost control behind Button:

At the subsequent pit stop when the nose cone was changed, one of the mechanics had to cut a cable/rip the cable off from the main body before the new wing was fitted. Although this could be damage as a result of the spearing into Button, I considered this aspect:

The drivers have a mechanical control to alter the angle of attack of the front wing - did part of this system fail as Vettel pulled out of the slipstream, causing the unbalance? The car seems to snap unbelievably quickly as he pulls out. Presumably the change of 6 degrees of wing angle suddenly on one side if this is the case would both unbalance the car and cause the twist on the wing.

Any thoughts?


The cable is more likely to provide the link between the driver controls and the servo in the Front Flap Adjuster than anything else. It probably also provides the signal for the front wing TV Camera.


Hi James,

With such a tight contest at the top of the drivers standings and, seeing as F1 teams tend to use even the slightest thing to their advantage, what are the chances of seeing KERS rear it's head again this year? As I understand it it's only a "gentleman's agreement" preventing teams using it. Is this correct and would the re-design needed to accommodate it be out-with the teams capability with the fly-away races around the corner? What, do you think, would be the fallout from someone using it, unlikely as it is?


There is no chance we will see KERS this year. It would require a major chassis redesign to make the weight distribution workable and this is not permitted under the current regulations which state that the chassis is homolgated for the season and can not be fundamentally altered for the duration of that season.


Im not very technical but in that video with vettel and button, after the crash you can see a hole in vettel´s floor, i guess this flows the air to the diffuser, but i wonder if this is a normal thing allowed in the rules


James i would like to hear from you regarding the pace of Ferrari...

Why they lagged behind even after dominating the both practice sessions.

Was it bcoz they gaved a wrong setup to Fernando.

I read one blog where Stefano said that they think that they gaved Fernando a wrong setup and according to them they did got the performance they were expecting with the new diffuser.

Even when i was monitoring the speed trap for first and third sector Ferrari were no where?

Renault got they F-Duct working properly...

Why Ferrari was not able to drag speed out-off first and third sector.

If you had monitored the second sector in first and second practice Fernando was faster than all other drivers by 1 second but was loosing time 3 tenths in first sector and 2 tenths in third sector.

I am a big Fernando and Ferrari fan so i want to hear from all of you including James whats going wrong with Ferrari...


Unfortunately, since the holy trinity of Brawn, Byrne and Schumacher was dissolved the Ferrari Team have shown themselves to be prone to operational errors. I think the calm, logical atmosphere within the team that came as a result of Brawns leadership coupled with Todt's single mindedness is being sadly missed by Ferrari. Also, with the latest trend by the FIA to monitor and enforce the regulations more strictly, Ferrari is less able to pursue questionable lines of development these days. Further to this, I think Ferrari's big strength was in developing all the surfaces of the car into aero componenets. Now the majority of the car has to be aero neutral they have been left scratching their heads a little from time to time. They have also been guilty of under-reacting to regulation changes thus allowing other teams to steal a march on various fundamental technologies such as Double Diffusers, KERS, EBD, F Ducts. They need more radical thinkers and an aggressive wind tunnel program. Oh, and a Lewis Hamilton or 2 would be handy.

William Presland


The onboard shots from Vettel moments before the Spa crash with Button show the front wing deflecting what, to my eyes seems like a lot

Is this normal deflection for a front wing?


Rival engineers are surprised by it


Many thanks to James and all who have commented, especially Richard Hill for his truly exceptional contribution (August 30th, 2010 @ 10:16 pm) to the increasingly fascinating discussions regarding the contentious Red Bull front wing which still appears to flex (at least) beyond the spirit of the FIA's rule.

Whilst Red Bull's design team are often complimented for exploiting, in an ingenious manner, a weakness in the FIA's enforcement of a key F1 design rule, I would like to challenge this and address the possible broader consequences that this issue may have on our great sport.

Firstly, is it right that Red Bull are so widely and overtly commended for designing their car to pass an ineffective FIA test even if doing so gains them what is arguably an 'unfair' and 'unsporting' advantage over those of their competitors who faithfully comply with the demonstrably clear intent of the rule?

Secondly, it is widely reported that Red Bull's Adrian Newey, who is undoubtedly an exceptional F1 designer, systematically follows this design approach without consulting with the FIA's technical team (as preferred and encouraged by the FIA) and will only modify the car if and when he is forced to do so. Does this not give valid grounds for concern and beg the question why the FIA does not deem it appropriate to announce that they will remove all points gained in races where any such 'breaches' are subsequently known to have benefited the team and its drivers in the WCC and WDC?

Furthermore, given the widely reproduced Darren Heath photographs and the repeated slow-mo footage of Red Bull's (highly and visibly) flexible front wings since 11 July, it would be natural for observers and/or the media begin to question whether the FIA's technical team is being made to look less than competent for failing to develop appropriate rule enforcement testing procedures then subsequently allowing what appears to be a flagrant breach to continue for so long. If the status quo is allowed to continue, is Red Bull not in danger of creating a situation that brings the FIA and F1 into disrepute?

My last speculative point is the most critical. Red Bull's drivers have been in a number of spectacular and potentially very serious crashes this year. Fortunately, and most incredibly in the case of Mark's Valencia accident with Heikki, no driver marshal or spectator has been injured. Nevertheless, this constitutes an increasing body of evidence pointing to the possibility that, in generating race winning down force, Red Bull has designed a car that may be inherently unstable and hence dangerous in race conditions. If so, it is imperative that this matter be resolved with the utmost urgency.

Finally, given the above, I am intrigued by the fact that when I tried to view the video at Richard’s http://alistairmilne.com/2010/08/02/new-f1-wing-tests/ link, the following message was displayed:

"Formula 1 - Belgium (Spa) - Sebastien Vettel And Jenson Button's Crash - 2010"

This video is unavailable.

This video contains content from Formula One Management, who has blocked it on copyright grounds.

I don't know what is causing such a reaction on the banned video, but it seems that Bernie and his FOM team may have taken this extreme and exceptional action because they share some of my concerns and are now worried about the possible damaging ramifications of this issue.


I think in Formula 1 we should allow "Baby Steps" to happen, as James pointed out that Lewis's driving has improved a lot. We can also blame lack of testing, look at Badoer who at most times would match or beat Schumacher at Ferrari on lap times when testing was allowed. Testing is killing any opportunity for 3rd drivers, younger driver who want to be in F1. Sebastien could have been packing more testing milage, get used to the machine.

I also dont think Michael Schumacher would be where he is had if testing was allowed, this also prevents any potential for a team to mprove reliability, testing also helps to make cars more reliable.

Like James had that F1 fans forum, i think there should be "The F1 Elders", this would be drivers, mechanics, team owners and former people governing F1 to advice the sport to move forward, im sure there are people like Jo Ramirez, Sir Stirling Moss, Prost and many others to just have these round table talks that may help F1. Formula 1 needs to learn that even the smartest people like Warren Buffett or Bill Gates still rely on the best advisers, The greatest presidents who have shaped our lives relied on best advisers. This is Me telling you to live in an island alone and expect you to live. Human being need others to function and this is what Formula 1 needs.

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