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Why new FIA flexi test won’t clip Red Bull’s wings
Why new FIA flexi test won’t clip Red Bull’s wings
Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Aug 2010   |  10:33 am GMT  |  183 comments

The FIA has responded to lobbying from McLaren and Mercedes in particular and has decided to beef up the tests they carry out on the flexing of front wings.

On the face of it this will oblige Red Bull and Ferrari to stop their wings from flexing as much as they do now and this will cost them lap time. But let’s look more closely at this and establish how much we think this will slow the cars down relative to the opposition.

Jo Bauer looks for secrets. Photo: Darren Heath

The FIA is allowed to change the test as it sees fit thanks to a rule which 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.”

Current rules allow the tips of the wing to flex by 10mm when a load of 50kg, which is 500 Newtons, is applied to them. But rival teams estimate that Red Bull’s wing is flexing by up to 25mm at high speed and on board TV footage at the weekend in Budapest clearly showed the wing rising up at the end of the straight when the driver braked.

The FIA has indicated that it is likely to double up the test load, with up to 100 kilogrammes onto the wing – and it will only allow a linear increase of deflection up to 20mm, which would appear to rule out the current Red Bull wing.

Now, the key to this is what the FIA technical delegate, Jo Bauer, is physically going to do in Spa to test the wings. And in all likelihood the answer is that he and his boss Charlie Whiting won’t tell the teams what the test will consist of before Spa scrutineering, they’ll have to guess and beef up their wings accordingly.

The Darren Heath photo which sparked this issue

But this also matters because the linear flexing might only be a part of what the Red Bull nose is doing. There is a theory among engineers, based on looking at the whole front wing when its loaded up, that there is some kind of spring loaded device in the crash structure to deflect the whole wing down, over and above what the wing tips do.

This theory was given some added impetus when Sebastian Vettel’s wing snapped in practice at Silverstone.

This theory goes beyond grabbing a bit of extra downforce from wing endplates being close to the ground, it brings a gain of lowering the front of the car, which is very attractive under the 2010 rules.

So it will depend on how Bauer tests the wing as to how much it slows down the Red Bull car. How will Red Bull respond? They will look again at the rule and will have to think through whether the new test will be on the wing itself or the wing relative to the chassis, in which case they may have to do more.

With a two week compulsory shutdown, Red Bull will struggle to make anything up for Spa, so although they are likely stiffen the current wing when time allows, a short term fix might be to go back a step or two on the front wing.

But the new FIA test loading extra weight on the wing isn’t necessarily going to catch the whole of what Red Bull’s wing is doing.

Most teams, when they think up some brilliant new device, run it past the FIA’s Charlie Whiting first to get a view on whether it’s legal. It’s the way the FIA like things to be done and the Brawn double diffuser and the McLaren F Duct are examples of that.

But Red Bull Designer Adrian Newey doesn’t tend to work that way and neither did Rory Byrne on the winning Ferraris of the early 2000s. Newey puts things on the car and then waits to see if they get picked up. Whiting tends to like to keep things out of the public domain and so when he and Bauer pick something up, he marks a team’s cards that he doesn’t want to see it again at the next race. In this way Newey’s cars can have a few wins under their belt before something is spotted and has to come off.

There is a belief among engineers that some of the “all nighters” the Red Bull mechanics have done this year have not been simply due to adding last minute parts flown out from England, but because Bauer and Whiting have knocked them back on some new device. The modification to the slot on the blown diffuser, spotted by McLaren’s Paddy Lowe, is a case in point, but there are likely to have been others.

But even if he does go conservative, which is not in Newey’s nature, rival teams are kidding themselves if they believe that any new flexi wing test will bring the Red Bull within striking range.

Frank Dernie, the veteran aerodynamicist observed to me this week that “The difference in performance between the Ferrari and the McLaren, is probably mostly down to the front wing. But the difference between the Red Bull and the Ferrari is elsewhere.”

The Red Bull in Hungary was another full second faster than the Ferrari, which is therefore about far more than the front wing.

One of the secrets of the Red Bull car is the interaction of the front end aerodynamics of the car with the rear end and how they work together. No other car comes close to balancing out the front and rear so well and in generating overall downforce and it seems that the other teams are still scratching their heads about how it works.

Looking at – and even copying – something like the front wing in isolation isn’t going to give them the answer. To match the Red Bull they would have to replicate the way the aero devices work with each other and that will take a long time. By the time they’ve figured that out, next year most likely, Red Bull will be well on with the next thing.

They have built an advantage it will take far more than a flexi wing test to cut down.

But if Adrian Newey has a weakness, it is that he cannot resist the temptation to add extra little things to the car to boost performance – hence the “all-nighters” – and it is often these things which lead to reliability problems.

There will be factions within the team, race operations people most likely and hopefully Christian Horner too, who will now be arguing for Newey to play it more conservative in this respect in the final run-in to the championship and not take risks with too many trick new parts. They have a big advantage and no doubt some more major upgrades coming, so it is vital that they just harvest maximum points from now to the end of the season and this will bring them both the Constructors’ Championship for the team and the Drivers’ title to one of their drivers.

They have dropped quite a few points through some unreliability niggles, especially on Vettel’s car (although not necessarily ones which have stopped the car) and through driver politics. These remain the two areas where the team can still lose both championships.

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What a pleasure!

If it were 300 pages I would read them in one shot, and I am at work now!

James you're risking my job...

Fantastic article.


I visit this site at least 3 times a day. Even only to check some comments update from your readers. I think You've risk my Job too, James.. hahah


I just read the article, wanted to say "wow", but it was already said in the first comment. Great stuff, indeed.

Keep doing what you're doing, James and Red Bull!

Chris Partridge



Just another "brilliant stuff" James - you don't find this level of analysis elsewhere.


Have to agree brilliant. Might not put out as many articles as most other F1 fan sites but the articles that come out are well worth waiting for and always a great read with great insight. Keep up the great work James. Totally agree that the flexi won't clip Red Bull's wings and you hit the nail right on the head (well you know that already 😉 )


Agree - Just wanted to keep reading.


Before i make any comments let me just say that James you have outdone yourself with this post - very interesting and pragmatic perspective of the gossip in the paddock. Great stuff.


Agreed! Top quality reading. It's always top quality reading but that's your best piece in ages James.


Thanks. Quite a bit of research in that one


Agreed, well done James Allen, articles like this feed those that truly love F1.


Looks like they have a rear tyre right on the RB6 in the scrutineering photo James!


Looks more wide angle lens distortion on the edge of the frame.

That tire is not wide enough to be a rear tired it is just a front tire stretched by the lens. 😉


Nah, it's definitely a rear tyre (compare to where it finishes on the inside of the front wing on each side).


I have to disagree. If a rear tire has a different back-spacing, you would see a huge difference in the gap between the tire and the brake-duct. Since there is no difference, then the tire would stick far out from the wing, and it's fairly easy to tell that it doesn't, despite not being able to see the edge of the wing.

Also, why on earth would the FIA allow that? It just doesn't make sense.

It's definitely lens distortion.


I think they're used tyres just to prop it up, rather than serving any purpose. Using new tyres risks punctures


Yes, this may be something using rear tires.. sorry tyres, to prevent punctures on the exposed front right of the car when testing the left. Fantastic report Tom. Also note this may only be possible with the softer compound and using the right rear on the right front.


You may have stumbled upon a significant observation here ;). Its on the front of the car too! It does look strange.


[edit: rear tyre on the front, but you get what I mean] Amazing that having the wider front tyre doesn't hurt slow speed cornering 🙂


I'm not surprised Martin Whitmarsh was complaining, or Ross Brawn for that matter. Yet it's their cars that have benefitted from such clever devices in recent times with the F-Duct and Dbl Diffuser. So I hope that Red Bull can make it legal and still get it working, because F1 is all about very clever ideas, and if Newey and co have made something that completely outfoxes McLaren and Mercedes then they should be allowed to benefit from that intelligence, just as McLaren and Brawn have benefitted previously.

Whitmarsh's comment at the weekend about 'fastest of the fixed wing cars' made me laugh, sour grapes to the extreme!


The difference is that while quite possibly being against the spirit of the regulations, the f-duct and the double diffuser were within the letter of them. However, to my mind, the Red Bull front wing directly contravenes rule 3.15, which states (among other things) that "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 am not so sure that Mclaren and Mercedes cannot understand how Red Bull achieve what they do. I was under the impression that they cannot understand how such a thing can be interpreted as being legal, however it is achieved. That would make it rather less a case of being outwitted. I would not question Newey's genius, and I would regard much of the Red Bulls' speed to be a direct result of that, but designing a flexing wing, be it linear or non-linear is hardly "rocket science", and nor is recognising that one would be beneficial.


The problem is that nobody knows if they have a device that "bridges the sprung part of the car and the ground"

It is all hypothesis right now. Maybe there is no such movable part within the sprung part of the car. Maybe it is just clever aerodynamics that changes the loads on the front/rear suspensions at different air speeds and directions.

The regulations have no spirit. The f-duct and the double diffuser proved it.


An increase in the rake of the car would move the front wing closer to the ground, and I would anticipate that being legal.

Personally though, I find the onboard videos of the front wing moving up and down, coupled with the comparisons with other cars pretty damning. The endplates seem to be moving quite far in relation to parts of the car that I would expect to be extremely rigidly located.

Given that the videos discredit the assertion of a simple change in rake, and show the gap being bridged (the media also seem to think that the lower edges of the front wings are requiring an unusual amount of refinishing), I think it is fair to say that the gap is being bridged.

I cannot imagine how the wing could droop so low without it being due either to a device or construction; between them, those two words cover any means I can think of. If you or anybody else can suggest one, even a really impractical one that wouldn't constitute either a device or a construction, then I'll almost certainly have to change my opinion about the whole dispute.


Is the wing always flexible though?

This is the area that people are foxed on, is RBR using some kind of actuating device (perhaps limited to the adjustable front wing flaps), or does it only respond with increased flexibility to certain load profiles?


Certainly, defining the regulations in terms of methodical testing, where a pass implies compliance would be ideal. However, I would assume that the reason for defining things as they are is that there are so many clever people in F1, that somebody would be bound to find a way around the test, thus implementing pretty much what was intended to be banned; one could argue that the double diffuser and f-duct are examples of this. They almost certainly breach the spirit, and intention of the rules, but are absolutely within the meaning of the rules.

This leaves us with the choice of freeing up the technical regulations, or having articles such as 3.15. Any deliberate attempt to breach 3.15 using clever systems to defeat the static tests, should be very heavily punished. It would not constitute the exploitation of a loophole, but plain and simple cheating.

I agree that appeals and tribunals are undesirable, but this was massively exaggerated by the behaviour of the previous FIA regime, and one cannot permit deliberate cheating just to avoid them.

Of course, I would be very excited about the prospect of liberal technical regulations, but we'd need some very clever ideas about how to avoid things becoming prohibitively dangerous.

One final comment I'd like to make is that I think I am starting to understand (though not agree with) Red Bull's point of view. Further down this thread (post 54 and its replies), somebody has posted a few hearing extracts relating to the Ferrari flexible floor, where Paddy Lowe observed Max Mosley to be asserting that nothing is illegal until the governing body has clarified that it is; clearly an absurd assertion, but one that could be the source of our present problems.


True, but in such a technical sport as F1 regulation should only be defined that can be methodically tested against to check compliance.

If you don't have unambiguous methods for testing compliance of regs, you get the messy situation of appeals of results, lengthy tribunals and such that diminish the integrity of the sport.

This sort of mantra would appear to have been supported in the last couple of seasons, as the DD and 'F-duct' clearly go against the meaning of the regulations, but have been allowed because they break no specific test/regulation.


Honestly, I have no idea, but either of those things could certainly be achieved.

That said, my reading of the regulations suggests that regardless of whether the wing is always flexible to its maximum degree, or only under certain circumstances, its design still breaches article 3.15 in both letter and spirit. A wing designed to sag so low is explicitly prohibited regardless of the means by which, or the circumstances under which it sags.

I'd welcome any insight as to the grounds under which Red Bull would suggest they are compliant. Passing the vertical load tests is an irrelevance. Failure implies illegality, but compliance in no way implies legality.


Looks like they have a rear tyre right on the RB6's front right corner in the scrutineering photo James!


It's an optical illusion because you're taking the tread width from the green circle on the inside of the tyre sidewall, but if you imagine the sidewall extending out from the circle (as it does) then imagine the width of the tread, you'll see that the tread width is the same as the left-hand tyre It's just a function of the lighting and the photography.



Thats camera lens distortion at the edge of a frame. An optical illusion


Photo is from last year


Great article and insight as always James. this really is the best F1 blog, and believe me I read many! Keep it up.


Im surprised to see you say "hopefully Christian Horner too". How much control does Newey have when it comes to upgrades, modifications and ultimately these decisions?

Newey did insist on having the new front wing on 1 of the cars at Silverstone.

Also I remember Horner saying the next couple of races will give an advantage to the cars with 'better' engines. I know he has made this point a few times this season.

With that in mind, maybe Newey will be even more motivated to find some pace in other areas?


Would a spring-loaded device in the nose not make the front wing a movable aerodyamic part though?


Ah Yes, but movable is defined as flexing more than a certain amount. If the amount allowed at wing-tips is increased to 20mm under N1000 load, then the revised test will not prove anything at all, since it's exactly the same modulus of elasticity (ok,sort of) as N500 with 10mm of deflection. Now I don't suppose even for a second that the modulus is linear, in fact the behaviour of the wing indicates that it is not.

So my prediction is that UNTIL a REPRESENTATIVE static load is applied, Red bull will sit sniggering quietly as they pass each new test. Somewhere around a total of N3000 on each side of the wing evenly distributed would be nearer the mark (though still short) Someone clever could work out how much of that force should be applied at each end of the wing. Do not forget that the team have to provide the profiled adapter piece which actually contacts the wing therefore they know the method of test in advance, also it's written up fairly exactly in the regs.

However in my view the whole wing should be tested using a jig containing a compound load, only then would one really see what will happen when the wing is under racing load.

"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" Very simple- not good enough for today's engineering.


I think the whole nose is dropping which would indicate to me that the bottom location to the car is compressing and lowering. I think its nota flexi its a lowering of the whole wing.Vettels wing failure at the Brit GP is evidence of this.


Great explanation James, the Red Bull car has been great everywhere, maybe at Monza they will struggle.

It´s very difficult to catch up development with this Red Bull car they always seem to be one step ahead.

James can we understand by the article that you and Frank Dernie believe that the new Fia Test will hurt Ferrari more than Red Bull?


Thanks James, that's an awesome article. It's so interesting to hear how the different teams have different ideologies with respect to bleeding edge designs!


This is why I love F1. It is not only the driver, but it is a engineering challenge.

Adrian Newey is a champion in this.

I hope these stories reach the main public and not just the fanatic fans.

Keep the tech stories coming.

Thank you James.


Excellent article James! Another great analysis of how the top teams are at the top!!

How do you rate Mclaren's chances of catching up, with Ferrari at least, for Spa? Is the fight really just down to Webber and Vettel for the championship now?


It will take more than going back a step or two:


That footage is from China. Red Bull have been using this wing all year.



Good spot Craig.

I wonder if they have any of last years wings sitting around. They might need them!


I Don't understand the Logic....If You run something Illegal, but pass all the test...can you call it illegal??

What sort of punishment can the FIA give??The wings flex and easily give an advantage. It requires complaints from other teams to even have these examined....what is the FIA doing??Letting teams have an unfair advantage as clearly shown in this article and the You tube video

P.S : Thanks for your Twitter reply James


I'm thinking that it would be a delicious irony if Red Bull's car is not adversely affected by the new test but some of the other teams are. It would be amusing to see this little drama backfire and the gap grow even larger.


that would be almost as brilliant as James' post


Thanks James - very insightful article.




The extra second in lap time is probably down to ground effect caused by flexible front splitter mounting. Hence a more stringent test on those for Spa too.

The RED Bull has been low all year at all fuel loads which made the other teams suspect ride height control but it looks like they're onto them.

The rules seem to allow cheating by fielding an illegal car as long as you don't do it twice.

Zobra Wambleska

Sounds more like you can use an illegal device until caught and then all you're required to do is remove it with no further penalty. Certainly makes the effort worth the trouble.


James, you are confirming something that I had posted on the blog after the Redbull Front Wing controversy at Silverstone. The speed at which Adrian ran from the Pit wall when the Front wing "failed" on Vettel's car in FP3 was clear indication, that Adrian was testing something "specific" on that car and its quiet likely that the front wings on the two Redbull cars were not identical to start with anyways.

Its fascinating to see how for the designers like Newey F1 is like a playground to test their design ideas and drivers merely "Testers" to validate their ideas, While the lay fans(and the F1 drivers) get so much carried away with so called exploits of drivers and the drivers championship..

Very nice post, elaborating the essence of what F1 is, a competition of smart aerodynamicists and engineers trying to outsmart each other.

Zobra Wambleska

And this is exactly why F1, to me, is never boring. All the on track action is wonderful, but it is certainly not the whole picture.


If you remember, it wasn't the front wing that failed on Vettel's car -- it was the top mountings of the entire nose assembly.

High down force on the front wing -- as a result of ground effect caused by the wing tips dropping close to the road surface -- would increase the leverage on the top nose mountings, effectively pulling them out (while the bottom mountings would be pushed back).

Perhaps the extra down force being generated by the latest RB6 front wing design at Silverstone was causing the design limits of the nose mountings to be exceeded?


Excellant article, well written and easily understanderble. I feel that this insight has widened my understanding of the RBR technology and science behind it.

My congratulations to a top design team and isn't it a shame that so much has to be discarded for the rules, when it mayprove to be innovative and usefull to car design in general.


I don't agree, it's not innovative.

Flexi-wings -- both front and rear -- are an obvious way to go. For instance, every designer would just love to make the rear wing flex flatter at speed to spill air over the top and therefore reduce drag (because it's only in lower speed corners that there's a net gain from big wings). So any of the teams could have come up with the design; it's just that all the teams except Red Bull believed flexible bodywork to be illegal, as well as not in the spirit of the rules.

What Red Bull discovered is a way to get round the rules in a sneaky way (because -- unlike the F duct -- there's no obvious visual difference when the car is stationary) yet still pass the required test.

I'm interested -- do others agree that this deception is not the sort of innovation we want to see?


no others don't agree. It just sounds like you're a jealous Hamilton fan. I think it's innovative in the extreme and exactly the same as the F-duct.The F-duct comes much closer to being active aerodynamics.


Flexi wings have been around since the '80s; they don't exactly fit the dictionary definition of innovative.


No, it's like winning at dice because you've managed to weight it in your favour. It might be impossible to detect and therefore pass all the tests but it still enables you to win more throws of your chosen number.

You're introducing a red herring in mentioning 'active dynamics'. The rules in question refer to -- and are trying to limit -- flexible bodywork.

OK, if you think I'm 'a jealous Hamilton fan then forget my comparison with the F duct. Instead I'll say, "What Red Bull discovered is a way to get round the rules in a sneaky way (because — unlike their blown diffuser — there’s no obvious visual difference when the car is stationary) yet still pass the required test.


So James, it seems what you're thinking is that this new measurement could affect Ferrari quite significantly. Correct?


I must say I'm rather disappointed by the FIA's approach here.

First, a 20mm deflection when subject to 1000N is hardly in the spirit of "no moveable aerodynamic parts" - far from it, in fact.

Second, the whole approach seems posited upon the idea that the wing's behaviour, in isolation, is non-linear; as you mention, it is more likely part of a system of flexibility.

Third, the FIA cannot "spring a surprise", as the team is required to produce "spreaders" upon which the FIA can impose its test load; if the test location or nature is to change, so too have these spreaders, and so the FIA must provide notice.

All-in-all a rather unsatisfactory result, I feel. The only valid test would be to fix the tub to a rigid block (via the skid plate's mountings, perhaps, or by locking-off the suspension) and then applying a test load to each wing tip simultaneously.


Excuse the finger in the air maths, but I think I am broadly right in saying that an F1 generates downforce equal to its own weight at around 75mph, so the entire car generates 620kilos of downforce at a little over a third of its potential maximum speed. Excuse me if this is inaccurate but crudely multiply it by three and you get to around 1.8 tonnes maximum downforce. While the front wing doesn't account for all the cars downforce, presumably it is more than 1/18th of the total.....

.......so by my half a***d maths, a deflection test using 100 kilos to prove anything appears to be a total waste of time, and absolutely nothing to do with enforcing the regulations.

I am not a mathematician, or an aerodynamicist, or even know how to spell it, so if anyone is more qualified, please shoot me down in flames.


downforce increases with the square of speed so 620 should be multiplied by 9 not 3.


No, you're not wrong. Taking your figure of 75mph, and the much vaunted "drive upside" you are in the ballpark of 600kgs of downforce.

Half of that is the diffuser and floor, so the other half, and assuming a roughly 50/50 split between front and rear wing, means something like 140-150kgs from the front, so we are looking at 70-odd kgs per side.

So never mind 7th gear, just exiting the pitlane, it already sees 50% more load than the current FIA test.

Even jacking this up to 102kg (1000N) and then doubling the permitted deflection, it doesn't seem to me like it will be worrying anyone down Milton Keynes way anytime soon.


Keep in mind that the function of the front wing is to modify the sirflow over the car. It does not provide all of the "downforce" like wings did before Colin Chapman discovered the ground effect and used aerodynamics to create most of the actual downforce.

So, the front wing is not really providing 600 or 800 or 1000 kilos of downforce, but just providing the airflow to allow the body to create most of that downforce. Technically, the actual units should be newtons since kilogram is unit of a mass, not force. Current wings are also used as a balance trim for front and rear grip.


Wind resistance is non-linear with speed even for very simple objects, so you can't simply 'multiply by three'. For a complex object like a formula one car it becomes anyone's guess - and it's likely downforce isn't directly proportional to wind speed (I'm no aerodynamicist either).

You can make your crude estimate at 75mph though: if the car gets roughly half its downforce from the underbody and half from wings, or 25% from the front wing, then that's equivalent to 77.5kg weight applied to both ends of the front wing. (Depending on the actual proportions, I'm only guessing.) So whether a 50kg or 100kg test, it's still in the ballpark of an extremely slow F1 corner.


I'm with you on the thumbnail maths Oliver. The tests still seems too light. Maybe it's the fact that the weight is hung in isolation on the wing so it's a concentrated load, rather than being an airflow which would spread evenly over the wing as it is deflected?

i'm a complete layman and have no technical knowledge...but I guess we have to trust the scrutineers. At least they have invoked the extra rule condition to change the test.

I believe RB are in fact cheating with this design and that they have designed to the test, not to the rule. This isn't a "loophole" this is RB trying to second guess the test of the wing and hoping to get away with it.


Could you argue that the test IS the rule?

You can't just say "no movable aero devices" because it's physically impossible to build something that's perfectly rigid. There must be a specific and verifiable criterion, and it's the test.

The concentrated load shouldn't matter, but I do agree the test load is very small.


To me this is F1 at its' best. I have rated Adrian since his days at McLaren when predictably they struggled after he left.

Seeing what he has done with Red Bull and reading article like this makes me understand why he is successful and also a risk to the team that needs to be mitigated

...as I said...

This is F1 in action design, engineering drivers, politics and team work...


What struggle? 2006 was a poor car but Newey has designed a car in the past where it didn't pass its safety test in 2003, a car which was undoubtedly the quickest but so unreliable (as James has reasoned for) in 2005.

The man is a genius. I have all the time in the world for his designs but he won 2 drivers and 1 constructors title in his time at McLaren in an era which promised so much more.

The 'new' McLaren may have taken a year to settle down but a Newey influenced team designed a car capable of winning in 2007 and which did in 2008. And this year's is no slouch, just that the genius leading another team down in Milton Keynes is better.


and what about his time at williams?


Absolutely, but i only really started following his work at McLaren...

I guess I only started to understand the work of the designer at that point as appose to just thinking them as engineers or mechanics...


"There is a theory among engineers, based on looking at the whole front wing when its loaded up, that there is some kind of spring loaded device in the crash structure to deflect the whole wing down, over and above what the wing tips do."

If this is the case, then surely it is cheating and their should be a response aka Honda fuel tanks. The rule is that they should not flex and the test is a way of measuring. The way of measuring is not the rule?


The rule is that it should not flex too much, not that it should not flex at all. All body parts flex to an extent.

So what's not too much? Not more than 10mm when a static load of 50kg is put on it!

But the FIA reserve the right to increase or decrease either of these variables.


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

Immobile not the same as "should not flex too much"

The rule adds: “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."

Is a spring loaded device such a device?


There's no such thing as immobile when you are dealing with the forces involved in an F1 car. Making something as hard as possible would be bad for the car regardless, if just because chances are it'd also be heavier and more fragile.

So it's always a question of degree. What should be done is design a test that catches most tricks that allow such performance-oriented deformations, and new tests should be designed whenever it's obvious that the spirit of the rule has been ignored.

And trust me, making those tests is not easy at all. Composites allow engineers to make components that deform in very interesting ways.


Great article.One of the best i've read ever!!

James,do you have any news on the Ferrari upgrade that is going to be introduced at Spa?Rumors are it is a big one

Keep it up.


I believe it may be a new gearbox and related aero mods to diffuser etc


I think (please correct me if I'm wrong) that Massa is due for a new gearbox (having last had one in Valencia), but that Fernando would have to take a five place drop on the grid, having last had a change in Germany. Might we only see the new parts on Massa's car? That would be an interesting prospect for a team wishing to favour Alonso.


Awesome analysis James!!

Can you provide any historical examples, maybe from Newey's time at Williams or McLaren, where Newey introduced some REALLY clever bits which stepped over the rules?

I hope you enjoy your 'months' holiday!


Stephen Illingworth

McLaren's rear brake pedal on the MP4/12, the car from the 1997 season. It's debatable whether this was against the rules but it was banned all the same.


Oh yeah, the Australia in 1997 where Mika and David where half a lap ahead, with Mika accidently comming into the pits and getting back out and monkeying around with David to win the race, courtesy an internal agreement between Mika and David. They really did made the competition look ridiculous. It was banned the very next race, if my memory serves me right 🙂


wow ! this era of aero tricks is much more interesting than the software battles of the 90's. great insight as usual james



Wouldn't a spring loaded mechanism in the crash structure that effects the aerodynamic characteristics of the front wing be seen as a moveable aerodynamic device in the same light as Renault's mass damper system that was made illegal in 2005/6?

Thanks for the excellent blog I have been an avid reader since the start



i hope they use common sense here. Because it would be a tragedy the RB6, a car that could enter into the f1 folklore, at the same level as the lotus 79. mclaren mp4/4 and the ferrari f2004, doesn't deliver both world championships.

The Kitchen Cynic

What's the procedure here? If the Red Bull nosecone fails, can they run out to the truck, stick a new one on and re-sit the test, or are they penalised as-is?

Either way, makes sense to get this sorted at Spa, where new parts can be delivered overnight, rather than at the flyaways coming up.


Thanks again for the insite James.

It really does amaze me that it is suggested a 'spring' system could ever get past inspection by the FIA even 'if' it was in existance. It begs the question as to how deep the scriutinieering actually goes.

I wonder whether all of the various tests and testing equipment actually muddy the waters for the scriutineers so that they actually lose sight of the wood from the trees?


Unlike the Ferrari floor a few years ago, it is unlikely that there is "a spring" in the sense of any discreet component. Instead, it is more likely that - for instance - the nosecone attachment points are designed to be, err, a little more flexible than normal 🙂

As others have suggested, it is also possible for this to be arranged so that a load on only one side of the wing (such as is found when the wing is being tested) would not allow the "not spring" to flex.

See my post earlier for an idea as to how one could test for this behaviour.


Hi James, I'm quite happy to see the Red Bull Wing being declared legal. Even though I support McLaren I just think that it is clever thinking on their part. I have only one reservation, and it is this: The FIA declare the wings to be legal and other teams spend money making their own versions only to ban them for 2011. That would be an enormous waste of resources and money!


Excelent analysis!

I would just love to see what Charlie has locked away in his "Confiscated Patrs" cabinet. I am sure it would make for a great book.


Is Charlie even authorized to confiscate parts. The role of Charlie Whiting like everything else in F1 is so Nebulous. I remember McLaren had contacted him to scrutinize their F-Duct, and the guy didn't show up.

Then there was Mass Damper mechanism on Renault Car in 2006, Renault had run that system for more than two seasons, and Charlie had deemed it legal, and come Monza'06 at crucial juncture of 2006 Championship Ferrari used underhanded technique to destabilise Renault Campaign by getting FIA to deem the Damper illegal.

McLaren and/or Mercedes are doing in 2010 what Ferrari did in 2006, unsporting appeal, coz they cannot replicate the Front wing idea on Redbull car..


it was mclaren team which send a latter to FIA in 2006 season about renault mass damper, again it was mclaren team during 2007 season that moaned about ferrari floor which was in use since 2006 season by several teams, this year again it is mclare.


After McLaren management conned its incumbent drivers by producing a lemon of car in 2006, I don't there was much at stake for McLaren to complain. McLaren had effectively closed the 2006 season in winter of 2005 after signing newly crowned WDC and Loads of sponsors.

Ferrari's had more skin in the game in 2006, and hence I am pretty sure, it was Ferrari who started the mass damper complain against Renault...


In each case, the FIA upheld the protest. Had the parts been declared legal McLaren and the other teams would have had to live with them. History tells us that protests are common place in F1 so I can't see what the problem is.

The Kitchen Cynic

Probably right at the back is a leftover Brabham 'cooling' fan...


You would think during a Two Week break, that the FIA could just arrive and 'take' cars away for a complete check, to ensure everyone is adhering to the rules.

Anyone who is 'Bending' the rules could then be punished for the run in to the end of the season.


I don't think that's possible. Or at least it doesn't make sense to me, the car must be legal only on race weekends, but I doubt there's any rule forcing the cars to comply with the current regulations at any other time. They might be testing 2011 parts, or "still-illegal" solutions that need some tuning.


its interesting how the other teams "spy" to see all the trick new parts of rivals. would love to read an article about "Spying" (ie photo's) within F1


also, check this out...

A) Formula 1 Official site refering to tests conducted on SATURDAY:

"the car has passed all the necessary scrutineering checks, including a rigorous one on Saturday in Hungary with 200 kilogrammes applied to the RB6's underbody and the plank"

B) Autosport from FIA press release SUNDAY:

"the FIA is to clamp down on teams using clever fixings and joints on the underfloor of the car – amid suspicions that this is one area that teams could also be exploiting the regulations"


Interesting.. Cheers for thay


James, there should be sensors at predetermined spots on the race track that would measure the height of the front wings of ALL cars.

Surely, this would be a more fool proof way.



It is RBs championship to lose.


I'm totally with you on this, James, although I believe things might change more drastically if Red Bull is instructed to heavily revise the front wing.

As you said, it's all about the balance and front-to-rear aerodynamics cooperation, thus we wouldn't know how bad the change can be.

Happy to read about the alternative theories (leave the edge flexing aside). I've also been trying to tell people about this some time now. Let's see how this evolves...


Nice article James. Thanks.


Absolutely fantastic article James. THIS is why I visit your site everyday - it has the best F1 analysis on the web. Thanks so much for your work, this is just the sort of F1 writing I want to read. Great stuff!


What a fantastic article! Thank you James. A couple of questions:

Even if the flexi wings are ruled out, do you think it will have such a big impact on RBR knowing that most of the high downforce tracks are now out of the way?

Do you think that RBR will be on the back foot now that we have high speed circuits coming up where the Renault engines will be down in performance against the Ferrari and Mercedes engines?


Power circuits Spa and Monza will certainly be trickier, but Red Bull car will fly in sector 2 at Spa. After that they will fly everywhere


Thanks for that, James. An excellent article. More insight please.

Revealing bit about the midnight oil-burning.


"There will be factions within the team, race operations people most likely and hopefully Christian Horner too, who will now be arguing for Newey to play it more conservative in this respect in the final run-in to the championship and not take risks with too many trick new parts."

On a scale of 1-100 where 100 = complete compliance, what are the chances of that succeeding?


Excellent work James. For Spa, you would have to say that even with the expected improvements on the Ferrari and McLaren, the RBR should have even a small advantage still. But in Monza you would have to favor that Mercedes engine and give the advantage to McLaren, do you agree ?


Hi James,

These technical atricles are excellent, many thanks for putting all that together so clearly, this is what keeps us coming back for more!

Looking at the photographs and video footage, it is patently obvious that there is some flexing going on. Obviously if the scrutineering test is unable to measure that, then the test itself is inadequate. If the police catch someone breaking into a house, they will not check for fingerprints in order to prove it. Perhaps it is time for the FIA to look beyond the current load stress tests.

I thought that it was expected that teams check with the FIA on new developments. When they do not, they are potentially running an illegal car until they are caught. "We did not know" should not be a valid excuse, in the same way that "I did not know the speed limit is 70mph, that's why I was doing 120" will not fly. It simply means "I was hoping I wouldn't get caught".

Are you aware of any such discussions taking place?

Again, many thanks for the brilliant articles.


I don't think the speeding analogy necessarily applies. The rules in F1 are their to restrain development to foster safety and (laughingly) to promote cost savings, speed limits are hard and fast rules that are well defined and simple to enforce.

It is the constructor's job to design, develop and manufacture a car within a set of parameters that will be faster than all the other teams designs. RBR and maybe Ferrari feel that they have done this. The remaining teams maybe feel that the rule is being stretched. The problem is that any static tests will not tell the whole story. RBR can, most likely, produce a wing that will pass any static technical scrutiny, but still provide the desired effect.

Now if the rule were re-written to state that "At no time may the wing endplates be less than 30mm from the racing surface", then clearly RBR is in violation. But the rule doesn't say that.

The FIA must allow these sorts of technical advances, it is what F1 is all about.

I do however think this controversy speaks to a larger problem in F1. Specifically the advanced state of aerodynamic engineering. Any rule that the FIA can come up with, the engineers can find a way around it. We have seen this time and again in the last few years. We have smooth bodies, smaller rear wings, no wheel spats, etc... and the cars are still closing in on lap records. The FIA write rules to reduce downforce by 20% and by the mid-point of the season the teams have regained almost all of it.

The only logical conclusion to this is a spec series. Mandated wings, mandated floors, mandated bodies, boring... Just like NASCAR or IndyCar in the US, boring...

Perhaps it is time for a radical change in the "Formula"? Personally, I would love to see F1 promote and inspire more relevant real-world technologies.


“At the moment if you look at the front wing endplates they have to be 85mm above the bottom of the plank” Whitmarsh.

So is Whitmarsh incorrect in his statement?


I think Whitmarsh is correct, but when you combine the rule with it's very specific enforcement you run into this situation. The RBR wing must conform, it has been tested and has passed technical scrutiny.

The RBR wing is 85mm above the bottom of the plank... when it is tested. If this is to be an issue that the FIA want to adress, they need to revise the rule. Just remove the testing component and say "The front wing endplates must be 85mm from the bottom of the legality plank." But then, how do you enforce that? Photographs can't be reliably measured.

I think this is RBR being clever and working within the confines of the rules. If anything, the rules are to blame.



I think we are in agreement. Nobody wants a spec series.

I remain, however, concerned that some teams are sailing far too close to the wind with regards to legality. Why would RBR not check with the FIA if they did indeed believe that their innovations are legal? According to James' article, they were caught many times and have had to remove them from the car. This kind of underhand tacktics do not sit well with me. F1 is a sport and sport should (at least try to) be fair.

It would be easier if the regulations were broader and allowed more room for innovation in specific areas. your example, the very high downforce that we see today is due in large respect to the double diffusers that exist because of a loophole in the regulations. So, the regulations (or the tests that are in use to police the regulations) were inadequate in this case and this has both negated the intent of the regulations, and have resulted in huge costs being incurred by the teams (and the sport at large) that all had to redesign their cars for this year.

Perhaps what I am trying to say is that it may be worth changing the way regulations are drafted and policed.

As for your comment about real-world technologies, KERS is indeed one, but, you see, it costs a lot of money to develop. And berhaps it is unfair to place the onus on F1 teams (most of which cannot afford it anyway) to develop technologies that will benefit the car manufacturers, but that give them questionable benefits along the way. The manufacturers themselves do not seem to view F1 as a fertile ground for innovation, otherwise they would all still be in F1.


We are definitely in agreement! Especially about the sporting bit. Sort of reminds me of a quote attributed to Hemingway:

"Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports ... all others are games."

But what if RBR had gone to the FIA? I imagine the outcome would be the same. They would have placed some weights on the wing, measured the deflection and declared it legal.

I think RBR and more specifically Adrian Newey are very clever, and I think they prefer to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. Maybe permission for all new bits needs to be granted prior to them being raced? Although that sort of violates the sporting ideology too. The teams should be treated like adults. Build a car that conforms, failure to do so should result in disqualification. Perhaps the FIA need to work on standardizing the punishments they mete out. From my casual observations, the punishments do not always, if rarely, fit the crimes in F1.

As for my comment about real-world technology, well I still stand by that. Right now the teams are spending enormous amounts of money engineering the minute details of hyper-complex aerodynamic bits that have (at least at the level in F1) very little real-world application. What if all the aero bits were removed? What if Ferrari, Maclaren, Mercedes and Renault could focus their massive engineering talent on something else? What if the FIA told them that in 2013 their engines cannot use carbon based fuels?

Sure KERS was expensive, but so is running your wind tunnel and CFD machines full tilt to minimize the vortices generated by the back of the driver's helmet.

The F1 teams realize, quite correctly that, according to the current formula, the biggest bang for their buck is in aerodynamic development. The engines are frozen in time, there is only one tire, electronics are banned, etc... The only development that will increase their performance is aerodynamics. The FIA have gotten it all wrong.

I think the manufacturers pulled out precisely because the formula in Formula One is wrong. Why should BMW, Honda or Toyota spend countless millions tweaking the laminar flow of the front wing end plate? That is money wasted to them. That being said, I am not sure that they belonged in F1 in the first place. Maybe as engine suppliers, but not as constructors.

My formula would be based on decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels. KERS, turbos, diesel, hydrogen, batteries, thermal scavenging, bio-fuel, algae and anything else that can be conjured up should be on the table. These are cars, not airplanes, let's cut off the wings!


Some valid points here


I contacted the BBC back in May about the on board footage from the Redbulls at Monaco, and ask as they are always in the Redbulls area could they ask about the cars flexi front wings.. but heard nothing lol.

It's a great idea if thats what it is...


Great article once again.


In my view what Newey has done this year is glorified cheating as the car has been designed to do something which is clearly against the rules.

How the FIA can allow this is beyond my comprehension.

There is no doubt that what Newey has done is very very clever and only he could have devised such a system but at the end of the days it is against the rules.


I enjoyed reading that.

I hope the other teams can manage to haul themselves back into contention. This season was really good because it was competitive. It's great seeing technical innovation, but if the safety car hadn't have happened the Hungarian race would have been fairly boring. I don't want to see Red Bull being 1+ second a lap faster than everyone else. a 5 driver championship would become a 2 driver championship.

You have to respect Red Bull for being so clever, but come on guys stop it now. You have had your fun. show mercy on the others. I want to watch some competitive races for the remaining half of the season. 😉



two questions:-

1. You didn't really mention much as to how Ferrari would be affected? Do you think that as their front wing is not likely to be as intricate as Red Bulls, that they might have to revert to an old wing and lose all benefit?

2. Any idea on how the new tests on the floor may hurt Red Bull?


If I remember from the commentary Sunday, there was a reference to any part of the car being at least 85mm from the ground (except the tyres, of course!). Basically, nothing below the skid plank.

On the footage, the wing tips are clearly touching the ground, how is that an 8.5cm gap?

It is very telling on the Mclaren, the wings are clearly staying very rigid under load and there is a definate gap whenever you see the cars at any part of the circuit, whereas the RB is definately "moving" and touching the gorund.


Don’t forget, the 8.5cm gap is reduced by a few things: nose dip due to braking, body roll in a turn (only applies to one side), uneven road surface for drainage… and of course the 10mm of deflection allowed for each 500N of force. Even if the wing only deflects linearly, within the prescribed limits, it can move a visible amount.


Very interesting.

Hire Newey to build a cutting edge car then tell him to play it conservative in the second half of the season.

I am a little surprised that the FIA are allowed to change technical regulations mid-season. It would be a shame if Red Bull were forced to go back a step or two. To a certain extent their current dominance forces Ferrari and McLaren to pick up the pace of development. Always good to see teams fighting at the front.

Just to clarify, if Adrian has a weakness the other teams have yet to find it.


They aren't changing the regs, they are invoking a reg which allows them to beef up tests.


Great article, especially the bits about how the RB6 package is so great. We tend to focus on the incremental developments, the individual parts, but it is the whole car that is important. I think this, above all else is what makes F1 such an interesting technological achievement.

I too had thought that maybe the entire nose was flexing, which seems an amazing idea. Instead of simply lowering the end plates, they would be changing the entire incidence angle of the front wing providing even more downforce.


What technical design engineer has one the most Formula 1 Championships!?


Why isn't there a facility for random car testing. Say after a race weekend the FIA can take a car away and do all the tests they want to it, the scrutineering tests clearly can't simulate real world conditions in alot of cases.


I think Paddy Lowe's testimony about the Ferrari flexi wing at the spygate hearing shows how contentious this whole issue is. To me the conclusion is that McLaren abides by the spirit of 3.15. Notice that Max Mosely also suggests that once a car has been deemed legal to race it cannot be retrospectively deemed illegal.

Patrick LOWE

I think the issue is being blurred again by Ferrari. There were two stages to the clarification from

the FIA. In the first, it was said that “you will remove illegal devices”. An illegal device is a

mechanism with pivots, springs, and degrees of freedom that allows one to cynically exploit the

behaviour required in 3.17, in contravention of 3.15. There was a further later clarification that

changed the understanding for the test. Those are two separate issues. That is clear in my



I do not think that anyone on the World Council would seriously consider that the Ferrari device

was illegal at the time, any more than the Renault mass damper before it was eliminated.


I am very grateful for that. It was important that this be clear, as these proceedings are apparently

going to be made public. McLaren has repeatedly asserted, wrongly, that the Ferrari car was

illegal, and it is appropriate that the world knows that it was not.

Patrick LOWE

I find that an extraordinary position, that something should be only illegal when it is clarified to

be so.


Ferrari were running a flex floor, which was the talking point at the time, as I recall


Absolutely right James, just noticed another point from Paddy in that meeting which seems at odds with Red Bull's thinking.

Patrick LOWE

"The test in 3.17 does not absolve one of full responsibility under 3.15."

It seems Red Bull have chosen the risky path of playing chicken with the scrutineering tests, in the meantime until such a point comes where they are no longer allowed to run the wing, they have stolen a march by deliberately contravening 3.15. Whether this is fair or not is open to debate.


I think you've hit the nail on the head there! Overall, I'm pleased that the new FIA regime has taken a softly, softly approach, and that they seem to act without bias, but this is the sort of thing where soft words should be backed up with a big stick. Red Bull should be reminded of their obligations under 3.15, and threatened with draconian punishment if any future unspecified test show them to be breaching it (and I see no reason why video evidence could not constitute a test).


great job james! been waiting for this all season,

I've also been watching the RB6 front wing fixing from the oz race, ferrari also must have noticed this some time ago but choose to keep quiet and bulid there own!,

also do you have any idear how the RB6 scrapes along the floor on a saturday (clearly heard from on board footage) but manages to not contact the ground with 160kgs of fuel added for the race? toro rosso also seem to be able to manage this trick?

Do you think this could have anything to do with the floors being tested in spa?

Clay from Australia

Agree with everyone else, great article. This is why I liked the pre 2009 cars more than the current ones, because they had so many of those little winglets and the cars were constantly updated with so many things: Honda dumbo ears, Tyrell x wings, BMW tower wings, mclaren horns, red bull antlers etc. I thought the 2008 BMW was a work of art!

Now everything is just a little stale in comparison with the smooth surfaces rule.


Great article as always James. Honestly I have noticed the front wing flexing on the RB6 pretty much all season. I've always thougth that it was due to there softer suspension set up compared to a very stiff Mclaren. Has the RB6 evolved this much all season, or has it been building up to this level of performance?

Being a Ferrari fan it kills me that whatever updates they bring can't catch Red Bull. Also there hasn't been much press of Red Bull turning up the exhaust pressure during quali to feed the diffuser. I beleive Ferrari used that at German GP, no word at Hungary. Probably why Red Bull had so many engine problems early on this season.

This is what makes F1 great, it's good it's not like the racing series here in America. Where every car looks the same and they stick jigs on them to check the tolerances.


First noticed in China by most observers, the way it flexed over the bumps.


just wanted to add my congratulations for this article - a perfect example of why I visit this site: good sources, knowledge of F1 and clear writing


If Hungary is the reference to RBR's advantage then 'unflexing' their wings may not represent a big difference. But as I posted elsewhere on your site James, this has been more the exception to the rule this season and is related strongly to the specific nature of this track. Granted they've set the benchmark throughout the season so far but the race difference generally hasn't been as great.

Also, if, as explained, the big advantage of the RBR lies not only in the flexibility of the front wing but in the manner it balances with the rear of the car and the whole car generally. Therefore, changing or removing a major aspect must affect the entire package and with it the competitive edge over at least the next 2 teams.

If that is so, and Ferrari are also adversely affected, then the possibility exists that McLaren could move ahead of both. Please could you, or anyone, show me where my simple logic is at fault?


Interesting. Vettel has been the one with bad luck and reliability issues. Could it be because he's been getting the risky untested parts straight from Newey's lab?

If so is Vettel really Red Bull number one driver or is it the man who only gets the bits that are finalised and work! Step forward Mr Webber!


Call me a cynic but I wonder if the FIA will take a more strident view if Red Bull suddenly look like winning very race with a 1 second qualy advantage.

Bernie likes the title to go to the wire and what Bernie wants Bernie usually gets. Remember Irvines illegal barge board in '99 or whenever. It was the wrong size but if the stewards penalty was allowed to stand Hakkinen was the champ and Suzuka a dead rubber. So, hey presto, it was suddenly the right size... it had just been measured wrong!

The only thing that Red Bull can hope for is that Bernie really wants Vettel to be Champion and thus he may keep his dogs of war at bay this time.


Well i shall join you James,what amazes me is you have a set of rules the FIA decide teams have to abide by,then another set when "one or two " teams decide its unfair which may affect their championship.

If the rules are there and teams pass scrutineering then that should be the end,its a nonsense otherwise,you might as well have a rule which adds weight to a car if its more than 1 second faster than its rivals,which is just as preposterous and stupid.


The rules are already in place. Scrutineering test tries to enforce compliance with rules but if the test is ineffective there is another rule in place to allow them to change the scrutineering to ensure the car complies with the rules. Essentially passing the scrutineering test doesn't mean you've complied with the rules.


Precisely. If a footballer fouls another player but manages to conceal it from the referee, is he innocent of breaking the rules of the game?


Great article, James. Scrutineering and the various technical and legal aspects of F1 is half of what interests me in the sport. I currently do track-side marshaling for BARC and am thinking of taking the plunge into becoming a scrutineer. This article has certainly spurred me on.


The great thing about the crazy Red Bull downforce is it seems that no one truely knows 'for sure' what secrets the car has. And if some do they're probably keeping it close to their chests so they to can exploit it next year.

James, any chance of an article on previous hidden F1 car secrets that didn't come to light or get proven until after the season or years later?


GREAT article. One of the best I've seen on an independent blog site like this.


That was great, brilliant, work of art, James. I didn't want it to finish. Thanks a lot.



What happened actually with the ride height system? Has there ever been one, or did Whiting and Bauer may tell Red Bull to get rid of something like that without making the existence of such a system public? I can remember a lot of journalists and experts were convinced that there was such a system in the Red Bulls.

Ferrari also used a manual version of the ride height system manually lowering the car during their first pitstop, but they clearly don't use it anymore.


It was other teams, who have sophisticated ways of measuring things like ride height, that flagged it up.


can the flexi wings go up eau rogue with out scrapping?


Red Bull is not cheating just because the wing flexes even of the rules state they “must remain immobile in relation to the sprung part of the car”. There is no such thing as immobile. Even a nose/wing assembly made of solid steel is technically not immobile. That is why tolerances and standards of measurement are written into the rules, to define just how much movement is allowed. It is the job of the designers to press tolerances to the limit in any area where a performance benefit can be realized.

Some peoples understanding of the validity of the wing test is flawed. The weight being placed near the end of the wing gives said weight a fairly large amount of leverage against the center of the wing which is where the majority of the flex would occur. On the track the downforce would be more evenly spread across the wing, so it is possible that a lesser weight placed at the ends of the wing could replicate the bending loads the wing sees on track without having to be equal to the total downforce the wing actually sees on track.


Great piece James, thanks.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Well, now they'll be the argument that since flexible wings are impossible to police then everyone should be able to run them...


This is part of what I love about F1. I see the designer's role as being "here's the car restrictions for the year - work around them as well as you can".

F-ducts, double diffusers, blown diffusers, Ferrari's wheels, Red Bull's qualifying exhaust pressure system - all fantastic stuff. People blah blah about "the spirit of the rules" as if that actually means something, but the only thing that matters is the letter of the law. Make those rule writers earn their pay and tear out their hair in frustration as you legally circumvent their carefully constructed rulebook - awesome.

Where I draw the line though is breaking the rules in a way that is illegal but isn't picked up in testing. There is enough scope for outrageous creativity elsewhere - so do it where it's legal please.


I don't think that the flexi wing is the holy grail for Reb Bulls.

If you have a look at the footage from the races and the footage from the onboard cameras of all the cars we need to consider 2 different aspects.

Reb Bull and recently Ferrari looks to be setting a little softer, McLaren look very stiff in comparison.

With a softer suspension, the car will respond more to the aero load and therefore it will run lower where possible.

Nobody has measured so far how much more downforce RB is creating.

If the rumours in the paddock are true it could be more than 30 points compare to the rest of the field, please James let us know.

Moroever rumours in the paddock are rife about the possibility of a flexi floor, this will create much more downforce than a flexi wing.

Now the question is, how do RB achieve all this ?

I am not an expert on composite materials but I believe that if they can manufacture a clever layout of fibres, the wing and the floor will flex when needed.

To be more specific.

Immagine this:

You built a structure of carbon fibre laying layers of carbon from left to right.

In the direction the structure will be very strong but at the same time if you apply a force to it in a 90 degrees angle from the way the carbon has been paid, it will be very weak and it might snap very easily.

I wonder if RB have found a way how to produce carbon fibre this way, applying this technology to the wings and the floor of their cars.

Remember that all teams knew the parameter of the test before building the car itself !!!!!

Any comment James ?


It is to do with the layering apparently, yes


And what about the flexi floor ?

Any comments on that James ?


Comparison of the Red Bull wing to the McLaren shows that on track under load the whole of the front wing, not just the outer part is significantly lower than McLaren wing which gives some credance to what has been said so it's likely that the whole nose dips under load. I suspect that is achieved by sprung fasteners with adjustable stops which effectively allows the nose to hinge down. Added to that the outer part which flexes a little further would give a wing capable of delivering a huge downforce advantage. The Ferrari wing is a sort of halfway house with an advantage over McLaren but not low enough to catch Red Bull. In my view the front wing is the bigger part of Red Bull adavantage. - Study the images to conclude!


Hi everyone,

I suggest everyone takes a look at the BBC Hockenheim footage as the cars pull up onto their grid slots following the parade lap. A camera is ideally positioned down at Vettel's front left wheel and as he pulls up in his box the front of the car seems to reset and visibly rises up. It's very clear and could have been missed by the scrutineers.


Can you give us a clue where abouts to look? Just checked the start of race on iplayer and vettels car isn't in view when he pulls up?


Is the load test applied to just one side of the front wing at a time? If so, perhaps Red Bull have got something that limits the deflection under this condition, but not when both sides of the wing are loaded at the same time, as it would generally be when on the track.



Re flexi or sprung wings, if the teams are required to run a plank under the floor to stop them lowering the cars , all that is required then is a skid device fitted permanently to the end plates of say 75mm deep which will then prevent any contravention of the rules.



Would it be possible James for you to explain to everybody what advantages can be gained by having a front wing that raises itself on slow corners, as well as the advantages of having it run low on the fast ones.



Excellent Article James, extremely informative and also one which extends beyond the front wing controversy to the overall balance and aero-working the car.

I've always always been a big fan of Adrian Newey. He is always been a master class in bringing fresh design ideas and constantly pushing the barriers of conventionalities in engineering concepts. And No FIA or anyone can keep this genius down.. maybe a setback here and there through modification of the rules, no matter what you throw at Adrian, he will always hit back with something revolutionary.

He made every team he worked for a championship worthy team, may it be Williams, Mclaren or Red Bull. So Bring it on all the scrutinisations and revision of rules, he will hit you back with his sheer genius.

The only thing that went wrong for Mclaren is losing Adrian, since he was there, Mclarens were dominant force with Hakkinen and David.

Mclaren has a wonderful driver package, they should introspect and give these two a package worhty of taking the fight to Redbulls and Ferrari, coz' there is no doubt both are extremely capable drivers to do so.

To sum this up, if Redbulls front wings are found to be illegal, trust me, it not the end of road for them, for they have Adrian Newey, he'll come up something to kick everyone's butt in a matter of couple of races.

Go Adrian 🙂


A couple of races? He probably has new bits in his suitcase! The man is a genius!


indeed 🙂


Great article.

anyone whos a racing fan knows you cannot just put a front wing on and the car is just as fast as the Red Bulls.

Its all the aero's on the entire car that work around the front wing too.

If you put Red Bulls Front wing on a Ferrari it will prob make them slower due to them not having the entire car set up with the aero's.


beautiful read james love your feed into this one

Edward Anderson

Fantastic Article, well written.... a pleasure to read something of content in a world of gossip and clutter.

Jonathan De Andrade

Hi James,

I am from Brazil and firstly I would like to thanks and congrats you for such a great website. I discovered your website last year and since then I have not missed a single post. I really think Brazilian F1 fans miss a lot for not being able to read in English. This blog is very high level from the writer to the readers! Have you ever thought of having your posts translated into other languages? I'd say there is no such work in Portuguese so far as I am concerned.

My point in writing this comment is about fuel consumption and engine/fuel efficiency. Since this year when the car's weight was let to secrecy, very little has being told about fuel consumption. You wrote on June about Istanbul race "What is interesting is that engineers tell me that the difference in fuel consumption between the Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault engines isn’t particularly significant, based on calculations of how the car performs in the race relative to its performance on low fuel in qualifying".

I found this 2009 graph in a web search, would not know the accuracy of the data, but it can serve as an example to make my point http://f1numbers.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/2009fueluseenginekg1.jpg

Would there it be any relation between Renault's engine/fuel efficiency to Red Bull performance? or even further, the surprise that Renault team's performance was to everyone this year? Is there any new findings on Ferrari, Mercedes engines' performance or fuel efficiency? Let us know your valuable thoughts on that.

ps. sorry for any English mistakes I may have committed.


Thanks. I've thought about translation. It's an interesting idea.

As for fuel efficiency, I think Renault still leads the way which is helping Red Bull, for sure. But the differences aren't very large, as far as I'm hearing


James, a great article as you given me an insight into how the cars are scrutineered at Grand Prix weekends.


James - has the FIA or any other body thought of introducing a regulation to limit the amount of fuel allowed to be utilised in a race to say 20 litres or thereabouts?

This would encourage the design of highly fuel efficient engines, delivering certain environmental benefits and giving the sport major green credibility at the same time.

You could get some of the greatest engineering minds in the world (current F1 engineers) to focus on it, delivering the side benefit of the technology being able to be used on engines worldwide. Thoughts?


I have thought about this a great deal. I would love to see the FIA do something along these lines.

From my simple math, the cars need about 140 liters of fuel for a race (I converted 300 lbs of water to kilograms to liters, not perfect, but close enough I guess). So, I am thinking the FIA should allow the teams to re-fuel again, but limit their fuel tanks to 40 liters. That would require 3-4 stops for a race distance. The other key factor to this is to apply an enormous time penalty for refueling by limiting the flow of fuel. I would say something around 40 liters in 30 seconds.

So, mandate small fuel cells and allow refueling, but slowly. This would create enormous benefits for fuel efficiency. The teams that could get to 3 stops first would be at a huge advantage to the 4 stoppers. The first team to 2 refueling stop would be unbeatable!

Of course, that means engine development again (which I am all for). Let's work on restricting aero development and start working on tech that will save us all from the evils of fossil fuel dependency.


There already is a strong incentive for fuel efficiency since weight carried at the start of a race has a big effect on performance.


Great article. Thank you.

Chris Partridge

Maybe one answer is for the teams to only have a certain number of "banned" parts per year. For example, if Team A bought Device 1 to the track, and once it was scrutineered it was deemed to be illegal, then that team earns a black mark. If the team has more than three (or however many) black marks per year, they forfeit X number of points in the championships.

Teams could still check with Charlie if a pert is permitted during development, but once it is attached to the car during race weekend they risk an infringement counting against them.

This would discourage speculative "bending of the rules just in case" and encourage teams to be more mindful of the rules and the spirit of the rules too.

Just a thought.


Excellent comments on the front wing issue - on the Red Bull, it almost looks as if the outer end plates are rotating out from the car and flexing at the 2nd "kink" in the lower element, thereby effectively both lowering the wing and increasing the width. Would be interesting to see a "lateral" test between the two end plates and to see what force was required to deflect them


The RB wing flex wing / floor will likely never be tested as the bits will be pulled by RB prior to SPA scrutineering. It is very possible that the blownen diffuser advantage will turn to a disadvantage as the balance will be completely destroyed and the lower frontend downforce will result in huge understeer. Blowen diffuser can of course be adjusted by proper engine mapping (retardation) to offset decreased frontend downforce but finding a new balance will be very, very tricky indeed. If result at SPA is massive performance decrease from Red Bull it will confirm that they have been , in essence, cheating from the beginning of the season not from the introduction of the new wing.


I,ve just had a look at Scarbs tech page,on here there is a picture of the RB6 on board footage which shows the distance(by pausing the film) of how much the front wing moves,what i also spotted was the radius arms connected to the front suspension also move significantly under braking making the front wing move downwards,possibly more to this than just a flexi front wing?


Why I'm so sure redbull is 'cheating' is the way horner keeps saying it over and over again.

He keeps saying their cars passed all fia test.

That has been his defence all the time, and that's pretty clear to me 🙂


I believe the problem goes a lot deeper than a flexible wing and a few spring mountigs.

If you consider a box, two sides, a top and a bottom. The top can be loaded heavily as long as the sides remain straight. If the sides are deflected by aerodynamic pressure, the integrity of the structure diminishes and a whole new set of rules apply to the deflection under load.

Now consider not just a front wing and its mountings but the floor, the diffuser and the rear wing. If all of these are influenced in this fashion the gains are immense. Many of these areas cannot be seen.

Airflow and pressure can be ducted. Who knows what ducts or even just porous channels can be built into a chassis to influence one area by the behaviour of another. Heat could be used as trigger rather than pressure (blown rear diffuser).

This raises the question of not just a trick wing but a complete new area of development together with new chassis. It is not surprising that teams are asking for clarification before the lid is taken off this particular can of worms.


Brilliant article, fascinating stuff James. I wonder if they have some kind of trick suspension, look at the angle of the floor on that Red Bull car in that great photo above.Love the technical articles.They really get the imagination simmering with wonder, intrigue and suspense.

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