Analysis of Red Bull wing flex before Vettel hit Button
Scuderia Ferrari
Analysis of Red Bull wing flex before Vettel hit Button
Posted By: James Allen  |  01 Sep 2010   |  7:23 am GMT  |  205 comments

There has been a clip on the internet for the last 48 hours showing the on board shot from Sebastian Vettel’s car as he lost control and hit Jenson Button.

The clip was originally on You Tube, but has been taken down on the request of FOM. This is to protect the rights of the broadcasters, like BBC, RTL and La Sexta, who also have the online rights in their countries.

As a result the clip is available on the BBC website today and maybe on your local broadcaters’ site. Apologies for raising this if your local broadcaster doesn’t have it, but the point here is very valid. UK readers can see it here BBC F1 website

Fans and insiders alike have been interested to see the amount of deflection in the wing, despite the heavier flex tests the FIA carried out last weekend.

It looks like the wing rolls when one side of it comes clear of the wake from Button’s car. This isn’t surprising – one side of the wing is probably only getting about 50% of the air that the side outside of Button’s wake gets.

That difference in wing load one side to the other, combined with the deflection of the wing and the roll that creates will have made the car quite unstable, according to engineers I’ve discussed the video with. It is not necessarily the reason why Vettel lost control of the car, but it will not have made controlling the car any easier.

This has got me thinking – was this in any way also a contributing factor to the Webber accident in Valencia, Webber hitting Hamilton in Australia or the reason why Vettel crashed into Webber at Istanbul, all occasions when one of their cars has been moving out from the wake of another car? There may be nothing in it, but there are some similarities.

If that video clip has reached the FIA’s Charlie Whiting, he may well be thinking that the FIA needs to think about introducing an assymetric wing load test in addition to the new tests introduced in Spa.

No doubt rival teams, led I would imagine by an aggrieved McLaren, will be lobbying the FIA on the grounds of safety, to understand whether this wing flex may have contributed to Sunday’s accident.

Meanwhile all the teams are nervous about the new tests for flexible floor stays which come into force in Monza. Currently a load is placed on the centreline of the floor, but in Monza the FIA will place a load up to 100mm either side of the centreline. This means that many teams, not just Red Bull, will have to construct some compliance device to pass the test.

The concern then is the impact the floor takes from the kerbs in Monza, especially at the second chicane. It’s quite conceivable that some of these compliance devices may get damaged. And in extreme cases that could lead to a broken chassis.

There will be some late nights for the mechanics in Monza.

Photo: Darren Heath

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You really make it seem so easy together with your presentation however I find this matter to be actually one thing which I believe I would by no means understand. It seems too complicated and very large for me. I’m having a look forward to your next put up, I’ll try to get the dangle of it!


Red bulls front wing visibly moved alot more then everyone elses front wing I will never understand how they managed to get away with it but it obviously helped them as they were the team to beat all of a sudden


At 2:18 of this video you can see what James is commenting about. The front wing rolls before vettel looses control. Sorry if someone already posted a link. I credit the youtube poster.


Great blog, and thanks to dailymotion for the video clip.

I think the blown on the RBR rear-diffuser is probably equally to blame.

The rear of Vettel’s car seems to step out one way, then over-correct the other.

At the time of the collision, the RBR is still turning right, but Vettel has full left lock on.

I think the first twitch is caused by changing airflow over the front wing. For the same steering input, Vettel experiences different amounts of response, due to changing grip. I think this will always be the case with all cars – but it seems likely that the flexing wing would exaggerate it rather than reduce it.

From the on-board footage, the rear steps out the second time at the same time that the engine revs drop – presumably changing the airlflow in Vettel’s blown read diffuser.

So, Vettel turns a little left; changing airflow over a (flexing) front wing causes sudden extra front grip – causing rear to step out; Vettel corrects, and engine revs drop, rear end loses grip and steps out the other way – Vettel a passenger as his out-of-control RBR T-bones Button.

Just my thoughts.


Excellent article James.

I think there is an uncanny resemblance between the Turkey and Spa incidents.

Although this is not surprising, since F1 cars are so much more aero dependent, than mechanical grip.

This would be explain by why Red bull’s cannot come through the field as a McLaren (which has disctinctly more mechanical grip).

Now this seems to be a trade off that designers have to take – whether they lean towards aero or mechanical – and given how notorious it is to pass in F1 anyway, making a car that is fast when in front, and thereby securing poles day in and day out, would be the way to go.

I think Adrian needs to be congratulated in being very clear on what it takes to win, and implementing it.

Now i suppose this is a continuation of discussion on what it takes to make overtaking possible again in F1, and if I remember correctly, most of the engineers were always in favor of increasing mechanical grip as the way to go.

Oh well, maybe KERS will get some of it back again, but the movable rear wings for next year definitely will throw us similar incidents.


look newey is a clever designer, no doubt, but he knows what he has built, is against the rules, and if fia cant see from the countless footage of the red bull car, that it is illegal,then they shouldnt be running f1, it is as simple as that, red bull have knowingly flouted the rules, and for this they must be penalised very heavily, and if fia do nothing, then what does that say for them , to all the f1 fans.


I have read most of the comments here and they all seem to have valid points however the one thing that I havent seen is inherit to where the cars get their speed from. This is very over simplistic but the Mclaren’s are thought to be a more mechanical car ie they get the grip from the tyres and the Red Bull’s with Adrian designing them rely less on Mech and more on Aero for their speed. If this is the case then the Mclaren would surely be a much more stable platform to race and could explain why the Red Bull’s arent great at Overtaking. Because they have so much grip due to there awesome aero the minute you throw some wake from another car at it. The grip\balance just goes. Could this explain some of the crashes and Vettel’s lack of ability to overtake ?


When i saw this video i had the same idea about RB’s front wing. And the car is very fast but only in clean air. Vettel, behind Alonso in Hungary, almost lost the car several times when he tried to find an overtaking chance in the curves. The car lost grip the moment he tried to bring himself into an overtaking position.

But this is probably a general problem with modern F1 cars. And a general problem with the cars being fast, but not able to overtake (unless the track gives an opportunity and the car in front is much slower).


it’s also possible the f-duct unsettled the car sufficiently to cause Vettel loss of control of the car.

both Button and Vettel would have been using the f-duct at that point of the track, this device breaks up the rear down force of the car, and you can see from the footage Vettel attempts to make a massive correction as the car over steers

flexing composites and f-ducts should be investigated further and as soon as possible before a worse incident occurs

130R Suzuka


Looking real close at the footage you can see that Button actually started the chain of events that lead to the accident…

Look closely, on the straight before the braking area Button moves left half a car width which unloads the left side of VETs wing which see saws up, he then moves back to the edge of the track and vettles wing snap reverses and see saws down, the Red Bull starts a move left and you see VET instantly try catch it but as the right front wing regains downforce and the right front sticks to the ground the Red Bull starts to pitch around the right front and enters a spin.

Button did nothing wrong, normal positioning before a corner, but his car movement upset not only the airflow over Vettles front wing but also its attitude causing an aerodynamic upset that lead directly to the crash. This is why moveable aero devices are banned and the Red Bull front wing is a clearly a moveable aerodynamic device or at least not fixed under the meaning of the rules, you can see it tilt around an axis, it’s a flaming see saw!

It will have to be banned for one thing because the Maccas and the Red cars now know that if you sweep a half car width and then back in front of the RB is will become unstable and have a moment (and Monza coming up Jeeze) making a passing manoeuvre difficult, oh and its illegal. Newey really needs to be pulled up for this one as its clearly dangerous but still nice work, the wing droops and tilts, by the looks of it he can dial different characteristics into it depending on the track.


Im sorry James but im looking straight past this post and at you. I think this is a public push for Lewis Hamilton any way the brits can get it.

Its my opinion and im entitled to it.


What do you mean?


Thanks, James!

I think this incident should do two things:

1. Make some people reevaluate their Vettel bashing. I do think that the wing contributed to the car snapping out of his hands.

2. Remind constructors that the ban of movable aerodynamics is there for a reason. It appears that real-life behavior has some surprises in store. This goes especially for the plans to have movable rear wings next year.


I think the Red Bull guys shall adapt new style of driving for their and others safety, coz this car behaves like cars 30 years ago with GROUND EFFECT and in some circumferences like closing the gap between the cars it’s quite unpredictable. I suppose Red Bulls staff is quite concerned regarding that issue. Advantage in clean air turns vice versa when too close.


At Spa I picked up a piece of carbon that looks to be from a Red Bull it has a soft fabric in the middle unlike other bits I’ve found could that be the reason for the flexing?


Im sure McLaren would be keen to look at that! im sure the postage costs to get it to the MTC in Woking would be reimbursed by Mclaren!



In Melbourne 2009 Toyota passed the initial load tests but were disqualified from qualifying after their Rear Wing was observed flexing. Red Bull’s wings have clearly been shown to flex and move in such a way that contravenes article 3.15. Since there is a precedent, don’t you think that’s strange that the FIA have not acted on the clear video evidence that we’ve all seen, especially now after the Button/Vettel incident.


Ben, you make a very good point on the FIA’s inability to act with the amount of video evidence available. To me whats even more disturbing is why they are conducting statics loads that are not even close to what is experienced under race conditions. I keep hearing old man BE and others keep saying RBR deserve to win the championship because they’ve built the best car. Well based on comprehensive video evidence RBR have built a car that is fundamentally breaking the rules and gaining an advantage. Seems very odd that the FIA knew from the start of the season about the flexi wing but not acted or willing to enforce their rules. Then mid season introduce test that can be easily passed, highly strange and questionable.


I cant watch it over and over again as I’d like to because the plugin that runs the bbc i-player is poor as hell. Anytime I try to search forwards or backwards through a video on there, the whole thing just locks up and sits there doing nothing like a kid who’s been asked to do complicated maths problems and has thrown a strop!!



Great site and articles James. You deserve the plaudits you get from fans and the industry.

Just a quick comment.

If you rewind the BBC video from about 0.57 onwards and keep replaying it to the point of the crash, it seems to me that Vettel’s car veers sharply as he turns the wheel to the left and then, WITHOUT ANY INPUT from Vettel, slams right again directly into Jenson Button.

So it seems to me that Vettel is blameless and the collision was caused by the car by itself suddenly veering right, after Vettel turns the wheel left to go past Button on the outside.

To me, the car is at fault, with the wings the main factor in its instability.

I am not a video expert, but it would be an eye-opener if someone would take the segment of the BBC video from about 0.57 to 1.02. cut it out and then put it up so that it continually replays itself in SLOW motion. I have seen something like this done done by a member of the planetf1 forum.

This would settle it once and for all, as it would then be clear whether or not if Vettel turns the wheel sharply left and right, or if the car turns violently right on its own.

Can you not get one of your many contacts to do this James?

As I said, great site with a lot more reasoned arguments and comments with considerably less bias and ranting, than on other F1 sites.


When the car turn right to the Button car without any steering input because the read end snap out already.


I could, but that would be a violation of rights and that’s not a good idea…


A thought, does the wing flex like this just when pulling out of a slipstream or does it do it anyway whilst jinking around at high speed? Are there any clips of a Redbull weaving around on its own on a straight at high speed? I think it would have to be on a straight or it would be difficult to pick up a reference point to compare the wing too.



Looking at all this issue in a different angle.

F1 banned ground effect because it was very dangerous when not working properly.

Red Bull, accordingly with the paddock, is able to pull something like 10 to 20 points more of downforce.

When the Red Bulls are in clear air, the car looks amazingly quick in high speed corners.

But I wonder if, because it works with such downforce, as soon as the car is in dirty air, is not capable to be stable due to the lack of downforce.

Looking at a lot of footage, especially on board cam, RB looks very lively when following other cars and sometimes struggling as soon as it is in the wake of the car in front.

From my experience it looks like not only the wings are flexing but also part of the floor, creating a huge downforce.

Otherwise it will be very difficult to explain why Vettel has crashed in Spa, why Vettel was not able to overtake Alonso after catching him up very quickly, why Webber and Vettel collided.

Any ideas anyone, James maybe ?


How about a FIA front wing and mount FIA underfloor and rear wing package and there would be no room for dispute, and a great saving in time and money.

Just A Bloke (Martin)

Not quite flexi wings, but if you look at at the Tea Tracy Mount Photo’s on ScarbsF1 there is no doubt those stays are not rigid. The photo of the ferrari shows a sprung set up and you can see what looks like like a slider on the Brawn. I know these are not his years pics but is the RB6 showing the ultimate exploitation and evolution of this line of thinking?


In excess of 200km/h, there would be approximately 600 to 700kg of weight on each side of the front wings.

Which means that FIA’s original test of 100kg on each side (or was it the entire wing) is insufficient.

Such flex can be achieved with the way the carbon layers are bonded during the manufacture of the carbon-fiber wing. Many hobbyist radio control car manufacturers are doing that recently.

It is quite unlikely to be spring loaded tensile wire within the wings. If that is so, in a frontal crash we saw from Vettel, the entire gizmo will be splayed for all to see.


The funny thing is that it’s the FIA regs that mandate an aerodynamically neutral 500mm central section of the wing that has forced the teams to effectively have two front wings, one each side. It’s this rule (added to the flexi wings) thats caused the imbalance seen in Seb’s wing as he pulls out of the slipstream.

A single full width wing would not be nearly as dangerous as this, even if it were allowed to flex.


I don’t know the details, but that wing is not “rigid” in any meaningful sense of the word! The FIA want the sport to be the pinnacle of engineering and then Come along with a “bag-of-sand” weight deflection test? Adrian Newey is right to push the FIA.

On another point – Vettel was penalised for causing an “avoidable accident” when he tee-boned Button, so why was Webber not penalised for causing an avoidable accident when he whacked the back of Kovalainen. I am rooting for Webber to be WDC this year, but I am amazed at the duplicity in the application of the “rules”.

Thanks James – keep it coming – great stuff!


Hard to give Webber a drive through penalty when his car was upside down!!!!!

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