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Analysis of Red Bull wing flex before Vettel hit Button
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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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I'm surprised to learn that they don't do assymetrical load tests anyway, for safety reasons.

Also, I'd previously seen how the two stanchions that hold the front wing on wobble from side to side on slo-mo videos of Webber's car running over kerbs, and thought that the front wing looked floppy. I look forward to seeing what comes out of this.

Whatever, as a McLaren fan, I am still very impressed with Red Bull's ingenuity in getting whatever is they are doing to work. While I do see McLaren's point about the possible legal ramifications, if the Red Bull passes the tests decreed by the FIA, then well done to them; I just want McLaren to be as clever.


I think we've seen all the cars have wobbling wings - the MacLaren is one with perhaps the most movement of all from clips - and James Allen is joking if he thinks that partial aero pressure was involved in Vettel hitting Webber in Turkey (clearly not) - while Webber hitting HK in Valencia was the unexpected closing speed with HK braking 80m before the earliest braking zone and losing Webber those fractions of a second just as he was about to dive down the inside.


I looked at footage of the Red Bulls in car at previous rounds including Valencia and Istanbull it's difficult to see much of Webbers crash because of bright sunlight but... In Vettels case there is a slight wobble as he approaches the back of Marks car.

I looked at the Pole position laps, where the car is in clear air and the wing is quite level to the tub and not moving at all. It could be that at Spa Seb damaged the wing going off course but it could be the wing is supposed to flex around, wonder what Charlie will do? If the system is implicated in at least two crashes then it ought to be banned if the Bulls designer's initials were CC it would be history already.


This is very interesting. However as a lot of others have alluded to it is not an uncommon thing.

Theres no doubt that the front wing moving around will affect the balance and will affect the airflow over the whole car.

I agree with James, I very much doubt it would have caused the crash but it wont have made the car any easier to control when he started diving around.

I was surprised that they don’t do assymetrical load tests on the front wing anyway.

My theory for the lexing is that they have came up with some crazy kind of composite material that only bends under certain loading conditions.....


At the 2008 French GP, I remember seeing the race cam from one of the Mclarens. The front wing was wobbling almost identicle to Vettels but only when close to a car in front. At the time I thought it was just due to air turbulance. Clearly this still has to be the case?


i have just watched the race again on bbc iplay there is a good onboard shot of webber behind kubica the wing clearly has a lot of movement for those that want to see it its bbc i player 1hr 44mins into program .

it may just be me but seems as if webbe has to react to the sudden left to right grip as he pulls out of slipstream ??? be interested to see if just me


One way or the other, just an amazing season, so many permutations...


It looks quite wobbly when they come out of the corner as he gets close to Button too.

I wonder if they can simulate the effects of things like this in CFD as it should allow more dynamic tests than those that are done in wind tunnels.

Out of interest what happens to the damaged wing? Is it returned to Red Bull after the race or does a marshal have a very useful piece of memorabilia?


Watched the video several times yesterday before it was pulled. Wonder if the reason is more than just the fact that the rights are owned by F1? Interesting that you can find many other clips from this year still on uTube 🙂

It would be interesting to see how other cars wings/noses are affected with simular loads. If you think about it, yes the wing is what produces the laod, but it's the whole nose section that is probably flexing, maybe even the mounting of the nose to the car which normally allows the nose to drop (concorde style).

It has been noticed this season that RBR cars do struggle when in the slipstream of other cars, as well as the temperature issues. Obviously they have made compromises in order to put them on the front of the grid in the hope they can win from there.


Interesting theory James, and quite concerning if there is any truth in it. However, I do not see any similarity with the Webber shunt in Valencia. Kovalainen's Lotus braked very early, Mark didn't have time to respond and went flying into him at very high speed. Even the Webber/Vettel Turkey incident seems very different to me. Not sure about the Australian Webber/Hamilton episode.


I just watched the Webber/Hamilton incident in Australia again.

Alonso was running inside the optimal line on the approach to the corner so Hamilton could not out-brake him on the inside. Hamilton went to the outside, followed by Webber. Alonso braked late, and locked up his tires. Hamilton backed off to avoid being run off the track by a locked-up Alonso.

It looks like Webber was either caught out by Hamilton backing off, or he had less traction than expected. Either way, at the point of contact there was less space between Alonso's gearbox and Webber's front wing than the length of a McLaren, and Webber hit Hamilton's right rear tire, spinning him.

To me it looks like a simple racing incident. Webber had no control issues, he simply ran himself out of room.


Was the problem in Spain and Monaco with Vettel's chassis that led to its replacement due to these flexible floor stays?

Very good and interesting point that there have been 4 quite similar incidents - perhaps a combination of factors, but must be a little bit of a concern for drivers wanting to slipstream and then pull out into clean air.

Am I right also in thinking that the wider wings (from 2009) combined with narrower front tyres this year might exacerbate this tendancy of excessive flex, especially if the wings are being designed with the ability to flex lower at speed? Also with less bodywork winglets etc. is the front wing now being asked to do a lot more?


Having had a quick look at the race edits on formula1.com the accident on Sunday is the most stiking example of a Red Bull front wing flexing fairly violently while coming out of the slip stream of another car. Of the other incidents mentioned

Australia, it's hard to say but it seems to be caused more by Massa(?) locking up and a chain reaction to that.

Turkey, the accident happens when Vettel is well out of the slip stream however while he is following Mark Webber up the straight there is an extreme see-sawing on Vettel's wing.

Valencia, again it looks like Webber was caught out by the Lotus braking, however once again while he is behind the car his wing demonstrates the same see-sawing action.

This wing movement is not even noticeable on in car footage of McLarens slip streaming other cars for instance in Canada.

So at a guess I'd say the variable levels of grip that a flexible wing brings makes the car unpredictable when following another car, which in turn means the car is harder to control when something unexpected happens.

As I said in a previous post how ironic would it be that one of the innovations that has made the Red Bull such a great car this season is also the team's undoing.


And it is also exactly the reason that flexible aero-devices are banned, officially: safety concerns due to them being inherently more fragile and leading to less predictable behaviour of the car under different track circumstances.


I must admit from the moment these huge front wings appeared at the start of last year I disliked them. At first they just looked oversized and, well, just ugly; then when the racing started it seemed that the start of every race was accompanied by bits of front wing flying everywhere.

The sooner they go the better. I want to see aerodynamic appendages massively reduced.


I have to disagree. F1 should be the pinnacle of motorsports. An F1 car should be the fastest car on most if not any given race track. I do agree however, that the 2010 cars look ugly. But this was a consequence from the overtaking commission, IIRC.


If F1 was the absolute pinnacle of motorsport then there would be no confining rules -- only safety rules. Limiting aerodynamics is as important for safety as the width of tyres and the cubic capacity of engines.

F1 is the pinnacle within the rules. That's why all the cars look very similar: the rules are very tight and controlling. The days when engineers had a lot of latitude in which to explore ideas are long gone. They're now limited to tiny tweaks -- and to exploring the rules with a magnifying glass to look for loopholes. For some this also extends to looking for ways to cheat -- provided no one will pick it up.

My son gets angry every time a commentator or team principle says "the car meets the requirements of the rules". "No", he shouts at the telly; "it meets the requirement of the TEST!" He's right: there's a big difference.


I couldn't agree more. I'm no engineer but as an interested observer surely the more aerodynamic bits and pieces are on a car, the more it suffers from "dirty" air. I'm probably harking back to a past-time but wouldn't a single element front and rear wing a) reduce costs & b) increase overtaking opportunities? O yeah & c) look better! The argument is always that F1 is cutting edge technology that will one day find its way on to road cars, but flexi-wings, double diffusers?


James, you need a sharing tool on your website to drive traffic to your stories. It will benefit the sponsors you have for one.

This is a story in particular that I really want to share. It is informative and really well written and raises some important questions.

good stuff,




Yes I saw the clip posted in the comments on yesterdays post - definately fishy and I think is a contributing factor to the accident at Spa. Red bull need to get with the programme - when McLaren introduced the F-duct, the ran it past the FIA first. Brawn did the same with the Double Diffuser. Newey is sticking bits on and waiting to see if they are ok, which is against the spirit. I'm all for cutting edge engineering, it's what F1 is about, but they aren't going about it in the right way.


I can't recall the Webber/Hamilton collision (I remember it happening but can't remember the build up), but I can't see the front wing being to blame for the other two red bull collisions.

Webber into the back of Kovalainen was purely due to the speed differences of the two cars, and the fact that the Lotus braking point is stupidly early compared to the Red Bull one, which caught Webber off guard. He didn't so much 'lost control' of the car as simply plough into the back of him.

I also don't think the wing could be to blame for the Istanbul crash. Vettel had been out alongside Webber for long enough, and it was his turning to the right (into the left hand side of Webber's car) that caused the crash. He didn't veer over due to a loss of control, he turned into him to get a better line into the corner, perhaps expecting Mark to concede.

That's not to say that a new wing test might be needed, but if so it'd be on the basis of Sunday's crash, rather than any of the previous incidents. That's the only one, really, that I can see being due to a loss of control due to instability of the car (in addition to a mistake/loss of concentration into the braking zone from Vettel)


To clarify my comment, I meant that "it's not to say that a new wing test might NOT be needed" (these double negatives are confusing). Certainly, judging by the footage of Vettel's front wing, it looked to move around a lot, and if it might be to blame then it should definitely be looked at.

Also, my comment comes across as if I know what I'm talking about, which probably isn't the case. It just seems to me that the circumstances of those other crashes lend themselves more to driver error than they do to loss of control. Vettel and Webber didn't state any loss of control after those incidents, so in my view, the wing probably wasn't the blame.


Clearly, without doubt - the Red Bull's wing wasn't flexible.


If you watch the wing mirror in relation to the suspension i think you may conclude that it is suspension movement due to the change in balance of the car, due to sudden input from the steering wheel. That gives the appearance that the wing moves in relation to the suspension struts but is it the other way around?


I thought that for a start but under closer inspection, no definatly not. The wing is moving


No way, the mirror is almost stationary, and I thought it might suspension movement, but if you look at it closely the suspension doesnt move so much.


Utter Rubbish this is RBR Propaganda -

When you check both sides of the wing against the mirrors - its the wing moving a huge amount irrespective of suspension.

It's like Horner coming out with all his rubbish - if you believe him then you are nuts - strange how someone like Ross Brawn does the same job but doesn't have to blatantly lie.


just as he pulls out from jensons slipstream the wing is bouncing about, it especially dips at the right side, worth watching the cockpit view. good article again james, made me think about all the other previous red bull crashes where they have been coming from behind another car and had a great load on their bendy front wing!


i've just watched the bbc clip again (several times over) right at the start, 3-4 secs in you see the first view of the crash, as he moved out from behind jenson it looks like the right side of his wing (left as you look at it) drops right down to nearly floor level before quickly whipping up. Anyone else see it or do i have dodgy eyes?


try looking at vettels wing from 55 seconds in and keep replaying it, you can clearly see it flex/dip/tilt drastically. I have not spotted it yet on replays but live i noticed a wire cable hanging out of the wing as it slid accross the over shoot, or did i day dream seeing that?


No, you saw the wire, I recall Ted Kravitz reporting at the time that it was the cable for controlling the front wing adjustment and also for the cameras; so Vettel didn't have either for the remainder of the race.


The cable will most likely be for the front flap adjuster.


I saw that wire hanging out too, but I assumed that was probably part of the system for changing the front wing angle from inside car. Off the top of my head I can't think of anything else it could have been.


These videos will be so much more interesting when HD finally comes around ....

allthough i did think the other day that would teams prefer not to have HD cameras on there cars ? worried about what others might see in even more detail ?

Keep up the good articles James...



F1 in HD really will be spectacular. I think the teams are all ready paranoid about having cameras on there cars, so i think you're right. HD cameras will only make them more paranoid.


counter that argument with sponsors perhaps willing to pay more to have what are currently quite-difficult-to-see logos and brand names appearing in much higher definition.


Very good point! , i really hope that we dont have to suffer many more seasons before HD appears.



James a while back you did a F1 webchat.

For live F1 commentary (text) and such webchat have you considered http://www.coveritlive.com

Seen it used by several newspapers and organisations including my local radio station and prevents the madness of the last web chat.


James, your articles have been very good in the last few days and many of the comments very interesting to read with less comment on "he's useless, etc" and more intelligent debate just like the old days when the forum was first set up!

I am not so interested with the technical aspectsvof the sport but what is your view on the comment made during the GP about McLaren being happy with the under the floor camera but other teams less so? Comment made by BBC with the inference that may be other teams have something to hide.


James's articles have always been good - but I fully agree that the level of intelligent debate in the comments has risen in the last while. Long may it continue.


After the accident I noticed a shot of Vettel's wing (once detached) where there appeared to be a 1 or 2 cables around a metre in length coming out of the nose cones supports.

Can someone confirm if these cables would be for the wing flap adjuster or could they be for something else? if so what????


I'm inclined to agree with all your comments, it probably is cabling for a camera and the front wing adjuster, are there any examples where these cables have been seen when other cars (not Red Bull) have lost a front wing?

Couldn't some form a device providing tension when required (in tests) be artificially increasing the rigidity of the front wing?


This was mentioned in commentary, the wing flap adjuster is at least one of the cables, with another being the feed from the front camera.



These would be the cables for the adjustable front wing flaps and for the on-wing camera.


yeah they're just electric cable that attach to the flap adjuster and the front wing camera.


I remember Ted (BBC pit lane reporter) said the RedBull's pit crew had to pull the leads out to fit the new nose, that means vettel can't control the front flaps and the video feed from the front camera is lost as well.


FFA and Front wing TV camera lines.


The cable also takes the feed from the nose-mounted cameras up into the car. If there are any sensors mounted on the wing I'd imagine they'd be part of the same loom going up the nose, but I don't know if this is the case.


If I'm remembering correctly, it was mentioned in the commentary at the time (by Ted Kravitz) that those cables were for the adjustable flap and the nose mounted camera. I could be wrong but I'm pretty sure that's what was said.


From what I recall on the commentary, it was for the front flap adjuster and the nose camera.


I saw that too, mate...

I saw them at vettel's silverstone wing incident too. But still no idea what they was for


I assume that they are needed for the front wing adjustment flaps, I can't think of any other reason to have such long cables in the wing.


I'd like to see Horner get out of this one; who to blame? Newey or Vettel?

Meanwhile, old Webbo just keeps plugging away...

If only Bernie and his tight-fisted friends would let us, we could see the footage for ourselves.


you can - it's on lots of video websites. Bernie doesn't control *EVERYTHING* ..... yet 😉


The pilot of the car... Vettel was moving to the inside then quickly darted to the outside whilst his nose was right up the rear of Jenson's McLaren... in cars that are so heavily dependant on aero such rapid changes of direction with such fouled air flow are a recipe for disaster.


James very nice read! Though, watching the McLaren' onboard cam there is really no flexing of the front wing going on. It would not surprise me if this assymetric wing load problem seen only on the Red Bulls and just ever so slightly on the Ferraris has more to do with the remnants of their flexing devices which they are now forced to dismantle.


"...was this in any way also a contributing factor to the Webber accident(s)..."

I'm not sure that the Red Bull wing was quite as flexible back in Australia, but it's something quite a few people are wondering about.

Maybe the answer is to have a centre line camera (like the one on Vettel's last weekend) on every car for every Grand Prix rather than rely on static tests ?


If that's the case, the driver running in front of a RBR car will either be happy that it cannot overtake easily, or be worrisome that it may just come crashing into you when they try to pass ..

Looks like the secret is out so Adrian Newey will have come out with something 'New' pretty fast.


Nice article


So perhaps Vettel isn't the Devil Incar(nate).

The in-car video seemed very odd to me, there being little connection between the degree of steering input and the fact that the RB went off an 90 degrees. I'm a sort of cause and effect type bloke.

Perhaps this shows one of the dangers of lack of windtunnel time or on-track testing. If you were thinking of finding a completely inappropriate place to discover flawed aerodynamics, the braking area for Bus Stop must come high on the list.

The point with the Webber crash was that commentators kep saying it was a stupid move by Mark. If I could see that it was all rather inappropriate one would assume that it might have occurred to Webber who, after all, has had more time in an F1 car than me.

Aerodynamics is the dark art of F1 and has been for some time. Not letting designers test their new devices in a wind tunnel is like not allowing them to use multi-testers when fitting new electronics.

The point is that they can't know what was the cause of these accidents. That, I feel, is dangerous.

The option is to limit aerodynamics by strict rules, but that's never worked in the past.

Forcing Vettel to drive through for a design failure that RB had no means of testing is a bit on the pointless side.


I always thought that riding the kerbs or cuttng the corners was or is a form of cheating.

The kerbs are there to mark the edge of track: they are not designed to be part of the racing line. The drivers might like to try staying on the track, if they don't or can't then car damage seems a fair and just punishment to me.

I suggest we put some "stinger nails" or razor blades in the kerbs as well: just to make absolutely sure.


"That Red Bull car is very nervous behind other cars, Mark had a couple of mistakes behind other cars also(Australia,Valencia)".

That´s part of my comment to the "Crash Kid" post and those accidents of Vettel and Webber doesn´t look random. Also in Budapest Vettel tryed to follow Alonso closer in one lap and he end up going off the road. Alonso followed Massa in Germany for some laps with less dificulty.

I´m not qualified to discuss if this is a flexi wind related issue but everybody seems to agree that the Red Bull is not so great following other cars and those accidents have some relation between them.

I´ve to say in another hand that Vettel´s accidents were under attack and Mark´s were a litle bit diferent specially at Australia he wasn´t attacking Lewis!


James, really pleased you have picked up on this point. This has been going around various forums since late Sunday night, and some people pointed it out on your blog regarding Vettel's crash yesterday. I'd also like to echo the consensus of another very good article.

I think when we come down to the brass tacks, Vettel's incident was still caused by an overly aggressive dash down the inside to a gap that was not there, followed by too late braking, and the need to wildly adjust to the left.

Still, I am with you on the point that the flexibility of the wing may well have exaggerated the various loads caused by the quick change of directions in and out of Jenson's slipstream.

I don't think the FIA will have a choice when it comes to investigating this matter quickly. As you say, there will be no doubt that McLaren now have the grounds to question this device in relation to safety, and will undoubtably do so.

Ironically, this latest incident, even though it came at the expense of Jenson, may well be a particular positive turn of events for Lewis Hamilton.

It certainly appears that the increased load tests the FIA bought in to deal with this issue were insufficient to restrict the flexibility of the wing (floor tests to be bought in for Monza non withstanding). If not for this accident, I believe the FIA would probably have considered this matter closed, and a 'get on with it' stance taken.

Now I am not so sure. We all know the FIA get picky whenever something related to safety is bought forward, and as it stands now, I cannot see the FIA letting it slide by.

The upshot? Possibly stricter tests, forcing RBR and Ferrari to take a step backward in the the development game. Not only would they effectively loose this time, they will be further forced to expend time in not only reevaluating the wings, but the floor also.

As I say, the crash in Spa could well be an advantage in disguise for McLaren, and especially Lewis Hamilton.


Interesting thoughts regarding the past incidents.

I recall Mark Webber saying after he hit Lewis in Melbourne that the front lifted when he got too close to the McLaren and he lost steering. It didn't seem at the time, the corenr was too slow to make for such a sudden change in handling. it did sound a bit like an excuse to cover a 'red mist' moment. So what do I know....

Its hard to paint Vettel's move in Turkey in the same light though. Vettel was well alongside Webber before he moved across. No sudden change of direction to explain any wing flex, just a slow deliberate attempt to move across into Webber


Very interesting issue. Haven't been able to watch the clip, but i suspect the question is not so if it is happening, but rather how much effect on the car it has.


Interesting point - you might be on to something there.

However, I don't think it was the reason why Vettel crashed into Webber at Istanbul. They were side by side when the incident occurred, not pulling out of a slipstream.


Not sure how this would relate to Vettel and Mark's crash in Istanbul as that crash happened when Vettel was already alongside Mark and running in clearer air along a straight... if the wing was responsible for Vettel veering into the side of Mark then this would happen every time a Red Bull had a car alongside... which it hasn't.


Having watched the clip on the BBC website several times over, at 54 seconds in as Vettle closes in on Button, the right hand side of the wing dips suddenly. Vettle then compensates with some opposite lock which then causes the right hand element to come up and the left hand side to dip. As I watched this segment over and over several times, it is quite obvious that there was far too much movement in that wing.

That footage clearly shows that Vettle lost control of his car due to the movement of wing elements. I sincerely hope that the FIA have watched this and take some form of action to prevent this from happening again.


The current level of interest/scrutiny from the public is surely unprecedented for a technical development within F1!

F1 fans are so well informed now through the internet and can share information so quickly through channels like twitter, forums etc that there really is nowhere to hide for Red Bull.

There will be mounting pressure on the FIA to be seen to be investigating this further until they uncover the truth. Five years ago I’m not sure this would have been the case to the same extent.


Indeed... Imagine how many things like this must have gone undetected for entire seasons as a result of fewer camera angles, technology options and generally fewer fora for disscussion.
I know f1 is doing more these days to connect with fans but imagine if the authorities were more open about availability of highlights, etc .... The discussions on great sites like these would be just the start of it.


James I have the following theory.

Vettel moves to the right to overtake on the inside, the the right front wing flexes down and gives sudden grip to the right tyre causing the car to suddenly veer to the right. Vettel corrects by turning left whereupon the left front wing flexes down giving sudden grip and causing the car to veer left and Vettel corrects by turning right into Button. If he is struggling to control the car that may account for the fact that it appears he misses his braking point?

With regard to the testing of the front wing to ensure it is rigid, surely it can be calculated what the down load on the wing is at 160mph and therefore the test should be whether the wing is rigid with that level of downforce.

Obviously 100 kg is insufficient.

I am fed up with Coulthard telling Whitmarsh to stop whinging and accept that the RBR is legal.

It IS legal under the current test criteria BUT Whitmarsh is correct to say that the test procedure is wrong as it does not ensure a rigid front wing and the rules state the front wing should be rigid.

RBR have done nothing wrong as they have passed the tests but they do not have a rigid front wing as required by the regulations.

Whitmarsh was derided for saying Mclaren were 1st of the fixed wing cars. Looks like he was correct after all.


Second the comment about Coulthard.
I think he's great for the show but with regard to Red Bull-specific issues like the wing, I think he has really let himself down and impartiality has been compromised.

It's similar to saying that people should stop complaining about a football player who repeatedly dives to gain an advantage. I don't think anybody would take the view that such antics are permissible as long as the referee doesn't spot and punish the incident.


Certainly there is a difference between what the rules say, i.e. the spirit they were written in, and how those rules can be technically tested. It should be obvious to such an experienced driver like DC, that it is still possible to break the rules with a car that passed all tests. See Ferrari's hydraulic undertray at the beginning of 2009.

The culprit is of course that the rules apply both to a static and dynamic car, while testing is carried out on a static car only, giving geniuses like Newey plenty of opportunity to play with.

By re-defining the static tests over and over again, FIA will always lag behind the engineers. The only answer out of the dilemma would be to fit every car with FIA-supplied sensors and black box for post-race dynamical data analysis.


The test is only one way of checking legality - passing the test does not make the wing legal.


Nice of the BBC to take the clip down from YouTube (where it's viewable by all) to their flash-only site which isn't viewable by mobile devices...


It was FOM who had it taken down from Youtube and the BBC site is viewable on some mobile devices.

The rights holders do pay a fortune to exploit the footage so I understand why it should be on the website of someone who doesn't pay for it.


So, it looks like the RB6 wing does not flex after all: THE ENTIRE WING MOVES!! It looks like it is mounted on a central swivel that allows one side to lift and the other to dip while the car is veering, much like an airplane !! No wonder the car is scotched to the track in the curvy stuff. It may also explains why quick correcting maneuvers often end up in disaster since there must be quite a bit of resistance from a loaded wing to break off from its angle once engaged in a turn. This must make for tricky driving in traffic, especially overtaking - and we have seen plenty of weird mishaps from both RB6's during that exercise. So does poor little Vettel really deserve all that criticism? 😉



That wing looked like it was moving so much in relation the the cockpit that it must have touched the track. So you would see abrasion marks on the bottom. So the FIA could check that i suppose.

So the nose must twist. Does the FIA not have a test for that? And can't the redbulls adjust the wing on each side separately,automatically to compensate?


These kind of situations are things they can't foresee when developing front wings.

The way Vettel changed direction so violently is going to unsettle the car, "flexi-wing" or not, it may have indeed played a part but I think the designers can't really be held accountable for that.


Ahm, in racing, an overtaking maneuvre does tend to be required once in a while, and the same for evasive moves if someone makes a mistake. Difficult to model with windtunnel and CFD, no doubt, but not unexpected.


Interesting I am Glad I read this, watched the Video back and the win moves a lot so it does seem likely that this will have caused the car to become unstable.

Just a shame that it had to be my Driver that he hit!


I'm starting to believe Horner when he says the make up of the wing hasn't changed since Hungary. That was a hell of a lot of flexing going on. Not only is that amount of flexing supposedly against the rules, but after Vettels flurry of crashes, it's surely dangerous too!


I thought Vettels accident looked to be caused by the back end getting loose, however if the front was unstable it may have prevented him from saving it.

I had another look at Webber's accident at Valencia and thought there was noticable movement in the front wing too.


Looking at the footage again it looked very much like the change in direction was torquing the front wing quite severely as it was moving left to right in Buttons wake, this would generate turning forces around the nose of the car making it behave very differently than Vettel would normally expect and almost certainly was the cause of the crash.

I would like to see the FIA take action but if their cumbersome tests don’t highlight anything then its hats of to Red Bull for designing around current tests. Unlike others who say the wings were not bending as much at Spa I disagree, I think the Red Bulls front wing was bending quite a bit, the reason they weren't so far ahead at Spa is down to McLaren running a new variant of the blown diffuser with the over-run exhaust gasses being blown through it ensuring the handling of the car is much more consistent and that the Red Bull is some way down on BHP compared to the Mercedes engine cars.

The load at which the wing is bending is some where in the region of 300-500kg of down force which would therefore not highlight in the static load tests using 100kg. I don’t understand why the FIA do not use the video footage as evidence of significant front wing bend instead of the static load tests which don’t seem to be testing the wing to its full down force load.

If the tests are not changed significantly to stop Red Bull from bending the wing then they will be some way quicker than the McLaren and Ferrari at Singapore, Interlagos and Abu Dhabi where their higher levels of down force in medium and high speed bends will give them a significant advantage.

Wing Gate could be the decider in this years F1 World Championship.


James, am I right to think all of this is just a bit like 2003?

Seven years ago we arrived at Monza after a bitter row regarding the the width of tyres, if I remember correctly. Back then, Ferrari - who used Bridgestone tyres unlike the other top teams - who had had a miserable Hungarian GP (the previous race, in which Schumacher was lapped by Alonso) were campaining that the Michelin tyres (used by Mclaren and Williams) were of the wrong width and so they were gaining an illegal advantage (even though they had used the same tyres since Imola 2001, if I remember correctly).....

Fast forward to 2010, and we go into the Monza weekend with the likes of Mclaren/Ferrari claiming that Red Bull (who have the overall fastest package at the moment on the vast majority of tracks) have illegal front wings (even though they've passed numerous FIA tests)

It seems a re-occuring theme for the pace setters to be accused having illegal cars, does it not??


Your argument is slightly flawed.

The tyres were unchanged for the period you quote, whereas the Red Bull wings have been different at virtually every race. If (and I'm not saying they did, simply discussing) they have introduced a flexible system, they have had the opportunity to develop it further at each race, whereas the tyres were static technology that was well understood and in the public eye for a long time.

And there is no team on the grid that at some point has not questioned the technology of one or more of their competitors, so there is nothing new about that, either.


Also, during that period, Ferrari had signed a deal with the Fia giving them a technical veto, hence- tyres banned.


'It seems a re-occuring theme for the pace setters to be accused having illegal cars, does it not??'

Other things being equal, the car with an illegal technical advantage is likely to be at the front.


The thing with the flexible wings is that flexible wings are banned. The test is suppose to test for this but it is evident the wings on the redbull do move. Do while they are passed as legal the fact is if a wing defelcts and is designed to do so it should be illegal under the rules. Its just that the test isnt good enough to prove it.

However the wings can only get lowered as a result of the floor deflecting upwards (so i have read) or the floor would scrape the ground. It may actually be the new floor test that brings redbull back to the pack.


Rules will remain as a rules, but in F1 creative fantasy won't have margins, and I guess this eternal topic will always present its positive and negative sides and intrigues of F1 in the future.


Jenson should have taken a leaf out of the Michael Schumacher book and got a good look at the bits of that Red Bull wing after he got out of his car.


Unfortunately, Vettel drove away.


Erm the wing didn't though.


Yes but his front wing was left sitting on the track and some people noticed some cables hanging out on the tv.


Oh, I missed that. 🙁

If it hasn't fallen into RBR's hands, then a lot of theories could be tested, such as the clever layering of wing material.


It seems to me that this Red Bull is dangerous, and has been involved in more incidents than any other car this season, whether it's Webber in Australia or Valencia, or Vettel in Turkey or Spa.

It strikes me that the Red Bull is designed like the eurofighter, and is inherently unstable, not least when it is in the wake of another car. However, we've not had that much opportunity to see the Red Bull in the wake of other cars this season, as they've had such an advantage!


have a relook at when Vettel was chasing Alonso when he was within striking distance the front let go big time, the race Ferrari swapped positions.

RB are great when leading the race only, behind cars they just seam to loose it.


Well yes, its interesting. 4 simular incidents, so maybe there is something in it.

I think we need to review the onboard footage from Valencia and Istanbul to see if there is a simular 'wobble' from the front wings.


What's odd is that it always takes so long for these things to be picked up on by the general audience.

This movement of the front wing was already visible in 2009. I saw it in some super slow motion footage.

Also, Red Bull was testing in december with a spider device with cables attached to the front wing. Pictures of that test also showed that a) Red Bull was working on their wing flex and b) that the wing was highly unstable under lateral forces.

The much debate front wing flex was already apparent during the Bahrein on-board footage and was again discussed when someone made an animation of it after the race in China.

Actually, in that China animation it was also pretty clear that the Red bull nose dives down a huge amount when driving at speed (compared to the competitirs).

You'd think (hope) that rival teams would look at their competitors even closer than the fans do.


I feel there may be a link with this incident and Webber's in Australia. But in Turkey Vettel consciously guided his car towards Webber so I think it's unrelated to front wing characteristics. Likewise in Valencia - Mark just misjudged that one; he could have been in any car.


So Whitmarsh has proven his point with his constant nagging to FIA.

And the fight will be much closer from Monza to the last race.


Any test of the wings, body floor chassis should replicate or at least approximate the loading when racing.

The front wing needs to have a distributed (or single point equivalent) load of approx 300Kg on each side to replicate racing stress.

My reasoning is thus:- Min vehicle weight = 620kg

Downforce generated is generally accepted to be at least twice vehicle weight.

Downforce is roughly distributed 50:50 front rear about centre of mass.

Thus total downforce is approx 1200kg force, thus 600 front 600 rear. thus on front 300 left 300 right.

The current improved "new" test is of 1000Newtons = 101.97kg force. ie a fraction of the actual test load required to be representative.

From the video there is now no doubt that Red Bull have moving aero parts, surely the FIA cannot ignore that.

Apart from anything else, the front wing is clearly unstable and dangerous.


Just thinking that next step in technology competition will be using components with so called "memory" like some metal does. Nanotechnology will be the next mile step...


Those materials will probably be simply banned if it becomes an issue, much easier, and not as costly.


1. Lets face it you could make the centre section ( middle of the car ) out of something rubber like that changes flexibility with use - so when static tested its solid and when used a lot on the track then it starts to flex more - and so you have wing tips that drop to ground -

2. The FIA need to clarify the rules as its wide open at the moment and the RBR is inheritantly unstable in trying to overtake an other car. In Vettel's accident - As the wing comes out from behind JB then the right side of the wing actually has an initial downforce and then it loads up far more as it flexes down and that I believe made the right inside wheel grip and throw the car into a right type spin and then he moves left to adjust and the same thing then happens on the left but he's not quick enough to catch that and SV then goes in a joyride.

Now, you get the same thing irrespective of flexi wings or not but I believe its the double action of loading up one side the front wing which makes it horror to drive since its never going to be the same depending on the car in front and so many other factors.


Centre section of the car can not be made out of rubber because of driver's monocock which is obligatory to protect life (vide Kubica in Montreal).


James, many thanks for your technical insight. When I want to know the how-and-why of F1, this site keeps me informed. If I just want gossip, there are plenty of other sites. Thanks again.


The way I see it if the rule is the wings are not allowed to flex but the wing flex test is not equal to or greater than the maximum aerodynamic load generated by the wing at full speed in clean air then the test is not valid.

I am not a designer but I imagine it would be possible to build a wing that would not flex under a deflexion test of X but would flex under an aero load of Z (higher than X) thus passing the FIA test but still flexing when you want it to.


I was thinking something similar. Like how the wing might test differently, if they were to introduce a load to simulate the force of drag on the wing, simultaneously tested with the flex load.



just so I understand properly, is the red bull being affected by the disturbed air of JB, hence causing the crash?


Hi James,

I think I was one of those (if not the one) who alerted you to this interesting flexing seen in the on-board footage video clip.

I'm very glad that you have made a point of writing an article on it, which should hopefully get further response and lead to more attention to what could potentially be a dangerous issue.

I hope that Charlie Whiting has been alerted of this, or if McLaren have, im sure they'll get hold of him. Maybe you could alert a couple of engineers or even Charlie himself to this? 🙂

Anyway, I just wanted to say that I was mentioning your blog to my brother the other day - he isn't an F1 fan but he follows many other sports. I was just saying how this blog is brilliant and interactive to the point that you regularly reply to comments I make or questions I have. I can't think of many other sports where an analyst with such inside knowledge regularly speaks to and tries to incorporate the fans.

Keep up the good work, it is much appreciated!


James. In addition to observations and comments on the RedBull wing, did anyone think Vettel pulled a Schumacher during the crash making sure he steered well into Button after he lost it.

Also, any news on the reason for the unique noise of the Mclarens exhaust pitch? Some new modification to there system for channeling air onto the wing?


It is the exhaust gasses being blown into the diffuser on the engine over run this keeps the balance more stable when they are not on the throttle, it was a key reason why they were more on form than of late at Spa.


Hi James, do any of the engineers think this could have contributed to Vettels belief that he had hit a bump?

I thought he just pulled excuse 198 out of the book at first but following disection of the issue on many forums I am beginning to wonder if there was an element of truth to his words.


You see…Vettel aint to blame!! Just kidding gents, this whole flexiwing talk is necessary since there seems to be systematic issues, however driver error here is also to blame….his quick kick to the left in my opinion was enough to make the car unstable, flexiwing would have helped to create even more unbalance…but driver error, aggressive maneuver, probably a slightly humid track and definitely a part of the track that wasn’t hot yet nor had a lot of warm rubber at the time would have all contributed to the way the RB6 lost control.


BUT dont you think Vettel was a passenger here and he was reacting to the car getting out of control - he was not the cause of it getting out of control - just a thought. For sure that wing is illegal even though it passes the tests The FIA cant sit on their hands here video evidence is all over the place that shows a wing flexing which is in breach of the rules - it is taht simple The test should be 2x the maximum possible down force on the car - to leave no room for creative designs. Did Maclaren not have similar issue with their back wing a while ago - passed the tests yet video evidence showed it flexing at speed to reduce drag - they had to FIX THAT.


At least this means that Vettel’s racecraft isn’t as bad as most people thought. It also vindicates Mclaren and Mercedes ‘moaning’ insistently as safety was probably one of the major reasons why the static wing rule existed in the first place.
Wonder how much difference the wake from an EBD makes to a following red bull compared to what we saw at the start of the season..


Interesting theory but we've seen in the past Webber has pulled some questionable moves as a midfielder in his Williams days.


After seeing the video on mysapce (still available if you would like to see it!) I really can't see how anyone could controle that, the wing dives down on the right side and the flips up forces the left side down! Imagine the pressure changes from left to right? He was very very lucky, me and my collegues think it would be best if the FIA just forced everyone to put a steel bar through the wing, that way it could never flex...


James, when Jenson Button is out of his car (29 seconds at BBC vid) you can see a Virgin front wing in the background (evidently gathered up by the marhsalls). Could/should Jenson have picked up Vettel's wing and had a look at it, or even taken it back to the McLaren garage, or are there rules about it being returned to Red Bull?


the same phenomenon can be observed on Webber's attempt to pass Kubica on lap 24. the front wing all over the place.


Sure looks like a bendy floor to me. Hope the test in Monza slows up the Red Bull. Then we can have a good run in.


I noticed this and then found this article. A couple of things have sprung to mind.

1) Webber crashed into the back of Hamilton in Melbourne, and I seem to remember him distinctly saying something like "As soon as I got near him I lost a lot of downforce and couldn't slow the car down." I've not heard anyone else having that problem, so maybe as the downforce loss is very high, and therefore quite dangerous.

2) Red Bull do seem to struggle quite badly to overtake cars in front of them who are theoretically a lot slower. They do have a straight line speed deficit, but it also seems like they are affected very badly when in the 'dirty air' of another car. This could be because they are losing a LOT of downforce due the lack of front wing flex - more downforce than the fixed-wing cars lose. This is perhaps why Red Bull cars can win easily when out in front and struggle to come through a field to win. Most of their wins (if not all) seem to have come when they've been totally dominant and leading all the way.

I'd also like to throw in my tuppence with regards to the wing load tests. Red Bull insist that their car passes the tests so it is legal. But passing the tests and adhering to all the rules is not the same thing. There is some article in the laws which says that no aero part may move relative to the chassis. Red Bull's wing clearly does, so is in breach of that law. That it passes the load test means only that it passes the test.

The law does not say 'any aero part which passes the load test is legal.'


Interesting but not 100% correct.

The FIA tests are designed to ensure the cars are legal and fit to race. However tests can be performed before or after a race, so whilst you are right that the load test is not absolute the FIA can and do ensure that all cars are legal. Honda, I recall were eventually caught out and penalized with their double fuel tanks despite being cleared to race.

Your point supports the position of McLaren, and other teams, that although the (Red Bull) cars have passed load test the wing design in some way circumnavigates the current rules. But this has yet to be proven by the FIA.

Roll on Monza.


Here, Here!

Surely the ex-driver stewards should be getting involved on this one whilst they work out why the crash happened?


It's high time the FIA grew a pair over this flexi-wing situation involving Red Bull and say to them; look, we know that your wing flexes at high speed, video and photographic evidence prove this to be the case regardless of whether you've passed the load test or not, if we see it flexing as it has in previous races in the next GP we'll take action. Correct me if I'm wrong but the rules I believe state that a car must have no moving aerodynamic parts, the Red Bull car clearly does so is therefore in breach of the rules. In my interpretation of the load test rule, this test is not the final say on whether a car is actually race legal when driven under racing conditions but determines whether a car meets the conditions to start a race.


I may be wrong, but It looks to me as if the entire wing per se doesn't flex much in the RB6, but that the floor or the central attachment point of the wing does flex through some yet unknown mechanism, effectively allowing the wing to change its angle (with respect to a front-facing horizontal line parallel to the track) when the car is turning. Thus the side of the wing on the outside of the curve lifts up (giving the front more downforce and stability) while the other side dips (also giving extra downforce) - pretty smart (think of a fixed wing airplane!). The tests should therefore concentrate on those areas. Thus, testing rigidity of the wing itself might be irrelevant, allowing Mr. Horner to claim repeatedly that the front wing is perfectly legal. Hopefuly Monza will shed some light on the matter. If the attachment point is subject to flexion, it is no wonder that the wing wobbles in dirty air, making the car highly unstable under those conditions.


There's a clip on You Tube (sorry I can't get the link from my ipod touch at the moment) of the RB6 front wing endplates at both sides visibly flexing toward the track whilst the car is under hard acceleration and literally moving back up into it's normal position as the car deccelerates into a corner. My theory on this is that Adrian Newey and his team have found a way to make the wing bend considerably only when a certain amount of pressure is applied, hence the reason it passes the load tests but flexes in races where the load is much higher. The reason I believe that the wing got so out of shape at Spa was because of uneven pressure applied on the wing, it flexed on the clean air side but not on the side it was in disturbed air causing the car to be pulled to the left as Vettle pulled out to overtake, then pulled back to the right as his car cleared the disturbed air, this in my opinion is why the wing looked like it was basically wobbling about.

In theory it's a clever idea (although against the rules in my opinion) but it's only clever when the car endures an equal load on both sides as it seems to become extremely unstable when one side is creating more downforce than the other. Of course, this applies to any F1 car but the flexibility of the RB6 wing seems to exaggerate this greatly due to the extra downforce it generates.


Something I found intresting after reading Horner's comments about McLaren's wings now flexing more was this image taken half way down the straght at Spa:


That seems to show McLaren's front wing is flexing more than it did prior to Spa.

This OnBoard shot from Hamilton's front nose seems to show a similar thing:


I think its clear that the Red Bull wing is flexing just as much as it did before the new load test's, However I believe Mclaren's front wing is now flexing almost as much based on sveral shots I saw this past weekend.


Thanks for this

two comments though; firstly the RB endplates are still closer to the ground in the first picture

Secondly, while there clearly is some flexure of the wings in the second picture, I overlaid one picture over the other and saw that the nose seems to be distorting as well. I think is the camera pod wiggling up and down a bit and exaggerating the apparent movement


Two notes ;

1: The requirement for wings to be "rigid" came in because of an accident - therefore the FIA should actually enforce their own regulations.

2: Either Red bull put a wing with unknown charachteristics on the car or else Vettel couldn't handle it. Either doesn't look to be a safe way of working. If I were the FIA I would ask to see what work Red Bull on the computer to "prove" the wing and on the simulator to make the drivers aware of the wing's working characteristics.

Rather worrying (I hope the FIA agree).



This will probably be fixed before Monza. Not just on the Red Bull.

As a number of people point out the title race will become much closer as we move towards Abu Dhabi.


What a truly fascinating article.

In my view that Red Bull is illegal after seeing that. The movement of the front wing was quite a lot!


I found the regulations directly from the FIA on this matter:

3.15 Aerodynamic influence :
With the exception of the cover described in Article 6.5.2 (when used in the pit lane), the driver adjustable bodywork described in Article 3.18 and the ducts described in Article 11.4, any specific part of the car influencing its aerodynamic performance :
- must comply with the rules relating to bodywork.
- must be rigidly secured to the entirely sprung part of the car (rigidly secured means not having any degree of freedom).
- must remain immobile in relation to the sprung part of the car.
Any device or construction that is designed to bridge the gap between the sprung part of the car and the ground is prohibited under all circumstances.
No part having an aerodynamic influence and no part of the bodywork, with the exception of the skid block in 3.13 above, may under any circumstances be located below the reference plane.

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

Clearly, reading through these rules it is obvious that the Red Bull is in violation of the rules simply because their front wing is MOBILE in relation to the chassis (which is the sprung part of the car).

Furthermore, is the problem strictly wing flex "flex". In all conversations it is clearly evident that the general consensus is that the opposite side of the wing raises as an asymmetrical load is applied.

Therefore could the problem really pertain to Article 3.15, which states that all aerodynamic parts must be rigidly attached to the chassis? If the wing, as a singular entity, would truly have no freedom of movement, it would be impossible for one side to dip while the other side would raise.

Just an opinion based on comments made on this page.


I as a lifelong Ferrari fan i would never defend another team...........however ,as an engineer at the airport i did try and defend Vettel on the Webber crash ,as i too thought he was struggling to get control of the car on leaving Mark's slip stream.

The video footage clearly shows the wing dipping and diving on to different sides , thus producing the same effect as the ailerons on an aircraft wings.

Or in English ..........aerodynamic steering , bit like torque steering ,but much more violent.

Sorry ,just my opinion !


I don't know if any other posts talked about this as i only had a chance to skim through the comments above. Did anyone else think of the impact of the blown diffuser in this situation?

In the beeb coverage Martin Brundle talked of the new and distinctive downshifting growl of the belgium spec McLaren, so i took this as a clear indication that woking has settled on running their new and powerfull blown Diffuser.

Whilst not just at full throttle on a straight a blown diffuser will braking-downshifting intermittently pump a large volume of accelerated air low to the ground. Given the closeness of the front wing to the diffuser, added with the left jink by button when Vettel swerved I saw a potential for huge and uneven downforce loads upon the "flexi" front wing of the rb6.

I doubt the polar inertia (mass effected movement and twisting) of the front wing was a controlling factor in the wobble which is what is implied by the suggestion that the change of direction caused the 'wobble' as the front wing has an insignificant mass compared to the Aero' load upon it. I would think that the Aero' load of the wing is much more important when discussing front wing deflection, and this could be considerably effected by the blown air being 'shot' at the wing by buttons diffuser.

This may not be the whole story, though it seems pretty logical to me that it played a part and gave an inconsistent front grip factor in Vettel's over eager maneuver. I do not understand the exact fluid form the air takes as it leaves the diffuser but there is also the potential for a vacuum effect on a trailing cars front wing as the air is 'barking' high velocity exhaust up and over the following cars front wing.

Basically what i am saying is.. the loading of the front wing would of definitely been affected by button's "BD" at such a close distance and in such a high energy instance at the first moment of braking from 320kph, combined with its flexibility.. that wing was never going to perform predictably!

p.s. sorry for long post..= but i love this sport. great site and insight JA, much appreciated.


My understanding was that the blown diffuser was only be used for qualifying as it's quite damaging to the engine.


In addition to above (though I'm sure the 'growl' could be heard in the race), I thought the idea when lifting of the throttle was to maintain the air flow using exhaust gases by allowing the engine to overrun on lift off. This, in theory, should maintain the air flow through the diffuser that would normally be there at highspeed, rather than change it. Sounds complicated enough that there could well be a change in transistion from throttle on to lift off, especially if the Mclaren system is still in it's infancy.


Looking on the F1 official site, the new load test is shown here:


The new floor test is described here:


Am I correct in thinking the new floor test is really looking at the torsional component along the cars centreline? Or is it looking at the rotation in the plane shown on the page above?


There are plenty of places to see the video if you just go to video.google.com and search for 'Vettel Spa Crash 2010'. It's in different languages but who cares about the soundtrack.

The wing appears to pivot rather than flex, almost as if there is a joint between the struts and the wing or the struts and the nose. Could it be possible that the wing is rigid enough to pass a flex test, but there is a design that allows the rigid wing to pivot?


I am starting to think that there is a reaction on the wing to steering input. Maybe the suspension loading is being transferred to the bodywork. Can't see changes in airflow being big enough, and gentle direction changes don't seem to do it. The jury in my head is still out.

Either way, the driver is still responsible, since he knows well how the car behaves. but a so-called impetuous driver may forget in the heat of the moment.


Here is a gif (http://imgur.com/sdmFN.gif) image showing the crash alone. It might be useful for those without access to the BBC link.


Red Bulls rule bending capacity is directly proportional to their composite departments ability.


Spot on as you Brits say. That was my feeling commenting to friend after the race .Something aerodynamically made that car snap like that. Later that night I watched the clip over and over on YouTube but I didn't clue into the fact of the wing flexing. But if you watch the tires you'll notice how Vettel corrects to late and the tires have no change of direction related to how the car should have normally reacted
Unfortunetly I don't live in the UK. So I won't be able to watch the clip on the BBC



Investigate TOR or Vidalia on the web and you'll be in for a treat. Any difficulty contact me via Google. RickeeBoy


It looks to me what aero engineers call 'flutter' - more commonly seen on aircraft wings when they exceed maximum velocity (which is significantly lower in turbulent air). It is caused by a lack of rigidity relative to the forces on the wing. It results in loss of lift (or upside down lift aka downforce). In an aircraft it usually results in complete loss of control and the wing shaking itself to destruction.


Highly suspicious that they refused the cameras like McLaren had facing backwards towards the "Bib" / underfloor of their car.


EVERYTHING with a load on it flexes.

Surely the FIA should have a defined set of stiffness tests for wings & just run these on every car, plus all the spare wings in the garage?


They do, however the current load tests even after being increased before Spa due to the controversy involving the RB6 front wing flexing during high speed seem to fail to find anything wrong. The car seems to stay within the regulations when being tested but under racing conditions the wing flexes a lot more than it should, either by some sort of device on the wing or Adrian Newey and his team have found a way to make the wing stay fairly rigid under the load test weights but flex considerably when the car hits a certain speed or a certain amount of force is put on the wing.


Well if that's not a moving aerodynamic part then I don't know what is. That video clearly shows how much the wing moves, the wake of buttons car provided and aero load on/aero load off instant comparison. Not only is it against the rules regardless of how many kg the FIA may like to test with it is also now showing how dangerous it could be in unbalancing the car when moving in and out of wake.


I hadnt noticed the flex, and to be honest I was half expecting to watch the clip and see a small movement in the wing.

Seeing just how much the load on the wing changed, how much it deflects etc that surely must have materially affected the downforce generated just as he pulled out.

Showing whether this is "normal" or "flexing" wing deflection should be simple enough. Show a similar pass from one of the mclarens and see how their wing reacts coming in and out of the draft.

Anyone got any footage clips for something like that?

This is exactly what adds another dimension for fans in F1. The way engineers manage to work seemingly within a set of rules, but manage to create a solution like this is amazing.

Anogther great article James. Cant wait to see how the floor checks affect Monza.

Just A Bloke (Martin)

If I remember correctly Adrian Newey did a stint designing an America's Cup Yacht. One of the key features of this type of high performance vessel is the mast bend and the flexible nature of the aerofoil(sail). A good training ground to pick up a trick or two, especially in the composites dept.

Regarding the wings surely it would not be difficult for the FIA to mandate camera positions and have some form of calibration graticule on the lens. If as Horner keeps stating the wing is legal why not?

I agree with the other posts here passing the test does not mean the wing is rigid on the track.


When you see the onboard footage (thankfully it is still accessable to us in the far reaches of the world.. Thanks streetfire.net) it is clear that the front wing is a movable aero device. If the downforce on the front wing is close to 650kg a side then the movement shown buy the wing

must have been like having a full F1 car move from your right front tyre to your left front in about 0.1s! I doubt any F1 driver could control that type of weight change. The FIA should have all cars run with HD cameras at the centre point of the car which could then be used to measure the maximum deflection in the wing or is that a bit to simple for F1 to handle! Is F1 getting to the point where the technology and ability of the teams is starting to exceed that of the FIA? If so it is the FIA that needs to get up to speed.

Just A Bloke (Martin)

There is a good article on ScarbsF1 that explains how to get a 20mm "droop" on the front wing. This is based on input from Nigel Stepney discussing the F2007 Ferrari 🙂 A good read...Scarbs and JA what a team for us afficianados !!


Interesting. All the championship winning cars have probably been in breach of the intent of the regulations at some point.


Yes I regularly read Scarbs' F1 Blog... fascinating stuff - good write up about retarded ignition on it at the mo' - re: McLaren's strange engine note at throttle off to keep the Blown diffuser energised 🙂


I regularly read Scarbs' F1 Blog... fascinating stuff 🙂


Just found this site yesterday: impressed to say the least, no foul language, more knowledgeability, depth and even a general feel-good atmosphere. My head usually reels from the brutish language on other more popular sites. Keep it up

I am concerned that the increased scrutiny might show up even MacLaren, such is the nature of finger pointing. But my fingers are crossed though. Aah, Red Bull gives you (flexi)wings 🙂


Thanks for your comment. Glad you like the site. Tell your friends


The main contributing factor in the 'accidents' between the red bull drivers when behind other cars is in my opinion simply down to the fact that they're not as good at overtaking as drivers like, Lewis, Alonso, Button and Kimi.

Webber's clearly better than Seb at overtaking and they're both top line drivers but sometime's the reality is just that some drivers are better at overtaking than other's. The flexi-wing is a common element but so are the driver's and their history of overtaking through the field.

Besides, even if the flexi-wing was a factor in distabilising the red bull when close behind another car, surely you would expect, after 12/13 races, the driver(s) to account for such a factor?!

Not joining the bashing bandwagon but as I say, sometimes in formula 1 we look for complicated reasons for even the slightest of things when a simple answer suffices. But reputations need to be kept in tack and thus teams (and fans) promote all kinds of mechanical reasons for the failure or errors of the driver.


Can't watch the clip. However, Macca and Ferrari are working night and day to prove that Red Bull is illegal so they have an outside chance of winning the championship.

Lewis might be leading the WDC by a few points right now but after Monza, the remaining 5 circuits will all be Red Bull circuits.

I think it's too late in the season now for the FIA to do anything to force major changes in Newey's clever design. It's a bit of a fait acompli this late in the season.

Given the nature of the last 5 circuits in the season I regard Webber as a heavy favourite for the title. I don't see Vettel beating Webber 4 out of those last 5 races. Mark just has to keep directly behind Seb and he wins the WDC.

Hamilton's only chance is if Macca can force the FIA's hand to do something about Newey's cleverness. That's not going to happen.

Button is out of the picture as Whitmarsh will throw all the team behind LH.

Alonso is also out of the picture because he will soon be running out of new engines. That's why Ferrari took all those risks at Spa - they knew they had to score big in Spa and Monza to stay in the running but the roll of the dice came up against them.


You never know - remember 2003 when the FIA changed the rules on the Michelin tyres at this stage of the season. Put Williams and McLaren on the back foot


Slightly different situation there as involved two different tyre manufacturers. I think the FIA will try and save face by giving the teams prior knowledge of the new tests without explicitly admitting that red bull were running an illegal car all year.


I see the only team that's got a problem with this is Mclaren. Looks like Mclaren are the new Ferrari, FAI are bowing to Mclaren's every whim.For the first time in a decade we have more than 2 team's competing for the drivers championship.

We have 2 Mercedes powered Teams that rely on' horse power and 2 renault powered teams that rely on aerodynamic and then there is Ferrari that's somewhere in the middle.

We need to be careful that we don't Kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

The racing has just been fantastic this year, it would be a shame if we go back to the old Ferrari v Mclaren then the rest.


Other team saw the illegal thing too, but the one that is the real contender is McLaren

There are only 3 to be the contenders, 2 is suspect to do something wrong, only one left is McLaren.

So they need to do something with this problem that can effect McLaren chance.

It doesn't matter too much for the rest teams, even RB car have to correct it and make it slower, but the rest is still far behind RB anyway.


It isn't just Mclaren thought is it. Williams, Mclaren and Mercedes have all commented. The FIA have been incredibly slow to react they know they've too but they're trying to let Red Bull get away with it for as long as possible.

Renault aren't going to complain as Red Bull are using their engine nor are Toro Rosso as a defacto second team, Sauber aren't either with a Ferrari engine and the rest are so far down they couldn't care less.


The reason the wing tips dip once they're shoved up the back of another moving car is that the very fast air moving out through the diffuser increases the load on the wing and thus forces them downwards. As the right tip is directly in the diffuse outflow then this would dip more than the left.

If he he had incurred less downforce the tips would've become unloaded and moved upwards relative.

With the wing pushing the front down - the rear of the car would become unloaded and exacerbate the problem. Giving the car a further tendancy to do what it did.

Sadly tho, despite finding Vettel one of the most amiable chaps on the grid, I think this is actually another example of his impetuousness. Have been in similar situations and given the extreme steering input during heavy braking its no suprise he ended up sideways.


You've actually got this the wrong way around. While the wing is in the thick, uncarved air either side of Button, the wing is forced down due to the extra downforce, and going lower creates further downforce. When the wing is in Button's slipstream, the air is 'thinner' and therefore produces less downforce and the wing flexes up.

You can clearly see that as the RHS is out of the slipstream the RHS goes down, and as the LHS is in the slipstream the LHS goes up, and vice versa.


Also... If there is any in-car footage showing Vettel's hand movements in the cockpit after Stavelot this could be key as the braking bias for Stavelot should be more rearward than it would be for the Bus Stop. If he didnt change the bias (from concentrating on the red wing in front of him) during the straight or Blanchimont then again, no suprise, the rear steps out during a panic-brake event round a right hand kink and McLaren shaped rolling chicane.


The flexi wing may not have helped the stability of the Vettel's car behind Jensen, but it didn't cause the accident. Vettel made an aggressive turn to the left and lost control. Have a look at much much steering input he used when travelling at almost 300km/h.

Contrast this to Webber's move behind Kubica at the end of the straight, after Kubica exited the pits. Mark swerved behind Kubica, trying to get him to defend the outside, and Mark didn't lose control!


What do you mean asymmetric tests? How would they be different to the current ones?


Proof is everywhere, also on the website Formula1.com in the video section.

Watch the onboard lap of Vettel in Germany and look how much his front wing goes up when he brakes.

When you watch him building up the speed, it looks like nothing happens to the wing. So slowly the wing goes down. You can see the result of the flexing when he braking.

Use as reference point the inner flap/wing on the right, compared to the wishbone. When he is on speed the wing and the wishbone 'touch'. Then when he is in Turn 2 there is a significant space between the wishbone and wing.

Then he takes more and more speed on the back straight and the wishbone and wing 'touch' again. When he brakes for the next turn, the wing 'flies' upwards.

Besides this, also the onboard lap of Mark Webber in Spain is showing a similar movement. But with his wing the endplates do move a lot.

Massa's lap in Valencia also shows a significant movement when braking.

Compare those laps with other onboard laps of other teams.

Indeed the wing on Spa is moving so much, it is just too dangerous. Not only for Vettel and Webber, but also for the other drivers.

Best wishes from Holland.


As soo as BUT's car moves to the left, the right hand side of VET's car starts lowering the front wing as it probably sensed clear air to exploit. At the same time, BUT was preparing for his breaking point just as VET's car was about to get faster because of the wing movement.


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!!!!!


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.


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.

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?


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.


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 ?


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.




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...


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!!



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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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).


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 ?


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.


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.


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.



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.


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


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!

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