Lotus fails with protest against Mercedes front wing
Posted By: James Allen  |  12 Apr 2012   |  11:39 am GMT  |  146 comments

[Updated] After two Grands Prix of phoney war and back room discussions, Lotus F1 came out and lodged a formal protest against the Mercedes F Duct front wing system in Shanghai. A hearing involving both teams took place at 17-15pm local time on Thursday in the FIA stewards’ room at the circuit. The stewards rejected the protest and Lotus has made it clear it will not appeal the decision.

The system sheds drag from the front wing when the driver activates the DRS rear wing, by means of a pair of pipes which channel the air forwards through the chassis to exit in the front wing element. This has the effect of stalling the front wing and balancing out the aerodynamics in tandem with the reduced downforce on the rear wing when DRS is operational. Mercedes has been getting good gains from the system so far, as illustrated by the difference between its performance in qualifying (where DRS is allowed) and in the race (where it is restricted).

Lotus’ protest was lodged against the scrutineers finding the Mercedes car legal when presented on Thursday at Shanghai. They specifically felt that the system violated Article 3.15 of the 2012 F1 Technical Regulations, which states,

“With the exception of the parts necessary for the adjustment described in Article 3.18, any car system, device or procedure which uses driver movement as a means of altering the aerodynamic characteristics of the car is prohibited.”

Article 3.18 deals with driver operated bodywork, notably the DRS wing.

According to the FIA stewards’ statement after the hearing, “The protest centred on the fact the link created was for the sole purpose of using a driver-created movement to alter the aerodynamics of the car.
Mercedes say that the function of the front wing F Duct is a secondary function of the DRS system, the primarly one being the opening of the gap in the rear DRS wing, as with all other cars.”

Lotus and other teams’ argument is that if the front wing has F Duct functionality as a result of a driver operated switch, whatever the primary purpose, it must be illegal.

The FIA’s Charlie Whiting said in Australia that the opposing teams had not come to him with a plausible enough reason to ban it, due to their lack of knowledge and understanding of the system. However there were some signs that by the end of the Malaysia weekend, there were more sophisticated arguments coming in.

Nevertheless, the stewards found the Mercedes system legal and now it appears that others will have to move ahead with copying it, which won’t be easy to optimise as Mercedes designed its monocoque around the concept. The stewards said that the fact that Mercedes had checked the legality of the system prior to adopting it had stood them in good stead.

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the continuous rule tweaks over the last several years have reduced the rewards for "outside the box" thinking; the double diffuser, blown diffusers, and now this - the message is "don't think too much, we don't like it". From what i understand, this extra flow involving the front wing is a side effect of using something that is allowed to be triggered by driver action, so why not any side effects? it is not like the openings are actuated by any additional functionality - the DRS flap moves, the openings are uncovered. and given how well the mid-season adjustment of blown diffusers went in the past, if merc is forced to remove it mid season, it will be yet another example of the smothering of inovation, that the sport has undergone since the era of ferrari domination


I'm just pleased that someone has finally 'put their money where their mouth is' and actually made an official protest? How many times does the FIA have to give a ruling on this? This is the third time today and the outocme of the protest will be the fourth will it not?

Notice that RBR were leading the early protests but are no where to be seen when it comes time to put pen to paper. This despite the arrogance of Newey last year when he claimed numerous times that people protest out of jealousy (I'm para-phrasing)when questioning the legality of the Red Bull with it's flexi wing, dodgy engine maps, and super off throttle blowing that were all NEVER in the spirit of the rules.


for a fact ,
RBR never failed a front wing test,
they never failed a floor test,
engine maps aren't anything new, they all have them.

Double diffusers we're banned then Ross found a way around the rules and they were let go
The McLaren F-Duct was legalised then banned
now the Mercedes W-Duct.

If Charlie and the FIA outright banned a few of these principles straight up, it would save the teams a crapload of cash. Its a pointless endeavour, they spend millions in redesign then its gone the following year.


Lets face it, it's important to establish once and for all -- beyond any protests or challenges -- whether this 'trick' is allowable or not. Otherwise the teams will be in a 'shall-we-or-shan't-we' situation, not knowing whether to proceed with something that might be banned at any moment. A definitive answer is needed immediately.


If I understand Ross Brawn's argument, the standard DRS wing interacts with the flow of the beam wing and from that the diffuser, so these are secondary effects that can also be exploited to reduce drag once you know what you are doing. Therefore the tubes to the front wing are only a more explicit secondary drag reduction. On that basis, it would seem reasonable as you suggest to allow the Mercedes system.

The rule book has been on constant process of tightening for a long time. The 1978 Brabham fan car is the first thing that I can think of that was banned for being too good. These days good ideas tend to work more quickly as the engineering tools are much more advanced. It took Lotus about 3 years to get ground effects to work.

1994 was a key point as the gearboxes, suspension and steering systems were all locked into the basic fundamentals that we have now. The aerodynamic formula remained basically the same until 2008, with incremental clipping through the rules. Therefore it became a development war through refinement. Ferrari and McLaren had the most money, so they were regularly to the fore once they got the basic concepts right.




'Side effect' is stretching credibility rather far, don't you think? I mean, it's not accidental that opening the DRS flap reveals a duct that 'accidentally' flows air all the way through the bodywork to stall the front wing, is it?


Mercedes had a passive F-Duct in 2010 but still they removed it.

My problem with the Mercedes system being allowed has more to do with the FIA than the wording of the regulations.

The FIA allowed Lotus to develop a braking system that aerodynamic benefits, they allowed the system and then backtracked at the 11th hour, I'm a McLaren supporter but i felt bad for lotus as their car looks good and the resources put into that system could hav been used elsewhere had the FIA just said no. Secondary effects are the name of the game, if the LoTus braking system was illegal because it had a clear aerodynamic side-effect then I can't see how this one isn't illegal because although the primary movement is to activate DRS (the same as primary movement being the braking action) there is a clear aerodynamic benefit over and above what the letter of the rules intended.

IMHO the FIA needs to call it down the middle, if this system is LeGal then I don't get why The Lotus system is not LegaL.


To be fair, Lotus' braking system was a standalone system, it wasn't part of something that had already existed; it was then interpreted to have greater effect towards aerodynamics than mechanical stability, so this is where it is at cross-roads with the regulations, thus deemed illegal.

The DRS was designed to have an aero effect. Merc found a loophole and extended its use to include the front wings, but as a whole, it is still a part of the DRS.

It seems like Merc's system is here to stay, at least till end of season. FIA may decide to reword the regulations for next year but that's still a long way to go. It sucks for the other teams coz it requires you to build a whole new chassis from scratch. I think this is where the other teams are not happy about it because copying it is not cheap, so they try to get it banned not because of pure technical infringements but to not let Merc have the benefits.

This is what i LOVE about F1! Cunning creativity sparks innovation and performance gains... but isn't that what we F1 fans want to see?


Good point. I'm no lawyer or F1 technician, but I expect the answer to why Merc's double-DRS is legal and Lotus' braking system isn't lies in the bit of 3.15 that says "With the exception of the parts necessary for the adjustment described in Article 3.18".

If the braking system isn't described in Article 3.18 (which James says is to do with the DRS system itself) then no exception has been granted to the braking system - the DRS flap is granted an exception that the braking system doesn't have.



With the exception of DRS, any movable aerodynamic device is illegal.

Only the DRS moves. It falls within the exception. It's legal.

The Lotus brake was a movable aerodynamic device with did not fall within the exception. It's illegal.

The only problem I have is that Charlie took so long to make up his mind on Lotus' obviously illegal system.

As Paddy Lowe pointed out. There is no spirit of the rules. Only the letter of the rules. If the rules don't preclude it, it's legal.

Move along please 🙂


It is a side effect, not accidental. It is an intended side effect which in itself has a significantly lower impact than the main purpose of the DRS which is to reduce back end drag. At the end of the day is a completely passive system, meaning a pipe which does not move along with the flap. As also mentioned plenty of times, all the these parts on all the cars including Lotus, have been designed to have an integrated effect, including the DRS wing which is optimized to maximize gains across the board (diffuser included).


Completely agree with DMyers - if the airflow spills around the rear wing in a certain advantageous way when the DRS is deployed then that is a beneficial side-effect which the teams should rightly try and maximise. But incorporating an entire system into and through the bodywork of the car in the knowledge that it will be activated 'in tandem' with the DRS is a whole other step. By that logic, why don't the teams employ some sort of magnetic or optical switch which is triggered when the DRS wing swings up into position which then activates any manner of other sophisticated system to their advantage.

By the FIA's own ruling, as long as it is one step removed from the driver's action it's fine - it would seem to be merely a 'side-effect' of operating the DRS rather than a direct action of the driver.

If the FIA pass it, all power to Mercedes to exploit it to its fullest, but I think the FIA has set things on a long slippery slope and made a rod for their own backs.


This was designed into the sytem mate, it's not a side effect.

That being said, the teams really need to move on now, it's decided and done with. The other teams are meerely peeved that they did not think about it first and it is not easy to copy.


The definition of a 'side effect' is that is something which occurs other than the expected effect. Since it was designed into the system, it is exactly what was intended; therefore it cannot be a side effect.


Alright then if it has come to this, for certain Ross Brawn is losing his F Duct front wing system just like he did with the diffuser.

Say with these protests against Mercedes despite the fact that they have been going backwards during the race, maybe teams are of the view Mercedes are about to get to grips with their tyre temperature issues which would make catching them in a race that more difficult.

Meanwhile the FIA are incompetent (as usual) for they shouldn't wait for teams to protest but rather they themselves should be the ones to catch out the loophole cheats outright without being urged or asking teams to provide evidence ---> (I now doubt if Charlie Whiting is even an engineer).

If this was the case, we would have been saved from all these political games, we have enough political headaches with Bahrain as it is.


Brawn (and Toyota and Williams) didn't lose with the double diffuser in 2009. It was copied by the other teams. You could argue that not having a single diffuser initially in 2009 put them behind for 2010, but there were probably other bigger factors, such as getting the weight distribution wrong.

If you can write a loophole free rule book for something as legal as F1 then you are doing pretty well. The key thing is that loopholes are legal, and that is how Charlie Whiting has currently judged the Mercedes system. It is not clear to me from anything I have seen on this as to why the FIA should change its interpretation.

There is no such thing as "spirit of the rules" when it comes to determining legality. There are rules and the cars either pass the test or they don't. If the spirit of the rules is an issue then the rule gets changed, rather than cars getting excluded.


Agree completely


the problem for the rest of the teams is (and why there in a flap) its clearly simple to copy as such but very very hard to integrate at this stage in the season with the passages obv built within the chassis as to avoid outer aero disturbance.

All very interesting as said on another post Hats off to Brawn and co done it again! hopefully they get it all set up and working properly as a whole in time for De Rista's forth coming seat switch when a driver capable of winning in the car can get in.

Cheers for the as ever great development driving Schumi 🙂


Since the FIA has no intentions to ban the front f-duct system. It seems to me that they would be happy for all the teams to be running it next year so that overtake is even easier. Then that would mean that only a car with superior pace could get away from the chasing cars.


mercedes going up the field????you must be dreaming....i would rather expect lotus to break into that rather than them....but i do feel sorry for rosberg....i really am....


If it isn't a moveable aerodynamic device, I don't know what is.


@ dmyers - the fduct system is not a moving part.

If you want an idea of how it works check out scarbsf1.

Once you understand the system you'll see that it couldn't be considered anything except legal.


Ross Brawn doing his best Dr McCoy from Star Trek impression "It's a moveable Jim but not as we know it!"


Yes, but this moveable bit is allowed under Article 3.18.

There is little doubt this is legal within a literal interpretation of the rules.

If people think it's outside the spirit of the rules then I think they miss the spirit of F1 - technical innovation, and racing by not just the driver on the track, but the rest of the members of the teams off the track too.

Let them reap the rewards of their designs.

If you the FIA dont like it then change the rules for next year, but not mid-season.

Does anybody know which now banned f1 innovations are now standard or even just common(ish) options on the sort of cars I can now buy and drive on the roads?


Quite a lot of things are banned from F1 that you would get in a road car, and most of them we wouldn't remotely want because they are effectively electronic driving aids.


Anti-lock brakes, traction control, constantly variable transmission, active suspension systems....quite a few things actually.


You will also find that the Continuous Variable Transmissions, like the one built by Van Diemen for Williams, were used in Formula 500 race cars and the DAF 600 road car way ahead of time.

Also Formula 1's current double clutch gearboxes were nothing new, they were used in racing before by Porsche, known as the PDK-gearbox (Porsche Doppel-Kupplung, German for Porsche double clutch).


You will find that active suspension systems and self levelling suspension were both invented by Citroen for their road cars 30 or 40 years before they appeared in F1, only to be banned almost immediately in the case of active suspension.


We should be happy not to have those on an F1 car. Many fans were complaining back when they were part of F1 technology. Can't remember who but even one of the then driver said something like. "A monkey could drive an F1 around the track fast!". Marc



Whilst we won't be seeing this merc concept on our focus or Astra anytime soon, hampering investment in innovation has wider implications.

Very glad to see the stewards decision.


'Yes, but this moveable bit is allowed under Article 3.18.'

But there are no additional moveable bits on the Merc! The duct does not move! The wing moves, which is allowed in the rules...


ABS? Active suspension? Self levelling suspension. Brake assist, Traction control. Handling aid. Rear parking sensor 🙂 Inter-coolers, cant think of any more ATM but will probably when I have closed the post.


The DRS is just that, and legal somehow.


is this not what f1 is about. inovation. its not much benfit to merc in race trim so why all the fuss.


its a bit like last year with Vettel. he already had the best car and it was fully optimized to his style. he could open the DRS in places where others couldn't, thus giving him (more) of an advantage. if DRS was outlawed during qualy like I think it should be (or done away with completely), I bet he wouldn't have gotten as many poles. It was implemented as a knee-jerk reaction to Abu Dhabi 2010 for race purposes but yet its allowed in qualy for some odd reason. if you have superior aero that allows you to use DRS more often, thats hardly fair. then again DRS isn't exactly about giving equal drivers equal opportunities.


Not yet.

By qualifying higher than they should, Mercedes GP get track position.

Once the rear tyre degradation issue is sorted, their package should be the third fastest, behind McLaren and Red Bull, but just ahead of Lotus F1.


This system must be banned.It is completely againts the rules.That F-Duct is activated when DRS is activated.DRS is activated by driver, so that F-Duct itself is also activated by driver.


So following that logic DRS is also against the rules?


So they can't get it working for themselves then?!

This is really disappointing, I think Lotus should focus on their own performance rather than stirring up more unnecessary controversy.

Lotus have the potential to win races this year with Kimi, if they get their act together.

(Full disclosure: I am slightly biased as I really want Schumi to win one this year too!)


To be fair to Lotus, I think they issued a formal protest in order to get a solid ruling, rather than just to kick up trouble. Now the teams have clarity, they can decide whether or not to copy it without being too concerned that their money will be wasted on developing a system which is then declared illegal.


No other team will 'get it working' this year. It requires a complete re-manufacture of the chassis: a chassis that's crash-tested and passed for use all season, so cannot be changed.

A squirt of builders' foam up the ducts is all that's required to make the Merc system inoperable. Go on Charlie; do it.


you can change the chassis in season now and it wouldn't take a lot for the teams to copy this.Most teams got the old F-Duct on there cars quite quick in the days when you could not change the chassis mid season.


I am sorry this is a innovation that no one saw coming and is quite clever. Charlie Whiting has deemed it legal twice. So why can't Eric Boullier and Horner grow up move and create their own systems? Last year was the blown diffuser everyone got working on it immediately. I am massive F1 fan and part of the sport is to create innovations with in the rules and if the FIA says it is legal then it is legal.

There are teams that are flirting with the exhaust gasses still. So if the FIA does ban Mercedes "W-duct" then they need to be consistent and look at those exhaust outlets of certain teams.

Politics... you can't escape it!


no one saw this coming, and the reports last year regarding the Mercedes system what were those about, I do remember a technical report in one of the tests suggesting that Mercedes were trying out an F-duct style front wing at the end of last year. and Mr Newey's remarks that Mercedes were launching the car late because they were most probably hiding something. Come on, people are just angry because Mercedes have looked at the rules and decided to give them a different meaning which Charlie has accepted as legal.


The F-duct system Mercedes tried last year had the air coming in through the gap in the front of the nose, but the FIA have since said that the nose gap can only be used for driver cooling purposes and nothing else, hence the elanorate DRS activated system.


Not quite correct. the FIA had said it's _primary purpose_ must be driver cooling, that does not disallow a secondary purpose. RedBull's and Sauber's gaps in the nose do have secondary purposes. Actually it even seems as if Sauber's Nose is even smarter than RedBull's, as it isn't even a hole in the nose, but a gap in the connecting plane.


Well said eduan. Now I dont undersand FIA they deemed the system legal two idiots come up with the idea to protest AGAIN abiut the same thing, why they didnt just refuse to see to complaint as the complaint had been dealt with but no they dud pass thecsystem for the second time and now we have the circus all over again about he system that had been passed twice. Which part of it being legal Horner and Eric dont get. Now my question is why are they so persistant with the compliants and why the FIA isnt punishing this kind of behaviour, when you look at it it is clear dissrespect and it actually questions the validity of the decision making by the FIA. If they try this kind of behaviour in the court of law their case would be thrown out the second time and for the 3rd attempt they would be held in contempt of the court. James can you shed some light as to why are they so set on complaining against the system despite it being passed twice, are they trying to turn attention from themself as Ross said some teams still using so called blown effect or is there something else we arent aware of. I feel there is a reason but Im not seeing it.


I understand from comments Ross Brawn made a few weeks ago that the other teams find more and more out about how the system works exactly when having it looked into, so if lotus want to incorporate it in to their cars and don't fully understand how it works they lodge a compliant. Once this is lodged Mercedes have to explain the inner workings of the system and why they deem it legal. All other teams then find out ickle secrets and go away with that extra knowledge.


I have seen in conjectured that Red Bull is only wanting to return some of what it copped with the flexible wings that always passed the static tests.


Basically, if it was easy to copy, they'd not be protesting and instead would be developing it. Presumably, it is difficult to copy, due to the fact the air needs to be piped back to the front of the car, which I guess is no small task if you've not considered this during your original design.

Like gerry mc says, it's hardly setting the race track alight so why all the fuss?


If you are a Red Bull driver and are held up while the McLarens get away, then it can mess up your race as you only get passed at the first stops. Getting them behind you on the grid is always useful.

Also, if it is legal, the other teams have to make the effort to include it. If it is banned then Mercesdes has to apply the resources to remove it. There may be no impact on track position from the change, but benefits could be found elsewhere.

Red Bull might have more of a packaging issue than most teams it has the KERS batteries near the gearbox rather than in the fuel tank area. This might have some influence that the don't want, and they'd rather spend their time working on getting the exhausts to work properly.




There should be a rule somewhere that states that once Charlie and his crew rule on something that's the end of it. This bickering crap is so childish. So the other teams have been outsmarted here, get on with it instead of trying to politicise it out of the sport.

I wonder how many clever technologies (perhaps even usefull to roadcars eventually if given the chance to evolve) have been outlawed because of the teams squabbling over the years.

Let them have free reign with this sort of stuff I reckon. Imagine if this technology gets developed to a point where the manufacturers can use it on road cars. Spoilers and wings that open at speed to imporove a car's aero efficiency and hence improves fuel economy. Can only be good right?

Or what about the active suspension of the Williams in the early nineties? Imagine if that was left alone? We would all be driving road cars now that banked in corners - cool!

Ground effects, active wings, McLaren's second brake pedal, active suspensions, all great ideas which never had their chance.


It's a grey area and you can see why it's taking some time to address:

1. Everyone understanding exactly what is going on in the Merc

2. The rules - is this driver activated.

It's essentially a secondary effect of enabling DRS, but DRS is being enabled by the driver - therefore....it's a driver enabled device to stall the front wing.

I've got no allegiance to any team/driver, but this needs to be banned, with China being the final race it can be used.


The rules clearly state 'With the exception of DRS', driver actuated aerodynamic aids are illegal.

Only the DRS moves. That's legal. I don't see the problem.


The issue is that the DRS is a defined system. It has a specific purpose and should not be exploited for other reasons.

It's a moot point now that the stewards have given it the OK in China, but I'll be interested to see what other wacky innovations start to appear based on this....

On a positive it could be an interesting race if Schuey puts it on pole and then exhibits some robust, albeit legit defending...


wildbob - i concur. its patently illegal. More than once Brawns cars have had a questionable technical advantage i.e. Benetton and Brawn.

I admire genuine legal technical ingenuity. This ain't it.

Maybe Merc would be better off trying to sort its tyre problems which have been ongoing for a couple of seasons.

This protest procedure is the legitimate option for Lotus - they're well within thier rights.


The rules prevent a driver operated movable aerodynamic device except the drs. But nothing else is moving on the merc except the drs?

So the drs is legal and the front wing is not moving, just stalling.

So as far as i can see there is no movable aerodynamic part on the merc other than the drs wing.

Please explain to me what the aerodynamic part is that is contravening the regulations?


I guess Lotus don't want people to ask about their lost title sponsor or about the fact the are low on cash and needed a 30m loan. Now instead of that people will talk about the wing, which is perfectly legal.


The old saying in Formula 1 that I'm sure James has heard many times "Teams read the rulebook twice, once to understand it and then again to understand what they can get away with."


Its not enough to quote article 3.18 because the technical regulations do not define permissable secondary effects of the DRS activation. Therefore, the device does not contravene anything. To ban this device the specific secondary effect being achieved by opening the DRS must be written in to the rules as prohibited. Until that happens, the device is legal.



This whole debate is somewhat misunderstood - it is almost entirely about the engineering of primary and secondary functions (of any element of the car design).

As a passive secondary function of the DRS the W-duct seems legal, it is not even really a "device" - just a length of structural tubing that happens to be positioned for aerodynamic gain like any other piece of chassis or bodywork..


Yes, exactly. Well said. Its the secondary nature of the operation which does not appear to have been addressed in the rules so far.


*Ywan* Loads of troubles usually serious..

What have they done recently apart from suing people and protesting..?


I just can't see how this is legal. Yes if you press a button the DRS opens which is legal and there is a built in side effect, but in that case what else could you do? How about automatic suspension firmness changes front/rear when you alter the brake bias for better braking? or a progressive inner braking system when you apply x amount of steering lock a'la McLaren? If the Mercedes system is legal it throws into question what else can/could you do... Ban it and we'll get on with people playing fairly(ish!).


The difference between those examples you propose and this system is that they are active, while this is passive. It's just a hole that is uncovered when another element of the car moves. The hole could be put anywhere on the wing, but through its positioning, it is covered or uncovered in an advantageous way. The channel itself has no moving parts, and I see it as more of an clever passive extension of a legal, rigorously controlled device rather than a wholly new car element.


True, the examples I gave were active, fair point. I was trying to suggest that engineered side effects were perhaps not really in the spirit of the rules and people could go to extremes.

Given that the protest has failed, does this mean that teams are now allowed to use the opening of the flap (and any air pressure associated with that) to do anything they wish with so long as it's passive? I'm sure some clever engineer will be able to do something with it. An interesting challenge for some people!


I do completely see your point, though. I don't want to see any team grossly violating the spirit of the rules either, but I don't think the gains conferred by this particular device are monumental. I think I'm also biased because I carry a torch for Brawn and Schumacher, and I have a hard time taking Lotus Renault seriously when they kick up a fuss, because they perpetrated what, to my mind, was the worst crime against the sport I've seen as a fan at Singapore in 2008. I'll never forgive Briatore for that, and for the fact that only a couple of years later he could be seen schmoozing once more at Monaco. Some punishment.

I think my favourite part of this whole story, though, is the fact that Mercedes were the first to take the DRS, something that so many feel articially manipulates the races by falsely levelling the playing field, and find a way to un-level that field by passively building an advantage into it. I think their willingness to take a risk and push the envelope breathes some life into the "innovation" that is DRS. So while I share your fears, I also like that Mercedes are thinking outside the box that the FIA drew for everyone.


Incorrect, brake bias adjustments are processed via the ECU, the use of which is tightly governed as the ECU is a standard unit issued by the FIA. Also, rules surrounding ride height/suspension setting modification is a subject that has been revisited and become more comprehensively controlled ever since the banning of active ride and sliding skirts. DRS is a new area of regulation, the provisions of the technical regulations governing other aspects of the car have no bearing on this argument. The DRS has its own specific group of regulations which must be enhanced in order to outlaw devices specifically designed to exploit secondary effects. As such there is no provision in the rules to ban the device legitimatly and because of this I believe the device will remain legal for 2012 and be outlawed for next year.



since the legality of the W-duct can be argued both ways, it clearly becomes a political, not technical issue.

And since almost everyone (except Lotus, obviously as they are Merc's closest rivals now) would like to see them doing well, I expect the W-duct is here to stay.

Let's wait and see, of course.


The other major issues with this issue are:


Will stalling a front wing using an F1 drag reduction system really benefit the average road user in years to come..? Doubt it. So clamp down, and cut the costs as the only outcome of keeping it that everyone will have it within a few weeks / months.

Where does it end?

What other benefits could be produced as side effects of enabling DRS? Lowering the ride height of the car?

Tighten up the wording of the rules, ban it and avoid lots of needless costs that won't improve the show....


Any side effect you may think of, like lowering the ride height, must comply to the rules, which say: no moving parts, no holes gaps in the floor, etc.

I guess you can't lower the ride height without having to install some kind of moving part. So, the door that the legality of this system opens is quite narrow.


It would be best if the teams just showed up and were handed identical cars that they could toss their stickers on and go slog around in. Just ban any forward thinking or innovation. That would end all this bickering,,,, and make F1 as interesting as NASCAR.

I'd love to see them cut the rulebook down to about 8 pages and give them a hard tire to run on. The cars would be alive in the corners, moving around like they used to, cornering speeds would be slower which would aid overtaking and it would be fun to watch. I know, crazy talk......


You just pointed out why I no longer watch "Slocar"

A manufacture puts in an honest effort in the off season and fine tunes their aero package and ends up wining the first several races and what does NASCAR do????? Slaps a few inches of spoiler on the their rear to slow them down.

The cars are doing the same speeds they did 20 years ago it makes for very boring racing....skill, speed, technology, creativity that's what makes F1 one of the most watched sports on the planet.


I couldn't agree more. Let's just hope they don't find a way to do the same thing to F1. More restrictions and spec pieces will do nothing to make any series more interesting. Least of all an historically open formula like F1. Not that F1 has been all that open for some time but it's as close as we have any more to such.


Absolutly I don't even like the "spec" ECU but I accept it and understand the idea behind it if they don't at least try to contain cost HRT,Marrusia,Caterham will all be history and I don't think a 16 car field is good for F1!

I also don't mean to critisize NASCAR it has a large active fan base but to quote Mr Hamilton " it looks like a tin can" I never could understand the desire by nascars rule makers to hold back development if someone makes a better mouse trap it's up to the other teams to figure how to catch them not the rule makes to slap a go slow flap on their tails so they go no faster than anyone else in the field.

Who are you rooting for on Sunday Kevin


I think Lotus are particularly annoyed at this innovationg as Charlie banned their mass damper suspension for seemingly the same 'secondary' effects.

I think they have a good claim. There is no way that Mercedes system is legal


The mass damper moves hence its not legal !


Exactly what I was thinking. Could someone explain why "secondary effects" are legal in Mercedes system and illegal in the system Lotus had been developing?


In my view the Merc system is legal. All they are doing is using STATIC bodywork elements to channel the air running through the DRS slot in what they consider to be the most efficient way. Every team on the grid will have also carefully designed their DRS wing and the surrounding static bodywork features to optimise the flow of air passing through the DRS slot.

Mercedes haven't done anything wrong here, apart from being a bit clever.


I agree 100%. Teams are encouraged and expected to design an aero package that complements their car's design. This includes the airflow leading up to the rear wing, the rear wing itself, and how the airflow exits/passes over/under the car.

But with DRS enabled, teams can only design for how the airflow leads up to the rear wing and the rear wing itself - but not how the airflow leaves the car?

Mercedes found a unique way to route the post-rear wing airflow that uses no additional movable devices other that what is specifically allowed (driver activated DRS.) Fantastic.


"All they are doing is using STATIC bodywork elements to channel the air running through the DRS slot"

Absolutely right.

Same reason why there is a specific rule banning the 're-ingestion' of exhaust gases - which is a pretty closely analogous idea to this one.

Until the implementation is specifically banned by an amendment to the rules, I can't see why it isn't legal.

Of course one can argue that this isn't what was intended, but quite frankly, that's irrelevant.


It was SO much more than a simple re-ingestion of exhaust gases the entire underbody was designed around it as well as specific engine mapping to optimize gas flow off throttle so it was far more complicated than a simple hole that channels air to stall the front wing.....that being said I don't think the blown diffuser should have been banned it is a very creative solution and by the time they banned it most of the teams were using it, some better than others, so the idea of it being banned to save cost doesn't make any sense to me if that we're the case they shouldn't have waited so long to ban it they could have even made the ban immediately and temporary so it was not implemented by more teams then decide if they want to allow it or not so you don't have teams that really can't afford it to develope it and only get to use for a half season that is a waste of money.

But honestly technology is ow hat first attracted me to F1 30+ years ago who could forget seeing the Williams active cars undulating while sitting in the pits while they tested it's active suspension F1 is the pinnacle of motor racing its not supposed to be affordable it's expensive and always will be.


Talking of intention and the "Spirit" of the rules: The McLaren F-duct was banned, because drivers would take their hands off the wheel when they were still likely to be forced to make a correction on it, which was cinsidered dangerous.

Now the Merc duct is balancing the car when the DRS opens, which is rather aiding security than harming it.


Just to clarify. I think it is legal, but I don't think it is a good thing. FIA should stop unrestricted use of DRS in qualifying. This would negate the potential gains to be made from exploiting the DRS system like Merc have.


I was always against DRS for this very reason, as well as it being 'fake' racing.

It is a cornerstone of F1 the movable aero devs are not allowed, and as soon as the FIA actually made one part of the show they were asking for trouble.


Having now read the rule, which I hadn't done before, I can see that the rule does not allow the DRS control to deliberately do something else, which this design does.


My thinking is that the the f duct is a biproduct of DRS activation, not driver input


Maybe the DRS should be used in qualifying like as in the race or don't use it: it's just a device for overtaking, so.. what's the point in qualifying?


The point is that it makes it more likely that teams choose a longer top gear, meaning that the cars can actually pass each other rather than bouncing off the rev limiter down a straight.


Sorry for being off-topic, but can someone answer me who is on stewards panel for this race? (Of the ex-drivers, I mean.)

I didn't pick it up for the first 2 races, I remember last year that it was always announced before the Grand Prix. Perhaps it caused some controversy over the penalties, so it was decided that it will not be published?



Ex driver steward is Emanuele Pirro


All they've gotta do is make one simple announcement and this problem is solved forever....

DRS was created for one purpose only : to assist overtaking during the races.

So, effective China, use of DRS should be banned during Quali where overtaking is not really a problem.

Whiting can then declare that the duct is legal and Merc can keep it in place...


He already did.....declare it legal


Of topic Hamilton has been giving a 5 place drop due to having to change some faulty component on his car,


I think its absolutely genius and should remain, the activation of it due to a legal moving drs system for the rear wing (which is legal) Simple yet genius no seperate activation req for the front wing air flow disruption so how can it not be legal?

And why should it be banned?? the problem is for the rest of the teams is there's no realistic catch up on it til prob next season, and thats why the rest of the teams are stirring as race on race it will only develop further in the mercedes car.

The rest of the field are just like it has not properly materialised yet/dont have the correct drivers in the cars!. Hats off to bmercedes 🙂


I am for ban of the device and also DRS (sorry, I still don't like it any more than a year before).

The statement that the system is not activated by a driver is absolutely ridiculous.

It's like if someone will attach jet-engine to F1 car and activate it by pressing DRS button... and the team will keep saying that driver is doing nothing but openning DRS!

Of course I am exaggerating, but the concept is the same - create s system with double function and pretend it is not like that.


No the concept isnt the same. Your 'switching on' an additional device (jet engine) when the DRS button is pressed is nothing like revealing a non mechanical device when the wing is pressed. It's not even a device, it's a HOLE in the bodywork.


You know, I can do it all day long...

ok, i'll revise "my" concept just for you - when DRS flap opens - the pressure created by air stream activates (via digital preassure detector) my jet engine.

No mechanical parts are activated by DRS button. If you think, that my jet engine is activated by this button, you are wrong, it's just a coincidense.


OK Dmitry, do it all day long... I'm up for that.

Your revised concept has 2 flaws:

Firstly, and pretty much the biggest flaw in your ridiculous argument, the regulations do not allow a jet engine to be attached to the car. Holes in the body work (at certain locations) are well within the regulations.

Secondly, you're using a digital pressure sensor to switch the engine on. This is a switch, and therefore active. Again, a hole in the bodywork is NOT a switch, it is simply a hole which is revealed when the wing moves.

So, I'm waiting on your next revision. Keep em coming...


I'm glad it's come to a head - really should have happened a couple of races ago. Now we can move on after this ruling, whichever way it goes.

Andrew Woodruff

I remember Newey saying before the Merc was even launched that he expected it to have a clever front wing stalling device. The fact he knew that raises certain questions in itself (memories of the Ferrari/McLaren spygate), however other teams knew about the system during pre-season, and the FIA gave it the all clear, I just don't understand what grounds anyone has to complain about it now. This should all have been sorted out pre season, removing the need for this distracting side-show.

I'm also on the side of all the people above who think F1 should be about innovation. Mercedes have stolen a march this year, just like Red Bull did with the EBD in the last two years. Just get on with it.


Hi Andrew.

Ross Brawn said that this kind of device was discussed with all teams and the FIA at the begining of 2010..therefore is a 2 year old issue.

When some news broke that Mercedes are working on some smart front wing..Adrian must've thought back at what was discussed in the past and therefore mentioning, like you said, a front wing stalling device.


I hope the protest is thrown out.

Ross should be congratulated for coming up with something this clever.

The others are only protesting because it would be so difficult to put it onto a car not designed for it.

As a principle, when the FIA/Charlie W come up with a ruling it should be stuck too.

Renault were a victim of this kind of indecision with their ride height device which had been approved at the design stage and was subsequently disallowed following pressure from the other teams.


I have to disagree on the Renault victim issue.

We don't know if Renauld were a victim. If the FIA agreed on something and Renault built exactly that, I don't think any pressure could've changed the FIA stance over that.

My thinking is that Renault tried to push the limits and built something that was over what has been discussed and agreed with the FIA.

If my memory serves me right was said that its main purpose was the aero benefit and not in the suspension area.

We all know that in times like these nobody wants to waste money on design and develop something that is going to be scrapped. FIA understands the teams hard financial stress and would not intentionally mislead teams into building devices that will not pass the scrutiny.


latest update..its been deemed legal again!

bring it on...hope they get a grip on their tyre issues


It's been deemed legal since Mercedes introduced it. Was never banned.


Really is a question of interpretation, and as it was developed with the full knowledge of the FIA (It would be foolhardy for any team to do otherwise)it probably is quite difficult for them to do a U turn without a good technical argument. The key aspect for me is that it requires no additional actuation by the driver and is as Mercedes say a secondary function of the DRS operating system, and as such is perfectly legal. The thing is that other teams have realised it will be difficult for them to incorporate it without substantial change and that really is the concealed reason for any objection. There's no doubt that the system doesn't align with the spirit of the rules, but that's besides the point as we know gaining an advantage in this game is about rule bending so I think Mercedes case will be upheld.



Having examined the evidence presented, the Stewards DECIDE unanimously that the Protest is DISMISSED.

The grounds for this decision are:

1. There are many different parts of bodywork fitted to cars from a variety of teams, which have been designed specifically to take advantage of the change in airflow caused by the activation of the DRS.

2. The modifications on Cars 7 and 8 are examples of the above.

3. The Mercedes design complies with all bodywork geometric and stiffness regulations.

4. The design is entirely passive and has no moving parts whatsoever.

5. The sole purpose of the "DRS" (or the "system" as referred to in the regulations) as stated in Article 3.18.3, is to improve overtaking. The Mercedes design is completely consistent with this objective.

6. . Noting the agreement of Lotus that "if the hole currently located in the rear end plate was located elsewhere and permanently exposed, this would be acceptable", there is no reason why the locating of the hole is the current position on Cars 7 and 8 should not also be acceptable. 7. In relation to the 5 questions posed by Lotus, all 5 of which Lotus assert (and the Stewards agree) if answered in the affirmative, would rule the vehicles ineligible;

(i) Article 3.15 does not apply because it does not directly use driver movement, as a means of altering the aerodynamic characteristics of the car. The alteration is indirectly (and not directly) consequential to the movement of the driver adjustable bodywork ("DRS")

(ii) The second question posed is not relevant in light of (i) above

(iii) The Mercedes design is not a "system" or "device" in its own right, it is part of a design made to take advantage of the change in airflow caused by the activation of the DRS (refer 1 above)

(iv) The Mercedes design is not activated by driver movement. It is a consequence of a change of position of the driver adjustable bodywork, which is permitted under the regulations.

(v) The Mercedes design does appear to alter the aerodynamic characteristics of the car by reducing the drag, however this is consistent with the intent of the regulations.

Accordingly not all of the 5 questions can be answered in the affirmative and therefore do not form successful grounds for the upholding of the protest.

Further, and distinct from the grounds above, the protest is dismissed on the grounds that the FIA confirmed the assertion of the Mercedes team that it had, in accordance with Article 2.4 and/or 2.5 of the F1 Technical Regulations, sought clarification from the FIA Formula One Technical Department concerning this matter and the FIA confirmed that the Mercedes design had been deemed permissible.


So, what if Lotus figured their protest would fail but did it anyway to get official wording from the FIA/Charlie? Now (assuming that's the official wording) they have a legal basis to design their own system (or systems).

A response by the FIA of "it's legal" doesn't help anyone design a similar system for their car. On the otherhand, teams now have a new set of rules to abide by.

Quite smart if you ask me. Now let's see who uses the above decision to create a marginally-legal system (I'm betting RBR).

On another note (in the vein of beating a dead horse) the following doesn't explain why DRS is allowed during qualifying:

"5. The sole purpose of the “DRS” (or the “system” as referred to in the regulations) as stated in Article 3.18.3, is to improve overtaking. The Mercedes design is completely consistent with this objective."


This seems pretty definitive to me:

6. Noting the agreement of Lotus that “if the hole currently located in the rear end plate was located elsewhere and permanently exposed, this would be acceptable”, there is no reason why the locating of the hole is the current position on Cars 7 and 8 should not also be acceptable.



"(v) The Mercedes design does appear to alter the aerodynamic characteristics of the car by reducing the drag, however this is consistent with the intent of the regulations."

This is the part I don't understand. If I remember correctly, it was exactly for this reason that Lotus' "reactive ride-height" system was deemed illegal, even though the effect was secondary, reacting to brake torque and thus not directly coming from driver input.

Could someone explain the logic behind different decisions on FIA's part concerning these two innovations?


Lotus' reactive ride-height system was a movable device aimed to alter the aerodynamics, and those are forbidden, with the exception of DRS.


The decision has gone if favour of mercedes.

My feeling is to ban the free use of DRS in qualifing, it was proposed to allow easier overtaking in the race, not faster lap times in qualifing. I have always disliked to use of DRS in qualifing.


You do not understand. If it's to be effective during races the car's gear ratios have to be adjusted for it. If you cannot use it during qualifying, everyone will set their car up for quali and the DRS will be toothless.


I understand that the car has to set up for the use of DRS. Force India in the race had a too low gear ratio so found it difficult to pass with DRS.

However what I said was that I do not like FREE USE of DRS in quali, used on every straight, even halfway round corners the DRS is opened. The cars are set up for quali for the FREE USE of DRS.

DRS could be used in the DRS zone, but not everywhere.

The reason the new Mercedes system is so effective is that it increases the return from the DRS- incresed staight line speed and better handling in cornering due to a better balance in the car. With the DRS open the rear end is lighter, resulting in the front wing providing more effective downforce, thus the balance shifts in the car, making steering heavier. So the Mercedes system results in better handling with the DRS open when cornering. So has better quali time.

I'm not sure how much Nico had his DRS open during quali (maybe James Allen could look at how much different drivers have DRS open during a quali lap) but I know he didn't have his DRS open once during the race!


Why ban it, everyone has it, will use it, no one has an advantage. Quali is about going as fast as the car will go. Can't punish innovation (eg. Merc team) completely or F1 is dead. Its already getting much too restrictive on the tech side for my taste.


I like the way Mercedes has used their system, it's very innovative, but free use during qualification is not what the system was suggested for. The use should only be in the DRS zone.


Stupid decision.

Hope someone thinks of some cleverer system to use with DRS be it jet engine, turbocharger, autogun shooting needles in rival's tyres, anything - just for everyone to see what rule streching is all about.


Innovation triumphs...

Faith in F1 is restored...for now


Agree: Innovation must live for the sake of F1.


Great -- Can we go racing now please? 🙂


Whatsoever Mr. Whiting could say, weighting each single word of a stated rule article to demonstrate the system is legal, this flow which kills the front wing deportance is evidently against the purpose of decreasing the "aero" of F1, as it was declared by FIA. Moreover, the goal of decreasing F1 costs is missed too, because all contenders will be forced to design a new car which integrates the new device. Not beacuse Mercedes is goin' to win, but because the closer contender of each team, from the front row to the bottom, will be relatively unbeatable.

This F1 "show", where pilots have not the same opportunities because of DRS, where engine power and mechanic is humiliated down to a standard device, has become the "aero" world championship, while FIA is at the top with hypocrisy.


Just more F1 BS! I'm tired of it.

Today's F1 brings *itself into disrepute!

Their attitude: "if we didn't think of it and we cant copy it and make it work it must be illegal and we'll whine and complain and protest and then sue!"

The whole lot of them should stfu and race!



Can't wait for Saturday. These 3 weeks seemed like 3 months...


Lewis Hamilton’s perfect qualifying score in 2012 is over. It has emerged that the highest the McLaren driver can start Sunday’s Chinese grand prix is sixth, due a five-place grid penalty due to gearbox change.

If he is a pole-setter in Shangai, will he be able to keep the title as the 3rd pole-setter of the season?


The right decision : let's hope this is the end of the argument.

Of course it won't be : this is Formula 1 !!!!

PS as Joe Bauer placed great emphasis on the fact that the team had obtained the agreement of the FIA before they built the system that it would be within the regs, does this mean that the Enstone team could make moves to revisit their ride height control system ?


People tend to forget that the Enstone team may not have disclosed enough of their plans to alert the FIA's rule-breach-detector.

Teams are extremely paranoid, so they would usually just ask for things like: "Would it be legal if the brake-torque reacts back on the suspension?" (So what? It already does! It will probably bend the wishbones a little), not mentioning that the reaction they were aiming for was "Altering the ride height" (what? Did I just read something like 'optimizing the aerodynamics under braking using moving parts'?).


"Movable front wing" , "openable back wing","double diffuser", "exhaust blown diffuser", "no diffuser", "KERS", "no KERS', "DRS"..i think my head will explode soon !

If someone comes up with a cool technology within a reasonably flexible framework, allow others to copy. This constant bickering and tinkering with rules is what confuses an already confused F1 fan. Another reason why i enjoy MotoGP. No such non-sense ! They keep the rules simple, and don't care if someone puts an engine upside down ( Honda NR500) or puts cylinders in L shape (Ducatis). They just go racing like good old boys,they give no quarter and ask for none. F1 is way too political, and upon that they needlessly complicate things..


Hi James, I wanted to point out something I read on Lotus' Facebook page. I thought the statement was mildly funny mainly because of how ineffective it was, and was surprised at some of the jibes thrown in... A first for me hearing an F1 team so direct publicly. Is this normal? Link below.



So, long story short. Developing new ideas in F1 requires good lawyers, not good engineers.


I haven't read all of the comments here but it occurs to me that Ross Brawn and company have been at the forefront of Formula 1 design thinking outside the box for the last couple of years. Brawn's designs seem to push the envelope more than other designers.


I sense this will be outlawed next year (as was f-duct, double diffuser, blown diffuser)......


Hopefully DRS will go along with it!


I've just seen some highlights of the 2010 Chinese GP and guess who was racing there.. Robert Kubica.

I miss the guy!

Any news on Robert James? He kept so quiet. What's going on?


Off topic question here James:

In the Shanghai preview on formula1.com, there is very interesting quote from James Allison describing the power steering problems faced by Kimi Raikkonen based on his driving style. I don't want to copy that into here, but he gives quite a detailed description of KR's own style and what Lotus is trying to do to match it. Can you shed some light on what he is saying? And, is this sort of information well known up and down the pit lane about Kimi and/or the other drives? Would love to see you do an article on what you know/can gather about the different driving styles - beyond the narratives we already know that Jenson is smooth or Lewis is difficult on tires or Alonso can deliver consistent lap times down to a 10th of a second?



Fantastic now we can go racing in China! Sanity prevailed! Sure hope Mercedes can sort out the Tyre problems. If they can translate that speed in Quali to the race we might just see win nr 92 on it's way! Let's wait and see!


Right... if anyone still was in doubt that other teams haven't got a clue how the system works now the anwser is laid before them.

This was never about banning the system, but asking vital questions as to how the system works. Kind of 5 questions and I'll figure out the system. Perhaps other teams figured it out now, but it's pretty obvious Lotus hasn't yet.


Great idea by Mercedes however I personally don't agree with it.

I just want consistency from the FIA on these matters.

Last year there were far too many photo's showing a redbull flexi wing yet nothing happened.

Still F1 is about innovation anf this is an example of that theme.


I hope this brings an end to the saga, it's officially been found legal, get on with it.


Its legal because:-

1. Schumacher is still the biggest drawcard in F1 to non fans - sure alonso, hamilton, vettel are there however for some reason they have not become household names with the masses - none are 'superstars' ala Schumacher, Senna, Prost, Lauda etc eg. Maybe its their personality that made people want to watch or now the lack thereof personality (i.e. Button - gentleman bores). IMO, Coulthard was the poster boy for the current gen of drivers - goody two shoes bores that act more like whining little girls than f1 pilots.

2. F1 needs Schumacher fighting for victories to help stop the dwindling tv ratings and overall decline in popularity of F1 with the MASSES. If the system is banned there is no way merc can even get in the top 10.

3. Bernie needs a superstar in F1 and Schumacher, whether you like it or not, is the last they have at present. Maybe someone new will come - interesting, dangerous, fast and not a corporate bore - a headline grabber to help stop the nicely/nicely approach that exists in F1. Sport is about confrontation, Senna vs Prost, Schumacher vs Hill - anger, passion and danger. Something that F1 now lacks in spades and the reason why its popularity is at rock bottom and would fall even further without the presence of Schumacher.

The system being deemed LEGAL is about one thing - bums on seats and getting people to watch this sport.; without Merc and Schumacher in with a fighting chance there is little chance for an upswing in the popularity of the sport.


Don't you think that chasing stupid conspiracy ideas is getting a bit boring once in a while?


Creative engineering is a form of art, that's why even rules written are not clear totally. That's why I like F1 as innovators beat the system.

But then Mercedes are having tyre issues so who knows.


Is anyone else fed up of the overabundance of technical restrictions in F1?

OK, I understand the reasons for fiscal prudence. That all makes sense, and by all means there should be some limits placed on spending so that it's not simply the size of a team's wallet that wins them races.

However, this is *Formula 1* for feck's sake. It's the pinnacle of motorsport on the planet, and I reckon the teams should be as free as possible to come up with the craziest ideas they can think of to produce the fastest cars that are humanly possible.

The FIA should basically tell the teams "Here are your tyres, here's your fuel, have fun!" with as few other limitations as possible.

If the stringent safety requirements were kept and most of the other technical restrictions dropped (keeping maximum engine displacement, no traction control, etc.) I'd reckon we'd see some amazing ideas come crawling out of the woodwork; modern-day equivalents to the Tyrrell P34 and the Brabham BT46, alternative approaches like Lotus' 107B (which used its active suspension at pit stops to dump the car's belly on the floor and raise the wheels without any pit crew intervention), etc.

Fair play to Brawn and Mercedes. Their interpretation of what a DRS system can do is very, very clever. Yes, it's not what the writers of the rule envisaged, but they appear to have worked within the letter of the law (screw this "spirit of the law" nonsense - there's no such thing in technical regs) and produced something that nobody else has.

OK, it doesn't buy them very much during a race, but I love seeing that kind of unique thinking, and I wish there was vastly more of it on display. The only reason there's so much fuss over the system is that the other teams didn't think of it first.

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