The FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) has been conducting intense scrutiny on flexible wings used by F1 teams this season. Teams are suspected of pushing the envelope beyond what is allowed, leading the FIA to conduct an in-depth investigation. Aston Martin and other teams were reportedly advised to tweak their front wing designs around the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, to ensure full compliance with racing regulations.
In an acceleration of efforts to eliminate any loopholes, the FIA has issued a comprehensive technical directive. This directive, titled TD018, has been accessed by F1 Initiative. It was disseminated to teams before the start of the Dutch Grand Prix weekend and aims to clarify the FIA‘s stance on versatile bodywork.
In the document, the FIA claims teams are using “regions of purposely design localized compliance” and “relative motion between adjacent components” to enhance aerodynamic performance. Such designs infringe Article 3.2.2 of the F1 Technical Regulations, which mandates that all aerodynamic parts be “rigidly secured and immobile” and should produce a “uniform, solid, hard, continuous, impervious surface under all circumstances.”
The FIA‘s deeper inspection comes as they believe teams are taking advantage of advanced systems that discreetly flex and rotate wing elements, evading detection in regular load tests. The FIA clarified that “assembly designs that exploit localized compliance or degrees of freedom are not permitted.”
The technical directive lists four primary design elements contravening the rules, although other concepts that have been used may also be against the rules. These include:
1) Wing elements that can manipulate vertically, longitudinally, or laterally relative to the bodywork they are attached to.
2) Wing elements that hinge relative to the bodywork they are affixed to.
3) Designs encompassing elastomeric fillets, flexible sections of wing profile, or thin flexible laminate that can distort or deflect.
4) Designs using ‘soft’ trailing edges on wing elements to prevent ‘localized cracking.’
The exceptions lie in the floor assembly, bib bodywork, and a small lateral gap to help seal front wing flaps. As a result of the untraceable techniques used by teams to bend wings, the FIA has changed its approach. Teams are now required to provide assembly drawings and cross sections revealing how the front and rear wing elements are fixed.
The FIA will further require teams to provide similar images depicting the way the rear wing pylons are fixed to the rear impact structure. With these designs in hand, the organization can more easily understand how wing components are designed and whether any have been engineered to flex, thus providing an aerodynamic edge.
In consideration of the potential extra work loads for teams, the FIA has postponed enforcing these changes until the upcoming Singapore Grand Prix. Thus, competitors can carry on using their current designs until the end of the Monza race this weekend. All required drawings depicting teams’ wing designs must be submitted by 8 September.