Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has warned protests are likely due to delays implementing a technical directive aimed at preventing teams such as Red Bull from running flexible rear wings.
Onboard footage from the Spanish Grand Prix appeared to show the Red Bull rear wing deforming at high speed, reducing drag in a straight line, and then snapping back into position under braking for Turn 1. Following that, a technical directive was sent to the teams stating more stringent testing will take place. However, it won’t be enforced until the French Grand Prix on June 20 in order in allow anyone affected to implement changes, something Wolff is unhappy about.
“We have seen in the past that complicated redesigns for teams haven’t delayed — it’s clear that if you have a back-to-back race or maybe even two weeks, it’s too short for everyone to adjust,” Wolff said. “But we have four weeks until Baku and it is incomprehensible that within four weeks you can’t stiffen up a rear wing for the track that is probably the most affected by flexible rear wings.
“That leaves us in no man’s land, because the technical directive says that the movement of the rear wings has been judged as excessive, so teams who would run this kind of thing are prone to be protested and probably this is going to go to the ICA (the FIA’s International Court of Appeal). Nobody needs this messy situation.”
Wolff’s comments came in support of Andreas Seidl, after the McLaren team principal voiced his displeasure at the time being taken to introduce the tests.
“First of all, I think when you see all the pictures from Barcelona, it’s pretty clear what is happening there,” Seidl said. “Therefore, we welcome the reaction from the FIA with the technical directive and we are happy with the basic content.
“Where we strongly disagree is the timing of the implementation, because from our point of view there is no reason, after not just one team already had the advantage of doing things which in our point of view are clearly against the regulations.
“They had that advantage already for several races, which is something we are obviously not happy with. But now, allowing them to have a further advantage for some more races, it’s clearly something we strongly disagree with and are in conversation with the FIA (about).”
Red Bull’s Christian Horner countered that it is unrealistic to expect a team to be able to change a design to comply with the new tests so quickly, claiming it is essentially a change in regulations.
“When you’re effectively changing a rule there has to be a lead time — you can’t just magic-up components,” Horner said. “If they change the tests on the front wings I think this weekend — and we’ve seen far more performance from front wing flexibility, shall we say — then that would affect every single team, some much greater than others.
“I think there has to be a lead time, you can’t expect parts overnight with the costs that are incurred. The car complies to the regulations that have been there for the last 18 months or so with these load tests. Then the test has been changed and there has to be a notice period for that.”
As one of the other teams named as being impacted, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto says his team has been taking advantage of the regulations as they currently stand and would need to make changes.
“I think it’s a normal demonstration of what’s happening in F1, always trying to push the boundaries,” Binotto said. “Somehow the FIA try to clarify the intentions on the principles of the regulations now. At the time, I’m pretty sure that the FIA checked what was right, what was wrong, I’m pretty sure that by somehow deciding a certain date, they analyzed the case pretty well.
“As Ferrari, we are happy that now there is a clarification, so potentially we need to adapt or someone needs to adapt to the technical directive. But the timing, I think we should respect the FIA’s decision because I’m pretty sure they did it by being fully aware.
“Yes we are exploiting — as I think all the teams are exploiting somehow — what’s possible and what we believe is right. The technical directive is clarifying. I don’t think it’s impacting Ferrari much, certainly on lap time, from what we’ve seen — very, very little — but there are some redesigns which need to be carried over to comply fully to the technical directive.”