Formula One is not new to technical innovations and debates over their regularities, and with the battle for the title being so close, Mercedes and Red Bull are certainly not staying still.
A huge debate has been going on over the stability of rear wings since last weekend, when Lewis Hamilton passed comment about Red Bull running a “bendy wing”.
This new, more flexible wing is able of rotating down on the straights to boost top speed, but then comes up back up into a normal position for the corners for maximum downforce.
Hamilton admitted being pretty impressed with Red Bull’s performance, and he even suggested its rival could be gaining from its rear wing flexing on the straights.
In an interview after the qualification session of the Spanish Grand Prix, he had said: “The Red Bulls are really fast on the straights. They have this bendy wing on the back of their car which they put on today and they gained at least three tenths from this wing.
“So they will be quicker down the straights than us, and it will be hard to keep them behind. But that doesn’t mean it will be impossible.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner immediately rejected any critique since “the FIA are completely happy with the car, that it has passed all of those tests that are pretty stringent.”
Yet, because of the dispute, the FIA decided on introducing new rigidity tests that will take effect from the French Grand Prix.
Mercedes and McLaren were left very disappointed by the decision of not introducing the tests sooner, since this will mean contenders running the flexible-wing like Red Bull, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo could still take advantage of the rule loophole in Baku next week.
Both teams are in discussion with the FIA regarding the timing of the new tests, and speaking to Sky Sports F1, Toto Wolff made it clear that if rivals will be allowed to continue running the flexible wings in Azerbaijan, their next action would be lodging a complaint with the stewards.
“The FIA has decided that the rules for the test, especially for the torsion resistance, will be changed. This will apply from Paul Ricard onwards. That is a very clear statement and regulation”, said Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko.
“If Mr. Wolff thinks that is too late for him [to introduce tests in France] - in my opinion, it is still the FIA that determines the procedure. If he does that [protest], he is free to do so.
“I think he should also look at his front wings. Because on ServusTV and also on Sky, there was a recording where you saw how drastically this front wing approaches the ground”, concluded Marko.
Then, asked if Red Bull could protest against Mercedes’ front wing, Marko said: “Right.”
As a matter of fact, Red Bull already made notes on the flexibility of Mercedes’ W12 front wing.
Wolff responded Mercedes’ front wings is “bending exactly the same way as the Red Bull”. So, the teams are free to “protest each other on the front wing”.
What is clear to Mercedes Team Principal is that “the rear wing bends more than it should. Under the rules, it has been classified as non-conformance”.
To conclude, Marko said Red Bull is running a fully legal car and they will continue to use their flexi-wings until the FIA rules otherwise.
“At the moment, we are on the road with a legal car. And at Paul Ricard, we will put a corresponding reinforcement on our rear wing.”
Lastly, Marko recognized the debate over flexi-wings was “not championship-deciding” in the fight between Red Bull and Mercedes.
Yet, with the teams separated by just one point at the top of the constructors’ standings, this debate is probably destined to become decisive.