Red Bull and Mercedes under scrutiny amidst new FIA Directives

Jaden Diaz
12 Sep, 2023

The Singapore Grand Prix is ​​always a fascinating event in Formula 1. Its unique characteristics are challenging for both drivers and teams on a technical and physical level. Several teams have updates planned, albeit of varying significance. AlphaTauri, for example, introduces a huge package to Singapore.

In any case, however, the focus will be on two ‘old’ FIA directives, which will be crucially important in Marina Bay. This directive is TD18, which focuses on the anomalous bending of the wing components of the cars. Additionally, the well-established and now updated TD39 (related to the bending of the bottom and adjacent components) is included.

The FIA addresses static flexing and verifies ‘mechanisms’ with TD18 

Talking about the simple bending of the wings has now become almost reductive. However, the FIA’s monitoring action has been complex and slow for years now, mainly due to fewer instruments and men compared to each individual team.

The TD39 introduced last season has never completely disappearedalthough the regulatory changes introduced this season have also played a role.

Perhaps of most significance, changes to plank flexibility and skid wear have remained intact. In fact, the Federation continues to monitor the most important aspect of this generation of cars – the floor.

The latest changes will make last year’s TD39 even more restrictive. This prevents teams from using flexible, mobile elements or solutions that go against the spirit of the regulations.

FIA
The bottom of the Red Bull RB19 of the Monaco GP – Illustration by Rosario Giuliana

The FIA ​​has heavily observed the issue of flexibility in recent months, consistently asking teams for clarification.

Baku is when the FIA first started asking questions of teams, starting with Aston Martin. The British outfit was noted for having significant bending on the front wing’s internal part.

Lawrence Stroll’s team has never officially denied that the FIA ​​asked to make changes to the front wing. However, Aston confirmed to us that their drop in performance that started at the Spanish GP can be traced back to the upgrades introduced in Canada.

​​Thankfully for the British outfit, there were encouraging signs from the floor introduced at Zandvoort.

FIA
Aston Martin new front wing – SpanishGP

For years, the FIA has used static tests. This process involves placing a weight on a component and applying specific pressure to see the element’s movements.

However, technology evolves, and teams always find different ways to exploit flexibility, also thanks to the material itself, carbon, which can be designed to flex only at certain load inclinations.

“Ours are static tests, and they cannot be perfect because, in any case, the direction of the load you apply is always a little different compared to the load found on the track compared to the genuine aerodynamic force,” commented Nikolas Tombazis, FIA Single Seater Director, to our Motorsport colleagues.

For this reason, the FIA wants to not only measure the static flexions but also the ‘mechanisms’ used by teams (Aston Martin reportedly among them) in the front wing.

Many teams will be forced to change, Red Bull and Mercedes heavily discussed

Not only was the front wing targeted, but the directive also concerned the rear wing, with particular attention to the lower part

The single pylon that supports the rear wing, compared to the solution with two supports, is a clear example of an element designed for both structural and aerodynamic reasons.

In fact, it is well known that the single-pylon wing (also) boasts a flexibility that makes it particularly efficient.

“Lately, we have seen that the teams were exaggerating: the trend was evident, and so we intervened with a more severe clarification.”

What the FIA ​​wants to avoid is excessive use of new technologies to make carbon flex. The teams were avoiding irregularities from a static perspective by using other components to cause dynamic movement.

With these particular tricks, teams can increase the load to make the car more stable between corner entry and exit without generating aerodynamic instability. This is an area where Ferrari, in particular, suffers.

FIA
The Ferrari single-pylon rear wing introduced this year on the SF-23, until last year at Maranello they adopted the double-pylon version

Hearing the opinion of many teams regarding the two directives, everyone has their own precise idea, but two names consistently appear – and they are Red Bull and Mercedes

Meanwhile, Ferrari is the least talked about of the top teams, both inside and outside the paddock. There is a near certainty that Ferrari has no secrets in this area, especially after what happened last year with the F1-75. This is why Ferrari does not mind that these two old directives have been made more restrictive.

However, “many teams will have to make changes”, the manager of a Formula 1 team told us, which could make the TDs seem really rather invasive

The question that F1 fans want answered is how much impact these changes could have in terms of lap time.

Publicly, everyone is convinced that there are no huge profits.

“A flexible wing can give one-tenth, not much more.” according to Andrea Stella, McLaren team principal.

Pierre Waché, technical director at Red Bull, explains the following:

“There isn’t much to gain on the front, also due to the restrictive regulations.

“Teams like Aston Martin and Mercedes play with the deviation (flexion) of the elements, but we are talking about a gain of 1-tenth, no more. It’s marginal,” said the talented French engineer.

Comparison between the old and the new front wing of the Mercedes W14 – Illustration Rosario Giuliana

The introduction of these two ‘old’ (albeit updated) directives in Singapore does not frighten teams significantly for a low-speed circuit like Marina Bay.

However, the next events in Suzuka and Losail will be more convincing, where TD18 and TD39 could create bigger problems at circuits that demand greater aerodynamic eprformance.

Authors: Piergiuseppe Donadoni & Paolo D’Alessandro
Co-Author: Giuliano Duchessa and Rosario Giuliana

Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang

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