F1 Flexible Wing Issues Heating Up in Baku
Credit: Mark Thompson - Getty Images
Mercedes complains that Red Bull's rear wing sits down under aerodynamic load while it is still passing the FIA tests.
At the same time, Red Bull warned that the Mercedes front fenders could bend under load and react to protests.
The FIA doesn't want off-track antics to dominate the news.
Before the Azerbaijan Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend in Baku, there is a lot of talk about flexible wings in front and behind.
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Mercedes complains that Red Bull's rear wing sits down under aerodynamic stress while it is still passing the FIA tests. Those tests will be made tougher at the French GP on June 20, but Wolff is keeping the pressure on, saying there could be protests in Baku.
At the same time, Red Bull warned that the Mercedes front fenders could bend under load and react to protests. Mercedes responded that Red Bull's front wings are the same and could also be protested.
The FIA is not going to move faster than it announced, so Toto Wolff's warning could be an attempt to scare Red Bull not to give the cars the same wings in the hopes that without them the team will do less Gets points.
Credit: ANDREJ ISAKOVIC - Getty Images
"We have been in limbo for a long time," said Wolff at the Monaco Grand Prix a week ago. "We indicated the flexible rear wing situation last summer without receiving any feedback, and I can understand the frustration of the teams when this area should be tackled much earlier when designing this year's car.
“Yes, we have to modify our wing. We have to soften it. Our wing is extremely stiff and complies with the famous article 3.8 that it must remain immobile. The new test that has been introduced is a half-baked solution that is to give us an opportunity and the whole thing may become softer and bend more in the future. "
It's all one big political game that Mercedes is hoping the FIA will get in earlier than it says it will and that the FIA doesn't want off-track antics to dominate the news. It's a game of cat and mouse, typical of a tight F1 season, where every point counts and every trick in the political book is used. But threats are just threats, we have to wait and see who runs with which wings in Baku and what happens then.
The flexibility of wings is one of the biggest gray areas in sport because even if you can see on videos that the wings bend under load at high speed, they can pass the tests required by the FIA. In such cases they are considered legal and the FIA can - and will - change the rules if the teams go too far in their luck. She doesn't want the focus to be on things like that.
But teams that lose need excuses, so finding mistakes on competing cars is a great way to divert attention from their own mistakes.
In the meantime, if you're a Ferrari fanatic, don't get your hopes up too high as Formula 1 is headed for the streets of Baku, Azerbaijan this weekend.
At least that's the message Ferrari's Race Director Laurent Mekies is trying to get across.
“In Spain, the SF21 was clearly the third best car in the field,” says Mekies. “In Monaco it even showed the potential to win, but in the next races, starting with Baku, the situation is different. This part of the season is going to be complicated for us. We expect a very strong McLaren, which should adapt to the track characteristics very well and thus take the lead of the group behind the two teams fighting for the world championship, but we also believe that Alpine, AlphaTauri and Aston Martin will be very competitive. "
Monaco wasn't a great race due to the track configuration that made it virtually impossible for the 2021 cars to get past each other. But Baku is different. It has much faster sections and there are places for cars to pass. And it's often a pretty wild race.
Credit: Mark Thompson - Getty Images
What about Red Bull?
Mercedes has won three of the four previous races in Baku, so Red Bull expects a stronger challenge than in Monaco.
"It was a strong track for Mercedes in the past, so we have no illusions," said team boss Christian Horner over the weekend. "
But Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is not so sure about that, or he is downplaying the Mercedes potential.
“Nothing is easy in this sport,” says Wolff, “and that's why we love it. We know if you're not at or near 100 percent it will bite you. On Monday morning after Monaco, I saw the same energy as when we returned from the Bahrain test and I am delighted. We analyzed the weekend, asked ourselves tough questions, and learned some important lessons.
“Although it's a very different road circuit than Monaco, we expect it to be another tricky one for us that doesn't particularly suit the characteristics and traits of the W12. Red Bull will be strong again, while both Ferrari and McLaren have made great strides lately. One of the main focuses for us must be to seize the opportunities that arise on the outlier stretches that do not suit our car. When the points are there, we have to get them. "
World Cup leader Max Verstappen says he is not a fan of Baku.
"The track is okay, but to be honest, it's probably not my favorite track," says Verstappen. "I've never been on the podium there, so it's time to change that. Let's see how competitive we are. I expect Mercedes to come back strong there, though."
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