The latest Formula One row over cheating rumbles on. In 2021 it was the flexible wing which Mercedes were upset about resulting in the FIA changing the test it used for wing rigidity. Now the argument has moved towards flexible floors.
Toto Wolff believes certain teams Red Bull and Ferrari in particular have been touting the regulations as he briefed the media this week stating, “Some teams have skids that actually disappear when the car hits the bottom [of the ground],”
“The reason for skids is that they are the limitation of how much [wear] you can have. If the skid can disappear miraculously into the floor, that is clearly against the regulations.
“Then the second thing is there is a plank that can deflect, or that basically also moves away more than the tolerance should be.”
The Mercedes boss explained the regulation only allows for a movement tolerance of “one millimetre, and if a plank moves away many more millimetres up into the car, obviously, you gain some performance there too.”
The regulation for the tolerance is actually two millimetres, but hey was 100% difference between friends?
The FIA have since Silverstone changed their rules around how the planked is mounted to the floor of the car and the regulation was intended to take force from the next race in France. However, to allow teams to redesign what is a crucial aspect of their cars downforce – the enforcement will only take place from the Belgium GP after the summer break.
Toto Wolff is unhappy over the delay. “I would like it to happen immediately because it can have a performance impact.”
Christian Horner was asked about Wolff’s accusations and replied dismissing them outright. “That’s total rubbish. Total rubbish. I think we’re getting issues mixed up here.”
“Maybe he’s referring to, I don’t know, cars that are around him at the moment. I have no idea, but I have absolutely no issues or concerns on our floor.”
The flexifloors and disappearing plank would allow the car to run closer to the ground and create more downforce, yet the RB18 has a visible ride height much greater than the Mercedes, even to the naked eye.
However, Red Bull engineer Paul Monaghan told Autosport, “I don’t think we could ignore it [The new TD]; that would probably be a little naive on our part.”
“Some new constraints are being applied. We have not long had the data from Silverstone to see how our interpretation of it compares with that of the FIA.”
The teams and the FIA have been collecting data since the Canadian GP to measure vertical oscillations in the cars. The two data sets need to be compared to ensure the teams understand the new maximum metric to be applied to the bouncing of their cars.
This is one reason the introduction of the Technical Directive was delayed.
Monaghan continues, “So we’ll undertake that first. And then whether we’re more effective or not than the others, that’s really for the others to determine.
“The only thing we can control is our two [cars]. And if we change and adopt and fulfil the FIA’s AOM criteria, that’s our job done. The trick for us will be if there are changes that are required, and they cost you performance, is to minimise that.
“Otherwise, we need to carry on doing what we’re doing, and keep the car as quick as we can. It’s a judgement relative to our opposition rather than outright lap time for us.”
The Red Bull engineer’s comments are interesting and imply the team will have to make changes following the new technical directive.
However the most bizarre aspect of this whole saga is the attitude of the FIA. The initiated this process under the banner of driver safety. It appears certain teams have found loopholes in the regulations which could make their cars less bouncy – and therefore less of a danger to the drivers health.
Yet instead of leaving the loophole in place and encouraging others to use it to reduce their oscillations, the slam the door shut on it creating stiffer cars more likely to bounce.