Mercedes F1 illegal upgrade row

Following the death of Red Bull owner Dietricht Mateschitz the paddock row over Red Bull’s cost cap breach was placed in abeyance. Yet in Formula One there is always another controversy brewing and Mercedes became the focus of attention for bringing an ‘illegal’ upgrade to Austin, Texas.

Mercedes had listed upgrades with the FIA relating to their floor and the front wing of the car. The construction of the wing is lighter and the complete suite of upgrades were believed to reduce the Mercedes W13 by around 4kg.



Mercedes’ competitors protest

However, the front wing aroused interest from other teams when Mercedes unpacked their containers leaving their new wing on display for all to see.

Clearly a competitor of Mercedes had a quite word with the FIA scrutineers who ruled the wing ‘illegal’.

The wing had a different end plate profile but it was the adoption of five connecting supports between the horizontal flaps which created the furore. 

These separators were shaped and inclined toward the outside of the wheel clearly designed to be flow deviators and vortex generators. The wing was ruled illegal because since 2019 additional profiles above the level of the main profile of the wing are forbidden.



No more dirty air

Yet there was a further reason relating to regulations that prevent the implementation of specific solutions that in their function increase the turbulence on the outside of the wheels and make the wake of the car troublesome for those behind.

Mercedes were angry at the decision claiming they had sent images of the proposed new wing to the FIA’s Single Seater Technical Director, Nikolas Tombazis for approval before putting the parts into production.

This is standard practice and important given the new cost cap regulations. Mercedes had produced four of these wings at a cost of around $140,000 each.



A big spend for no gain

That means the Brackley team had blown over $500,000 on parts they now can’t use.

A toned down version has appeared in Mexico without the controversial separators and looks similar to the pre-Austin version. The new Austin endplates remain which will improve the flow structure for the aerodynamic parts further back on the car.

Gary Anderson believes the FIA need to tidy up the regulations relating to the front wing, rather than rely on the ‘spirit’ of the design not to deliberately create dirty air for the cars behind.

“As I have said before, if the FIA really wants to reduce the potential for the teams to create outwash concepts then it should simply make the wing 100mm narrower on each side. 

This would move this area of flow optimisation to more or less the middle of the front tyre, and as a side benefit it might also just reduce the number of front wing endplates we see damaged in first lap skirmishes.”



Improving F1 car fragility

Given the recent row between the race stewards in Austin, the race director and Alpine over cars running with “unsafe” or damaged components; reducing the width and complexity of the front wing makes sense given more often than not following minor contact it is here where the damage occurs.

The stewards in Austin criticised the F1 race director for failing to issue black and orange flags for both Sergio Perez who had a damaged front wing endplate the eventually flew off and for Fernando Alonso whose wing mirror was hanging by a thread following contact with future team mate Lance Stroll.

READ MORE: Verstappen criticises the FIA

3 responses to “Mercedes F1 illegal upgrade row

  1. Wolff is so valuable to the MB team. His diabolical mind is constantly at work thinking of ways to get a performance advantage, legality be damned. With the spicy engines last year, he pulled the wool over the eyes on unsuspecting competitors. He will continue doing these things and FIA and the competitors are two steps behind.
    F1 will become clean, decent and sporting only with his exit but there seems to be no hope of that.

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