The FIA are poised to introduce a new test on front wings in an attempt to crack down on extreme cases of flexing that have often been seen this year via the car’s onboard cameras, as of the Canadian grand prix.
The front wings are currently tested by placing a large load on the endplates to prevent excessive bending and twisting at speed – as seen primarily during the 2011 season – which focuses on the main wing structure.
However the new test is aimed specifically at the wing’s inboard flap section, which have already caused controversy before the 2015 season when Red Bull were excluded from qualifying in Abu Dhabi after their wing was discovered to contain an extreme amount of movement under load in an illegal manner.
Since the beginning of the current season we have already seen some shots of the upper flaps of the wing deflecting significantly as speed increases, namely Williams and Toro Rosso. This is done by altering the layup of the carbon fibre weaves within the structure to create a desired amount of flexing.
This is advantageous in two ways: the angle of attack of the flaps reduces which cuts drag, increasing straightline speed and improving fuel efficiency. It also shifts the aero balance rearwards to prevent oversteer during high-speed corners. The downforce then returns under braking as the aero load reduces, springing the flaps back up into place.
Cars with very strong front end grip suffer slightly more rear tyre degradation, so using this technical advantage is a good way of improving stint duration as well as laptime performance.
The FIA allow for a certain amount of bodywork flex. If it didn’t all the components would break as soon as the car touched a kerb or hit successive bumps on the track. However F1’s governing body has clearly decided that the teams are taking matters too far.
The FIA’s technical directive issued after the Monaco GP states:
“FIA intends to introduce a further load/deflection test on parts of the bodywork forward of the front wheels.
“A 60N point load will be applied to any part of the trailing edge of any front wing flap, the load will be applied normal to the flap at the relevant point.
“Under the load, the deflection may not exceed 3mm when measured vertically at the trailing edge.”
In terms of loading, 60N is a tiny fraction of what the front wing can cope with. However the upper flaps are less load-bearing than the main plane and lower sections of the wing and are merely designed to fine-tune airflow over the rest of the car whilst helping achieve overall downforce.
Judging by what we have seen from the onboard footage, though, only 3mm of allowed deflection appears to tighten up this area of design extensively so we should expect virtually every team to have modified flaps for Canada. Teams such as Manor Marussia are unlikely to have invested heavily in this area as it requires a fair bit of simulation work to create a specific amount of flexing as the aerodynamic load increases, whereas the top teams have ample time and money to develop these sorts of things.
There is a bit of a performance gain in this region but the new test is unlikely to affect the pecking order as everyone will more than likely be affected in equal measures.
This article was originally posted by myself on Richland F1