So, it was little surprise that Crimson Bull staff boss Christian Horner, whose staff has been dominant in F1 2023 up till now, discovered himself having to repeatedly dismiss any suggestions that his squad’s struggles were related to new FIA stipulations over the wings.
Backing up his argument is the truth that, with a flexi wing estimated to be solely value about one-tenth of a second round Singapore, the size of Crimson Bull’s tempo drop pointed to different components being at play because the RB19 proved itself troublesome to get into the suitable set-up window across the Marina Bay circuit.
Plus, in accordance with consensus within the paddock, the main focus of the FIA push on flexi wings was not in reality Crimson Bull, because it was others who had been maybe pushing the boundaries on this space much more. Whereas it was simple to hyperlink a possible shuffling of the order in Singapore – some groups regarded higher than regular, others had drifted again – with the timing of the much-talked about flexi wing technical directive (TD), it was really one other FIA doc that had gone beneath the radar in current weeks which served to gas larger intrigue for engineers.
Plank video games
On the identical time the FIA issued its TD on flexi wings (TD18) in late August, Autosport has discovered it had additionally despatched out a revision to the well-known TD39 that was launched on the 2022 Canadian Grand Prix, which had initially been aimed toward bringing an finish to porpoising.
One of many components to set off automobile porpoising was suspected to be groups taking part in round with versatile flooring, which is why from final 12 months recent stipulations got here in in regards to the stiffness of flooring and the measurements of planks.
The wildest theories on the time pointed to groups operating moveable skid block designs, that disappeared into the plank area so did not get worn when the car ran close to the ground and due to this fact didn’t put on down past the allowed tolerances.
This was attainable to do as a result of, on the time, solely a small part of the skid block was measured to verify on compliance post-race.
Nevertheless, to stamp out the follow, the FIA declared that measurements could be taken round 75% of the skid block radius – successfully stopping small areas getting protected.
Picture by: Giorgio Piola
The matter appeared to have gone away, however throughout 2023 it has emerged that groups have nonetheless been taking part in round on this space and proceed to push the bounds with flooring flexibility as a result of it’s such a key efficiency differentiator.
The main focus of this newest push seems to counsel that groups have shifted their focus away from the skid block transferring, to it now being the plank that’s the moveable element as groups exploit a tolerance throughout the guidelines that permits the plank to barely deflect.
Article 3.15.8 of F1’s Technical Rules states that: “Bodywork inside RV-PLANK could deflect not more than 2mm on the two holes within the plank at XF=1080 and not more than 2mm on the rearmost gap, when the automobile, with out driver, is supported at these positions [for testing].”
It’s prompt that this 2mm tolerance has been seen not as a limitation by some groups however a chance to get away with some additional flexibility to assist drive efficiency positive factors.
One concept that emerged in Singapore was that this might assist permit the plank and flooring to get sucked down at excessive pace because of this flexibility, delivering a pleasant downforce enhance, whereas the skid blocks remained static and out of the best way so had been at no danger of being worn.
The skid blocks had been in impact disappearing identical to they had been in 2022. However whereas again then they had been being moved, this time it was plank round it that was versatile.
If a staff was manipulating the ground like this, it will imply the plank may in concept be worn away by operating tremendous near the bottom with out the danger of damaging the skid blocks for his or her post-race FIA checks.
Stopping the flexing
This potential exploitation of flexibility within the flooring is the main focus of the newest TD39 revisions, with the FIA stating in its up to date paperwork that: “We’ve got develop into conscious of design particulars within the area of the skids…that purpose to take most benefit of the permitted stiffness in these areas.
“While these designs could adjust to the deflection necessities of three.15.6 and three.15.8, we want to remind groups that designs should nonetheless adjust to the related bodywork dimensional constraints.”
Mercedes W14 flooring element
Picture by: Ronald Vording
The theories about moveable planks drew additional credence with the FIA reminding groups that there needed to be a steady floor on the reference airplane.
It additionally added: “Designs should not utilise breaks on this floor to facilitate variations in vertical stiffness throughout the break or to facilitate differential movement throughout the break that result in discontinuities within the floor.”
To make sure groups stopped taking part in round with any tips, the FIA stated that sure designs had been to be outlawed alongside the ‘reference airplane’ – which is in impact the plank. These had been:
1. Gaps, cuts or butted joints within the reference airplane within the neighborhood of the designated holes and/or skids.
2. Frequent or systematic harm, cracks or breakages of the floor of the reference airplane or bodywork within the neighborhood of the designated holes and/or skids.
3. Elastomeric or very compliant supplies on the reference airplane.
4. Folded surfaces or bellows sort joints, whether or not elastomeric or not.
Simply as had occurred with the newest FIA flexi wing affair, from the Singapore Grand Prix groups needed to submit their CAD designs and FE evaluation for the entrance skid block, plus drawings of any flexibility across the gap.
Shaking up the grid
Any staff that abruptly needed to change method with its flooring to totally adjust to the brand new stipulations would face an apparent efficiency drop, and doubtless additionally must relearn lots about journey heights and the place to place their flooring in relation to the observe.
However whereas Crimson Bull endured a weekend the place it appeared a bit misplaced with set-up, rivals weren’t but able to consider that this was something greater than a quirk of the distinctive Singapore observe. And Horner was crystal clear about how a lot his staff had modified on its automobile in relation to the TDs. “Zero,” he stated.
McLaren boss Andrea Stella was sceptical in regards to the TDs being a consider what occurred to Crimson Bull, as he stated its tempo drop was in extra of something linked to the flexi wing and flooring calls for.
“I do not know whether or not Crimson Bull had been affected or not by the TD,” he stated. “However I’d say that even when there was an impact, this impact would not be as giant because the deficit of efficiency that meant they had been out of Q3. So I’d exclude that that is the only real motive: if it is a motive in any respect.”
Sergio Perez, Crimson Bull Racing RB19
Picture by: Crimson Bull Content material Pool
For Mercedes, whose personal squad again in 2015 endured a large efficiency drop with a dominant automobile in Singapore, the fact is that the Marina Bay circuit is usually a little bit of an outlier to throw up surprises.
Talking after qualifying about whether or not he felt Crimson Bull had been damage by the TDs, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff stated: “We have been in Singapore with a dominant automobile and weren’t in a position to carry out.
“But it surely’s so troublesome. We’ve got one set of knowledge now [the Singapore GP] after which we’ll a completely totally different observe the place that performs a task. So let’s wait.”
Groups are actually ready with anticipation to see what occurs in Japan this weekend, with the Suzuka circuit the right place to raised see the true influence of the TDs on automobile kind up and down the grid.
A return to the established order we’ve seen for a lot of the season would serve to attract a agency line beneath discuss that any groups had been working in a gray space with their wings and flooring to achieve an unfair benefit.
But when the F1 formbook stays as shuffled up because it was in Singapore, then count on the intrigue to step up a gear.