APRIL 12, 2012
Chinese GP stewards reject Mercedes DRS protest
A Lotus protest that the Mercedes 'double DRS' system infringes Article 3.15 of the F1 technical regulations, has been dismissed by FIA race stewards in Shanghai.
The protest was lodged post-scrutineering and a hearing was attended by Renault's James Allison and Alan Permane and defended by Ross Brawn and Geoff Willis from Mercedes.
Lotus contended that five questions needed to be addressed:
1. Does Article 3.15 apply to the device being employed by Mercedes?
2. Does the system comprise any parts that are not "necessary for the adjustment described in Article 3.18?"
3. Can what Mercedes is running be described accurately as a "car system," a "device" or "procedure."
4. Does the Mercedes device depend on "driver movement."
5. Does the Mercedes device "alter the aerodynamic characteristics of the car?"
Allison claimed that the prime purpose of the device was to alter the aerodynamic characteristics of the car.
In Mercedes' defence, Brawn contended that:
1. The "device" or "design" contains no moving parts.
2: There are no upper limitations provided in the regulations on what can be achieved using DRS apart from what is written in the current regulations. He provided examples of teams making modifications to other parts of cars to take advantage of the different airflow resulting when DRS is activated.
3. The "device" or "system" being protested against (commonly referred to within the team as "DDRS" or "Double DRS") was simply an enhancement to the existing DRS but made after DRS was originally introduced. Therefore is was wrong to discriminate against any enhancement simply because it has been introduced after the original introduction of DRS
4. There is nothing in the regulations preventing a hole in the inner side of the rear end plate and a duct running to the front of the car to take account of a change in the aero characteristics when DRS was operated and that this was an evolution to improve the performance of the DRS.
Allison argued that the Mercedes device being protested was not a part of DRS and indeed that "DRS" was not a term defined in the regulations. He also argued that there was a substantial difference between other modifications made to the car which had aero impacts compared to the modifications made to the Mercedes.
Allison agreed in response to questioning that there is nothing in the regulations that prevents an aero link between the front and rear wings but that the protest centred on the fact that the link created was for the sole purpose of using a driver-created movement to alter the aerodynamics of the car.
He stated that if the hole currently located in the rear end plate was located elsewhere and permanently exposed, this would be acceptable.
In response Brawn argued that the regulations do not state how much effect can be gained from DRS and that the Mercedes system was passive. He advised that almost all cars on the grid had made improvements to the aerodynamics of parts of the cars so that they reacted better to the airflow when DRS was activated and in some cases this had increased the speed by 17 to 20kph as opposed to the initial increase using DRS of 10kph (Mr Allison argued that the initial advantage was 12kph).
Mr Willis asserted that all the teams had developed their bodywork to react to the movement in the upper rear wing flap.
The FIA's Jo Bauer noted that it was not possible to operate the new Mercedes device in isolation to the normal DRS, it was not independent of it.
He also advised that Mercedes has sought clarification on the device prior to the first Grand Prix of 2012 and that he had confirmed to the team prior to the Australian Formula One Grand Prix that the design was permissible.
Note: In relation to the absence of a definition of the term "DRS", Article 3.18 makes several references to the word "systems" and the term "Drag Reduction System" has been widely used within Formula One and the FIA. For the purpose of this deliberation, it is taken to mean the "system" referred to under article 3.18.1 "Driver adjustable bodywork"
Having examined the evidence presented, the Stewards unanimously dismissed the protest.
The grounds for this decision were:
1. There are many different parts of bodywork fitted to cars from a variety of teams, which have been designed specifically to take advantage of the change in airflow caused by the activation of the DRS.
2. The modifications on Cars 7 and 8 are examples of the above.
3. The Mercedes design complies with all bodywork geometric and stiffness regulations.
4. The design is entirely passive and has no moving parts whatsoever.
5. The sole purpose of the "DRS" (or the "system" as referred to in the regulations) as stated in Article 3.18.3, is to improve overtaking. The Mercedes design is completely consistent with this objective.
6. Noting the agreement of Lotus that "if the hole currently located in the rear end plate was located elsewhere and permanently exposed, this would be acceptable", there is no reason why the locating of the hole in the current position on Cars 7 and 8 should not also be acceptable.
7. In relation to the 5 questions posed by Lotus, all 5 of which Lotus assert (and the Stewards agree) if answered in the affirmative, would rule the vehicles ineligible;
(i) Article 3.15 does not apply because it does not directly use driver movement, as a means of altering the aerodynamic characteristics of the car. The alteration is indirectly (and not directly) consequential to the movement of the driver adjustable bodywork ("DRS")
(ii) The second question posed is not relevant in light of (i) above
(iii) The Mercedes design is not a "system" or "device" in its own right, it is part of a design made to take advantage of the change in airflow caused by the activation of the DRS (refer 1 above)
(iv) The Mercedes design is not activated by driver movement. It is a consequence of a change of position of the driver adjustable bodywork, which is permitted under the regulations.
(v) The Mercedes design does appear to alter the aerodynamic characteristics of the car by reducing the drag, however this is consistent with the intent of the regulations.
Accordingly not all of the 5 questions can be answered in the affirmative and therefore do not form successful grounds for the upholding of the protest.
Further, and distinct from the grounds above, the protest is dismissed on the grounds that the FIA confirmed the assertion of the Mercedes team that it had, in accordance with Article 2.4 and/or 2.5 of the F1 Technical Regulations, sought clarification from the FIA Formula One Technical Department concerning this matter and the FIA confirmed that the Mercedes design had been deemed permissible.
Lotus was reminded of its right of appeal but it is understood that the team does not intend to do so.