FIA to double wing deflection tests

The FIA is to introduce more stringent load tests on front wings at the Belgian Grand Prix later this month in an attempt to settle the flexi wing controversy that is causing increasing paddock disquiet.

Slow motion television pictures at Hungaroring appeared to prove that the Red Bull front wing end plates in particular, and to a lesser extent Ferrari's, were running closer to the ground than the 85mm specified by the regulations, generating additional downforce.

Both Martin Whitmarsh and Ross Brawn, team principals of McLaren and Mercedes respectively, have sought clarification from FIA technical delegate Charlie Whiting before pursuing similar concepts.

The F1 rules dictate that when a force of 500 Newtons is applied to a front wing, it cannot deflect by more than 10mm. It is thought that the pace-setting teams may be making clever use of material so that the wings meet the requirements of the FIA tests but then deflect at a greater rate when more force is applied.

Williams co-owner Patrick Head said: "What's difficult is that we've got a conventional structure with a linear load deflection - if 500 Newtons deflects our wing 9mm, then 1000 Newtons will deflect it 18mm. When you see our wing on the track it looks level at high speed but the Red Bull wing is pulling down a long way.

"You can only assume that it has some characteristic which above the 500 Newton limit is non-linear. There are ways and means of doing it, so if the FIA is saying that as far as they're concerned it's okay, then we've all got to get on and do it..."

The rules, however, permit the FIA to change the load tests if it believes that what is being done is getting around the spirit of the regulations. It is understood that at Spa, the load test will be doubled in order to test whether the deflection remains linear.

Whitmarsh claimed that every millimetre of endplate lowering equates roughly to a single point of downforce, so an inch's lowering could give a full second's advantage.

Asked what he thought his front wing design was worth in terms of lap time, Hungary winner Mark Webber joked: "Oh, at least a second, probably two..." He went on to express displeasure that other teams, under pressure to perform, were pointing fingers at a car that the Red Bull team "has broken its balls" to build and is constantly meeting the requirements of the regulations. "Whether it's ride height devices, wings, whatever, it's always something," he claimed.

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