MAY 4, 1998

X Wings are banned!

THE FIA must have been too busy worrying about the European Commission to bother to inform the world that it had decided to ban sidepod-mounted winglets, known in F1 circles as X wings. The news only came to light at the end of last week after the FIA Technical Department sent a letter to each Formula 1 team informing them that it considers that these devices are unsafe and that it had invited the FIA stewards at future Grands Prix to exclude any car using them. The FIA letter cited Article 127 of the International Sporting Code which states that "the stewards of the meeting may exclude a vehicle whose construction is deemed to be dangerous."

The logic behind the argument is that these might break off in an accident and could cause injury. The same, of course, can be said for most of the onboard cameras indeed one of these fell off Jean Alesi's Ferrari at Monza in 1995 and demolished the front suspension of Gerhard Berger's similar car which was close behind. Berger was unable to steer and went off into a sandtrap.

Onboard cameras have not been banned and one can only assume that the real reason for banning X wings is that they are ugly and add nothing to the spectacle of Grand Prix racing. Most of the frontrunning F1 teams have not used X wings in races as they do not produce enough of a gain but they have been used to good effect by Ferrari and Jordan.

The FIA has the right to ban whatever it chooses if it is done on the grounds of safety.