Wing flex is a perennial topic in F1, which returned in 2021 when two separate aero rows between Mercedes and Red Bull took center stage.
After May’s Spanish Grand Prix, Mercedes were unhappy with Red Bull’s ‘flexible’ rear wing, leading to more rigorous testing at the French Grand Prix, much to the dismay of rival teams who were also forced to change their rear wing design to stay within the revised rules.
Towards the end of a hotly contested season, the tables were turned when Red Bull challenged Mercedes’ rear wing design at various races, including Brazil, believing it had spotted “scoring marks which would have indicated excessive flexing to increase straight-line speed. .
After carrying out additional exploratory checks during the Qatar Grand Prix weekend, the FIA said it had found no evidence of foul play, but it had identified ways to improve its methods for carrying out testing flexible, which should be refined in 2022.
McLaren MCL35M rear wing detail
Photo by: Giorgio Piola
According to Key, McLaren’s technical chief, the new technical regulations for 2022, which radically overhaul the design of the front and rear wings and emphasize ground effect, will still give teams some leeway to play with. the aero-elasticity of their cars. .
But while he admits flexi-wings could become “some form of problem”, he thinks the strict regulations will make it harder for teams to find exploits, especially after the focus on the subject last year.
“I think the sensitivity of aero-rubbers has changed and I think it’s well understood from the regulations that have been discussed at length, how to better handle components that can flex,” Key said.
“Some of the tests are more rigorous – the rear wing tests, for example, will be a bit more difficult – and some of the things that have happened [in 2021] with these areas have continued until 2022 and I think there is a lot of attention paid to it.
“The front wing in 2022 is a huge thing but it still has a very strict set of stiffness guidelines so I think there will always be some tricks to play around but I don’t think there will be anything easy to operate.
“You have a few different components on the car that can have a certain level of stiffness, which you can legally exploit, so there are various new tools to play with in 2022.
“It will probably become some form of problem, I’m sure, but it’s not something the teams or the FIA are ignoring. It’s a pretty clear area where we are very careful to regulate correctly for the year. next.”
Additional reporting by Luke Smith and Jonathan Noble