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The truth behind wing-gate

NEWS STORY
18/03/2012

Mat Coch writes:

It started with a whisper: Mercedes had something the others didn't like. In winter testing the silver arrows had been quick, very quick, and it all had to do with its new rear wing.

Mercedes has developed a device, similar to what was called the F-Duct in 2010, that stalls airflow over the rear wing. It is activated by a small opening, exposed to the airstream when the DRS is activated. When the rear wing is in its normal position the opening is covered. And that, for the most part, was the beginning, middle and end of the story.

Only somehow it got bigger. Much bigger. The Mercedes rear wing became a storm in a teacup which dominated headlines on Saturday.

Lotus and Red Bull were not happy, we were told. They were going to protest, or so it was said. The team didn't like the fact the Mercedes DRS provides a secondary benefit which was having an aerodynamic influence on the car. There are regulations which cover primary and secondary function, and devices shouldn't have a secondary function which provides anything but a negligible benefit as a result of its primary purpose.

Of course the primary purpose of the DRS is to open and increase the car's top speed and aid overtaking. The opening in the Mercedes rear wing which is exposed when the DRS flap is opened is therefore against the rules, or so Lotus and Red Bull would like to think. Mercedes argues that the opening is always there, and because nothing on the car changes aside from the DRS, which is permissible under the regulations, it's legal. The FIA and Charlie Whiting agree, publicly.

For all the debate the system has a very limited window of opportunity. It can be used freely during practice and qualifying, however come the race it can only be used when the DRS is allowed - which is when either Michael Schumacher or Nico Rosberg are within a second of the car ahead coming on to the front straight. Even then the opportunity is limited, with just a few hundred metres in which to use it. In race trim the benefit is therefore rather reduced.

Still, Lotus and Red Bull wanted clarification, which saw many leap to the conclusion they would subsequently protest should the clarification not be in line with their opinions. It was a notion Lotus boss Eric Boullier described as "bullshit" when asked by Pitpass, claiming his team was only after clarification of the point in question. Lotus had no intention of protesting.

It effectively put an end to the discussion, and any suggestions of protests or sanctions against Mercedes. Ross Brawn is a firm believer that innovation is part of the excitement of Formula One. His team has been the centre of attention this weekend, though perhaps not for the reasons he'd hoped. Still, it's better than not being spoken about at all he reasons.

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