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Why Mercedes is convinced its 'illegal front wing' is fair

Mercedes' front wing has caught eye in Bahrain - but what is it doing and what does a key technical figure make of it?

W15 front wing shakedown
To news overview © Mercedes

Toto Wolff is adamant Mercedes' new W15 front wing design is legal after consultation with the FIA, but Formula 1's technical chief is not so sure.

Mercedes has come up with an interesting front wing solution for its car where the upper flap has been thinned and is connected to the nose by a thin strip of carbon.

The team is, in effect, attempting to reduce drag and reintroduce the powerful Y250 vortex, and by the letter of the law is a completely legal design as all flaps are continuous.

However, F1 Chief Technical Officer Pat Symonds, who helped to draft the 2022 ground effect regulations that changed front wing designs away from this, believes the team is pushing against the so-called 'spirit of the rules'.

What did Symonds say?

"In article three [of the technical regulations], which really dictates how the aerodynamic shapes are produced, it’s very clear in the opening statement that the aim of the rules is to ensure we get this close following [of cars,"] he explained to F1 during testing.

"When you start to get things that are perhaps producing some outwash, and here I think what we’re seeing is really trying to reinstate quite a strong vortex to push that very turbulent air that’s coming from the front wheels aside, one question then is that really within the spirit of the rules?

"It’s within the regulations, it’s within the letter of the law – there’s absolutely no doubt about it. Is it the sort of thing we want? Well, I don’t know.

"That’s perhaps a bit more debatable. But I think we need to know really how strong the effect is."

Outwash is the practice of pushing air away from the car and 'out', but this makes it difficult for cars behind to follow - and so the practice was minimised during the drafting of the ground-effect regulations - and Symonds believes the invention to be "poor."

"It’s more a question of what’s good for the sport rather than what’s good for Mercedes [or] what’s good for Red Bull," he added.

"Without a doubt, what’s good for the sport is good, close racing, so anything that promotes good racing is good, anything that detracts from that ability to race close is poor in my mind."

Wolff was asked about the design that is hard for other teams to replicate without major design changes to their own machines and front wings in Bahrain, and dismissed any concerns.

"What is being put on the car is always following an exchange with the FIA, all through the process," Wolff told media including RacingNews365.

"It's not such a thing where you have a clever idea and then you bolt it on to test and you think: 'That could be or couldn't be challenged'.

"That's a long process of dialogue that happens over the winter. I feel we're in an OK place."

			© Michael Potts/RacingNews365
	© Michael Potts/RacingNews365

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