McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh says the teams will only go ahead with using the adjustable rear wing scheme for 2011 if they are certain the change will have the desired effect.
The new system was announced by the World Motor Sport Council last week, and will see drivers able to activate an F-duct style device to reduce drag only when they are close behind another car, making it easier to pass. But even though the movable wings are set to be in the 2011 rule book, Whitmarsh said there was still plenty of flexibility in both how the system is to be used in the races – and whether it will even be deployed at all.
"We have the adjustable rear wing next year, which is a response to some of the pressure [for better racing], we have to be careful," said Whitmarsh after the Santander/FOTA Fans' Forum today. "We could even agree not to deploy it – we have to decide carefully."
He said it was important for teams to be able to acknowledge if a rule change proved to be a mistake, and to act accordingly.
"I think we have to look at it at the beginning of the year, F1 has to overcome this arrogance of saying we had a great idea, all our ideas are great, we must never admit to a bad one!" Whitmarsh said. "You cannot implement it that late, but if everyone builds it and in early testing if the conclusion is that this will not be to the benefit of the show, we should say don't use it, and if the way we envisage using it isn't better, than we should change the way we envisage using it. Changing its deployment now, and the sporting regulations, with it would be relatively simple if it was in the best interests of F1."
Whitmarsh said the device had to be incorporated within the regulations initially to allow that level of flexibility.
"If you are going to do it, you have to think about design of cars. It's right to define the tech regs that give us the facility, [rather] than a rush of enthusiasm – perhaps over-rushed – to implement the sporting regulations that are used to exploit it. That is why I think we have to stand back from it and give a bit more thought to the sporting regulations, but people were concerned that if it wasn't incorporated in the sporting regulations then we might not be able to deploy the technology that the technical regulations inferred. It will be on the car and I hope we deploy it in a manner that improves the show."
Mercedes engineer Jock Clear agreed that the system needed to be properly considered and analysed before a firm decision on its use was made.
"We really need to think about these things so that we can understand exactly what the implication of what we're doing is," he said. "What we tend to do – and I'm including all of us in F1 – is to impose a possible change on the sport in the format that we see at the moment. You have to look beyond that say, 'OK, if we change this thing, all the engineers in Formula 1 are going to develop in which direction, and which way is that going to end up going?' And that's the difficult thing to see.
"You almost have to table these ideas and think about it for a long time and let the likes of Adrian Newey, Ross Brawn and Neil Oatley to get their teeth into it and give you a heads-up – a, 'If you do that, the implications are going to be this, this and this' – and they're not going to be obvious without doing simulations. So I don't know whether that's the solution. All I know is that we have to be very, very careful in how we go about this."
He warned that F1 could not afford to take a backward step in its entertainment level if the wing system proved a flop.
"Two years ago, I would've said, 'Let's try something, because it's not very good the way it is at the moment,'" Clear added. "But looking at what we've got at the moment, it would be a crying shame to lose all that and find that we've gone completely the wrong way and given ourselves another problem which is unforeseen at the moment.
"We need to think long and hard, and let those brains in Formula 1 come up with a solution, not just have an opinion that gets pushed through."